Program Announcement: DEB Core Program Updates


The updated version of the Division of Environmental Biology Core Programs solicitation hit the street last week under solicitation number NSF 14-503. The solicitation web page is here and the full text, here.

Although there are no major changes, we would like to call your attention to the following:

  • The preliminary proposal due date is now January 23rd annually.
  • The Project Summary must have 3 distinct sections: Overview, Intellectual Merit, and Broader Impacts.
  • The Project Description must include distinct sections (advice: use titles) describing Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts.
  • We now include two ways to “skip” a preliminary proposal: Deferral and Bypass. The first is that a PI may defer an invitation to the subsequent year. The second is that for a full proposal ranked in the top category (e.g., High Priority) and declined, the PI may bypass the next preliminary proposal. (See the solicitation for details.)
  • A Consolidated Personnel List is required to be submitted by email using the linked template (see the solicitation for details). DEB is no longer requesting lists of conflicts or suggested reviewers via this template. SUPER IMPORTANT: what DEB is asking for here no longer matches what IOS (Division of Integrative Organismal Systems) is asking for, so make sure you use the current, correct template for each Division when emailing this piece.
  • Biosketches now follow the PAPPG format with the exception that you may leave the “Collaborators & Other Affiliations” section out of this particular document
  • “Collaborators and Other Affiliations” (aka Conflicts of Interest) need to be collected into a single document and uploaded to the Supplementary Documents.
  • Lists of suggested and non-preferred reviewers are still welcomed and should be uploaded in FastLane under Single Copy Documents per the PAPPG.

As always if you have questions, you can comment here, email or call a Program Officer, or email DEBQuestions@nsf.gov

Additional Background on Changes

Due Date: Last year we moved to the 23rd as a one-time occurrence because of conflicts, and we expected to return to the traditional “early January” spot this year. However, we heard a positive response from you about the later deadline — it provides a welcome buffer from the holidays and puts more distance between the deadline and results from fall panels. January 23rd also works for us, so we’re happy to stick with it.

Project Summary and Description: This update clarifies our compliance with NSF-wide policy requiring the inclusion of distinct sections in both documents for both preliminary and full proposals.

Deferral and Bypass: Both of these are options that the PI must request to exercise before the next relevant deadline. Both count toward the DEB submission limit for any intervening deadline. (See the solicitation for details.)

Consolidated Personnel List: This year, we have greatly reduced and streamlined the spreadsheet template for preliminary and full proposals. We are asking only for a personnel list to be submitted via the template. We’ve posted the new template here http://www.nsf.gov/bio/deb/debcoitemplate.XLSX and it’s also available via a link in the solicitation. This piece is the most helpful to compile for the program and to help reviewers avoid conflicts. There is only one page in the file and the instructions are written directly on that page alongside the data entry area. The order of the entry columns has changed such that you can copy and paste most of the requested information (hopefully without the problem of cells locking up that some encountered last year) and the two parts that require you to enter information are separate and clearly marked. You still need to email the file to a special email address (provided in the solicitation and repeated in the template) but we have extended the submission period to “within three business days of proposal submission”. Also, SUPER IMPORTANT: what DEB is asking for no longer matches what IOS (Division of Integrative Organismal Systems) is asking for, so make sure you use the current, correct template for each Division when emailing this piece.

Contextual Tangent: Why are we asking you to email us a file? Basically, there’s a limitation in how FastLane processes submissions such that what we, both program staff and reviewers, see is a collection of PDFs. Sometimes, depending on how you entered documentation in FastLane, the PDFs are “readable” and other times big sections appear as images instead of text. Either way, if we need to extract some bit of information from the body of the proposal (e.g., the names of the people involved so that we can accurately identify conflicts of interest), it has to be done by hand for every proposal. It’s a major drain on time to seek out and collate these pieces from hundreds and hundreds of electronic records presented in every format imaginable.

Biosketches: You are now instructed to follow the PAPPG format with the exception that you may leave the “Collaborators & Other Affiliations” section out of this particular document. We make that exception because increasingly, the length of that section challenges the biosketch’s 2-page limit and/or formatting requirements. However, that information still must be submitted for both preliminary and full proposals (see below). We also dropped the added section on “expertise related to the project” that was in the prior version of the solicitation. The benefit didn’t justify the confusion over what it should entail.

Collaborators and Other Affiliations: DEB now requests the list of “Collaborators and Other Affiliations” (aka Conflicts of Interest) to be collected into a single document (following the PAPPG format as if it were part of the biosketch) and uploaded to the Supplementary Documents for preliminary and full proposals. This allows the information to be seen by both the reviewers and Program Officer and it ties the information to each proposal. By moving it here, we are hoping to improve on the situation of trying to fit (and find) them all on individual biosketches but also avoid the practical complexities of completing a template with widely dispersed collaborators. You still need to submit this document even if everyone opts to include their “Collaborators and Other Affiliations” on their individual biosketches.

Lists of suggested and non-preferred reviewers: These are still welcomed and should be uploaded in FastLane under Single Copy Documents per the PAPPG. They are useful in the review of full proposals but less relevant for the panel-only review of preliminary proposals.

One thought on “Program Announcement: DEB Core Program Updates

  1. Pingback: Preliminary Proposal Deadline Reminders | DEBrief

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