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.


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

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


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 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

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


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:

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.


Harnessing the Data Revolution: New Funding Opportunities

From our friends over at DBI,

“We would like to draw your attention to a new funding opportunity that may be of interest to our community. NSF’s Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR) is a national-scale activity to enable new modes of data-driven discovery that will allow fundamental questions to be asked and answered at the frontiers of science and engineering. The HDR vision is realized through an interrelated set of activities and funding opportunities.  Each of these efforts is designed to amplify the intrinsically multidisciplinary nature of the emerging field of data science.

I would like to particularly note the HDR: Institutes portion of this initiative. This activity is specifically designed to form interdisciplinary teams of researchers and technical experts to apply advanced approaches from data science to significant research questions where there is potential for major advance by harnessing untapped potential in data. There are two solicitations offered for this activity:

NSF 19-543: Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR): Institutes for Data-Intensive Research in Science and Engineering – Ideas Labs (I-DIRSE-IL)

NSF 19-549:  Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR): Institutes for Data-Intensive Research in Science and Engineering – Frameworks (I-DIRSE-FW)

The first solicitation targets individuals who wish to participate in an Ideas Lab workshop where they can find new collaborators to team with and develop a proposal for two-year prototype project. The second targets teams that are already formed and wish to submit a proposal for a two-year prototype project. In both cases, success for this activity rests on balanced participation by individuals with diverse skills – both researchers with intimate knowledge of the science to help frame the research challenges and define requirements and data science experts with experience in cyberinfrastructure, computational science, math, and statistics. This communication is going out to our entire research community to promote participation by individuals that fit any of these above descriptions. We encourage you to look at these solicitations, attend the webinar listed below, or visit the HDR website at:

Some of these solicitations were released just prior to the lapse in federal appropriations; others were delayed by it. To give the community more opportunity to respond, the deadlines for these activities have been revised as below:

Deadline Updates for HDR Solicitations

Due to the recent 35-day lapse in appropriations and shutdown of the agency, NSF will be extending the deadline dates for the HDR solicitations noted below:

Pub ID Title Original Deadline Submission Type New Deadline Date
19-543 Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR): Institutes for Data-Intensive Research in Science and Engineering – Ideas Labs (I-DIRSE-IL) 28-Jan-19 Preliminary proposals 4-Mar-19