9/10/20 Virtual Office Hours Recap – Systematics


The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held a special Virtual Office Hour on September 10th, 2020 focusing on opportunities for funding research in Systematics.

The presentation is available here:

              Slides (PDF)

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

Considering the current uncertain situation related to COVID-19, is it possible to submit a proposal that has a substantial overseas travel component, including fieldwork?

At this time, we recommend that you incorporate into your proposal whatever travel and fieldwork is needed to complete your research aims. Since there is so much uncertainty, it is not possible to plan for the long term, and we do not know how long the current restrictions will remain in place. Ultimately, if one does receive funding, and travel to the particular regions still remains untenable, a no cost extension can be requested that will help extend the project until such travel may be possible.

Is specimen digitization of types in foreign countries acceptable in the budget?

Yes, it is, if the digitization activities are specifically connected to questions being addressed by the project. This type of activity may also help achieve goals related to open data, so it could be worthwhile to address in the Project Description and the Data Management Plan how collecting and sharing these data will be relevant for the proposed work.

Can a Small Grant (SG) be submitted as a subcategory of another grant program, like an Advancing Revisionary Taxonomy and Systematics (ARTS)?

Absolutely. Indeed, submitted grants can qualify for a number of such subcategories and thus can be submitted with multiple acronyms in the title.

If one is looking to create a reference genome to address ecological and ecophysiological questions using transcriptomics, is this the best program to target? 

Research using transcriptomics in this cluster is definitely supported, but the specific rationale for such approaches needs to be addressing questions relevant to systematics, for instance, reconstructing phylogenetic relationships. In this particular case, it does sounds like this work might be a better fit for another cluster in DEB, such as the Ecosystem Studies Program (ES), or perhaps even another Division within Biological Sciences, such as Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS). We encourage you to contact the Program Officers in either of these areas to receive additional information.

In a proposal, is it necessary for the Broader Impacts (BIs) to emphasize producing novel outreach or should they instead leverage existing outreach capacity?

Either approach is acceptable. If one can tap into an existing, successful program, then that can be one component of a set of BIs. Further, it may be easier to convince panelists and reviewers that such approaches will be successful. On the other hand, developing novel outreach activities tailored to your project can be exciting to reviewers, though It may be harder to convince panelists and reviewers that such approaches will be successful since they don’t have a pre-existing track record. When writing a proposal, you need to decide which approach fits better into the type of work you aim to do.

Are systematics proposals expected to include new or novel phylogenetic analysis methods?

New methods are always welcome, but they are not required or expected.

Is it possible to submit more than one proposal (with unrelated questions), as a PI?

Yes, currently there is not a limit on the number of proposals that an investigator can submit, as long as they focus on substantially different questions.

For ARTS proposals, should one aim to include questions/methods relevant to the evolution of the group of interest (e.g., biogeography, character evolution, etc.) in addition to the stated goals of revisionary taxonomy and systematics along with training?

A key aim of the ARTS category of proposals is to support revisionary taxonomy and systematics that leads to predictive classifications and includes training. Thus, this is not required. However, more significant ecological and evolutionary questions that can ultimately be addressed through such work may be more likely to resonate well with panelists and reviewers and thus are certainly encouraged.

What is the general distinction between a core SBS proposal and a Bridging Ecology & Evolution (BEE) proposal?

A BEE proposal needs to specifically connect core areas of theory between ecology and evolution or combine hypotheses between the two disciplines with a focus on mechanisms and processes. Such proposals are reviewed not solely within SBS but also by program officers from other clusters within DEB. It is very useful to have a specific statement in a BEE proposal that shows how the work integrates questions and mechanisms that span these different conceptual areas. Just as an example, mapping a set of ecological characteristics to a phylogeny could potentially be of interest as an SBS proposal, but it does not have enough focus on distinct ecological and/or evolutionary processes and mechanisms to make a compelling case for a BEE proposal. A connection across disciplines but also via mechanisms and processes is essential.

Would population/subspecies level proposals be appropriate for the Systematics and Biodiversity Science program?

It depends on your specific idea, but many proposals addressing only questions at the population level are best suited to the Evolutionary Processes cluster. However, many projects include components both above and below the species level, so we encourage you to contact a Program Officer to discuss your particular situation.

For proposals involving collecting taxa overseas, are there any specific requirements regarding the Nagoya protocol?

We expect adherence to the Nagoya protocol and any local regulations when conducting international field work.

I work primarily in developing countries and do a substantial amount of training of international students. Does training and capacity building of non-US students count?

When it comes to student training, the emphasis of NSF funding will be on students at US institutions. However, NSF recognizes the importance of true intellectual collaboration that provides a strong foundation for international work, which will frequently involve foreign researchers in training as well as the core research. Any training for non-US students should be described in terms of how it improves the efficiency of the activities of US researchers. We encourage you to speak with Program Officers if you have any specific questions about ways that this can be structured.

How essential is it to incorporate undergraduate or graduate student training into a proposal?

Such types of student training are an important type of Broader Impacts (BI), but they are not the only or even a required type, and indeed sometimes they may not even be feasible depending on the institution one comes from. Other BIs can be utilized instead. Pick the type of BIs that you think will fit best with your project, its aims, and the institution you are at.

Who do I need to contact if I would like to serve as a reviewer?

We are always looking for interested reviewers and panelists. If you would like to volunteer for panel service, please visit this site and let us know you are interested.

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