CANCELLED: Virtual Office Hours April 13th


The Division for Environmental Biology has decided to cancel the scheduled April 13th virtual office hours and postpone the discussion of the Opportunities for Promoting Understanding through Synthesis (OPUS) solicitation (NSF 20-564). We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause potential attendees. However, if you have any questions related to the OPUS solicitation, we encourage you to reach out to a Program Officer or submit questions to debquestions@nsf.gov.

Recently, the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) held virtual office hours to discuss concerns from the research community regarding our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will post notes from these discussions here and on the BIO BUZZ blog soon. We also encourage you to read the letter sent by the Directorate of Biological Sciences’ Assistant Director Joanne Tornow regarding NSF’s response to COVID-19 and to visit NSF’s coronavirus information page, which is updated regularly. As always, if you have specific questions, please reach out to your Program Officer.

Please join us at our next DEB Virtual Office Hour on May 18 from 1-2pm EST at which we will focus on questions regarding the Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) solicitation (NSF 20-525). Instructions on how to register will be posted on DEBrief.

Preparing for the New PAPPG: Biosketches and Current and Pending Support


The new version of the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide, or PAPPG (NSF 20-1), goes into effect on June 1st, 2020, and there are some things you can do now to help prepare for your next proposal submission.

Specifically, we wanted to highlight some changes to the preparation and submission of the Biographical Sketch (Biosketch) and Current and Pending Support documents.

Biosketches

Your Biosketch must be submitted using one of two pre-approved formats, either 1) using SciENcv: Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae or 2) NSF’s Fillable PDF. Be sure and read the available FAQs and information about the two pre-approved formats and see our breakdown below.

  • NSF is partnering with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to use SciENcv: Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae. It will provide an NSF-approved format for both the Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support sections of an NSF proposal.
  • SciENcv allows proposers to integrate their ORCiD profile enabling automatic filling of the Biographical Sketch. Additional information is available on the ORCiD website.
  • SciENcv will produce NSF-compliant PDF versions of these documents. Proposers must save these documents and submit them as part of their proposals via FastLane, Research.gov or Grants.gov.
  • Additional resources including video tutorials are available on the SciENcv website.
  • You also have the option to use the NSF Fillable PDF if you do not want to use SciENcv. You must download the fillable PDF form from the NSF biographical sketch and then submit the completed forms as part of their proposals via FastLane, Research.gov or Grants.gov.

Current and Pending Support

Just like the Biosketch, you now must use the new NSF-approved formats for submitting your current and pending support. These include SciENcv or the NSF Fillable PDF.

If you try and submit a Biosketch or your Current and Pending Support after June 1st, 2020 and do not use these NSF-approved formats, you will receive an error message and will be unable to submit your proposal. DEB Program Officers tried out SciENcv and found it was very easy to use and minimized some of the repetitive work of updating these documents, but if you don’t want to bother with setting up an account, the fillable PDFs are great options.

BIO-wide Virtual Office Hours


As you may have seen, Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) Assistant Director Joanne Tornow, PhD, wrote to the biological sciences community to share information about NSF’s current operations in light of COVID-19 and provide guidance to current awardees.

In that letter, Dr. Tornow noted that BIO staff are interested in hearing how BIO and NSF can mitigate the longer-term harm of COVID-19 on U.S. research and training. We will be holding a series of four BIO-wide virtual office hours next week during which the biological science community can share concerns, ask questions, or offer suggestions on how we can do more to address this national emergency.

Sessions dates and times are as follows and registration and log-in information will be available here shortly. Please feel free to attend the session that best fits your schedule; representatives from across BIO will be in attendance during each session.

  • Monday, March 30, 4-5 pm EDT
  • Tuesday, March 31, 3-4 pm EDT
  • Wednesday, April 1, 2-3 pm EDT
  • Thursday, April 2, 1-2 pm EDT

For more information on NSF’s activities and response to COVID-19, please visit our coronavirus information page; this site is updated regularly.

Managing Your Awards During a Pandemic


The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) is keenly aware of the stress that the COVID-19 pandemic is placing on institutions and PIs. As such, we wanted to take a moment to remind PIs about no-cost extensions, with a brief note on annual reporting.

No-cost extensions are both common and easy to request. Knowing how they work may help relieve some of the tension PIs are now feeling.

Key points:

  1. Grantees (your institution!) are pre-authorized by NSF to provide a one-time extension of the end date of the grant of up to 12 months if additional time beyond the established end date is required to assure completion of the original scope of work with existing funds. All “grantee-approved” extension requests must be signed and submitted by your institutional representative via NSF’s electronic systems. If you are going to request a no-cost extension, always first request the “grantee-approved” type.
  2. If additional time beyond the first extension is required, and exceptional circumstances warrant, a formal request to NSF must be signed and submitted by the institutional grants officer via NSF’s electronic systems. The request should be submitted to NSF at least 45 days prior to the end date of the grant. This is called an “NSF-approved” no-cost extension and is a bigger deal than the “grantee-approved” type. You will need to provide the current balance (funds remaining) of the award and your plans for spending it.
  3. Regardless of which type of no-cost extension you may request, it’s critically important to understand that remaining funds can only be spent on work described in your funded proposal (i.e., within the original scope of your award). If you have questions about this, it’s best to call the NSF Program Officer who is managing your award.

If you plan on submitting a request for a no-cost extension, you need to do so BEFORE the final annual report is due; DO NOT submit a final report unless the request is denied.

A note on annual reports:

DEB is also aware than many PIs might struggle to accomplish much research during university closures and in turn might worry about their outputs for annual reports. Please submit brief but accurate reports, making note of expected slowdowns. Again, DEB is sympathetic to the exceptional circumstances taking place.

Dear Colleague Letter: Critical Aspects of Sustainability (CAS): Micro- and Nanoplastics (MNP)


NSF has released a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) asking for proposals that tackle the fundamental scientific questions underlying micro- and nanoplastic characterization, behavior, and reactivity in the environment (including animal and human health), as well as their elimination from land and water systems.

This is an effort spanning several Directorates and Divisions across NSF but we’ve highlighted DEB’s specific call below:

The Division of Environmental Biology (BIO/DEB) welcomes inquiries that explore basic questions in the ecological and evolutionary sciences. Microplastics represent a relatively new and poorly understood component of ecosystems that may alter fundamental biological processes from cells to ecosystems. In this context, projects that seek to improve understanding of the role of microplastics in fundamental ecological and evolutionary processes will be prioritized. Projects with a primary focus on toxicology will not be considered. PIs interested in submitting an EAGER or RAPID proposal should send a 1-2 page research concept outline to the BIO representative listed below. This prospectus will be used to determine if an invitation to invite a full EAGER or RAPID proposal is warranted. A prospectus is not necessary for submission of a regular core proposal. Please consult the current DEB core solicitation (https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=503634&org=DEB&from=home) for a detailed description of programs within the division.”

Please send your research concept outline and any questions you may have to John Schade at jschade@nsf.gov.

3/9/20 Virtual Office Hours Recap


The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its fourth Virtual Office Hour on March 9th, 2020. We’ll be hosting these office hours 1-2pm EST on the 2nd Monday of every month. There will be a designated theme each time, but attendees are welcome to ask about other NSF-related topics. Program Officers from each of DEB’s clusters will be present at every Virtual Office Hour.

This month’s topic was Rapid Response Research (RAPID), EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER), and Conference proposals, all of which are described in the PAPPG (NSF 19-1).

The presentation and other documents are available here:

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

Q: What should be included within the initial email to the Program Officer?

A: The PI should include what type of proposal mechanism you are submitting to (RAPID, EAGER, etc.) as well as a paragraph defining the research idea. This should include the larger question you want to address, a rationale and motivation for the question, a brief outline of the methods, and why it should be submitted as this type of proposal instead of a traditional proposal. There should be enough information for a Program Officer to assess whether this might be a good candidate for a proposal and an invitation for a 2-page prospectus (see below). You can also feel free to make an appointment to talk to a Program Officer of your choice on the phone.

Q: Where should I submit my initial email?

A: You should submit your initial email to the specific cluster that you think your research fits into and include any other programs you think it may be appropriate. We will circulate the initial email among other clusters if it doesn’t fit within the specified cluster’s research priorities.

Q: If I’m invited to submit a 2-page prospectus, what should be included?

A: The prospectus should include information about your expertise, the motivation for your research question, the overall approach or methods you will employ, and what outcomes are expected. You are encouraged to submit a budget at this point as well. References are not required in the prospectus.

Q: If an EAGER is declined, can it be resubmitted with edits?

A: Prior to submission of an EAGER proposal, there is a lot of communication between the Program Officer and the PI. Therefore, the PI should have a good sense of whether the EAGER proposal will be awarded or not. If you want to resubmit a declined EAGER, you are highly encouraged to discuss this with a Program Officer.

If the EAGER proposal is declined because it is not considered ‘high risk,’ please consider submitting your idea as a full proposal to our core solicitation (NSF 20-502).

Q: EAGER proposals under the Idea Machine have a deadline, but it seems that other EAGERs do not. Are EAGERs generally accepted year-round?

A: Yes, EAGERs are generally accepted year-round. However, be sure you contact a Program Officer with your proposed idea before submitting the proposal. Program Officers will discuss the merits of the idea, and then may invite you to submit a full proposal. Please do not submit an EAGER proposal to DEB without getting approval from a Program Officer.

For submissions to the Idea Machine EAGER competition, please see DCL 20-401. A 2-page Research Concept Outline (RCO) must have been submitted to this program to be considered for EAGER funding. This deadline has passed, so RCOs are no longer being accepted. These RCOs are now being reviewed for invitation for full proposals. PIs will be contacted within a few weeks regarding these decisions.

Q: Is there a budget cap for conferences?

A: There isn’t a budget cap for conferences. As described in the PAPPG, the review mechanisms change based on how much money is requested for a conference. A conference requesting $50,000 or less is reviewed by the cluster; a conference requesting $100,000 or less can be reviewed within the division; and a conference requesting more than $100,000 must be externally reviewed.

Q: Is it okay to apply for conference funding for a growing regional meeting hosted at our institutions?

A: Generally we do not fund pre-established conferences. However, if the conference is trying to reach a new group of attendees, we may. You are encouraged to reach out to a Program Officer to discuss this prior to submitting a conference proposal.