10/18/21 Virtual Office Hours Recap – Welcome to The Division of Environmental Biology

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its latest Virtual Office Hour on October 18, 2021. We host these office hours 1-2pm EST 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 DEB Core Solicitation (NSF 21-504).

The presentation and other documents are available here:

Slides (PDF)

PAPPG 22-1

DEB NSF webpage

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

Q: What are funding opportunities for graduate students and postdocs other than GRFP and PRFB?

A: Funding opportunities for graduate students and postdocs include Small Grants, which are in the core solicitation and are limited to $200,000. Graduate students and postdocs should ask their advisor (PI) for assistance in writing and submitting a Small Grant proposal to NSF. Depending on your institution, postdocs can submit proposals as a PI, but that is between you and your institution. Graduate students and post docs can also be supported through inclusion in regular proposals to the core solicitation.

Q: Do Small Grants cover only project-related expenses? Or are living-expenses also included for the grad-student or post-doc on the grant?

A: You can allocate salary and living expenses (e.g., field station fees or per diem if working away from home) for personnel in a Small Grant the same way you would for a full-scale proposal.

Q: What NSF programs, especially within DEB, facilitate collaborations with non-US scientists?

A: The core programs throughout BIO and in some other Directorates accept proposals for international collaborations between NSF and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and between NSF and the Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF). See DEB’s core solicitation for details. The new Biodiversity on a Changing Planet (BoCP) solicitation also has formal partnerships with the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa, National Natural Science Foundation of China, and the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP). The Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) also has special solicitations to start new research and collaborations with international scientists. Questions can be directed to the cognizant program officers associated with the program or solicitation.

Q: What advice do you have for new investigators submitting proposals?

A: Make sure to read the solicitation, as there are frequent revisions, and the details are important. Have a broad range of scientists provide feedback on your proposal before submitting it. Make sure the proposal is clearly written, interesting, and the aims are clearly stated. Include preliminary data, if possible, to demonstrate your ability to accomplish the aims of the proposal. Write to your cognizant program officer with a one-page summary of your hypotheses for guidance on the scope or fit of a proposal for a program.

Q: When should I submit a proposal?

A: There is no “best” time of year to submit a proposal, so our advice is to submit when you feel your proposal is ready. Under the no-deadline solicitations in Biology, panels are being held year-round and each cluster’s budget is allocated equally (or proportionately by number of proposals) among those panels. Thus, there is no strategic advantage to submitting at a particular time of year.

Q: What are examples of some of the most exciting broader impacts activities you’ve seen in proposals?

A: The best way to learn about broader impacts is to view abstracts of currently funded awards found on the NSF website: https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/. Make sure that your broader impacts are doable, have impact and are appropriate for the program. Avoid thinking about broader impacts as a checklist where you need to propose one of each type – focus on what you can do effectively and what matches your resources, expertise, and local opportunities.   Keep in mind that the effectiveness of your broader impacts is most important

Q: Do you have any advice for writing a reference letter for a student applying for a Graduate Research Fellowship (GRFP)?

A: Make sure the letter includes information on the student’s ability to conduct independent research and leadership. Provide concrete examples of students working through challenges or accomplishing tasks.  If a student self-identifies as being from an underrepresented group, including veterans and individuals with disabilities, it’s certainly helpful to provide that context.  Do not, however, assume a student is from an underrepresented group or is comfortable with you sharing that information. They must self-identify.

Q: The Biodiversity on a Changing Planet (BoCP) program solicitation says that it “…incorporates elements of the Bridging Ecology and Evolution (BEE) track which had been in the Division of Environmental Biology.”  What elements have moved from BEE to BoCP?

A: The BEE track elements that aimed to encourage novel approaches to dynamic bi-directional feedbacks between ecology and evolution, and investigations across multiple temporal and spatial scales have been included in the BoCP solicitation.

We also encourage you to check out last year’s DEB core solicitation virtual office hour recap post where we answered more questions. Remember that there is a new solicitation this year, so any solicitation specific questions from last year’s office hours could be out of date. Please reach out to a Program Officer if you have any questions about the proposal submission and review process in 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. Our next virtual office hours will be held November 8, 2021, from 1-2pm Eastern Time on the new Biodiversity on a Changing Planet solicitation.

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:

November 8: Biodiversity on a Changing Planet

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

January 10: Mid-Career Advancement Solicitation

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