Dear Colleague Letter: Research on Sexual Harassment and Other Forms of Harassment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Contexts


Please take a minute to read our most recent DCL on sexual harassment here or below.

“March 29, 2019

Dear Colleagues:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has publicly communicated its commitment to promoting safe, productive research and education environments for current and future scientists and engineers, including efforts to help reduce sexual harassment and other forms of harassment in STEM contexts.

Recently, to learn about the challenges related to sexual harassment in STEM settings, NSF and other organizations funded the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to conduct a study on the prevalence and impact of sexual harassment in science and engineering departments and programs. The results of the study are available in the report, Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture and Consequences in Academic Science, Engineering, and Medicine. As the most comprehensive examination to date of sexual harassment in academic science, engineering, and medicine, the report brings together behavioral and social research on types of sexual harassment and prevalence, data on legal and policy mechanisms, and new approaches for changing the climate and culture in higher education to prevent and effectively respond to sexual harassment.

One of the NASEM report’s recommendations is to “conduct necessary research” (pp. 186-187) on a number of topics related to sexual harassment. This Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) is intended to highlight for the research community that NSF, as a primary federal funder of basic science and engineering research in the United States, continues to welcome and support competitive, peer-reviewed research that advances fundamental knowledge about the nature and underlying dynamics of sexual and other forms of harassment, and mechanisms for evaluating harassment prevalence, prevention, and responses, in a range of STEM education, research, and workplace settings.

A number of programs across the Foundation may be appropriate for proposals that have clear, theoretically-driven research orientations and advance generalizable knowledge about sexual or other forms of harassment in STEM contexts. Examples of potential research foci include: the nature and dynamics of harassment, including underlying social and behavioral processes; mechanisms for assessing and evaluating harassment prevalence, prevention, and responses across a range of organizational levels; and harassment dynamics with respect to ethics, diversity, and inclusivity in science. Additionally, NSF programs in any research area may elect to support basic research or conferences about sexual or other forms of harassment in a specific research field, group, or context. Proposals involving international collaboration, in which NSF supports the U.S. component of the collaborative activities, may also be considered.

To determine whether a research idea is within the scope of this DCL and appropriate for a particular program, prospective principal investigators are strongly encouraged to contact, prior to submitting proposals, the directorate/office Liaison(s) for Harassment Research most closely aligned with the research activities to be proposed. Proposals will be submitted to existing NSF funding opportunities and should follow the guidance and requirements of the relevant program(s) and the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG).

Liaisons for Harassment Research:

  • Biological Sciences (BIO): Leslie Rissler
  • Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE): Jeremy Epstein
  • Education & Human Resources (EHR): Jessie DeAro
  • Engineering (ENG): Paige Smith
  • Geosciences (GEO): Elizabeth Rom, Margaret Frasier
  • Mathematical & Physical Sciences (MPS): Tomasz Durakiewicz
  • Social Behavioral & Economic Sciences (SBE): Rebecca Ferrell
  • Office of Integrative Activities (OIA): Bernice Anderson, Jolaina Jeff-Cartier
  • Office of International Science & Engineering (OISE): Anne Emig

Sincerely,

Joanne S. Tornow, Assistant Director, BIO
Jim Kurose, Assistant Director, CISE
Karen Marrongelle, Assistant Director, EHR
Dawn M. Tilbury, Assistant Director, ENG
William E. Easterling, Assistant Director, GEO
Anne L. Kinney, Assistant Director, MPS
Arthur W. Lupia, Assistant Director, SBE
Rebecca L. Keiser, Office Head, OISE
C. Suzanne Iacono, Office Head, OIA”

Panel Service: What to Expect


Are you curious about serving on a panel, but something has stopped you? Maybe you’re waiting for a Program Officer to track you down or are secretly relieved when prior commitments always seem to fall on panel dates. Or (worst of all!) you’ve allowed that dreaded imposter syndrome to outpace your enthusiasm.

Have no fear! Let’s take a moment to go over who (and how) we typically recruit panelists, what you can expect leading up to the panel, what happens on the actual meeting days, and why panel service could be beneficial to you.

Who serves on panels?

Panelists range in experience from post-doctoral scholars through the ranks to tenured faculty. They also include museum curators and researchers, and research-focused federal employees outside of NSF. This means you need a PhD and must be active in your field.

Recruitment

Program Officers review the content of each proposal and recruit panelists who are qualified to review the slate of proposals in a given panel. This can explain why you may be recruited for some panels and not others. We try our best to build diverse panels, with broad representation of men and women, career stages, types of institution (Research-1, colleges, and minority-serving), states (especially EPSCoR eligible), and membership in underrepresented groups. (With respect to the latter, we rely on you to self-identify when you register with Fastlane or Grants.gov.)

To gear up for panel recruitment/service, it is good to serve initially as an ad hoc reviewer and to have submitted a proposal (not matter its outcome) as PI or Co-PI so that you are familiar with the process.

We take recommendations from other panelists and have sign-up sheets at Evolution and ESA meetings. You can also relay your interest in serving by visiting our website and signing up using our Reviewer Survey.

Before Panel Service

So, you’ve agreed to serve on a panel*. That’s great! You’ll receive an email (a “Charge Letter”), directing you how to register for the panel, make travel and lodging arrangements, and plan for any technological or special accommodations.

After lots of communication from the managing Program Officer, and each panelist identifying their conflicts of interests, you’ll be given your review assignments – usually 4-6 weeks prior to the panel dates.

Next, you’ll write your individual reviews for 10-14 proposals evaluating the intellectual merit and broader impacts. These individual reviews are completed before the panel starts. We recommend that reviews be submitted 3 to 5 days ahead of the panel so that everyone — Program Officers and other panelists — has the chance to ponder the complete set of opinions on each proposal. (Note that you won’t be able to see other reviews on a given proposal until you’ve submitted your own review.)

*Please note that if you have a proposal currently under review in DEB, you cannot serve as a panelist during this funding cycle. This also means that if you agree to serve on a panel, please don’t then submit a proposal to DEB.

Day of Service

The panel is a multi-day discussion of each proposal’s intellectual merits and broader impacts. A panel meets at or near NSF, although virtual panels are also used. For each proposal in a DEB panel, at least two other panelists will provide reviews. You and your fellow panelists will discuss each proposal, come to a consensus, and then make a recommendation about its overall quality to NSF. It’s important to understand that the panel’s recommendations are just that — recommendations. NSF Program Officers always take them to heart but their ultimate decisions on which proposals to fund involve additional considerations, most notably what we call “portfolio balance”.

DEB tends to organize larger panels than elsewhere in NSF to tackle the broad and shifting suite of specialties and diversity of projects in our programmatic area. It’s not unusual for a DEB panel to be made up of 20 panelists (with 4-6 Program Officers and associated staff) to tackle more than 100 proposals over 3 days.

How does serving on a panel serve you?

  1. Each panel hosts a Q&A session with DEB senior leadership and representatives from the BIO Directorate Office of the Assistant Director. This is your chance to ask about upcoming funding opportunities and recent (or future) programmatic changes. We also value your suggestions for how to improve the review processes to better serve our community of investigators.
  2. You gain insight into new and emergent science in your field.
  3. You learn about grantsmanship.
  4. You learn about the merit review process.
  5. You build networks of scientists working on similar projects with similar goals.
  6. It’s intellectually stimulating. We guarantee you’ll be pushed in new directions.

 

What are the Rules again?


Did you know the Bio Rules of Life Track is different from the NSF Understanding the Rules of Life? Below is a chart explaining the key differences between the two funding opportunities and here is an FAQ around BIO’s Rules of Life Track. As always, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact a Program Officer or email us at debquestions@nsf.gov.

RoL.png

Credit: Karen Cone/Program Officer/Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences

 

 

New Email Validation System May Block NSF Email Communications


In a world of endless robocalls and mailing lists, we’re all  bombarded with more and more useless information. Unfortunately, some useful information from NSF might be going to your Spam folder.

Make sure the IT team at your college or university has @nsf.gov as an approved sender. This is especially important if you have your work emails forwarded to a different account (e.g., Gmail or Yahoo).

Be sure and check out this post from our Office of the Director for more information on the new email validation system.

Let’s work together to keep our lines of communication wide open. If you have any questions, please send us a note at debquestions@nsf.gov.

Updated Funding Opportunity – Science and Technology Centers: Integrative Partnerships


Our friends in MCB have some important information to share regarding the Science and Technology Centers (STC). Please see their write-up below:

“The Science and Technology Centers (STC): Integrative Partnerships program has released an updated solicitation calling for preliminary proposals that would ultimately lead to the awarding of five new research STCs. Science and Technology Centers support innovative, potentially transformative, complex research and education projects that require large-scale, long-term awards. They provide a means to undertake potentially groundbreaking investigations at the interfaces of disciplines and/or highly innovative approaches within disciplines. These centers can cover research in any topic that is funded by NSF including all areas of biology, and education. They usually include partnerships among academic institutions, national laboratories, industrial organizations, and/or other public/private entities, and international collaborations, as appropriate, to accomplish their research. More information on eligibility and other program specifics can be found in the solicitation 19-567.

Some important details:

  • Submissions of preliminary proposals are limited to 3 proposals per institution
  • Submissions limited to 1 proposal per PI or co-PI
  • Preliminary Proposal Due June 25, 2019
  • Full Proposal Due January 27, 2020

Questions can be answered by reaching out to the cognizant program officer. All proposals submitted in response to this STC solicitation should be submitted in accordance with the revised NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 19-1), which is effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after February 25, 2019.”

Meet DEB: Paco Moore


Paco.png

Behind Paco is the town of Longyearbyen (administered by Norway).

Name: Paco Moore

Education: Michigan State University. Ph.D. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, B.S. Zoology, B.S. Interdepartmental Biology.

Home Institution: The University of Akron

Tell us about your research,

I am a systems biologist interested in the forces structuring scale dependent patterns and emergent properties. I am particularly interested in evolution of complex traits in structured environments. I do not have a particular research system but enjoy working across systems. I have worked with fish, tetrapods, crustaceans, vascular and non-vascular plants, eubacteria, fungi, and protists. My work is primarily lab based but also has small field, theory and bioinformatic components. My studies usually fall in what I would call evolutionary genetics, but at times my questions have led me into systematics, community and ecosystem ecology, animal behavior, development, anatomy, physiology and biomaterials research. The greatest privilege of my life has been to receive the support of my home department in a career that has sacrificed total productivity in search of the broadest possible view. If I were to look for a single lesson from my research it is that the question is not if, but how much, the dynamics of a system are altered by interactions we have not been exploring.

What made you want to serve NSF?

I enjoy the idea that I can help the environmental biology research community by giving back some of the mentorship I have been shown over the last 30 years. DEB tends to have a unique blend of researchers that often receive some of their funding from outside DEB. I relish the opportunity to nurture the development of the community’s core interests and progress in DEB science while also supporting the community in its exploration of those interdisciplinary links that help forge new directions in environmental biology. In a vibrant, dynamic field like ours, investigators at all career stages benefit from communication with their colleagues, be it through mentorship, discussion, or even debate and NSF supports and listens to that communication. Service at NSF will therefore also allow me to better understand the driving questions and ambitions of what I find to be the most engaging field of study, ecology and evolutionary biology.

What are you most looking forward to during your tenure at NSF?

First and foremost, I look forward to interacting with our community. I see a major portion of my job is to provide information on the logistics, limitations and priorities of various funding opportunities. The flip side of discussing opportunity is the discussion of failed proposals, and it might seem to be a less than rewarding part of the job. However, when informed by a program officer’s knowledge of the decision process, a discussion of declined proposals is perhaps the best door for an investigator into understanding how to succeed. For this reason, I look forward to discussions with the community at all stages of the funding process.

My second most anticipated activity during my time at NSF is to help promote research that elucidates the dynamics that lead to scale dependent pattern and emergent properties. New funding opportunities both within and across divisions (e.g. Rules of Life, Bridging Ecology and Evolution) provide an incentive to the community to explore the space between disciplines that will alter pattern and dynamics across scales. I am excited to be back at NSF at a time when I can help nurture the DEB community as it determines the directions that these new programs will take.

PAPPG 19-1 Now Available


There’s a new version of the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide, or PAPPG (NSF 19-1). Check out a summary of the significant changes from prior versions and clarifications found in the new PAPPG here: https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/policydocs/pappg19_1/sigchanges.jsp

For international collaborations, please note the Cover Page has a new box to check for any international subawards and consultancies.

The guidelines in NSF 19-1 apply for proposals submitted or due, or awards made, on or after February 25, 2019. For instance, starting today (March 4, 2019) any RAPID or EAGER proposals intended for DEB would list the NSF 19-1 PAPPG program announcement number on the proposal cover page.

The PAPPG contains the full set of general guidelines to PIs, and includes everything from proposal preparation to award reporting and close-out. Many program-specific solicitations will reference the PAPPG for instructions on proposal submission, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with this document and make sure that your Sponsored Projects Office is aware of this new version.