Exploring International Research Opportunities from DEB and Beyond


We, in DEB, are very proud of our PIs. These globally engaged researchers consistently produce creative and exceptional scientific work, from deep within the tropical rainforest to the frozen lakes of Siberia.

Why is international research important?

Planet Earth has a diversity of ecosystems and landscapes that are unbounded by national borders. The world of research that seeks to understand this diversity is similarly unbounded. Global engagement not only enriches research teams, but it develops international and cultural understanding and knowledge, which are essential in our highly connected scientific community. The personal relationships that are born out of these collaborations are important in maintaining and increasing our country’s diplomatic capital. In fact, the benefits that come from international scientific research have yielded an entire field of science diplomacy[i]. The National Science Board has identified engagement in international research as an area of high priority, and has highlighted this in numerous reports[ii].

If you are a researcher interested in expanding the scope of your work beyond national boundaries there are many ways to start an international project!

Getting Started: Guidelines for International Engagement in DEB

DEB welcomes research proposals to its core and special programs that incorporate international engagement. Nearly half of our projects have an international component, spanning over 100 different countries. This includes fieldwork abroad, attending international conferences, and collaborations with foreign colleagues. With this in mind, a proposal in which the international component is vital to the project’s success garners more traction than one in which the international work is superfluous.

If you are interested in applying for DEB funding with an internationally oriented proposal, please remember the following guidelines*:

  • DEB can fund investigators through U.S. based institutions to conduct international research, however, DEB cannot fund investigators through foreign institutions.
  • Travel expenses for the U.S.-based research team to conduct international fieldwork, and to attend conferences and workshops are typically acceptable expenses in an NSF budget, however, travel expenses for foreign collaborators are generally not acceptable expenses.
  • DEB has several existing international partnerships with sister agencies abroad (see below). These partnerships can complement DEB funding and may fit in nicely with your research interests! We strongly encourage you to contact your program officer if you are considering applying to a program with an international partner.

*These are general guidelines for DEB. When applying for a grant with an international component, review the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide and the specific solicitation to which you are applying.

International Partnerships in DEB:

  • Dimensions of Biodiversity: The Dimensions program has two international partners: the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and the Foundation for Research Support for the State of Sao Paulo in Brazil (FAPESP). Researchers are encouraged to identify colleagues in China or in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil and in a coordinated fashion apply to their respective agencies. The NSF provides support to the U.S. team and our international partners provide support for the researchers from their country. Check out the 2010-2012 Dimensions Abstract Booklet. The next due date for proposals is April 3, 2014 for NSF and FAPESP, and April 7, 2014 for NSFC.
  • Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases: This partnership is with the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC), one of the seven scientific research councils of the United Kingdom. Collaborative research teams composed of U.S. and U.K. investigators submit joint proposals to each funding agency. The due date for EEID proposals has recently passed. Look at the current solicitation for information and upcoming deadlines.
  • CAPES-NSF International Research Experience for Undergraduate (IREU) Supplement: This unique REU supplement offers an international exchange and research experience for undergraduates. DEB has formed a partnership with CAPES, the Brazilian federal organization that supports higher education. In order to apply the U.S. investigator must have an active award within DEB since the IREU is funded through supplements to existing grants. NSF will provide funding for the U.S. student to work in the U.S. and in Brazil, and CAPES will do the same for the Brazilian student. While this is an exchange program, the students actually work side-by-side in the labs of both PIs. The due date for IREU supplements in DEB has recently passed. If this call for proposals is renewed for FY2015, DEB PIs will receive the announcement via email in the fall of 2014. For additional questions contact Sam Scheiner (sscheine@nsf.gov) or Doug Levey (dlevey@nsf.gov)
  • Research Coordination Network (RCN): The purpose of this program is to foster collaborations amongst researchers in different disciplines, organizations, institutions, regions and countries. International participation is one of the seven guidelines outlined in the solicitation. Foreign collaborators in RCNs are encouraged to apply for additional funding through their respective science funding agencies and prospective applicants are encouraged to communicate with the NSF RCN contacts in their particular division of interest. The deadline for RCN proposals submitted to any DEB Cluster is August 2nd annually.

    The distributions of members in the Research Coordination Network for Biodiversity of Ciliates (NSF1136580). Members of steering committee are labeled. Image credit: John C. Clamp, Department of Biology, North Carolina Central University

    The distributions of members in the Research Coordination Network for Biodiversity of Ciliates (NSF1136580). Members of steering committee are labeled. Image credit: John C. Clamp, Department of Biology, North Carolina Central University

Other Notable International Funding Opportunities:

After exploring the international opportunities within DEB, check out some of the exciting programs offered by NSF’s Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) and by other U.S. federal agencies, such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). There is a great website called Newton’s List: A Gateway to International Research Collaboration, which serves as a platform to connect international funding opportunities with qualified investigators. This website is co-sponsored by NSF and CRDF Global, a non-profit originally named the Civilian Research Development Foundation. Below we have listed several programs that may be of interest to DEB PIs.

Other Considerations for International Research:

  • Visas and Research Permits – Investigators must secure visas and authorizations to travel and conduct research in the proposed foreign country. We recommend applying well in advance to ensure that research will not be delayed.
    • Check out the NSF page for international travelers
    • Carefully study and follow the laws and regulations of your host country. Permitting may be necessary to conduct your research and to bring samples back to the U.S.
    • Many countries’ rules are evolving regarding access to, and use of, genetic resources. An international agreement called the Nagoya Protocol was recently adopted under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Although the Nagoya Protocol has not yet entered into force, and the US is not a signatory to it, countries’ domestic regimes implementing it may seek to impose restrictions on research, use, or resulting commercialization with respect to genetic resources.
    • We strongly encourage appropriate collection practices and recommend that local regulations are respected and followed while conducting research abroad.
    • Safety – Traveling in foreign countries can also pose additional and sometimes unexpected health risks.
      • Visit the CDC Traveler’s Health Page to learn about local health risks in the area you are proposing to visit.
      • Whether in a rural or urban area abroad, emergency services may or may not be of the same caliber as they are in the U.S. Take caution when conducting your research and while traveling in your host country.

Hopefully this blog post has encouraged you to apply for international research opportunities. As always, feel free to communicate with us at DEB, or the folks at OISE for program specific questions. Have fun and travel safely!


[i] To explore more information about the burgeoning field of Science Diplomacy, check out the Center for Science Diplomacy established by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), as well as their quarterly publication, Science & Diplomacy.

[ii] International Science and Engineering Partnerships: A Priority for U.S. Foreign Policy and Our Nation’s Innovation Enterprise (NSB-08-4); Globalization of Science and Engineering Research: A Companion to Science and Engineering Indicators 2010 (NSB-10-3); The Science and Engineering Workforce – Realizing America’s Potential (NSB-03-69); Toward A More Effective NSF Role in International Science And Engineering (NSB-00-217)

One thought on “Exploring International Research Opportunities from DEB and Beyond

  1. Pingback: Two New Dear Colleague Letters Promote International Collaboration in DEB | DEBrief

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