6/8/20 Virtual Office Hours Recap


The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its latest Virtual Office Hour on June 8th, 2020. We host these office hours 1-2pm EDT on the 2nd Monday of every month. There is a designated theme each time, but attendees are welcome to ask about other NSF-related topics. Program Officers from each of DEB’s clusters are present at each Virtual Office Hour.

This month’s topic was Opportunities for Promoting Understanding through Synthesis (OPUS) Solicitation (NSF 20-564).

The presentation and other documents are available here:

If you were unable to attend, here are some of the questions asked during the Q & A section:

Q: Does the OPUS solicitation cover other directorates such as material science and engineering?

A: No. The OPUS solicitation (NSF 20-564) is specifically for the Division of Environmental Biology including all four clusters within the division (Ecosystem Science, Evolutionary Processes, Population and Community Ecology, and Systematics and Biodiversity Science). The focus and scope of research questions must be consistent with the program descriptions of one or more of the four clusters within the Division of Environmental Biology.

Q: Does an OPUS proposal need to be a synthesis primarily of the PI’s work? Can it be a meta-analysis?

A: Per the solicitation, OPUS provides an opportunity for an investigator or a group of investigators at any career stage to revisit and synthesize a significant body of their prior research or to harmonize distinct data sets that they have produced to enable new understanding. That said, the solicitation does not say that only your own data sets can be synthesized. This program targets investigators who have, over time, produced significant work and data from a series of research projects, and who are planning to integrate that work in a single synthesis. Combining your own work with other datasets could be appropriate but check with your Program Officers in the appropriate cluster for guidance. Proposals requesting support mainly for the production of new data are not appropriate. Likewise, efforts simply to summarize previous results will not be supported. We expect OPUS awards to generate novel understanding, new questions, or emergent insights that are more than the sum of their individual parts.

Q: Are there any restrictions in budget?

A: There are few restrictions with regards to the OPUS budget. Requests may be for up to two years with an anticipated award size of between $175,000 and $350,000. Additionally, the total salary allocated to PIs cannot exceed 6.5 months plus fringe benefits for a period spanning up to two years. In cases where multiple investigators are involved, the total allowance of 6.5 months’ salary may be distributed among investigators.

Q: If we were planning to apply to what previous OPUS solicitations referred to as the Mid-Career Synthesis track, what I’m hearing is that OPUS is no longer appropriate for us and now we need to wait until a new opportunity is announced. Is that correct?

A: There is no mid-career track in the 20-564 OPUS solicitation. We aim to expand the mid-career opportunity to other science and engineering programs in addition to Biological Sciences. You can sign up for notifications about new funding opportunities here to know as soon as information is public.

Q: OPUS seems particularly amenable to sabbaticals. How soon could a sabbatical start after the submission deadline to be supported by OPUS?

A: Yes, OPUS proposals are very well suited for funding sabbaticals. As with proposals submitted to our core solicitation (NSF 20-502), please allow enough time (typically 5-6 months, but in rare cases it may be more) for the peer review process to proceed before you expect to hear from us about a decision.

Please reach out to a Program Officer if you have any questions about the proposal submission and review process in DEB programs.

Our next virtual office hours will be held on August 10th, 2020 from 1-2pm EDT and will address Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental Systems (DISES; NSF 20-579) formerly known as CNH2.

There will be NO virtual office hour in July. Be sure to check back here or on the NSF Events Page for information on how to register.

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:

July: No Office Hours

August 10: DISES: Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental Systems f.k.a. CNH2

September 14: Macrosystems Biology and NEON-Enabled Science (MSB-NES)

October 19: BIO Postdoc Program

November 9: Intro to DEB

December 14: Supplements

January 11: TBD (Feel free to suggest a topic!)