NSF Ebola RAPIDS: The DEB awards

The standard granting process at NSF typically takes between 8-12 months from the time a proposal is prepared until the time an award is made. Some situations, however, merit an urgent response to acquire critical data and test relevant hypotheses. NSF RAPID funding mechanisms accommodate this pressing need for high priority science.

In response to the unprecedented Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014 and its appearance within the United States, the NSF Director France Córdova released a Dear Colleague Letter reminding our community of the RAPID funding mechanism and welcoming RAPID proposals with relevance to the current Ebola outbreak.

NSF received hundreds of inquiries about possible Ebola RAPIDs spanning numerous disciplines across the Foundation, including the Directorates for Engineering, Biological Sciences, and Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences. Several RAPID awards have already been made, some of which were awarded through the Division of Environmental Biology.

The DEB RAPID awards range from investigations of the environmental persistence of Ebola virus on common household surfaces and in the environment, to mathematical modeling of asymptomatic Ebola infections and potential public health interventions. The DEB RAPIDs address significant gaps in knowledge on the basic characteristics and behavior of the Ebola virus. This funded research will advance our understanding of Ebola virus in the environment and will have immediate relevance and application to the current outbreak.


See the links below for specific information on the DEB funded RAPID awards:

Alison Galvani from Yale University (NSF 1514673)

RAPID: Optimal allocation of both non-pharmaceutical and pharmaceutical interventions toward controlling Ebola transmission in West Africa

This research will develop a novel mathematical model to evaluate the effectiveness of existing interventions for curtailing disease transmission. They will use tracing data for cases and case contacts. This model has the potential to offer real time disease forecasting.

Yoshihiro Kawaoka from University of Wisconsin, Madison (NSF 1514671)

RAPID: Ebola virus stability in the environment – Implications for outbreak control

The objective of this research is to investigate the environmental persistence of Ebola virus on various surface substrates and biological materials. There is scant information on the persistence of Ebola virus in the environment, particularly with exposure to outdoor climatic conditions.

Katriona Shea from Pennsylvania State University (NSF 1514704)

RAPID: Value of Information and Structured Decision-Making for Management of Ebola

This research will combine several current Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) models, in order to improve the modeling of the Ebola epidemic that began in 2014. The researchers propose to use simulations of alternative intervention strategies to quantify the effect of model uncertainty on decision-making. This approach will allow them to identify key sources of disagreement in several models and ultimately help to refine management recommendations.

Chick Macal from University of Chicago (NSF 1516428)

RAPID: Designing Ebola Interventions for Large Urban Areas through Agent-Based Modeling and Network Analysis

This research will generate network models of the spread of Ebola virus. The models will incorporate two classes of complex human behaviors – evolving self-knowledge and response to interventions and messaging.

Andrew Park from University of Georgia (NSF 1515194)

RAPID: Fitting Ebola multi-type branching process models to data

In order to investigate the range of potential transmission scenarios, this research team is developing a multi-type branching model that incorporates the complexities of changing human behavior and interventions. The team’s objective is to provide timely guidance on the spatial allocation of public health interventions during containment and monitoring phases of the 2014 West Africa Ebola epidemic. This work is co-funded with the Division of Mathematical Sciences (DMS).

James Hyman from Tulane University (NSF 1516615)

RAPID: Creating and Analyzing Hybrid Multiscale Models for Forecasting and Mitigating an Outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease

This research will create a hybrid model for Ebola Virus Disease, combining the strengths of different modeling approaches. Disease progression will be modeled using an individual based approach. The behavior of infected individuals will be dynamic, as the research team will model the resources and movement of infected individuals using a network-continuum model.

Frederick Ytreberg from University of Idaho (NSF 1521049)

RAPID: Tackling Critical Issues in the Ebola Epidemic through Modeling: Viral Evolution

As viruses evolve, genetic mutations have the potential to impact the infectivity of a virus as well as the efficacy of vaccinations, therapeutic drugs and population immunity. This research team will evaluate how genetic changes in the Ebola virus from 1976 until now have impacted viral function. Additionally, through modeling, they will also identify future potential mutations and the likely functional implications of these genetic changes.


Yang Kuang from Arizona State University (NSF 1518529)

RAPID: Data-Based Spatiotemporal Models of Ebola Epidemics and Control

In order to generate real-time, science-based forecasts for this and future Ebola outbreaks, these investigators are constructing and validating mathematical models. Their goals are to predict the number and location of new cases in order for disease control and treatment resources to be efficiently and effectively utilized. This work is co-funded with the NSF Division of Mathematical Sciences (DMS).

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