New Required Format for Collaborators & Other Affiliations


Are you planning to submit a proposal to NSF? As of April 24, 2017, there is a new required template for the submission of the Collaborators & Other Affiliations (COA) information.  This is the information that must be submitted by each PI, co-PI, or Other Senior Personnel identified on a proposal (i.e., anyone who has a biosketch in the proposal) that helps NSF to avoid conflicts when requesting reviews from the community.  Don’t confuse this spreadsheet template with the Personnel List Spreadsheet template required by the DEB solicitation: http://www.nsf.gov/bio/deb/debpersonnellist.xlsx. They are two different things.  There should only be one Personnel List Spreadsheet that lists all of the people associated with an entire project emailed to DEB as instructed in the solicitation, whereas each person associated with a project must have their Collaborators & Other Affiliations (COA) information submitted as a Single Copy Document using this new template.

This new standardized format will ensure that the information is complete, and most importantly, searchable by NSF Program Officers. It includes a section for the person’s name and affiliation(s), PhD Advisors/Advisees, Collaborators, Co-Editors, and other Relationships, with detailed descriptions of who should be included in each section as described in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures guide.

Most important things to remember:

  1. Each person listed on a proposal as PI, co-PI, or Other Senior Personnel must submit the document along with their Biosketch and their Current and Pending Support Statement.
  2. After filling out the template, the document must be saved as .xlsx or .xls format, and uploaded to FastLane as a Collaborators & Other Affiliations Single Copy Document
  3. The template and more information about this new process can be found online here: https://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/coa.jsp

So why not get ahead of the crowd and make sure that you and all of your collaborators have an updated Collaborators & Other Affiliations template filled out and ready to go? This is not something you want to be pulling together from all of your collaborators the day before you are trying to submit a proposal. And why not share this new NSF process with your Sponsored Research Office, as well?

 

Meet DEB: Cody Bowles, Program Assistant


cody

Cody at Yellowstone National Park

Tell us about yourself. I’m an NPR aficionado, news and policy fanatic, and recent graduate of George Mason University.

What do you do here at DEB? I’m a Program Assistant with DEB. I work to plan and organize panels for the Evolutionary Processes and Systematics and Biodiversity Science clusters. I help arrange travel for panelists, coordinate meeting logistics, and troubleshoot any technical issues that may arise.

Where are you from? Richmond, Virginia.

Which member of the Scooby-Doo gang do you most identify with? Definitely Velma! I have an orange sweater, lose my glasses often, and tend to be a bit dorky.

What do you like about working here? I love the environment and the people here at the National Science Foundation. I’ve been here less than a year, but everyone has been nice and welcoming.

 

NSF Systems offline June 30-July 4

NSF Systems offline June 30-July 4


Many NSF Systems will be unavailable Friday, June 30th at 8pm EST until Tuesday, July 4th at 6pm as NSF begins relocation to Alexandria, Virginia.

After years of construction, the National Science Foundation will soon begin the relocation process to Alexandria, Virginia. NSF offices will be moving over several months, and BIO staff are scheduled to move the weekend of September 15th, 2017 to start work in the new building on September 18th. The new address will be:

National Science Foundation
2415 Eisenhower Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22314

fork

credit: Maxx-Studio/Shutterstock.com

As part of the moving process, the Data Center systems and equipment need to be physically moved to Alexandria, a process we refer to as the “forklift”, because they will actually be using a forklift. Therefore, from 8pm June 30th, through July 4th many of the NSF IT Systems will be unavailable, so please plan accordingly if you were going to work on something that requires NSF systems over the long holiday weekend. This is likely to impact both the public facing systems like the NSF website and FastLane, and the internal systems, such as employee’s access to email. We hope that all will be back to normal on July 5th.

 

 

What Makes for a Competitive DEB CAREER Proposal?


CAREER (Faculty Early Career Development Program) is an NSF-wide award for early career (pre-tenure) faculty. It is one of the most prestigious and sought after grants made by the National Science Foundation. CAREERs support pre-tenure faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars. CAREER proposals should have a well-thought-out plan for the integration of teaching/training and research. This integration is key to a successful proposal. The work you propose in a CAREER submission should build a firm foundation for a long “career” involving your planned research and education programs.

In DEB, CAREER proposals are reviewed alongside other full proposals submitted to the same program (e.g., Population & Community Ecology, Evolutionary Processes). As you can see from the figure below success rates are between 6-18%. (Compare that to overall rate for full proposals in DEB https://debblog.nsfbio.com/2017/01/06/deb-numbers-fy-2016-wrap-up).

CAREER

You are eligible to apply for a CAREER if you are an Assistant Professor (or in an equivalent tenure-track position). You do not need to be at a Research I University to apply; you can apply from any NSF-eligible institution (e.g., primarily undergraduate institution, 2-year college, independent museum or research lab). You will need a letter of support from your department chair affirming your eligibility and demonstrating how the proposed work advances the research and educational goals of your department. It should also explain how the department is committed to mentoring and supporting you as a teacher and scholar through your professional development. Please refer to the CAREER award solicitation for more details.

Because integration of teaching and research is the heart-and-soul of a CAREER proposal, the required education plan should be tightly integrated with research described in the Intellectual Merit section; placing it solely in the Broader Impacts section is typically a mistake. The plan should not be a rehashing of your current duties as an Assistant Professor (e.g., teaching your current graduate or undergraduate level courses). The more inseparable from your research, the better.  The education plan can include formal and informal teaching (e.g., webinars, public talks, workshops) and can take place in non-academic settings and focus on traditionally underserved communities. It is good to keep in mind the current infrastructural capabilities and resources of your home institution (e.g., does it have a program for underrepresented groups that you can use for recruitment in your education program? Does it have a mechanism for engaging with the general public?). The education component could be directed at any level of student from kindergarten to graduate students, or include training and education of the general public.  The important thing is that your education plan is consistent and integrated with your research career goals.  The very best CAREER proposals are those in which the research informs teaching and the teaching informs the research. In other words, strive for research and education plans that are synergistic, not “just” integrated.

Because CAREER awards are intended to set the trajectory of your career, it is fine to include plans for learning new techniques (research or teaching). Reviewers and Program Officers take the long view; they understand the need for early-career scientists to fill gaps or strengthen bridges before pushing ahead on a particular theme. In such circumstances, it’s important to be up-front, to provide justification or explanation, and to budget accordingly.

A successful CAREER award should result in more than an incremental increase in our knowledge of a subject area, and should have a broad (but feasible) focus. Furthermore, a CAREER proposal should place your research in the context of a program of career development that includes the interactions between education and research and/or outreach. The proposal should demonstrate your expertise and ability to perform the proposed work. Please keep in mind that you cannot have Co-PIs in a CAREER proposal. CAREER proposals are about your work, but if critical for a given project, collaborators are now allowed in the form of senior personnel. Collaborators should provide some essential, specialized (yet limited) component of the project, or mentoring that contributes to your professional development. (If you do include senior personnel in your proposal, they must submit a Biosketch, Current & Pending Grants, and their ‘Collaborators and Other Affiliations.’) You can also have your collaborators write a “Letter of Collaboration.” These are not letters of recommendation – please follow the NSF provided template in the CAREER solicitation.

You have three opportunities to apply for a CAREER award (and only one opportunity per year). You cannot apply if you will be tenured (i.e., no longer an Assistant Professor) before October 1st following the proposal deadline of July 19, 2017. In BIO, the proposal budget (including indirect costs) should exceed $500,000 for a 5-year duration. (Fun fact: This is the only type of proposal in DEB with a budgetary floor, not a ceiling.) For more about CAREER awards please read the NSF program solicitation and contact a Program Officer in the most relevant cluster, if you have questions.

 

DDIGs Come to a Close


The Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (DDIG) program in the Division of Environmental Biology has come to an end. This decision was difficult, but the NSF and BIO’s programs  are facing many challenges and this is the best course of action at this time.

The first DDIG solicitation was issued nearly 50 years ago and was intended to provide supplemental funds for graduate students doing field work (a largely unfunded area at the time especially when it came to field work off campus). As the needs of graduate students evolved, DDIGs expanded to help cover additional costs such as dissemination of results and expanded research expenditures.

The funds were intended to widen the existing body of dissertation research and act as a capstone to enhance the students’ work. Over time, DDIGs became a prestigious addition to any CV, with many more students submitting proposals. Eventually, the number of DDIG awards mirrored the number of full proposal awards.

DDIG

 *Proposals from core programs only

 

In the table above, you’ll see the number of DDIG proposals reviewed in the past two years compared to the number of full research proposals reviewed. In the recent past, full proposal awards and DDIG awards are similar in number.  What those DDIG numbers also represent are four review panels comprised of nearly eighty panelists whose recruitment, travel, and reimbursement were coordinated by NSF staff.  The cost and effort of staging a DDIG panel and processing the decisions are virtually identical to the cost and effort of a standard grant panel. Yes, DDIGs are small budget awards; they are generally less than $20,000, but DDIGs still demand all the same oversight, management, and approval processes as standard grants.

Many of our Program Officers were themselves recipients of DDIG awards and looked forward to reading the innovative and high-risk research ideas being generated by fearless students. DDIGs have catalyzed a culture of independence and risk taking among graduate students within the sciences funded by DEB; we sincerely hope that graduate training programs will strive to find ways to sustain that culture.

The decision by DEB (and IOS) to end the DDIG solicitation was difficult but in the face of high workload it was a necessary course of action. The NSF will continue supporting graduate research through the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) and the NSF Research Traineeship Program (NRT). If you have any additional questions after reading the Dear Colleague Letter and FAQ, please feel free to reach out to us at debquestions@nsf.gov.

 

 

 

 

Remember: Include a List of Eligible Reviewers


As a Principal Investigator, do you ever wish you could help NSF get informative and insightful ad hoc reviews of your proposals? One way to do this is to take advantage of the “single copy document” option and include a list of eligible reviewers who are the relevant experts in your field when you submit a full proposal.

Think of the process as being similar to contributing to the list of letter writers for a tenure review. Would you ignore a request to provide a list of potential reviewers and leave that solely up to the committee chair? Not likely.  Yet during the last full proposal cycle in DEB, only half of the submitted proposals included a list of suggested reviewers.  As the Principal Investigator, you are an invaluable resource for NSF for identifying appropriate reviewers.

When you provide a list of suggested expert reviewers along with their contact information, you are increasing the probability of obtaining a knowledgeable review by expanding the universe of potential reviewers beyond those immediately known to Program Officers.

For your next full proposal, please consider including a list of eight or more eligible suggested reviewers. Be sure that none of them have conflicts of interest with your proposal (e.g., spouse or relative, collaborators and co-editors, thesis advisor, institutional conflicts). Think about including newer faculty members and experienced post-doctoral scholars who have a deep and current understanding of the topic; Program Directors probably know the “household names” in the field, but may not be aware of those individuals.  And don’t put this task off to the end of proposal preparation when you may be pushing to meet the submission deadline. Think of suggesting reviewers as part of the process of preparing the best proposal you can.  If you take advantage of this opportunity to help yourself you will also assist NSF Program Directors in their role of providing the highest quality merit review of your proposal.  If you have any additional questions about submitting suggested reviewers please feel free to contact us at debquestions@nsf.gov.

Spring 2017: DEB Preliminary Proposal Results


This past week, DEB completed processing all preliminary proposals submitted to the January 23rd 2017 deadline. Below is a summary of the outcomes for this year.

Panel Recommendations

The “Invite” column in the chart above reflects the panels’ recommendations while the “Total Invited” column reflects the programs’ recommendations. Each program’s final invite decision was based not only on the panel recommendation but also the availability of funds and portfolio balance.

The four DEB clusters convened 10 preliminary-proposal panels. Panelists reviewed 1,384 preliminary proposals and recommended 346 be invited for full proposal submission. We are very thankful to panelists who traveled from all over the country to participate in our merit review process. DEB program officers subsequently made adjustments for portfolio balance and invited 373 (27%) for full proposal submission.

By this time, all PIs who submitted a 2017 preliminary proposal should have heard back from DEB about the program’s recommendation (“Invite” or “Do Not Invite”). If you have not, please visit Fastlane.nsf.gov and select the “proposal functions” option then click on “proposal status.” If you were a Co-PI, please follow-up with your lead PI.

The chart below shows long-term trends in the numbers of preliminary proposals DEB has received since 2012, as well as the total invite numbers and percentages. As you can see, the numbers submitted have been decreasing and the overall invite rate has been increasing.

trends