CANCELLED: Virtual Office Hours April 13th


The Division for Environmental Biology has decided to cancel the scheduled April 13th virtual office hours and postpone the discussion of the Opportunities for Promoting Understanding through Synthesis (OPUS) solicitation (NSF 20-564). We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause potential attendees. However, if you have any questions related to the OPUS solicitation, we encourage you to reach out to a Program Officer or submit questions to debquestions@nsf.gov.

Recently, the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) held virtual office hours to discuss concerns from the research community regarding our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will post notes from these discussions here and on the BIO BUZZ blog soon. We also encourage you to read the letter sent by the Directorate of Biological Sciences’ Assistant Director Joanne Tornow regarding NSF’s response to COVID-19 and to visit NSF’s coronavirus information page, which is updated regularly. As always, if you have specific questions, please reach out to your Program Officer.

Please join us at our next DEB Virtual Office Hour on May 18 from 1-2pm EST at which we will focus on questions regarding the Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) solicitation (NSF 20-525). Instructions on how to register will be posted on DEBrief.

Preparing for the New PAPPG: Biosketches and Current and Pending Support


The new version of the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide, or PAPPG (NSF 20-1), goes into effect on June 1st, 2020, and there are some things you can do now to help prepare for your next proposal submission.

Specifically, we wanted to highlight some changes to the preparation and submission of the Biographical Sketch (Biosketch) and Current and Pending Support documents.

Biosketches

Your Biosketch must be submitted using one of two pre-approved formats, either 1) using SciENcv: Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae or 2) NSF’s Fillable PDF. Be sure and read the available FAQs and information about the two pre-approved formats and see our breakdown below.

  • NSF is partnering with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to use SciENcv: Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae. It will provide an NSF-approved format for both the Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support sections of an NSF proposal.
  • SciENcv allows proposers to integrate their ORCiD profile enabling automatic filling of the Biographical Sketch. Additional information is available on the ORCiD website.
  • SciENcv will produce NSF-compliant PDF versions of these documents. Proposers must save these documents and submit them as part of their proposals via FastLane, Research.gov or Grants.gov.
  • Additional resources including video tutorials are available on the SciENcv website.
  • You also have the option to use the NSF Fillable PDF if you do not want to use SciENcv. You must download the fillable PDF form from the NSF biographical sketch and then submit the completed forms as part of their proposals via FastLane, Research.gov or Grants.gov.

Current and Pending Support

Just like the Biosketch, you now must use the new NSF-approved formats for submitting your current and pending support. These include SciENcv or the NSF Fillable PDF.

If you try and submit a Biosketch or your Current and Pending Support after June 1st, 2020 and do not use these NSF-approved formats, you will receive an error message and will be unable to submit your proposal. DEB Program Officers tried out SciENcv and found it was very easy to use and minimized some of the repetitive work of updating these documents, but if you don’t want to bother with setting up an account, the fillable PDFs are great options.

Managing Your Awards During a Pandemic


The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) is keenly aware of the stress that the COVID-19 pandemic is placing on institutions and PIs. As such, we wanted to take a moment to remind PIs about no-cost extensions, with a brief note on annual reporting.

No-cost extensions are both common and easy to request. Knowing how they work may help relieve some of the tension PIs are now feeling.

Key points:

  1. Grantees (your institution!) are pre-authorized by NSF to provide a one-time extension of the end date of the grant of up to 12 months if additional time beyond the established end date is required to assure completion of the original scope of work with existing funds. All “grantee-approved” extension requests must be signed and submitted by your institutional representative via NSF’s electronic systems. If you are going to request a no-cost extension, always first request the “grantee-approved” type.
  2. If additional time beyond the first extension is required, and exceptional circumstances warrant, a formal request to NSF must be signed and submitted by the institutional grants officer via NSF’s electronic systems. The request should be submitted to NSF at least 45 days prior to the end date of the grant. This is called an “NSF-approved” no-cost extension and is a bigger deal than the “grantee-approved” type. You will need to provide the current balance (funds remaining) of the award and your plans for spending it.
  3. Regardless of which type of no-cost extension you may request, it’s critically important to understand that remaining funds can only be spent on work described in your funded proposal (i.e., within the original scope of your award). If you have questions about this, it’s best to call the NSF Program Officer who is managing your award.

If you plan on submitting a request for a no-cost extension, you need to do so BEFORE the final annual report is due; DO NOT submit a final report unless the request is denied.

A note on annual reports:

DEB is also aware than many PIs might struggle to accomplish much research during university closures and in turn might worry about their outputs for annual reports. Please submit brief but accurate reports, making note of expected slowdowns. Again, DEB is sympathetic to the exceptional circumstances taking place.

3/9/20 Virtual Office Hours Recap


The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its fourth Virtual Office Hour on March 9th, 2020. We’ll be hosting these office hours 1-2pm EST 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 Rapid Response Research (RAPID), EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER), and Conference proposals, all of which are described in the PAPPG (NSF 19-1).

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: What should be included within the initial email to the Program Officer?

A: The PI should include what type of proposal mechanism you are submitting to (RAPID, EAGER, etc.) as well as a paragraph defining the research idea. This should include the larger question you want to address, a rationale and motivation for the question, a brief outline of the methods, and why it should be submitted as this type of proposal instead of a traditional proposal. There should be enough information for a Program Officer to assess whether this might be a good candidate for a proposal and an invitation for a 2-page prospectus (see below). You can also feel free to make an appointment to talk to a Program Officer of your choice on the phone.

Q: Where should I submit my initial email?

A: You should submit your initial email to the specific cluster that you think your research fits into and include any other programs you think it may be appropriate. We will circulate the initial email among other clusters if it doesn’t fit within the specified cluster’s research priorities.

Q: If I’m invited to submit a 2-page prospectus, what should be included?

A: The prospectus should include information about your expertise, the motivation for your research question, the overall approach or methods you will employ, and what outcomes are expected. You are encouraged to submit a budget at this point as well. References are not required in the prospectus.

Q: If an EAGER is declined, can it be resubmitted with edits?

A: Prior to submission of an EAGER proposal, there is a lot of communication between the Program Officer and the PI. Therefore, the PI should have a good sense of whether the EAGER proposal will be awarded or not. If you want to resubmit a declined EAGER, you are highly encouraged to discuss this with a Program Officer.

If the EAGER proposal is declined because it is not considered ‘high risk,’ please consider submitting your idea as a full proposal to our core solicitation (NSF 20-502).

Q: EAGER proposals under the Idea Machine have a deadline, but it seems that other EAGERs do not. Are EAGERs generally accepted year-round?

A: Yes, EAGERs are generally accepted year-round. However, be sure you contact a Program Officer with your proposed idea before submitting the proposal. Program Officers will discuss the merits of the idea, and then may invite you to submit a full proposal. Please do not submit an EAGER proposal to DEB without getting approval from a Program Officer.

For submissions to the Idea Machine EAGER competition, please see DCL 20-401. A 2-page Research Concept Outline (RCO) must have been submitted to this program to be considered for EAGER funding. This deadline has passed, so RCOs are no longer being accepted. These RCOs are now being reviewed for invitation for full proposals. PIs will be contacted within a few weeks regarding these decisions.

Q: Is there a budget cap for conferences?

A: There isn’t a budget cap for conferences. As described in the PAPPG, the review mechanisms change based on how much money is requested for a conference. A conference requesting $50,000 or less is reviewed by the cluster; a conference requesting $100,000 or less can be reviewed within the division; and a conference requesting more than $100,000 must be externally reviewed.

Q: Is it okay to apply for conference funding for a growing regional meeting hosted at our institutions?

A: Generally we do not fund pre-established conferences. However, if the conference is trying to reach a new group of attendees, we may. You are encouraged to reach out to a Program Officer to discuss this prior to submitting a conference proposal.

2/10/20 Virtual Office Hours Recap


The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its third Virtual Office Hour on February 10th , 2020. We’ll be hosting these office hours monthly on 2nd Mondays at 1-2pm EST. There will be a different theme each time, but visitors 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 NSF BIO’s Rules of Life (NSF 20-502) track and the NSF-wide Understanding the Rules of Life ( NSF 20-513) opportunities. Rules of Life is a track within BIO’s core solicitations that encourages projects that integrate approaches across biological scales. The topic of this track is entirely up to the PI. Alternatively, Understanding the Rules of Life is one of NSF’s Ten Big Ideas that encourages projects that integrate approaches from more than one discipline. These topics are solicitation-specific. For more information on what specific topics are encouraged, please visit the link above.

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: Are there any details that should be considered when developing a CAREER grant for the BIO Rules of Life track?

A: There is no Rules of Life track in the CAREER solicitation (NSF 20-525). CAREERs are submitted under a separate solicitation independent from the other BIO divisions’ solicitations. CAREER proposals will be the topic of an upcoming office hours.

Q: Does the Rules of Life track call ask for broader interdisciplinarity? E.g., engineering, math, …

A: Rules of Life (RoL) proposals involve collaboration that integrates across biological disciplines, and specifically crosses at least two divisions within BIO (e.g., DEB and IOS). Understanding the Rules of Life (URoL) targets cross-directorate research (e.g., BIO and GEO, BIO and ENG). For more information see the slides that differentiate between the BIO Rules of Life track and Understanding the Rules of Life.

Q: Should we identify the two Divisions of interest in a BIO Rules of Life proposal or wait for feedback from the program prior to submission?

A: It’s never a bad idea to send a one-page description of your hypotheses and research plans to a program officer for feedback. The program officer can then advise you about which programs may be appropriate to target. You can always suggest that particular programs review your proposals, but program officers will ultimately decide how proposals are reviewed, with the goal of giving each proposal the greatest opportunity to be considered for funding.

Q: Would the BIO Rules of Life track support large scale interdisciplinary projects involving many PIs, and if so, are there upper funding limits?

A: BIO Rules of Life can support up to five PIs, as well as additional senior personnel. If a project calls for a large collaboration and is expensive, contact your Program Officer and discuss your idea. Budget limits apply to Understanding the Rules of Life solicitations, not BIO Rules of Life.

Q: In the Understanding the Rules of Life program, to what extent should the other discipline(s) be connected to BIO?

A: The other discipline(s) should be tightly integrated with the biological questions.

Q: Does the BIO Rules of Life track or the Understanding the Rules of Life program support funding for international collaborations with labs outside the U.S.?

A: Programs will fund projects for PIs from U.S. institutions to conduct research internationally, but international institutions are expected to cover costs for their scientists. Rare exceptions have been made in the past and you should contact a Program Officer if you have additional questions.

Q: Can you submit to the BIO Rules of Life track as well as under the special category NERC? The solicitation says the special categories are included in the core track.

A: NSFDEB-NERC proposals cannot be submitted to the BIO RoL Track.

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 March 9th, 2020 from 1-2pm EST and will address EAGERs, RAPIDs, and Conferences. Be sure to check back here or follow the BIO Twitter (@NSF_BIO) for information on how to register.

1/13/20 Virtual Office Hours Recap


The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its second Virtual Office Hour on January 13th, 2020. Below is a recap of some of the questions asked during this past session which focused on the Bridging Ecology and Evolution (BEE) (NSF 20-502) track, as well as the co-review process used within the Division.

Join us for the next Virtual Office Hour on February 10th, 2020 from 1-2pm EST where we will talk about the Rules of Life (RoL) track in the BIO core solicitation and the NSF-wide Understanding Rules of Life (URoL) solicitation.

The presentation and other documents are available here:

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

Q: For the Bridging Ecology and Evolution (BEE) category, is it necessary for the proposal to be split equally between ecology and evolution? If not, what fraction would you expect to see?

A: There is no set fraction of ecology and evolution required in a BEE proposal. You are encouraged to form a team consisting of the right people based on the expertise needed and the questions you want to answer.

Q: What is the average budget for a BEE proposal? Is there a maximum amount allowed?

A: There is no budget cap for BEE proposals. The amount requested is entirely up to the PI. This is the same for all proposals submitted to the core solicitation, with the exception of Small Grants, which are capped at $200,000. As is always the case, a PI should request what is necessary to complete the project.

Q: Should Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) supplements be included within the budget of BEE proposals at time of submission?

A: Yes. DEB has been emphasizing that education and broadening participation requests should be included in the budget of the proposal at time of submission. To learn more about these types of requests, please check out this blog post.

Q: Can BEE proposals cross DEB and other Divisions in NSF?

A: Yes, as long as the proposal meets the BEE criteria of integrating questions that span the ecological (ES, PCE) and evolutionary (EP, SBS) clusters. If the proposal topic also spans multiple Divisions in the Biology Directorate, we encourage you to think about whether your proposal might be a better fit for the Rules of Life track. Tune in for the Rules of Life and Understanding the Rules of Life virtual office hours on February 10, 2020 for more information or contact a Program Officer with specific questions. Please note that proposals seeking to bridge evolution and ecology in the marine biome should be submitted to the more appropriate choice of either EP or SBS; these will be co-reviewed with GEO’s Biological Oceanography program.

Q: Are panelists/reviewers told that they are reviewing a co-reviewed proposal?

A: This information is not shared with ad hoc reviewers. Panelists will not know ahead of time; however, this information may be shared with them during the panel as Program Officers from other programs tend to visit the panel to listen to the discussion.

Q: When will the new Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support requirements as outlined in the new Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 20-1) go into effect?

A: Any new requirements become effective 90 days after the PAPPG’s release. For more, please check out this link from the NSF Policy Office.

 

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

The DEB monthly Virtual Office Hour takes place the 2nd Monday of every month from 1-2pm EST. The topics rotate, but listeners are welcome to ask about any NSF-related topics. Program Officers from each of DEB’s core programs will be present.Be sure to check back here or follow the BIO Twitter (@NSF_BIO) for information on how to register.

 

Reintegrating Biology Workshop Series Outcomes


Check out this great post from our friends over at the Office of the Assistant Director;

“The BIO Directorate considers integrative approaches to understanding life’s key innovations as essential for understanding the full diversity of mechanisms regulating fundamental biological processes.

The Reintegrating Biology series of workshops (https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1940791&HistoricalAwards=false) included a combination of virtual and in-person events and provided a venue for the broader biological community to discuss the opportunities and challenges for integrating across the biological sub-disciplines. As part of this series of workshops, a total of 318 researchers participated in four concurrent jumpstart meetings in Atlanta, Austin, San Diego and virtually during December 4-6, 2019.  Participants collaborated on a series of vision papers describing what could be accomplished by reintegrating across the subdisciplines of biology, and some of the obstacles preventing such a reintegration from happening. So far, 60 vision papers have been received and can be viewed at: https://reintegratingbiology.org/vision-papers/. Other vision papers have already been submitted for publication. The next Reintegrating Biology event will be a virtual Microlab on January 16 where participants from the four jumpstart meetings will discuss similar themes that emerged during the different events.

NSF would like to thank the participants of the four jumpstart meetings and the broader biological research community for helping make the series of reintegrating biology workshops such a success. These discussions will inform both current integrative biology funding opportunities such as the Rules of Life track in each of the divisional solicitations and the Biology Integration Institutes program (https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505684&org=BIO&from=home), as well as future activities.”