3/13/23 Virtual Office Hours Recap: How to Write a Great Budget

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its latest Virtual Office Hour on March 13, 2023. Program Officers discussed the new Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) and how it shapes funding opportunities. 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 (POs) from different research areas are present at each Virtual Office Hour, so a wide range of scientific perspectives are represented.

The presentation and other documents are available here:

Slides (PDF)

PAPPG 23-1

DEB Core Programs Solicitation

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

For the DEB Core Programs guidance for specimen management within the data management plan, is the important part of this requirement making it clear to NSF reviewers how the specimens will be managed (e.g., would it be OK to indicate that specimens may be consumed during analysis or destroyed at the end)?

The specimen management plan requirement is meant to encourage the community to archive specimens that could be of value to science.  We want to see a clear plan showing that samples that should/could be archived are in fact preserved, but if there are things that need to be consumed or destroyed as part of the analysis, that is of course acceptable. Be sure to include both your plan, and critically, your rationale, for specimen management in your data management plan.

Regarding archiving specimens, will there be a push to have a plan to archive experimental data or lab strains?

Experimental data are already covered in the data management plan requirements. Lab-generated strains aren’t specifically included in the updated guidance on specimen management, but we encourage you to include that information in your specimen management plan as reviewers/panelists ask these questions during the review process.

Is there an advantage to applying to the Small Grant program? For example, does it draw from a less-competitive pot of money?

The Small Grant (SG) special category is meant to provide a track for complete, rigorous research projects that happen to be smaller in scope (and budget) than a typical project. There is not a separate pot of money for SGs, and they are reviewed under the same merit review criteria as other “core” proposals.  However, the “SG” designation flags these projects as smaller in scale, and reviewers are thus alerted to not expect the same grand scale of a project as one with a much larger budget. SGs have a budget cap of $200,000. SGs could also be used to support graduate student research ideas. In that case, though, the student would not be an official Co-PI, but it should be clear in the proposal where the ideas originate and to whom the funds would be directed. In sum, we suggest you submit your proposals with a budget that is necessary for you to complete the project you have described, whether that is a “Small Grant” or not will depend on your particular situation and scope.

Does a plan for safe and inclusive working environments plan apply to work done remotely, example, surveys/ trainings over zoom?

Off-campus or off-site research is defined as data/information/samples being collected off-campus or off-site, such as fieldwork, and research activities on vessels or aircraft. Each proposing organization must determine whether the proposed work is considered off-campus or off-site. If the surveys and trainings are done from your home institution via a computer, it is unlikely that this would qualify as off-campus, but having a conversation with your Sponsored Research/Program Office is smart. The final determination of what qualifies as off-campus or off-site must come from your institution.

NSF BIO/GEO would like the safe and inclusive working environments plan to be project specific. However, do you have a recommendation of minimum language? How detailed do we need to describe the field setting? We have multiple sites (international) that will differ each trip. Also, what if a non-lead on a collaborative has fieldwork but not the lead?

The Safe and Inclusive Working Environments Plan (SAI Plan) requires one plan per project, and it must cover all field sites and settings in the project, regardless of whether that is international or in different places during different years. The lead PI for the entire project is the only one who will see the checkbox for off-campus or off-site research on the Cover Page, so that PI must be the one who checks that box for the proposal (and uploads the SAI Plan) even if a non-lead PI is the only one doing fieldwork. The level of detail required for the 2pg Supplementary Document should allow the reader of the plan to understand the safety challenges in the various settings and how the plan ameliorates those challenges. 

Please reach out to a PO 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 hour will be held April 10, 2023, from 1-2pm Eastern Time where we will be discussing research opportunities available to primarily undergraduate institutions.

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:                  

April 10: Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (PUI)

May 8: CAREER Solicitation

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