11/8/21 Virtual Office Hours Recap – Biodiversity on a Changing Planet

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its latest Virtual Office Hour on November 8, 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 provided an introduction to the new solicitation, Biodiversity on a Changing Planet (BoCP, NSF 22-508).The presentation and other documents are available here:

Slides (PDF)

PAPPG 22-1

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

Q: Will proposals for the Implementation Track for BoCP be competitive if they are proposed by entirely new teams rather than previously established collaborations? 

A: Competitiveness is about the quality of the proposal, as defined by the merit review criteria. If the team can work together to address the solicitation, then having an entirely new team is completely fine. The Project Management Plan should clearly describe the role and contribution of each team member. The program is not expecting only established teams. 

Q: Can you clarify the “U.S.-only collaborative proposal with international collaborators” under types of proposals? Will this require international collaborators to separately obtain funding on their end? How does this differ from the “international collaboration” proposal? 

A: Regarding international collaborations we expect three kinds of proposals. 1) The BoCP program has formal partnerships with funding agencies in China and South Africa and the state of Sao Paulo in Brazil. For proposals that include collaborators served by these agencies, the U.S. part is funded by NSF and the international part would be funded by those associated agencies. See the solicitation for specific instructions on how these proposals should be submitted. 2) Because biodiversity is changing globally, we also expect proposals that include collaborations between U.S. and international researchers in countries/states other than China, South Africa, and Sao Paulo. In general, we expect that these international collaborators will seek their own funding from sources other than NSF. However, the PAPPG describes the situations in which NSF will support research programs and people internationally. PIs who wish to include international funding in their budget are encouraged to read the PAPPG and contact a Program Officer at biodiversity@nsf.gov. 3) We also expect proposals with all-U.S. researcher teams. Work can be entirely in the U.S. or may involve foreign field work but not include payments to international collaborators. 

Q: Can you speak to the pros/cons of the various collaboration schemes – namely of partner agency proposal vs. U.S. only? I ask given the potential complexity and uncertainty of split funding (and the need for dual agency approval) will such proposals be reviewed more favorably? 

A: The type of collaboration you develop should be guided by the questions you are addressing and the location of the fieldwork you are proposing. Regardless of collaboration type we are looking for proposals that demonstrate true collaborations among investigators and that clearly describe the role and contribution of each collaborator. We value all three sorts of collaborative proposal (described above), and none are viewed more favorably. 

Q: What does NSF consider as evidence of prior collaboration? 

A: We are assuming this question is about the phrase “no prior collaborative track record” in the description of the Design Track. It is completely up to the PIs to decide how to describe the new collaboration and how the investigators will develop a productive collaboration going forward. 

Q: Will NSF consider proposals with non-traditional academic partners like NGOs competitive? 

A: Yes, as long as the organization has a DUNS number or can be a subawardee, an NGO can be included. More information on who can apply can be found in the PAPPG. Be sure that the roles and contributions of all partners are explained in the Project Management Plan. 

Q: Can the proposals focus on biodiversity of a specific smaller taxon, e.g. beetles, conifers, etc.? In some cases, this might constrain the geographical area; they do not occur beyond certain latitudes. 

A: This depends on the types of questions you want to ask. There is no specific geographic location or spatial extent that is the focus of the BoCP program. However, your questions should focus on some aspect of functional biodiversity in response to a changing environment.

Q: It sounds like this funding program is looking for very large and multi-national teams, what is the minimum number of collaborators that could be put together for the design track portion of this funding program? What team size would be ideal for these projects? 

A: There is no magic number. You need to provide a justification for why you need a particular size team based on the questions you’re trying to answer. There is no particular focus on large teams or multi-national teams. The Project Management Plan should clearly describe the role and contribution of each team member. 

Q: The BoCP program seems more ‘applied’ than the older Dimensions of Biodiversity program in that the objectives are more relevant to management (e.g. “modeling and forecasting of the consequences of functional change in biodiversity”). Can you comment on the relative importance of basic vs. applied components of the project? 

A: The BoCP solicitation is intended to focus on functional diversity and frames this in terms of the current biodiversity crisis. This program seeks fundamental research that will advance theory and aspects of biodiversity in the context of past and current ecological and evolutionary processes. The BoCP program is not intended to be “applied” although research results could certainly be relevant to broader uses such as management.

Q: Would a previous Dimensions of Biodiversity proposal be appropriate for the new program as is, with the additional documents, of course? 

A: A previous proposal could provide a start for a proposal for this new solicitation. However, we encourage you to think broadly and be responsive to the BoCP solicitation. This is a different solicitation than Dimensions of Biodiversity (which has been retired) and the integration of genetic, phylogenetic, and functional dimensions of diversity is not the focus of BoCP. 

Q: The focus appears to be on biological and geological processes, but much of the changing planet is driven by social science issues. Is social science a priority or not as part of this solicitation? 

A: While we agree that social science issues are important part of the changing planet, this solicitation is not focused on answering social science questions. Therefore, if your proposal includes a large social science component this may not be the solicitation for you. There are other opportunities at the National Science Foundation that focus on integration of natural and social science. 

Q: What are the major differences in scope between the new BoCP and Organismal Response to Climate Change (ORCC) solicitations? 

A: The main difference is that BoCP is focused on biodiversity on a changing planet while ORCC is focused on organismal responses to climate change. Both programs are interested in proposals that integrate across levels of biological organization. BoCP recognizes that understanding broad-scale biodiversity questions may require consideration of biological and geological processes. BoCP also encourages projects with an international or global focus and data reuse. ORCC targets proposals that will integrate organismal mechanisms of response to climate change with eco-evolutionary approaches and models to better predict and mitigate the effects of climate change on biological systems.

If you have other questions about BoCP, please contact a Program Officer at biodiversity@nsf.gov and they will be happy to answer any questions.

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, held December 13, 2021, from 1-2pm Eastern Time, will cover how to write a great annual report.

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:

December 13: How to Write a Great Annual Report

January 10: Mid-Career Advancement Solicitation

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