Learn More about the PIRE Competition! 

NSF is gearing up for the 2022 Partnership for International Science and Engineering (PIRE) competition, managed by the Foundation’s Office of International Science and Engineering, and there are some upcoming chances for you to learn more! 

This year’s theme is “Use Inspired Climate Change and Clean Energy Research Challenges.” The PIRE competition invites visionary, ambitious, interdisciplinary, use-inspired research proposals that address scientific challenges related to climate change and/or clean energy. The projects will utilize multi-stakeholder and international partnerships that are essential to address these challenges of critical societal importance at a regional or global scale. The research areas may include any combination of the natural and physical sciences, engineering, and the social sciences. Proposals that advance understanding of the human and behavioral aspects of climate change and/or clean energy challenges are encouraged.  Educational activities should be integral to the project. 

More information about the competition and the complete solicitation and submission guidelines can be found on the PIRE program page. OISE staff will be holding Virtual Office Hours 2:30 PM –to 3:30 PM every Monday between January 10 and March 21, 2022 except for January 17 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day). You can also learn more during a webinar on January 19, 2022, from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM

If you have specific questions, please reach out to the cognizant program officers at PIRE-info@nsf.gov.  

Meet DEB: Emily Mellicant

What is your name and role here at DEB? Emily Mellicant, Biologist

How did you find out about NSF? I did an NSF-funded REU back in undergrad and got to spend the summer in Minnesota studying lakes. Afterwards, I presented a poster on my research at a conference, and I remember the NSF logo didn’t print properly on my poster. I ended up drawing my own out of fear that some program officer would come by and make a comment. It was a great introduction! Since then, I’ve been working on and off either as an NSF employee or on NSF-funded research projects. The last couple years, I’ve supported National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) in producing their Science and Engineering Indicators reports. My pride and joy are creating the data visualizations for the STEM workforce.

Tell us a little about what you studied in school. I studied marine science and geology, then later environmental chemistry (under the guise of a geography degree). I grew up sailing on the Chesapeake Bay and studying fresh and saltwater environments has always been my passion.

Cats or Dogs? Cats!

What fictional family would you most like to join? The Roses from Schitt’s Creek? Or maybe the Bennets from Pride and Prejudice. Love those quirky families that are there for each other when the chips are down.

New Year – New Core Programs Solicitation

DEB’s new core programs solicitation (NSF 22-541) has been published. Many parts of the solicitation remain the same, but here we highlight some of the updates. This post serves primarily as an alert to important changes to the solicitation.  As always, we encourage you to read the entire solicitation carefully.

Removal of the Bridging Ecology and Evolution (BEE) Special Category

The BEE special category is no longer part of this solicitation. Proposals that combine ecological and evolutionary approaches to better understand the functional role of biodiversity can be submitted to the new “Biodiversity on a Changing Planet” solicitation (NSF 22-508).

Data Management Plan Revisions

In addition to previous requirements, the Data Management Plan must include two sections: (1) Data Plans, and (2) Intellectual Property Plans. Data and digital products should be identified, and the following described for each of them:

  • Format and standard of primary data;
  • Metadata to be collected and disseminated with the primary data; Timetable of release of ALL data, consistent with privacy and other concerns regarding sensitive information;
  • Public repository to be used;
  • License for use, with an emphasis on open source licenses such as MIT and GPL;
  • Any constraints on release, which must be clearly justified; and Person(s) responsible for the release.

All software and code must be in a versioned code repository. We strongly encourage release of ready-to-use software and code through integration with computing resources, in Virtual Machines, and/or in Containers. Published results should always include information on how to access the supporting data.

If you have any questions, please reach out to a Program Officer or contact us at debquestions@nsf.gov.

DBI Program Director Employment Opportunities

Our friends over in the Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI) are recruiting two rotator Program Directors to support BIO programs focusing on broadening participation, including:

One position will be focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) with a goal of broadening participation in biology at the multiple career stages and institution types supported by BIO, and one position will be focused on education and training in biology at the undergraduate, graduate, or post-doctoral levels. You can learn more about rotator programs at NSF here.

For more information and instructions on how to apply, please see the Dear Colleague Letter (DBI-2021-24748).

Applications will begin to be reviewed on February 17, 2022 and the opportunity will remain open until filled.

12/13/21 Virtual Office Hours Recap – How to Write a Great Annual Report

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) hosts 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.

DEB held its latest Virtual Office Hour on December 13, 2021. Program Officers provided tips and tricks on how to write a great annual report. 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: I have had many delays this past year due to COVID and ensuing visa delays. How should I address that, knowing that it has dramatically impacted my deliverables’ timelines?

A: Please add a brief statement to the Changes/Problems section of the annual report describing the COVID impacts. Your managing Program Officer will keep this in mind during review of annual reports of projects. We expect many projects will request No Cost Extensions as a result of COVID delays. Additionally, some PIs might request COVID supplements to help address issues that arose due to the pandemic.

Q: Should we report persons that work on the grant but were not financially supported by the grant (especially if they were international)?

A: Yes, please include that information. Generally, there could be many types of participants associated with an award who are not directly financially supported. For example, students who receive credit or foreign collaborators who are not supported by the grant. The program is interested in everyone who participated in the project, even if not financially supported by the grant

Q: For collaborative grants with multiple institutions, should each institution have a very different report focused on what they did, similar reports with some differences, or all the exact same report? For example, one institution did a Broader Impact that the others weren’t involved in or had an undergraduate that only worked with one PI and not the whole team.

A: Annual reports are very similar across all institutions; however, each collaborator will have specific individuals that worked with them, and each collaborator should include information on their specific participants. Some broader impacts and products will only show up on a subset of the annual report. There will be sections of the annual report that is the same across all institutions while other sections are unique to each institution.

Q: Should we report outcomes (paper, research etc.) that weren’t funded by the grant, but are part of the grant aims (e.g., pilot data) if it happened within the funding reporting period and is relevant to grant aims?

A: We would suggest not including this since the annual report is more of a progress report on the funded project. However, if someone was using data collected in a previous award to create a product reported in this award, we would accept it if that person was funded on this award to complete this product. Please remember to include an acknowledgement of NSF support (i.e., the specific 7-digit NSF grant number) in all published papers and outcomes.

Q: Is there a guidance on how to determine what goes where in the report? For example, should publications be reported in both “Dissemination” and “Publications” sections? Broader Impacts and publications can be considered an “Accomplishment;” should they both be reported in both places?

A: Yes, there is guidance. On Research.gov, there is a page title “About Project Reports” with information on a variety of report types. There are handout and templates as well as videos and demo sites.

Q: Should we include manuscripts in prep?

A: Yes. You can indicate the status of each product in the Products section. Additionally, we suggest you reach out to your program officer to let them know when papers are submitted and/or accepted.

Q: If publications or other work come out after the final report is submitted, is there a mechanism to report that?

A: There is still not a mechanism to add to reports, but you are encouraged to let your PO know about these types of outcomes. They can add that information to the award file.

Q: How many pages do you generally see in the reports?

A: This depends on the scale of the project, but in general, the report should be written based on how much information you need to convey to the program.

Q: For a postdoc supported by the grant, is career development considered part of the broader impacts?

A: Yes, absolutely. This is the same for graduate students and undergraduate students as well. Please note there is no separate section to report Broader Impacts outcomes, so they will need to be added at various places throughout the report.

Q: Should we expect feedback from program officers on annual reports, or is “no news, good news” so to speak?

A: If there is a problem, you will definitely get feedback. A program officer will return the report and ask you to edit it. When the managing PO approves the annual report, you will receive an email that may include a highlight of your annual report. In either case, you will receive some type of communication.

Q: What are some common reasons for reports to be returned?

A: Don’t worry if it is returned because we’re just asking for clarification, and it is common. Some reasons for returning a report include inconsistencies between sections or incompleteness of sections. One specific example is reporting that a number of people participated in some part of the project but not including the names of those participants in the report.

Q: Should internal department seminars (e.g., from department-level seminars given by the PI to grad students/ postdocs talking in a smaller university groups) be reported?

A: It is okay to include that.

Q: What happens if my report is late or overdue?

A: If your report is late or overdue, there are several negative consequences. First, you won’t be able to receive the next increment of your award. Additionally, your overdue report can hold up all of your collaborators on the project with the overdue report from receiving a new award. One new development is that overdue reports will be submitted to the Federal Awardee Performance Information and Integrity System, which can have negative impacts on your institution and their ability to receive funds in the future.

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.

Be sure to check back here, the upcoming office hour topics below, or on the NSF Events Page for information on how to register. Our next virtual office hours will be held January 10, 2021, from 1-2pm Eastern Time, and will cover the Mid-Career Advancement solicitation.

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:

January 10:  Mid-Career Advancement Solicitation

February 14: How to Write a Great Review

March 14: Crossing Divisions in Biology – Opportunities in other NSF/BIO Programs (IOS, MCB, DBI)

April 11: Research at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions

May 9: CAREER Solicitation

June 13: You’ve Been Awarded an NSF Grant, Now What?

July: No Virtual Office Hour

Upcoming Virtual Office Hours: Mid-Career Advancement Solicitation

Join us  Monday, January 10th, 1pm-2pm ET for DEB’s next Virtual Office Hour. Program Officers will discuss the Mid-Career Advancement Solicitation. To participate, please register, using the link below. Upcoming DEB Virtual Office Hours are announced ahead of time on DEBrief, so we suggest you also sign up for blog notifications.  


If you can’t make it to this or any future office hours, don’t worry! Come back to the blog afterwards, as we post recaps and the presentation slides of all office hour sessions. Alternatively, visit our Office Hours homepage for slideshows and recaps of past topics.  

Virtual Office Hours are on the second Monday of every month from 1pm-2pm ET. Below is a list of upcoming dates and topics (subject to change), so be sure to add them to your calendars and register ahead of time!     

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:    

January 10:  Mid-Career Advancement Solicitation    

February 14: How to Write a Great Review                            

March 14: Crossing Divisions in Biology – Opportunities in other NSF/BIO Programs (IOS, MCB, DBI)   

April 11: Research at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions                        

May 9: CAREER Solicitation                  

June 13: You’ve Been Awarded an NSF Grant, Now What?                  

July: No Virtual Office Hour  

Understanding the Rules of Life: Emergent Networks (URoL:EN) Webinar Announced

As noted previously on BIO Buzz, NSF has recently released a revised solicitation under the Understanding the Rules of Life: Emerging Networks (URoL:EN) program. To help inform the community of the changes in and particulars of the new solicitation, the program team will be holding a webinar on Friday, January 7, 2022 from 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. ET.

Program Officers will provide an introduction of the revised cross-Directorate solicitation and will be available for questions.


As a reminder, the new solicitation is part of the Understanding the Rules of Life: Predicting Phenotype, one of ten “Big Ideas” NSF-wide, and builds on previous URoL programs to help increase knowledge and the ability to predict an organism’s observable characteristics—its phenotype—from its genotype.

Proposals under the solicitation should be submitted by March 1, 2022.

For more information, see the previous BIO Buzz post.

For full details and guidance on award types, amounts and other questions, see Understanding the Rules of Life: Emergent Networks (URoL:EN).

Should responses to prior reviews be included in a proposal?

NSF Program Officers are often asked whether it’s a good idea to include a section in a proposal they’re writing that explains how the current version differs from a previous version that was declined. There’s no easy answer. In this post we discuss the potential advantages and disadvantages of providing a section on responses to prior reviews.

Potential advantages of including a section addressing prior reviews:

  • It suggests that you were open-minded about weaknesses identified by reviewers and that you’ll take to heart reviewers’ opinions of the current proposal.
  • It gives you the opportunity to quote text from the Panel Summary about the proposal’s strength(s).
  • It seems to document that the current proposal is stronger than a previous version.
  • If you mention that the proposal was rated at High Priority, Medium Priority, or Low Priority, most reviewers will recognize that the previous version must have been competitive, and they may view the current proposal in a more positive light.

Potential disadvantages of including a section addressing prior reviews:

  • Given the strict limit of 15 pages for your Project Description, it takes up valuable space.
  • Even if you think you’ve successfully addressed key weaknesses, reviewers’ attention will be drawn to them. That’s problematic if they’re unconvinced by one or more of your responses.
  • If you mention that the proposal was rated at High Priority, Medium Priority, or Low Priority, most reviewers will recognize that the previous version must have been competitive, and they may have higher expectations of the proposal.

Our advice:

  • Consider including a section that addresses prior reviews if you can start from a position of strength – i.e., if your prior submission was rated High, Medium or Low Priority. Conversely, if your prior submission was rated Not Competitive, the disadvantages of adding that section are more likely to outweigh the advantages.
  • Keep it short and focused on the key point(s). One paragraph should do the trick.
  • Don’t sound defensive. If reviewers missed a key detail or were confused about something, take responsibility for not being clearer.
  • If reviewers were generally uninspired by your previous submission(s) – for example, no or few scores of Excellent or Very Good – an effective revision is likely to be so major that the changes can’t be concisely conveyed. Focus on looking ahead, not behind.