Integration Institutes Request for Information Due March 1


From our friends at the Office of the Assistant Director, “The NSF Directorate for Biological Sciences has published a Dear Colleague Letter seeking ideas from the community on Integration Institutes for cross-cutting biology. These institutes would support collaborative teams of researchers to address questions that span multiple levels of organization in living systems and require expertise from diverse biological subdisciplines.

This is not a call for research proposals, but rather for high-level ideas about the types of questions and resources that would benefit from NSF investment in a truly integrated research environment.

The deadline for submissions is March 1. Please see the Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 19-027) for details on how to submit your ideas.”

DEB at the American Geophysical Union (AGU)


Several DEB Program Officers including, Elizabeth Blood, Dan Gruner, Kendra McLauchlan, and John Schade, will be attending the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in Washington, DC December 10-14. Representatives from the Ecosystem Science cluster and the Population and Community Ecology cluster will be on site and available for conversations. We are ready to talk about the latest NSF news and funding opportunities.

Our colleagues in the Directorate for Geosciences will have a booth, so feel free to stop by there, pick up DEB-relevant materials, and chat at any time.

We will be joining an outreach event called “Navigating NSF” from 9 am to noon on Wednesday, December 12 in the Marriott Marquis, 901 Massachusetts Ave. NW, in the Georgetown Room. The event is organized by the Earth Science Women’s Network and all are welcome to attend. There will be a short presentation, a discussion among Program Officers, and dedicated time for small group discussion. See you there!

DEB Supplements Reminder


It’s that time of year again when we remind our active grantees about the education and broadening participation supplements available to DEB awards.

We have recently updated our supplement descriptions. Additional details on the components to include in each type of supplement request and information on budgets can also be found on our supplements webpage.

Target Date:

Requests for this set of DEB supplements (RET, RAHSS, ROA, REU) should be submitted by the third Tuesday in January annually. This is a target date, requests beyond the target date will be considered only as budgets allow. Supplement requests must be submitted through FastLane.

Supplement Types:

  • Research Experiences for Teachers (RET)
  • Research Assistantships for High School Students (RAHSS)
  • Research Opportunity Awards (ROA)
  • Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)

Other types of supplement requests should be discussed with your program officer. If you have any additional questions, please contact the relevant DEB Program (check the DEB staff listings on the NSF website).

Eligibility:

Supplements are only available to PIs and co-PIs with active DEB awards. Please note that some of the special programs accept supplement requests, and others do not. If your program is not listed here, and/or if you have questions about supplement eligibility for your current award, please contact your cognizant Program Officer.

Program RET RAHSS ROA REU
Core DEB Y Y Y Y
EEID Y Y Y Y
Dimensions of Biodiversity N N N N
Genealogy of Life Y Y Y Y
CNH N N N N

Before submitting a supplement request, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • no supplements can be awarded if there are any overdue project reports associated with anyone on the award including co-PIs and all members of a collaborative project
  • supplemental funds must be expended by the expiration date of the original award
  • the IRB/IACUC documentation must be up-to-date and include the time frame of the supplement
  • if the award budget already included Participant Support funds to support students or teachers, you must clearly explain the extenuating circumstances leading to the request for more such funding
  • as budgets allow, DEB typically provides funds for one REU student per year, but will consider supporting two REU students if the PI can demonstrate a unique opportunity for broadening participation from traditionally underrepresented groups in the biological sciences.

Special BIO Advisory Committee Meeting to be held 11/16


From our friends over at the BIO OAD Blog, “The BIO advisory committee will hold a special meeting on Friday, November 16th from 2:30-4:30 PM to discuss immediately establishing a subcommittee to consider different options for addressing community concerns with the BIO proposal submission limits.

This meeting will be held via teleconference among the Advisory Committee members. Public visitors will be able to attend the meeting in person at NSF headquarters; please contact Alexis Patullo at apatullo@nsf.gov to request a visitor badge.

For more information on this meeting, please visit the NSF BIO Advisory Committee page.”

NSF’s Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education wants to hear from YOU!


The National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education (AC ERE) invites your input on possible environmental research and education directions to further advance national security and economic competitiveness.

The AC ERE has been interested broadly in fundamental environmental research and education that also has societal utility, and is particularly interested in approaches that promote convergent research across disciplines and sectors to address economic competitiveness and economic security.

To identify emerging research questions in these areas, the AC ERE is reaching out to interested and knowledgeable members of the scientific community in all disciplines and interdisciplinary areas for their views. The AC ERE is also interested in the views of professionals who are directly involved in decision-making or operational activities in these areas, and who therefore can provide a very practical perspective on high-priority research and education topics.

The AC ERE invites individuals and groups of individuals to provide input on one or both of the topics described above via this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ACERE-RFI-2018

The online submission form requires the following information:

  1. Author name(s) and affiliation(s);
  2. Valid contact email address;
  3. Title of the response;
  4. An abstract (200 words or less) summarizing the response; and
  5. Checkbox to consent to allow the AC ERE to display the submitted information, consistent with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode).

You will also be asked to identify whether your response focuses on questions in environmental research and education that are pertinent to a) economic growth and competitiveness, b) national and human security, or c) both topics. The submission form includes the following question prompts. Respondents may respond to all or any subset of these questions.

  • What are the major environmental research priorities with the greatest potential to contribute to economic growth and competitiveness and/or national or human security/wellbeing? Priorities could, for example, include empirical, theoretical, or qualitative analyses, establishing baselines, and/or experimental studies. (500 words or less)
  • What methodologies should be used for conducting such studies? Methodological recommendations could include the prospects for interdisciplinary and/or convergent research approaches, including modeling, theory, empirical, qualitative, and/or experimental studies. Methodological recommendations could also discuss the scope of studies, e.g. the balance between single-investigator studies and large teams. (500 words or less)
  • What education (including formal and informal), research, and training opportunities – for students, postdoctoral researchers, and mid-career scientists – are needed? Opportunities might include interdisciplinary, team-based, or other innovative, value-added strategies for realizing higher levels of depth and breadth at the individual level, and/or expansion of the current environmental research community through inclusion of currently under-represented groups. (500 words or less)
  • Beyond economic competitiveness and national security, what other high priority drivers of environmental science and education need attention? (200 words or less)

Submissions must be received by 5:00 PM Eastern Time on August 20, 2018. Respondents may edit their responses while completing the survey, but will not be able to save work in progress to complete later. Respondents will see a confirmation screen upon successful submission responses.

The committee and associated staff will read and analyze all responses received, and use them, in addition to its own background work, to develop a report on these topics to inform NSF and the community. It intends to publish this report by the end of 2018.

The AC ERE also anticipates making submissions publicly accessible through its website (https://www.nsf.gov/ere/ereweb/advisory.jsp). Authors who do not wish to have their full responses posted online may restrict access to the AC ERE and associated staff. However, the author(s) name and affiliation, submission title, and abstract will be included in the publicly accessible list of responses regardless.

The AC ERE invites you to step outside of the immediate demands of your current research and to think boldly about the opportunities for advancing environmental research and education into its next stage through a lens focused on economic competitiveness and/or national security. The Committee looks forward to your contributions.

For questions concerning this effort and submission of input, please contact Leah Nichols, Executive Secretary for the AC ERE, at lenichol@nsf.gov.

In Memoriam – Elaine Washington


washingtonMs. Elaine Washington was a devoted, well-known worker and avid contributor to the NSF mission as an employee of the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) for over 14 years from 2001-2015. She passed away on April 18, 2018. She worked at NSF for nearly 35 years, starting at the 1800 G Street headquarters.

Ms. Washington was an experienced professional responsible for cultivating strategic partnerships through outreach activities. She supported numerous activities in DEB, including advisory panels for Evolutionary Processes (EP), Systematics and Biodiversity Sciences (SBS), Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID), Assembling the Tree of Life (ATOL), Dimensions of Biodiversity and a host of others.

She developed relationships and collaborated seamlessly with the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) Education Directors, Materials Research Society (MRS), American Physical Society (APS), AIP Publishing, Division of Chemistry (CHE), Division of Physics (PHY) and the Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI).

She was highly engaged and adept at tasks involving data and information technology. She was also an active participant in working groups, business retreats and office events as an all-around contributor and asset to our agency. Elaine’s can-do attitude, hard work and gentle spirit will be sincerely missed at NSF but remembered fondly in our hearts forever.

Her obituary can be found here.

Paula Mabee, Former Division Director, Bids Farewell to DEB


Paula Mabee, Division Director, BIO/DEB

Paula Mabee

 

After serving as Division Director for nearly two and a half years, I left DEB at the end of 2017, needing to return to my personal life and my academic home. After decades of NSF funding, panel service, and sending in ad hoc reviews, the opportunity to not only view, but to at least partially direct what happens behind the curtain, was immensely satisfying. And, from a personal standpoint, the time at NSF was probably one of the most interesting and fulfilling chapters of my professional life. Why? What did I learn about NSF to pass along to the DEB community, now that I’m on the “outside” again? What might you not know about the inner workings of NSF that I can share with you?

First and foremost, though previous participation as a panelist always left me with the feeling of trust in NSF, from experience on the inside, I can further say that I have enormous respect for the merit review processes put in place and the people who carry them out. The people – your scientific peers who are serving as Program Officers – and the administrative staff – that well-educated and carefully chosen cadre of personnel in DEB – are idealistically committed to the mission of supporting fundamental science for the well-being of the planet. They hold fairness as a core value and are scrupulous in its application. They also care about you as an individual; they take pride in your successes and pay attention to your journey through various career stages. Whether your proposal is awarded or declined, they have great respect for you. Unfortunately, given that nearly a third of the proposals received are well worth funding, and yet DEB success rates are much lower, POs are often the bearers of hard news. This is a tough position to be in – and out of their control – and yet one of their core values is to be as communicative and transparent with you as possible. They have my deepest respect.

Award decisions are made and justified by your scientific peers – the Program Officers serving at NSF – and my job included oversight of this process. For example, if a PO recommended declining a proposal that was deemed highly competitive by a panel (or, vice versa, recommending a proposal that was deemed non-competitive), an explicit and defensible justification was required. In each situation, I saw the thorough and thoughtful approach of POs in considering both the science and careers of the PIs.

And the science! Intellectually, it was really fun to read across the different proposals submitted to DEB. Great ideas in fundamental, diverse, and ambitious areas of science come into DEB. Part of the process for awarding funding involves presenting the list of proposals for recommendation or decline to the Division Director and Deputy Director. The POs pick out a few proposals that they find the most compelling or illustrative of what is happening in a field, and they describe the science to us. I was often filled with admiration for the ambition and vision of the science proposed by DEB PIs. The accomplishments of science and our understanding of the natural world are due to incredible people like you. And NSF recognizes this like no other institution.

Other things from my time at NSF:

  • DEB is responsive! When a directive or inquiry comes to BIO from our bosses, we answer pronto! Days are dynamic, busy, and long – think Madame Secretary and VEEP. Everything possible is being done to demonstrate the value of fundamental science to our nation!
  • The camaraderie in DEB is palpable. The teamwork between administrative and scientific staff is complementary and highly involved. We like each other 🙂
  • The learning curve for a rotator (PO or Division Director) is steep, but necessary and justified. It’s all about fairness!!! There are detailed processes that protect your proposal from reviewers or POs with a conflict of interest. NSF is looking out for you by training up the personnel responsible for handling your proposals.
  • Introspection, reflection. Where is your field going? What did you publish recently? What was the upshot of that workshop or meeting? Your NSF POs (and leadership) are listening. Retreats are a big thing in DEB – a time to hash over whether changes need to happen, to constantly re-evaluate whether NSF solicitations and DEB organizational structure reflects where your field needs to be.
  • Balancing the continued commitment to core programs with more specialized solicitations is one of the more stimulating aspects of serving as Division Director.   Discerning the future ‘fundamental’ or ‘core’ is best done as a team (see above).
  • It’s about the data. NSF – and DEB – has an appetite for remorseless analysis of the internal data relating e.g., success rates to gender, diversity, career stages, etc. To their dismay, little of this can be shared with you, i.e., the outside community, because these are data that are shared by PIs with the agency – not you. And NSF protects this.

I leave DEB filled with deep respect for the scientists serving in rotating or permanent roles at NSF and for the incredibly smart and committed administrative staff who are interested in spending their lives in service to furthering your science. It was a privilege to work with them. If you have the opportunity to serve DEB, please do – say “yes” to those requests for ad hoc reviews (especially – they are a major bottleneck in the review process), panel service, and the opportunity to be a Program Officer or Division Director. I am also grateful for the opportunity to meet the many scientists involved in the awesome science supported by DEB, likely many of you who are reading this blog.