Dear Colleague Letter: Hurricane Harvey

NSF is now accepting proposals related to Hurricane Harvey. The new Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) outlines the three types of proposals that may be submitted to conduct new research related to Hurricane Harvey including RAPIDs, EAGERs, and supplemental funding requests. Investigators must contact the NSF Program Officer most closely related to the proposal topic before submitting. Please read the DCL carefully and follow the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) instructions.  NSF has also created a new web portal for institutions affected by Harvey with information on where to direct inquires.

Those of us serving in DEB are continuing to keep all those affected by Harvey in our hearts and thoughts during this terrible time. If you have any questions after reaching out to your relevant Program Officer, please contact our designated liaison for BIO, Elizabeth Blood,, (703) 292-4349.

Cyberinfrastructure Follow-Up

In January, NSF issued a Dear Colleague Letter requesting information on emerging cyberinfrastructure needs. The Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (OAC) is leading the effort to refresh NSF’s strategy and vision for future cyberinfrastructure investments as NSF’s five-year initiative, “Cyberinfrastructure Framework for 21st Century Science and Engineering (CIF21)” comes to a close.

Hundreds of scientists and engineers answered the call. Thank you to everyone who took the time to send in their thoughts. Of those who responded, half wrote as individuals and half represented a group.  All the responses are publically available here.  Most came from those affiliated with academic institutions and the rest were from non-profits, NSF-operated facilities, and industry professionals.

DEB-related responses from fields such as biodiversity, biogeography, ecology, and evolution focused on challenges dealing with the exponential growth of data from remote sensors, images, and other digital collections. Additionally, getting those collections to “talk to you each other” and share data sets represents a huge challenge. Another component centered on enabling the integration and analysis of data across disciplines, species, and metadata. In addition to requests for consistent, reusable, open access data sets, many responses focused on the need for workforce training and development to help process, curate, and archive new datasets.

What’s next for NSF’s cyberinfrastructure planning? OAC is working with NSF’s Directorates and Divisions and NSF’s Advisory Committee on Cyberinfrastructure, to assess the responses to the Request for Information (RFI). These RFI responses are being considered together with other relevant community input such as the 2016 National Academies report on NSF Advanced Computational Infrastructure, the 2017 Data Building Blocks (DIBBs) PI Workshop, 2017 NSF Cybersecurity Summit, and upcoming 2017 NSF Large Facilities Cyberinfrastructure Workshop (September 6-7). Guided by these community contributions, NSF will develop a refreshed cyberinfrastructure plan that takes us from 2017 into 2030 with all relevant information being posted on the NSF CI 2030 website.


A Reorganization in the Systematics and Biodiversity Sciences Cluster

Systematics is a rapidly changing field and DEB strives to serve our community while incorporating an ever-changing understanding of the natural world. As the amount of information and data the systematics and biodiversity community gathers grows in quantity and breadth, researchers are looking for ways to incorporate new and existing data layers into the framework of the Tree of Life. Even with advances in next-generation sequencing, MRI/CT imaging, and other methods, there is still a tremendous amount of undiscovered, overlooked, or understudied biodiversity. In response to progress in the field of systematics and biodiversity and based on the number of recent submissions to different DEB solicitations, the Systematics and Biodiversity Sciences (SBS) cluster has decided to reorganize its program structure and offerings. These changes will not affect the kind of grants you can submit in terms of funds, scope, or topic.

A visual representation of the changes described in the text.
Starting in the next fiscal year (October 2017), the SBS cluster will manage a single core program called Systematics and Biodiversity Sciences. The simplification reflects the consolidation of the former Genealogy of Life (GoLife), Phylogenetic Systematics (PS), and Biodiversity: Discovery and Analysis (BDA) programs into a single core program. The major changes are:

  • the initiatives of the former GoLife program will now be part of the core rather than supported through a separate solicitation for proposals; and
  • a new category of proposals aimed at advancing biodiversity discovery and description in poorly known areas of the Tree of Life has been added and is called ‘PurSUiT (Poorly Sampled and Unknown Taxa).’

As in the past, ‘ARTS: Advancing Revisionary Taxonomy and Systematics’ proposals, for taxonomic revisionary and monographic research, will continue to be accepted in SBS.

What does this mean for you? If you have a taxonomic revision or monographic research project, you can submit to the core program using the prefix “ARTS” in your title (e.g., “ARTS: a monograph of unicorns”). If you are studying very poorly known parts of the Tree of Life you can submit to the core program and use the prefix PurSUiT (e.g., “PurSUiT: Discovery and description of new lineages of poorly studied laser cats”). You will still be able to submit grants with the other more widely used prefixes (e.g. SG, RUI, CAREER, and OPUS).

These new programmatic changes won’t be in effect until the start of the next fiscal year (October 2017).

SBS is always looking for the best research in systematics and biodiversity and our capacity to fund exceptional work in our field has not changed. These programmatic changes are in response to progress in the field and submissions to different solicitations; it does not reflect any decreased interest in systematics and biodiversity research within NSF. We hope this simplification and refocusing will help further improve our understanding of life on Earth, the training of future systematists and field biologists and our ability to review and fund the best phylogenetic, taxonomic, and biodiversity research.

Details about the programmatic changes in SBS can be found in a Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 17-052) and FAQ document (NSF 17-054). If you have additional questions, please reach out to a DEB Program Officer.

Share Your Ideas on Cyberinfrastructure

A new NSF Dear Colleague Letter (DCL; NSF 17-031) has been posted: Request for Information on Future Needs for Advanced Cyberinfrastructure to Support Science and Engineering Research (NSF CI 2030).

From the DCL:

“NSF Directorates and Offices are jointly requesting input from the research community on science challenges and associated cyberinfrastructure needs over the next decade and beyond. Contributions to this Request for Information will be used during the coming year to inform the Foundation’s strategy and plans for advanced cyberinfrastructure investments. We invite bold, forward-looking ideas that will provide opportunities to advance the frontiers of science and engineering well into the future.”

We encourage DEB to weigh in- what do you see as the cyberinfrastructure that will be needed to advance ecology, evolution, and systematics?

The DCL points to an external submission website ( Please note that the deadline for submissions is April 5, 2017 5:00 PM ET.  Questions about this effort and the submission process should be sent to Dr. William Miller, Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, at this email address: