Virtual Panel Service: What to Expect


NSF remains open and operational and DEB has plans to continue holding virtual panels into the fall and winter seasons. You may have already received an email asking about your availability and may be curious about what a virtual panel experience looks like. In terms of the proposal review process, it looks a lot like in-person service but with some more frequent breaks, which we are finding necessary to reduce video conference fatigue. Let’s dive in!

Who serves on panels?

Panelists range in experience from post-doctoral scholars (rare, so don’t get your hopes up if you’re a postdoc) through the ranks to tenured faculty, museum curators, and other active researchers both inside and outside universities. 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 (e.g., Research-1, Primarily Undergraduate Institutions, Minority-Serving Institutions, museums), states (especially EPSCoR eligible), and membership in groups underrepresented in science. With respect to the latter, we rely on you to self-identify when you register with Fastlane or Grants.gov.

Before we recruit someone for panel recruitment/service, we frequently ask them to serve initially as an ad hoc reviewer so that they become familiar with the review process. (An ad hoc reviewer is like a reviewer of a manuscript submitted to a journal. It’s a one-off review by someone who has expertise in the topic of a particular proposal.)

You can relay your interest in serving by visiting our website and signing up using our Reviewer Survey on our website.

Before Panel Service

So, you’ve been asked and agreed to serve on a panel*. That’s great! You’ll receive an email (a “Charge Letter”), describing how to register for the panel. You need to register before you can access any of the proposals.

After lots of communication from the managing Program Officer and you identifying any 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 the ad hoc or other panelists’ reviews until you’ve submitted all of your own assigned reviews.)

*We query for panelist availability through surveys sent to a subset of the community but just because you are surveyed doesn’t guarantee you’ll be asked to serve on a panel.

Day of Service

The panel is a multi-day discussion of each proposal’s intellectual merits and broader impacts. 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.

How is the virtual panel experience different from the in-person experience?

A virtual panel can present new challenges in some ways but also offers huge benefits in other ways.

Based on conversations with panelists over the years, we know that one of the best things about in-person panel service is meeting and interacting with Program Officers and fellow panelists over dinners and coffee breaks. Although panel dinners are pretty much impossible in the virtual world, we’ve made time for informal break-out sessions during which panelists can chat with Program Officers and fellow panelists.

On the bright side, going virtual allows panelists who would have otherwise been unable to participate (due to family obligations or other time constraints) in panel service. We’ve seen virtual panels expand our community to include those who previously found the travel required for in-person panels too onerous.

We’ve also noted panelists’ dogs are enthusiastically supportive of the virtual format. Panelists’ cats remain indifferent.

How does serving on a virtual 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 your community.
  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.

 

 

Meet DEB: Ashley Le-Pham, Elizabeth Banda Cruz, and Bill Lawson


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Ashley Le-Pham

What is your name and role here at DEB?

My name is Ashley Le-Pham, and I’m the newest Biologist to join DEB! My roles in DEB are pretty far and wide, but my primary responsibility is to assist in the merit review process by way of helping produce panel summaries, analyzing programmatic data, and being involved with outreach to the scientific community and the public.

How did you find out about NSF?

I first heard of NSF as an undergraduate researcher at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). I proudly displayed the NSF logo whenever I presented my research as NSF was our main source of funding. As for how I came to NSF for work, I was originally a Science Assistant in the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems, another division in BIO! I loved my time so much at NSF and knew I would want to stay here long-term (Science Assistants are on 2-year appointments). DEB hired me at the end of my science assistantship and the rest is history! Sometimes it still feels like a dream that I work at the National Science Foundation, and I am so happy to be here.

Tell us a little about what you studied in school.

At CSUF, I pursued a major in Biochemistry and a minor in Piano Performance. It was really cool to start my day by exercising my classical piano skills and then transition to more difficult chemistry classes in the afternoon. Studying metabolism was definitely the highlight of my undergraduate studies—it’s so interesting! My undergraduate research involved studying the critical starch-producing enzyme ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase and I studied this enzyme from the bacterial organism Deinococcus radiodurans in an effort to increase starch yield.

Cats or dogs?

Ooof. This is a hard question! I think for my current life stage, a cat would be better suited for me because of their independence and low maintenance. But I do love dogs because they are always so happy to be with you. Right now, I have my family dog with me (pictured here) in DC. She’s super low-maintenance, independent, and a great companion. I really do have the best of both worlds!

dog

Audrey

Is a hotdog a sandwich?

I think officially and logically, a hotdog is a sandwich. But will I ever verbally call a hotdog a sandwich? Never!

me

Elizabeth Banda Cruz

What is your name and role here at DEB?

I’m Elizabeth Banda Cruz and I’m a Program Assistant in DEB. I primarily support the Ecosystem Science and Population and Community Ecology clusters. More broadly, I help with travel documents, meeting schedules, panel preparations and during-panel tasks.

How did you find out about NSF?

Growing up with PBS Kids is probably how I first heard about NSF. However, I heard of an opportunity to work here from a friend I met in Eswatini while serving as a community health volunteer with the Peace Corps.

Tell us a little about what you studied in school.

I studied Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. I found Medical Anthropology most interesting as it aims to better understand the different factors that influence health and wellness.

Cats or dogs?

I am definitely more of a dog person. Especially huskies!

If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life what would it be?

Impossible to choose just one!

bill

Bill Lawson

What is your name and role here at DEB?

My name is Bill Lawson, and I’m a Program Assistant in DEB. I am responsible for the general logistics surrounding hosting panels, travel for staff and visitors, and other administrative support tasks.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m from Southern Maryland and grew up around the Delmarva area. I’m a returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Mozambique, 2017-2019) with a B.S in Biology and a B.A. in International Studies with a minor in Chemistry from Virginia Wesleyan University. Soccer is my great passion and I enjoy playing, watching, and even coaching it on occasion.

Who do you cheer for?

I’m with the sky blue, Manchester City! As a kid, I wanted to root against my father, who is a Manchester United fan. Not being old enough to know that their rivals were actually Liverpool, I chose Manchester City to support, and we’ve been watching the derby ever since.

Anything else?

I have a particular love for quotes, and I wanted to share the following:

“I didn’t want to just know the names of things. I remember really wanting to know how it all worked.” -Elizabeth Blackburn, 2009 Nobel Prize winner for Physiology or Medicine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HBCU-EiR Q&A Recap


Program Officers representing each division in BIO hosted two online informational sessions on July 1st and July 14th to help answer questions about the Historically Black Colleges and Universities – Excellence in Research (HBCU- EiR) program.

“The Historically Black Colleges and Universities – Excellence in Research (HBCU-EiR) program was established in response to direction provided in the Senate Commerce and Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Report (Senate Report 115-139), and is built on prior and continuing efforts by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to strengthen research capacity at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The program aims to establish stronger connections between researchers at HBCUs and NSF’s research programs.”

For those who were unable to attend, we’ve provided the PowerPoint slides here.

Remember the Letter of Intent is due July 23rd, 2020 and if you have any questions there’s still time to reach out to any of the Program Officers listed on the informational slides above.

2020 Virtual Summer Meeting Schedule


DEB Program Officers will be present at several upcoming virtual meetings this summer. If you can’t make it to any of the meetings listed below, as always, feel free to reach out to us directly.

We’re also available to virtually meet with your institution or society to discuss our programs and funding opportunities. The virtual format of meetings this year makes it easy for us to visit with you, so we are hoping to get around to a greater variety of meetings than ever! Feel free to drop us a line at debquestions@nsf.gov or reach out to a Program Officer directly if you’re interested in scheduling something.

 

Meeting Date Program Officer(s)
American Society for Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Educators July 8-9, 2020 Andrea Porras-Alfaro

 

Mycological Society of America July 22, 2020 Andrea Porras-Alfaro

 

American Society of Naturalists July 23, 2020 Chris Balakrishnan
    Dave Cannatella
    Matt Herron
    Amanda Ingram
    Jodie Jawor
    Sam Scheiner
Botany 2020 July 27-31, 2020 Matt Herron
    Amanda Ingram
    Simon Malcomber
    Diana Pilson
Ecological Society of America August 3-6, 2020 Ford Ballantyne
    Liz Blood
    Dan Gruner
    Matt Kane
    Doug Levey
    Kendra McLauchlan
    Andrea Porras-Alfaro
    John Schade-tentative
    Stephanie Hampton
    Sam Scheiner
    Betsy Von Holle
    Montona Futrell-Griggs
    Roland Roberts
    Irv Forseth
    Reed Beaman
    Cheryl Dybas
American Phytopathological Society August 10-14, 2020 Andrea Porras-Alfaro

 

Extended Deadline: Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER)


Due to the multifaceted challenges faced by universities and PIs under COVID-19, NSF is extending the upcoming proposal deadline for the Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER; NSF 20-525) until 5:00 p.m. submitter’s local time on Tuesday, August 11, 2020.

Please note that the eligibility requirements specified in the solicitation remain unchanged, and proposers must meet all of the eligibility requirements as of the original deadline of July 27, 2020.  We strongly encourage the submission of CAREER proposals on or before the original deadline of July 27, 2020.  NSF will not consider requests to extend the deadline date beyond 5:00 p.m., submitter’s local time on Tuesday, August 11, 2020, except as outlined in PAPPG Chapter I.F.3. Tips for applying to NSF’s CAREER program can be found here.

Please reach out to a CAREER Program Divisional contact if you have any questions.

6/8/20 Virtual Office Hours Recap


The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its latest Virtual Office Hour on June 8th, 2020. We host these office hours 1-2pm EDT 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. Program Officers from each of DEB’s clusters are present at each Virtual Office Hour.

This month’s topic was Opportunities for Promoting Understanding through Synthesis (OPUS) Solicitation (NSF 20-564).

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: Does the OPUS solicitation cover other directorates such as material science and engineering?

A: No. The OPUS solicitation (NSF 20-564) is specifically for the Division of Environmental Biology including all four clusters within the division (Ecosystem Science, Evolutionary Processes, Population and Community Ecology, and Systematics and Biodiversity Science). The focus and scope of research questions must be consistent with the program descriptions of one or more of the four clusters within the Division of Environmental Biology.

Q: Does an OPUS proposal need to be a synthesis primarily of the PI’s work? Can it be a meta-analysis?

A: Per the solicitation, OPUS provides an opportunity for an investigator or a group of investigators at any career stage to revisit and synthesize a significant body of their prior research or to harmonize distinct data sets that they have produced to enable new understanding. That said, the solicitation does not say that only your own data sets can be synthesized. This program targets investigators who have, over time, produced significant work and data from a series of research projects, and who are planning to integrate that work in a single synthesis. Combining your own work with other datasets could be appropriate but check with your Program Officers in the appropriate cluster for guidance. Proposals requesting support mainly for the production of new data are not appropriate. Likewise, efforts simply to summarize previous results will not be supported. We expect OPUS awards to generate novel understanding, new questions, or emergent insights that are more than the sum of their individual parts.

Q: Are there any restrictions in budget?

A: There are few restrictions with regards to the OPUS budget. Requests may be for up to two years with an anticipated award size of between $175,000 and $350,000. Additionally, the total salary allocated to PIs cannot exceed 6.5 months plus fringe benefits for a period spanning up to two years. In cases where multiple investigators are involved, the total allowance of 6.5 months’ salary may be distributed among investigators.

Q: If we were planning to apply to what previous OPUS solicitations referred to as the Mid-Career Synthesis track, what I’m hearing is that OPUS is no longer appropriate for us and now we need to wait until a new opportunity is announced. Is that correct?

A: There is no mid-career track in the 20-564 OPUS solicitation. We aim to expand the mid-career opportunity to other science and engineering programs in addition to Biological Sciences. You can sign up for notifications about new funding opportunities here to know as soon as information is public.

Q: OPUS seems particularly amenable to sabbaticals. How soon could a sabbatical start after the submission deadline to be supported by OPUS?

A: Yes, OPUS proposals are very well suited for funding sabbaticals. As with proposals submitted to our core solicitation (NSF 20-502), please allow enough time (typically 5-6 months, but in rare cases it may be more) for the peer review process to proceed before you expect to hear from us about a decision.

Please reach out to a Program Officer if you have any questions about the proposal submission and review process in DEB programs.

Our next virtual office hours will be held on August 10th, 2020 from 1-2pm EDT and will address Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental Systems (DISES; NSF 20-579) formerly known as CNH2.

There will be NO virtual office hour in July. Be sure to check back here or on the NSF Events Page for information on how to register.

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:

July: No Office Hours

August 10: DISES: Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental Systems f.k.a. CNH2

September 14: Macrosystems Biology and NEON-Enabled Science (MSB-NES)

October 19: BIO Postdoc Program

November 9: Intro to DEB

December 14: Supplements

January 11: TBD (Feel free to suggest a topic!)

HBCU Excellence in Research Q&A Sessions


Are you an investigator at a Historically Black College or University (HBCU)?

Are you curious which programs at NSF support research like yours?

Are you interested in applying to or learning more about the HBCU-EiR program?

Program Officers representing each division in BIO will be hosting two online informational sessions to help answer any questions you may have. Join us to learn more about the NSF HBCU-EiR program, gain an understanding of where your research fits in at NSF, and have one-on-one conversations with Program Officers about your research goals. Register for one of the two sessions below:

July 1st from 1-2pm EST

REGISTRATION LINK

or July 14th from 3-4pm EST

REGISTRATION LINK

“The Historically Black Colleges and Universities – Excellence in Research (HBCU-EiR) program was established in response to direction provided in the Senate Commerce and Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Report (Senate Report 115-139), and is built on prior and continuing efforts by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to strengthen research capacity at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The program aims to establish stronger connections between researchers at HBCUs and NSF’s research programs.”

 

 

Upcoming Virtual Office Hours: OPUS Proposals 


Join us June 8th from 1pm-2pm EDT for DEB’s next Virtual Office Hour. Program Officers will provide an introduction to the Opportunities for Promoting Understanding through Synthesis (OPUS) Solicitation (NSF 20-564). 

Representatives from each of the four DEB core programs will be available for questions, which can be on any DEB or NSF topic. 

Please use the registration link below to participate. Upcoming DEB Virtual Office Hours are announced ahead of time on DEBrief, so sign up for blog notifications for reminders.  

REGISTER HERE 

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 EDT. Below is a list of upcoming dates and topics (subject to change), so be sure to add them to your calendars! 

 

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics: 

June 8: OPUS 

July: No Office Hours 

August 10: CNH2: Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental Systems 

September 14: Macrosystems Biology and NEON-Enabled Science (MSB-NES) 

October TBD: BIO Postdoc Program 

November 9: Intro to DEB 

December 14: Supplements 

January 11: TBD 

5/18/20 Virtual Office Hours Recap


The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its sixth Virtual Office Hour on May 18th, 2020. We will be hosting these office hours 1-2pm EDT 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 Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) (NSF 20-525).

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. Due to the high volume of questions, the full list of questions can be found in the link above:

Q: Is the education component focused just on higher education?

A: Reviewers want to see that part of the education plan is in line with the institutional goals and that you have the appropriate resources to conduct the proposed activities. However, that does not preclude you from engaging in broader impacts activities away from your home institution. We encourage investigators to do things that they want to do, and that create educational opportunities.

Q: How much preliminary data would be appropriate for a successful proposal? How critical is preliminary data in a successful CAREER proposal?

A: Reviewers like to see that you can accomplish the methods you say you are going to use. This includes a combination of your publication record, relevant citations, and enough preliminary data to show the work can be conducted.

Q: Does the CAREER solicitation support interdisciplinary projects, and if so, are there any suggestions on which program to choose given the interdisciplinary nature of a research project?

A: Investigators will submit proposals to the CAREER solicitation but indicate the core program to which they’re submitting. This is the primary program of interest, but investigators can also indicate another program that may be relevant.

As with other proposals, CAREER proposals can be co-reviewed by multiple programs. For more information on what this entails check out our blog post on demystifying the co-review process, as well as our November Office Hour recap on the same topic. The CAREER solicitation also includes additional details on Cross-Disciplinary Opportunities.

Please reach out to a Program Officer if you have any questions about the proposal submission and review process in DEB programs.

Our next virtual office hours will be held on June 8th, 2020 from 1-2pm EDT and will address Opportunities for Promoting Understanding through Synthesis (OPUS) (NSF 20-564). Be sure to check back here or on the NSF Events Page for information on how to register.