Reminder: CAREER Deadline is July 18th


Just when you thought deadlines were going away, this is a reminder that some programs at NSF still have them.

So, if you are interested in the Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER), the 2018 deadline for BIO is July 18th. The CAREER Program is NSF-wide and supports early-career faculty. For more information there is an extensive FAQ and a webinar available online. You can also see examples of current DEB CAREER awards through the NSF Award Search.

Questions can be directed to the Program Officers listed as the points of contact for the CAREER program – every Division has one. For DEB-related inquiries, please contact Christopher Schneider at cjschnei@nsf.gov.

Project Reports: Updated FAQs


Some background:

Annual and final reports have changed over the years and the purpose of this post is to answer some common questions around NSF project reporting. Reports show how our investments in research are spent. We use them to help show that taxpayer money is being spent on valuable and important work. Program Officers (POs) review each report and request additional information, if needed. In short, reports are a necessary part of the good stewardship of federal funds.

What should I put in my project report?

Follow the Research.gov template. The amount of text is not an indicator of the quality of the report, or of the research productivity. We want a concise description of what happened/was accomplished during the ANNUAL reporting period (i.e. not cumulative for the entire award duration). Remember that products can include many types of things, from books, to journals, conference presentations, websites, dissertations, techniques, software, and data that has been made publicly available. It’s important to include all types of products in the report.

What are the most common problems that cause POs to return a report for revision?

  • Not listing people in the Participants/Organizations table who are mentioned in the narrative sections.
  • Grammar: lots of typos, incomplete sentences, or paragraphs.
  • Not providing details under “Accomplishments” and “Products” (especially for projects that are beyond their first year).

Who should I list in the Participants section? The other collaborators section?

Between the three sections of “Participants/Organizations,” please list everyone who has been engaged in the project within the previous 12 months. This includes students, volunteers and those paid through other sources. If their activities were related to the objectives (Intellectual or Broader Impact) of your award, they “count”. A rule of thumb in deciding which section to report under is that individual “participants” carried out the work of the objectives, “organizational partners” are any organizations beyond your awardee institution that directly enabled the work done by the participants (e.g., the other institutions involved in a multi-institutional collaborative project), and “other collaborators or contacts” would include indirect supporters or beneficiaries of the work (e.g., schools at which your student conducted a demonstration). Please note that “other collaborators and contacts” are entered into a plain narrative text-box; which doesn’t have any specific structure or data requirements.

I have an RCN or workshop award (or any other type award that may involve dozens of participants). Do you really want them all listed as Participants?

Yes. The list of participants provides an increasingly valuable database that NSF can use to quantify the impact of its investments. We prefer Participants be entered one-by-one in the Participants/Organization table.

I have a collaborative award. How should my reports differ from those of my collaborators?

Some overlap in reports is expected. Your report should focus on the components of the project and the personnel unique to your institution. Be explicit about which participants are affiliated with your part of the project or institution and which ones will be credited to one of your collaborators.

Are Annual Reports cumulative? Is the Final Report cumulative?

No and no. Report only on the previous year of work. Except for “Major Goals” and “Impacts”, there should be little or no overlap from one report to the next. The Final Report should be written as an Annual Report – there’s nothing special about it other than it being the last report on a given project.

What is the Project Outcomes Report and why is it important?

The Project Outcomes Report is due at the same time as your final report. The Project Outcome Report summarizes the overall goal(s) and accomplishments of the project upon its completion. Your Outcome Report acts as a permanent record and justification for our investment of taxpayer dollars in your research. It can be viewed by the public and should be written for the public. NSF can’t edit your Outcome Report so please take extra care to be clear and grammatically correct. Please do not cut-and-paste text from your Annual or Final Reports because you wrote them for a very different audience.

What happens if I don’t submit my report on time?

You and any Co-PIs will not be allowed to receive any new funding (e.g., annual increments, supplements, or new grants) or process any other actions (e.g., no cost extensions, PI changes) until the report is submitted and approved. Your annual report is due starting 90 days before your award anniversary. Waiting until late in the 90-day window risks delaying timely release of annual funds and possibly going overdue before we’ve had a chance to review, receive any needed corrections, and approve the report.

Can I submit a proposal if I have an overdue report?

Yes.

Why am I being asked to submit my report in May when it’s not overdue until August or September (or later)?

Because that’s how our budget cycle works. You need to submit your annual report when NSF requests it because we don’t want you to miss your annual funding increment and lose your money if you turn it in after the fiscal year it is due.

Additional Reporting Resources

A list of guides, tutorials, templates, and demonstrations related to Project Reports is available here. For any additional questions around project reports, please contact your managing Program Officer. Please be aware that if you would like to request a no-cost extension for this award, you must do so before the final report is over-due. NSF cannot grant a no-cost extension when a final report is over-due, or if a final report has been submitted. Once a no-cost extension has been approved, Research.gov will be updated with a new final report due date and you can submit your current year’s report.

 

In Memoriam – Elaine Washington


washingtonMs. Elaine Washington was a devoted, well-known worker and avid contributor to the NSF mission as an employee of the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) for over 14 years from 2001-2015. She passed away on April 18, 2018. She worked at NSF for nearly 35 years, starting at the 1800 G Street headquarters.

Ms. Washington was an experienced professional responsible for cultivating strategic partnerships through outreach activities. She supported numerous activities in DEB, including advisory panels for Evolutionary Processes (EP), Systematics and Biodiversity Sciences (SBS), Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID), Assembling the Tree of Life (ATOL), Dimensions of Biodiversity and a host of others.

She developed relationships and collaborated seamlessly with the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) Education Directors, Materials Research Society (MRS), American Physical Society (APS), AIP Publishing, Division of Chemistry (CHE), Division of Physics (PHY) and the Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI).

She was highly engaged and adept at tasks involving data and information technology. She was also an active participant in working groups, business retreats and office events as an all-around contributor and asset to our agency. Elaine’s can-do attitude, hard work and gentle spirit will be sincerely missed at NSF but remembered fondly in our hearts forever.

Her obituary can be found here.

New System for NSF IDs – everyone’s doing it


Do you have more than one NSF ID? Do you just make yourself a new user profile when you move to a new institution? All of that is about to change. Check out the information below on the migration of all existing users to a new system (and how to register for an NSF ID, if you don’t already have one). This includes PIs and Authorized Organizational Representative (AORs).

Changes to New Registrations and Account Management Systems for FastLane and Research.gov
• Effective March 26, 2018, the new Account Management system will provide each new user with a single profile and unique identifier (i.e., NSF ID) for proposal and award activities. All existing users will migrate to the new system.

The New Account Management System:
• Allows users to create and self-manage accounts, including personal information and role requests;
• Allows administrators to focus on managing roles for their organizations through a dashboard with functions to approve, disapprove, assign, and remove roles; and
• Enables migration for existing NSF account holders, including Grants.gov and Application Submission Web Service (ASWS) users, to the new system through a simple, one-time operation. When initially signing in to FastLane or Research.gov, account holders will be required to verify their personal information before it can be transferred it to the new system. Each user will have just one NSF ID per the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (NSF 18-1), Chapter I.G.4.

Helpful Links:
This page has video tutorials and Frequently Asked Questions about the changes.
• Users with existing NSF accounts can access the NSF ID Lookup page for their NSF ID. Forgotten passwords for established NSF accounts may be retrieved here.
• New users will now be able to register directly with NSF through Research.gov via this link: https://www.research.gov/accountmgmt/#/registration.

Notes About Grants.gov and ASWS (From the Research.gov info page):
• The Principal Investigator (PI), all co-PIs, and the Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) listed on a Grants.gov proposal must all be registered with NSF prior to proposal submission. NSF IDs for the PI, all co-PIs, and the AOR listed will need to be included in the proposal submission.

Registration Requirements for Organizations:
• Organizations new to NSF will also register via the Account Management system in Research.gov.
• New organizations will be able to register directly with NSF through Research.gov via this link: https://www.research.gov/accountmgmt/#/registration
• Before a new organization can register with NSF, it must first be registered in the System for Award Management (SAM; https://www.sam.gov) and have a data universal numbering system (DUNS) number.
• Organizations not already registered with NSF should be aware that completion of the SAM registration process could take up to two weeks.
• Note that the vast majority of universities are already registered with NSF via FastLane.

 

 

Workshops and RCNs: an Explainer


Modern science is characterized by a proliferation of ideas, data, papers, and models. Amid all this research activity, there is an increasing need to synthesize research findings, to bridge ideas, and direct new research around certain important areas. To catalyze these efforts, NSF offers two funding mechanisms: workshops and Research Coordination Networks (RCNs). Some of the most interesting ideas in DEB are emerging out of these workshops and RCNs.

Your research area may benefit from a workshop or RCN if:

*you have reason to believe the research field has become stuck in some way

*you notice different groups are studying the same thing but speaking different languages

*variation in methods seem to be hampering progress

What do POs look for in an RCN or workshop?

A good workshop or RCN proposal starts with a good idea. From there, we like to see a well-articulated need to bring people together around a novel topic and to meet outside of regularly scheduled annual meetings or recurring workshops. The proposal should include a solid plan for accomplishing the integration, and an outline of the products that will benefit the larger research community. Keep in mind that RCNs are for coordination of research, not conducting the research itself.

There is a huge diversity in how workshops and RCNs can function. These awards allow for a lot of creativity and outside-the-box thinking is highly encouraged. A wide range of approaches are suitable for workshop goals, including methods comparisons, database creation, and conceptual synthesis. Sometimes several approaches are necessary to accomplish the research coordination.

How are RCNs similar or different from workshops?

1. Duration and scope.

A single workshop can be a great way to test the waters and gauge community interest, or accomplish a single, focused goal. Another possibility is a recurring workshop that provides a critical piece of training not widely available elsewhere. RCNs are designed for longer-term, multi-year efforts that will take a sustained drive to accomplish. RCNs usually need to have a larger research community in mind, trajectory for the work, and a steering committee who can keep the network on track.

This “larger research community” we’re referring to is what sets RCNs apart from regular workshops. Instead of bringing together the same like-minded colleagues, RCNs usually bring together scientists and scholars from a variety of backgrounds who would not otherwise interact.

2. The review process.

Workshop proposals under $100,000 are not subject to peer-based merit review. RCNs and large workshop proposals are evaluated by the NSF merit review process using ad hoc or panel review, or both. In both RCNs and workshops, the need for intellectual synthesis must be demonstrated and the mechanism for accomplishing this goal must be clearly described. For PIs accustomed to writing research proposals, this is a shift in focus. The proposal may require an organizational chart, a list of initial participants, descriptions of workshop activities, and clear mechanisms for assessment. Successful proposals generally have a plan for recruiting early career or underrepresented scientists. These elements in the proposal indicate if the synthesis effort is likely to be successful or not.

Why is it important to contact your PO BEFORE you submit an idea for an RCN/workshop?

Unlike regular research proposals, only a handful of workshop or RCN proposals are submitted each year to a program. Thus, it is important for the POs to recognize which research areas may be most suitable for synthesis, the depth of support for these areas, and the process behind developing the proposals that are submitted. Additionally, POs can help guide the PI toward “best practices” for these efforts, and help make sure that PIs are prepared for the time and intellectual commitment required for effective leadership of an RCN or workshop. We also suggest broadly reaching out in your research community or to other PIs who have led a workshop or RCN and inviting speakers and primaries who are diverse and representative of the community at large.

Things to think about before contacting the PO:

    • What need in the research community is being addressed by the RCN/workshop?
    • Who is the intended audience?
    • What would a successful outcome look like and who would benefit from these outcome(s)?

Take home points: The most important point is that these awards fund synthesis efforts. Our science needs these more than ever right now. DEB is currently accepting both workshop proposals and RCN submissions.

 

 

Contacting a Program Officer


We want to hear from you! NSF Program Officers (POs) are here to answer your questions, and listen to your ideas.

The role of a PO includes aspects of being a liaison, translator, customer service representative, coach, advisor, and interpreter all rolled into one. Yes, POs are representing the agency, but they are also scientists—some very recently in academia—and they know what it’s like to be on the other side of the desk.

For those of you who are hesitant, here’s a short guide on why and how to contact a PO.

Why should I contact a NSF Program Officer?

It’s easiest to answer that question with more questions;

  • Is it about a RAPID, RAISE, EAGER, ROA, RCN, CNH, or workshop? For these types of proposals, we encourage PIs to get in touch with a PO. Doing so will give you a better sense of what NSF is looking for in those types of proposals.
  • Did a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) explicitly tell you to? Look for the contact information in the letter and email that PO.
  • Are you curious about which DEB cluster is most appropriate for your proposal? If you’re not sure, don’t waste your time guessing! A PO can help you determine where it belongs in the Division or beyond.
  • Are you curious why a proposal didn’t get funded? POs can help you unpack and explain a decision, and discuss how to move forward.

How do I contact a NSF Program Officer?

Most POs agree that the best way to start a conversation is to email them first and set up a time to talk on the phone. Please don’t travel to NSF just to meet with POs; it’s not very productive. Save money and time, and lessen your environmental footprint by using the phone or Skype.

In your initial email, include a paragraph or short summary of what you want to discuss. Do not send all or part of a proposal you want to submit. A summary only, please. If you want to discuss a project you already submitted or have questions about the reviews you received, include the project ID number so the PO can prepare in advance.

How do I know which DEB Program Officer to email?

Except in one situation (see below), it really doesn’t matter. Each of our POs will be able to answer your question(s). However, if you’re interested in exploring a specific field of research, it might be useful to pick a PO whose own research background is most closely aligned with your research question. Start by reading the cluster descriptions for each of the core programs and do a quick Google search to see who best matches your interests. Please do not email all the POs in a cluster, or multiple POs across the Division. Please pick one PO and wait for them to get back to you. And please check your spam folder.

When it does matter which PO to contact is when you want to discuss a specific proposal. In that case, you should contact the PO who is listed on Fastlane as managing that proposal. He/she will know about your proposal and understand what happened to it.

Is it OK to reach out again if I’m confused or think of more questions?

Absolutely! If something wasn’t clear, reach out again through email to set up another time to talk. It is not uncommon.

When should I NOT contact a NSF Program Officer?

Make sure the information you need isn’t already available on our website, our blog, in the PAPPG, solicitation, or DCL. If you are asking something about a currently funded proposal, be sure to look in the Award Terms & Conditions for guidance before contacting a PO. And before you fire off that email or pick up the phone if your proposal is declined, please give yourself some time to digest and reflect on the reviews before you contact a PO with questions.

Talk to you soon!