9/14/20 Virtual Office Hours Recap – MSB-NES


The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its latest Virtual Office Hour on September 14th, 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, so a wide range of scientific perspectives are represented. This month’s topic was the Macrosystems Biology and NEON-Enabled Science (MSB-NES) Solicitation (NSF 20-506).

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: For the macrosystem small awards (MSA) it was mentioned that proposals to develop NEON tools would be considered. Can you elaborate on the types of tools you are interested in?

A: The development of tools that will explicitly enhance the processing, use, and/or analysis of NEON data or collections within the context of Macrosystems Biology research questions is encouraged in the solicitation.  Here is one example of a project recently funded which proposes to develop a tool to produce a higher-level data product from NEON data:

DEB-2017860/2017829 Collaborative Research: MSA: Development and Validation of a Continuous Soil Respiration Product at Core Terrestrial NEON Site

Proposals strictly for tool or model development or for tools/models that are only indirectly applicable to NEON may be more appropriate for core programs in the Division of Biological Infrastructure that support informatics research and cyberinfrastructure development.

Q: Will proposals that have the option to send samples to NEON biorepositories be looked on more favorably if such efforts are written into the proposal? Will it be more valuable to NSF NEON if your project has the opportunity to contribute a taxonomic group that is currently underrepresented in NEON biorepositories?

A: Projects do not have the option to submit samples to the NEON Biorepository – so plans to do that would neither make sense nor make your proposal more competitive. The NEON Biorepository exists to house samples collected as part the Observatory’s activities. NEON field scientists collect a variety of specific, targeted specimens and samples at terrestrial and aquatic field sites at regular intervals throughout the year. They collect the samples in a prescribed manner using published protocols to ensure quality control. If you are interested in using samples or specimens from the NEON Biorepository, please reach out to biorepo@asu.edu and they will be able to help you.

It is worth noting that programs in DEB and other BIO divisions do encourage proposals for studies that will advance our knowledge of understudied groups of organisms. An example of this is in the Systematics and Biodiversity Cluster, which offers a special category of funding for studies of Poorly Sampled and Unknown Taxa (PurSUiT). PurSUiT focuses on the projects that fill significant gaps in biodiversity knowledge.  

Q: Could you say a bit more about the difference in NSF’s view between the cross-site comparison studies that have regional or continental scale frameworks and those that lack regional or continental scale frameworks? In the solicitation it says, “proposals that lack a regional or continental scale framework (i.e., proposals that are inter-site comparisons or multi-site analyses of general ecosystem concepts or theories) will not be considered.” How should we understand this difference?

A: First, to help assess program fit we encourage you to email a 1-page summary of your project to an MSB-NES Program Officer. Then we can give you feedback as to whether the proposal should be submitted to MSB-NES or we may direct you to another NSF program area. The MSB-NES program supports research to understand biological phenomena at very large (regional to continental) spatial scales.  Supported projects may or may not use NEON infrastructure and/or data; those that do are given priority. Projects that propose to use one or more NEON sites for comparative purposes (such as altitudinal or climatic comparisons), but do not propose to detect, explain, and/or predict biological phenomena at and across regional to continental scales will not be suitable for MSB-NES.  Other programs in DEB and other BIO divisions will often be appropriate for such proposals.

Q: I’m part of a large number of CoPI’s at various institutions on a collaborative grant. With whom am I in conflict, i.e. which names go on the CoA form?

A: For this specific situation, you’re in conflict with anyone you have collaborated with on a grant within the last 48 months. The NSF provided template gives guidance on all of the other requirements for inclusion on the CoA form.  Primary investigators should fill out the template using the guidance provided.

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 October 19th, 2020 from 1-2pm EDT and will address the BIO Postdoc Program (NSF 20-602).

Be sure to check back here or on the NSF Events Page for information on how to register.

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:

October 19: BIO Postdoc Program

November 9: Intro to DEB

December 14: Supplements

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

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