6/8/2021 BIO Virtual Office Hour: Primarily Undergraduate Institutions

The Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) held its latest Virtual Office Hour on June 8, 2021. We discussed a variety of topics to help scientists and staff at Primary Undergraduate Institutions be successful with the NSF process, including submission and review of proposals in BIO and the Facilitating Research at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions Solicitation (NSF 14-579).  

The presentation and other documents are available here: 

Slides (PDF) 

Webinar Transcript 

PAPPG 20-1 

If you were unable to attend, there is a recording of the office hour here: 


The recording and the transcript include the lengthy Q&A session, but here are a few highlights: 

Q: How do ROAs (Research Opportunity Awards) work? Does the host lab have to have NSF funding? 

A: ROAs can be initiated in two ways. One common approach is for a faculty member at a PUI to identify a host lab that already has an NSF award. If the award is from a participating program, the host lab’s PI can request an ROA supplement to enable the PUI researcher to participate in research. Alternatively, an ROA can be built into a new proposal submission. Either way, the host lab will need to have an NSF award. 

Q: Can RUI or ROA awards provide salary support for a sabbatical? My institution only supports a partial sabbatical. 

A: It depends. NSF awards typically support no more than two months of faculty salary per year. However, some solicitations specifically allow sabbatical salary (e.g., OPUSMCA), and some programs are open to funding more than two months’ salary in special cases. Additionally, it’s not unusual for ROA awards to provide more than two months’ salary (though perhaps not a full semester of salary). You should reach out to your Program Officer to inquire about your situation. 

Q: As a faculty member at a PUI, I have a heavy teaching load and often can only get research done in the summer. Do you have any advice about how to put together a competitive proposal under these constraints? 

A: This is a challenge, but there are many ways to overcome it. First, you should always design a project of a scope that is feasible whatever your constraints. Second, consider how budgeting for some staff (e.g., technician, postdoctoral fellow) might help you maintain momentum during the academic year. Third, consider whether something like a course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) that could contribute to your project might be a viable solution for you. Another strategy might be to work in a collaborative team with partners whose schedules are more flexible. 

Please reach out to a Program Officer if you have any questions about the proposal submission and review process in Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) programs. NSF has suggested 5 tips on working with Program Officers as part of the NSF 101 series on our Science Matters blog. 

Check out the upcoming office hour topics below and be sure to check back here or on the NSF Events Page for information on how to register. DEB hosts regular office hours from 1-2 pm Eastern Time on the 2nd Monday of every month. Each session has a designated theme, but attendees are welcome to ask about other NSF-related topics. 

Upcoming DEB Office Hours and Topics: 

July: No Office Hour. See you in August! 

August 9: PAPPG Funding Opportunities: EAGER, RAPID, workshop, etc. 

September 13: BIO Postdoc Fellowship Program 

October 18: Intro to DEB and the DEB Core Program Solicitation 

November 8: Updates on Dimensions of Biodiversity Research 

December 13: How to Write a Great Annual Report and Other Post Award Actions 

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