Remembering Our Friend and Colleague John Schade

With great sorrow, we learned that our friend and colleague, Dr. John Schade, a Program Director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) passed away on Friday, March 26. John was a respected biogeochemist, an inspirational mentor, a great friend, and a tireless advocate for the ecology research community.

John received his B.S. in Biology from the University of Michigan and both his M.S. and Ph.D. in Biology from Arizona State University. He went on to develop a strong teaching and mentoring program for undergraduate students during the decade that he spent as a member of the faculty at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, where his research focused on the interface between land, water, and atmosphere. His most recent work examined the impacts of fire and permafrost thaw on carbon and nitrogen cycling in southwest Alaska. John was deeply committed to student-led research and collaboration, and he developed an extremely effective undergraduate training experience through his collaborative work on the Polaris Project. At the time of his passing, John held an appointment as a Distinguished Visiting Scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center, where the Polaris Project is based.

Beginning in the summer of 2013, John served in DEB as a rotating Program Director with the Ecosystem Science Cluster. In 2018, he was invited to return to NSF as a Permanent Program Director, working again with the Ecosystem Science Cluster and the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program. John was an outstanding champion for the LTER program and its unique role in ecological research. He was also deeply committed to convergence research, and he was active in the beginning phases of many innovative cross-directorate programs at NSF such as Navigating the New Arctic, Signals in the Soil, and Sustainable Regional Systems. John was particularly valued by his colleagues and many friends across NSF for engaging in deep and sincere dialogues about ecological science, education, and their role in society.

John was also appreciated for his great sense of humor, wry wit, and strong sense of mischief. He often had a “glint in the eye” and was involved in numerous escapades and adventures. He could find fun in almost any situation, and approached life with curiosity, wonder, and joy. We were all enriched by his warmth and friendship. We know many of you had the pleasure of working closely with John over the years and share our grief at this news of the loss of a wonderful colleague and friend, insightful scientist, and passionate educator and mentor. He will be profoundly missed.

John’s family invites friends and colleagues to find more memorial information at the Woodwell Climate Research Center. John’s many friends and colleagues are welcome to offer their thoughts and memories of him in response to this blog post in the comment section below. There will be a slight delay before your comment becomes visible.

Webinar: LEAPS for Biology

As noted previously on this blog, NSF has recently launched a new opportunity for professional societies to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion — LEAPS (LEAding cultural change through Professional Societies) for Biology. NSF is offering a webinar for the LEAPS program on March 24th at 2 p.m. EST.  We encourage representatives from societies across the biological sciences and those societies focused on broadening participation (SACNAS, AISES, ABRCMS) and/or from the NSF INCLUDES National Network to participate. Individuals from Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other organizations/institutions serving diverse populations are also encouraged to attend.

If interested, please register in advance at:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

If you have any questions, please contact one of the following Program Officers:

3/8/2021 Virtual Office Hours Recap – Early Career Investigators

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its latest Virtual Office Hour on March 8th, 2021. Program Officers provided information to Early Career Investigators, specifically investigators who may not have applied to NSF before. We host these office hours from 1-2 pm EST on the 2nd Monday of every month. Each session has a designated theme, but attendees are welcome to ask about other NSF-related topics.

The presentation and other documents are available here:

Slides (PDF)

PAPPG 20-1

Resource Links

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

Q: I am a first-time grant applicant at a small liberal arts college on the tenure-track. Would you recommend applying through a CAREER or RUI avenue with a DEB related proposal?

A: It is important to point out that regular proposals, CAREERs, and RUIs could potentially be reviewed together in a panel, all funded out of the reviewing program’s core budget. CAREERs are designed for early-career faculty who wish to establish themselves as teacher-scholars. They are especially appropriate for individuals at small institutions that focus on teaching but also value research.  If you want to develop new teaching techniques that integrate with your research and if your chair clearly values that type of initiative, a CAREER proposal is a great option.  RUI proposals are less prescriptive.  Whereas CAREERs require integration of teaching and research, RUI proposals are about empowering faculty at small institutions to conduct high quality research.  Teaching typically enters the picture “only” as a Broader Impact.  In short, the decision between submitting a CAREER and a RUI boils down to the extent to which teaching is featured as part of research activities. We encourage you to carefully review the RUI and CAREER solicitations and consider which best matches your approach to teaching and research. For more advice on your particular circumstances, we recommend reaching out to a Program Officer who can help you reach a decision.

Q: If a Program Officer requests a ~2 page prospectus to help evaluate fit for my research, how much detail is necessary ?

A: Provide enough detail to allow the Program Officer to evaluate whether your research is appropriate for the program. Please include basic information like title, investigators and institutions, and an estimated budget if you can. It is important that you clearly state your overarching questions and any sub-questions you aim to evaluate in your research. Clearly describe your methods and how they will answer the questions . A brief description of Broader Impacts would also be helpful.  A few (<10) references are often helpful; more are typically not.

Q: For NSF CAREER proposal submission, if we have not received a result/notification in March or April, would it be normal? What may be the reasons?

A: Generally, NSF strives to reach a decision on all proposals within 6 months from submission, however, this goal cannot always be achieved. There are extenuating factors like COVID-19 that have delayed the timeframe. The CAREER deadline was also extended in 2020, which delayed the review and decision process.  Additional delays could be due to budget management priorities where, for example, sometimes a proposal is placed on hold, while Program Officers wait see if funds will be available for it.  If you have not heard from NSF within six months from submission of your CAREER proposal, you should definitely contact the managing Program Officer about it (you can find out who is the managing Program Officer in Fastlane or

Q: Given the rolling deadlines, are there any informal deadlines we should be aware of to catch a certain panel review?

A: There are no informal deadlines. All four clusters  in DEB hold panels 3-4 times during the year. We encourage all PIs to submit their best proposal when they are ready. Their proposal will be reviewed at the next panel after it is received. It’s best to work backwards from when you may want to start your project, and submit your proposal at least 9-10 months before that.

Q: Who  should be designated Senior Personnel vs Other Personnel?

A: This depends on the level of intellectual involvement of the  senior personnel on the project. The question you should ask is, will this person likely be a co-author? If so, then you may want to add them as senior personnel. If they are providing data, samples, access to resources without receiving any funding then you may want to add them as other personnel. There are no firm designations between the two.

Q: Early Career Researchers are often applying to both NSF core programs as well as CAREER. How much overlap is tolerated particularly between CAREER submissions and core program submissions? Should the CAREER proposal be separate from anything else you have submitted or already have in review?

A: In general, you should not be submitting two  proposals about the same research to NSF. Program Officers look at current and pending proposals prior to the panel review and will verify if your proposal is unique. As mentioned above, CAREER proposals and regular proposals could be considered in the same panel, and CAREER proposals require a significant education component. Please keep in mind we will be having a CAREER Virtual Officer Hour on May 10. We hope to see you there!

Q: Can program officers receive instead of a 2-page prospectus, a 2-page response to reviews (particularly addressing conceptual changes)?

A: Reach out to the managing  Program Officer who will be happy to schedule a time to discuss reviews and panel summaries received on your proposal.

Q: I’m currently working in a National Lab, and I have always understood that I can’t submit an NSF proposal.  However, is there any way to be part of one of them?

A: You cannot be a PI or Co-PI on a proposal while working in a National Lab. The only exception to this rule is if you work at the Smithsonian Institution. Moreover, if you are not receiving a salary, then you can be collaborator or senior personnel on an NSF proposal while working in a National Lab. Alternatively, if you are also serving an adjunct position at an institution or university you may submit a proposal through that pathway but may need to receive written approval from the National Lab permitting your participation.

Q: Is it ok to include funding for international collaborators on DEB proposals, assuming they are experts in a critical component needed for your project? If so, are there guidelines/limitations for how much of your budget you can assign to those collaborators?

A:  NSF rarely provides direct funding support to foreign organizations. NSF will consider proposals for cooperative projects involving U.S. and foreign organizations, provided support is requested only for the U.S. portion of the collaborative effort. However, in cases  where the proposer considers the foreign organization’s involvement to be essential to the project, the proposer must explain why local (U.S.) support is not feasible and why the foreign organization can carry out the activity more effectively. More information can be found in the PAPPG. Please note that DEB has a number of international agreements allowing collaborations with researchers in other nations such as those found in our core solicitation and the Dimensions of Biodiversity program.  If you are uncertain, we recommend you reach out to a Program Officer for advice prior to submitting your proposal.

Q: Increasingly, my research is shifting towards more interdisciplinary collaborations involving ecology, sociology, and biogeography. Does NSF support interdisciplinary research? Where should I submit a prospectus?

A: Yes, NSF supports interdisciplinary research. There are many options to explore, and we recommend you reach out to a Program Officer for advice and review our DEB website for a program description that would be specific to your proposed research.

Q: Is the 3-limit submission to CAREER based on which Division reviews the proposal OR overall across programs, etc.?

A: You have 3 opportunities to submit a CAREER proposal across the foundation.

Q: Is a tenure-track early career faculty in a primarily undergraduate university (an HBCU) eligible to apply for an NSF CAREER grant?

A: Anyone in a tenure-track position at any type of institution of higher education is eligible. There are no institutional limits. Please check the solicitation for eligibility; this may vary outside of DEB.

Q: Do early career researchers get a boost to their scores because of their Early Career Researcher status, akin to the NIH system?

A: Most NSF programs do not assign numerical scores to proposals, so there is no easily quantifiable “boost” from being either an early career researcher or an officially designated Beginning Investigator. Rather, career stage is one of several factors that programs consider when balancing their portfolio of awards. Other factors include diversity, conceptual area, study taxon, geographic area, gender, and type of institution.

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. You can also check out the post on funding opportunities for early career researchers.

Our next virtual office hours will be held April 12th, 2021, from 1-2pm EST and will provide information on opportunities and priorities from the Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI). We will be joined by Program Officers from DBI.

Be sure to check back here or on the NSF Events Page for information on how to register.

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:

April 12: Getting to know the Division of Biological Infrastructure: Opportunities and Priorities

May 10: CAREER Solicitation

June 14: How to Write a Great Proposal *moved from April

Now Hiring: Permanent Program Director in Systematics and Biodiversity Science

The Directorate for Biological Sciences, Division of Environmental Biology at the National Science Foundation has initiated a Permanent Program Director search in the Systematics and Biodiversity Science Program, which will close 04/09/2021.

Permanent Program Director is a full-time position within the Federal Government. The responsibilities of Program Directors include program planning and management; representation of the program, Division, and the Foundation within the scientific community; communication within and outside of NSF; and scientific and programmatic leadership. Additionally, these positions involve professional development, including active participation in professional activities, as well as pursuing individual research, as workload and travel funds permit.

You are encouraged to contact the Program Directors below to learn more about the position:

For more details and how to apply, please visit the job announcement:

Fourth Interdisciplinary Workshop in Series on Pandemic Prediction and Prevention Approaching

The Directorates for Biological Sciences (BIO); Computer Information Science and Engineering (CISE); Engineering (ENG); Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE); and the Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) at the National Science Foundation (NSF) have jointly supported a series of interdisciplinary workshops to engage research communities around the topic of Predictive Intelligence for Pandemic Prevention.

The fourth and concluding workshop will be held on March 22-23, 2021 and examine how human attitudes, social behavior, and the drivers underlying both contribute to disease transmission through their determination of policy and behavioral obstacles and supports. We encourage investigators across the biological sciences involved in infectious disease-related research to participate as the workshop will provide an opportunity to network with researchers in akin areas across the sciences and engineering. You can register at

Previous workshops have focused on the ability to rapidly detect and assess the threat of emerging pathogens; an understanding of how the global behavior of an organism is related to interactions between components at the molecular, cellular, and physiological scales; and the identification of pre-emergence and the prediction of rare events.

The goal of the series is to bring together interdisciplinary experts in the biological, engineering, computer, and social and behavioral sciences to start conversations and catalyze ideas on how to advance scientific understanding beyond state-of-the-art in pre-emergence and emergence forecasting, real-time monitoring, and detection of inflection point events in order to prevent and mitigate the occurrence of future pandemics. As per our mission, these NSF supported workshops will focus on the foundational knowledge and capabilities needed to inform future infectious disease outbreak prediction and pandemic prevention.

Each of these workshops is expected to have up to 50 invited active participants. The community can participate in a listen-only mode and interact through chat and Q&A functions.

 More information on the series can be found at

Explore Our Blog!

Image credit: Shutterstock

We want to welcome new subscribers to DEBrief and remind our returning subscribers of all the information and resources we have on our blog.

At the top of our blog, you’ll notice 5 tabs. The first is our Home tab, where all our blog posts live. Next is the DEB Resources and Links tab. This includes great information related to funding opportunities and other programs that may be of interest to the DEB community. Next and newest is the Office Hours tab. Here you’ll find information on how to register for upcoming virtual office hours as well as recaps of previous ones. Next is the About tab, which tells you about the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) and who writes these posts. And finally, the Blog Policies tab includes all the rules and policies associated with our blog so that we all know what to expect of each other.

We’d also like to remind everyone that the Search Tool on the right side of the blog allows you to search for specific topics. Our blog contains vast stores of information. If you want to see whether we’ve written about a particular topic in the past,  enter it there and see what pops up.

So what can you search for? Confused about budget justifications? We got you. Heard something was happening with Biosketches and Current and Pending Support? Not a problem. Wondering if a Career-Life Balance supplement is right for you? Check this out! Haven’t thought about COVID in two seconds? Here you go. Need more FastLane in your life or ever wonder where Program Officers and staff come from? You know where to go.

If you’ve stumbled upon us by Googling or heard about us at a conference, Welcome! But did you know you can follow us, and you’ll receive an email any time we post something?  Enter your email address and click on “Follow DEBrief by Email” on the right side  below the Search Tool. That way you’ll never miss out! We typically post at least once a week on a variety of topics.

Finally, thank you to our subscribers. Whether you’ve been here since our first post over 8 years ago or joined yesterday, we’re happy to have you. For any questions or more information, please reach out to us at

Now Hiring: Temporary Program Director in Ecosystem Science Program

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is searching for a temporary program director (rotator) in the Ecosystem Science Program in the Division of Environmental Biology, with a flexible start date of August 2021 to 2023. Rotators typically join NSF on a short-term basis (1-3 years) and contribute to making proposal funding recommendations, influencing NSF program trajectories, interfacing with the scientific community, and relaying trends about research community directions to NSF programs. Rotators maintain ties to their current institution during their rotation, returning to their position with new insights about the federal funding landscape after their rotation.

If you or someone you know might be interested in serving in this important role at NSF, we would like to hear from you. You can read the job posting and apply at

Qualified candidates from the full range of expertise covered by the Ecosystem Science Program are encouraged to apply. The Rotator Program strengthens NSF’s ties with the research community and provides the talent and resources that are critical to meeting NSF’s mission. Many potential candidates may have ongoing NSF awards. NSF has mechanisms in place that allow active labs to continue functioning while you are serving the scientific community through employment with NSF. Details about NSF’s Rotator Program can be found here:

Rotators make essential contributions to Ecosystem Science at NSF, and we are looking to continue a strong tradition of having outstanding scientists fill this role and serve on behalf of the community. Serving as a rotator at NSF can expand your scientific world view and enable you to engage in a leadership position within the science community in a whole new way. More information about becoming a temporary program director can be found here:

Please forward this announcement to anyone you think might be interested in this opportunity. The application process is straightforward. Review of applications will start March 22, 2021 and continue until the position is filled.

We encourage you to get in touch with these current Program Directors to learn more about the position:

Elizabeth Blood,

Matt Kane,

Gary Lamberti,

Kendra McLauchlan,

Heather Throop,

NSF Calls for Examinations of Emergent Networks as Part of Understanding the Rules of Life “Big Idea”

Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation

The biological world is interconnected by complex networks. What are the rules that control these networks? How are the interactions altered by environments? Are the rules similar across all biological scales? How can an understanding of such roles be harnessed to benefit society?

The new Understanding the Rules of Life: Emergent Networks (URoL:EN) solicitation encourages convergent, cross-disciplinary research – including the biological sciences – to examine such rules, the outcomes of these interactions, and to aid in the prediction of emergent properties. The program also seeks to train STEM practitioners to contribute to this area of convergent research. Proposals under the solicitation should be submitted by May 10, 2021.

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

Understanding the mechanisms at play in the interconnections between living organisms and their environments, across every biological scale, will provide vital insight into grand biological challenges, help advance biotechnology to spur the US bioeconomy, and aid in solving some of society’s issues, including the growing impacts of infectious disease and climate change.

Investigators from across the biological sciences are encouraged to submit proposals in concert with researchers in other disciplines, including the mathematical and physical sciences, geosciences, computer and information sciences, engineering, and behavioral and social sciences.

Directorates from across NSF will be holding a virtual office hour on March 11 beginning at 2:00pm Eastern to answer questions on the solicitation. Register in advance for this webinar:

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

Upcoming Virtual Office Hours: Early Career Researchers

Join us Monday, March 8th from 1-2PM EST for DEB’s next Virtual Office Hour. Program Officers will provide information for Early Career Researchers.  Representatives from each DEB cluster will be available for questions.

To participate, please use the registration 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, as we will be posting a recap and the presentation slides.  As always, our Virtual Office Hours will happen on the second Monday of every month from 1pm-2pm EST. 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! You can also visit our Office Hours homepage for slideshows and recaps of past topics.

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:

March 8: Early Career Researchers

April 12: Infrastructure resources available to DEB investigators (site REU, collections, databases and data aggregators, etc.)

May 10: CAREER Solicitation

NSF Launches New Opportunity for Professional Societies to Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The National Science Foundation has recently released a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) encouraging professional societies to work together to form networks to promote cultural change in biology to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. The DCL, called LEAPS (LEAding cultural change through Professional Societies) of Biology, intends to fund conference proposals, planning proposals, and Research Coordination Network (RCN) proposals that will facilitate collaboration among biology professional societies with the goal of broadening participation of the STEM workforce at scale.  

This DCL encourages submissions from societies focused on broadening participation (SACNAS, AISES, ABRCMS) and/or from the NSF INCLUDES National Network. Professional societies are uniquely positioned to lead cultural, structural, and social change through appointing or electing society leaders, convening meetings, publishing, issuing awards, providing training, and creating career support networks. They can shape the culture at the scale of the (sub-) discipline and have the potential to influence other disciplines, institutions, and departments.

Potential partnerships could also include Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other organizations/institutions serving diverse populations. The participation of multiple societies from more than one biological discipline and/or of multiple societies from the same discipline that range in membership size is also encouraged.  

For more information, please read the full DCL. To be considered for funding in fiscal year 2021, proposals should be submitted by May 14, 2021. Proposals submitted after that date will be considered for fiscal year 2022 funding.

For questions concerning the DCL, please contact one of the following Program Directors: