Our Decision Timeline or “When will I hear back?”


With our Fall 2017 panels wrapped up, Program Officers are now reviewing panel recommendations and considering their portfolios in order to make final award and decline recommendations. For those unfamiliar with the process, recommendations from Program Officers are sent through administrative review and, lastly, agreed upon or “concurred” by the Division Director.

Decisions will be released a bit later this year than in previous years because of the end of the preliminary proposal review system and the move to ‘no deadline’ and a new solicitation will not be released until early summer 2018. Additionally, there is the added complication of a continuing resolution budget as we explained in a post from last year,

“At present, NSF is operating under a temporary budget measure, called a Continuing Resolution (or CR) … We won’t have significant funds available to cover new grants until a longer-term funding measure is enacted.”

So, while we have a prioritized list of award recommendations, we do not yet have the funds needed to take action on those recommendations. Moreover, we do not know how much funding we will actually have available. Therefore, we will institute a prioritized notification system, which will be implemented as follows:

If your proposal fell into the definite decline group, then you will be getting an official notice from DEB and the proposal status will be updated in FastLane. If your proposal fell into the definite award group you will be getting a call or email from your Program Officer, along with some information about the materials you should get ready (e.g., submitting budget revisions or abstract language). If your proposal fell into the ‘hope to fund’ category, you will also be notified, and your Program Officer will be letting you know what the prospect is for your particular proposal.

As a result, investigators should start to hear back from NSF early in the new year. If you still have not heard anything by the end of January 2018, drop the Program Officer managing your proposal an email to schedule a call. But please remember that for collaborative proposals, the lead PI is the point of contact.

Upcoming Deadlines for DEB Supplements


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

Additional details on the components to include in each type of supplement request and information on budgets can be found on-line at http://www.nsf.gov/bio/deb/suppopp.jsp

Deadline:

Requests for this set of DEB supplements should be submitted by Tuesday December 5th, 2017. DEB treats our December date as a deadline in the sense that later requests are considered only if there are remaining funds and sufficient time to process the request before the intended start date. All 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)

Additional REU Options for Dimensions of Biodiversity PIs only:

  • Dimensions Broadening Participation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (D-BP-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 D-BP-REU
Core DEB Y Y Y Y N
EEID Y Y Y Y N
Dimensions of Biodiversity N N N N Y
Genealogy of Life Y Y Y Y N
CNH N 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.

Supplement Descriptions:

Additional details on the components to include in each type of supplement request and information on budgets can be found on-line at http://www.nsf.gov/bio/deb/suppopp.jsp

  • RET – The Dear Colleague Letter: “Research Experience for Teachers (RET): Funding Opportunity in the Biological Sciences” (NSF 12-075) describes how NSF awardees can provide integrated research and education experience for K-12 teachers by including the active participation of these teachers in funded research projects. The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) enthusiastically supports these supplemental awards. The intent of this endeavor is to facilitate professional development of K-12 science teachers through research experience at the cutting edge of science.
  • RAHSS – The Dear Colleague Letter: “Research Assistantships for High School Students (RAHSS): Funding to Broaden Participation in the Biological Sciences” (NSF 12-078) describes how NSF awardees can foster interest in the pursuit of studies in the Biological Sciences; and broaden participation of high school students, particularly those who are underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities, and women in sub-disciplines where they are underrepresented. The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) enthusiastically supports these supplemental awards.
  • ROA – The goal of a “Research Opportunity Award (ROA)” (NSF 14-579) opportunities is to enhance the research productivity and professional development of science faculty at primarily undergraduate institutions (including community colleges) through research activities that enable them to explore the emerging frontiers of science. Such research not only contributes to basic knowledge in science but also provides an opportunity to integrate research and undergraduate education. The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) enthusiastically supports this activity.
  • REU – The “Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)” supplements (NSF 13-542) support NSF awardees in providing integrated research experiences for undergraduates. The intent of the REU supplement is to help undergraduates participate fully in a research enterprise, from inception and design of the project, to completion and dissemination of results. REU projects should involve students in meaningful ways in research projects, and provide opportunities for high-quality interaction of students with faculty and/or other research mentors, and access to appropriate facilities and professional development opportunities. Hence, the request should emphasize expected student involvement and mentoring.
  • D-BP-REU – The Dimensions of Biodiversity (DoB) Program encourages requests for supplemental funding to broaden participation in the biodiversity—related workforce. These supplements are funded through the “Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)” solicitation (NSF 13-542) and are intended to support students from underrepresented groups and enhance cooperative efforts between PIs with active Dimensions of Biodiversity research awards and faculty at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs) or Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). This two-mentor model allows the REU student the opportunity to work with a DoB investigator and provides continued mentorship from the faculty member at the PUI or MSI after the student’s research experience with the DoB investigator is completed. The BP-REU is only available as a supplement to Dimensions of Biodiversity awards.

Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology Deadline


The annual deadline for the next round of Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology (PRFB) is November 7th, 2017. There’s a great “How to Apply” guide on the PRFB website that walks you through each step of the application process. You must be affiliated with an institution the entire tenure of the fellowship. You must also register as an Independent Researcher through https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/ before you can submit to the Program.

Applicants submit to one of three categories called “competitive areas.” These categories differ in award duration, research scope, and eligibility requirements. The competitive areas are: 1) Broadening Participation in Biology, 2) Interdisciplinary Research Using Biological Collections, 3) National Plant Genome Initiative Postdoctoral Research Fellowships.

To qualify for the first two competitive areas, Broadening Participation and Interdisciplinary Research Using Biological Collections, postdocs cannot have served in any full-time position that requires a doctoral degree for more than 6 months prior to the deadline. For the third competitive area, National Plant Genome Initiative, it’s less than 12 months. In sum, these fellowships are for postdocs who very recently received a PhD.

A completed PRFB application will contain the following sections and each is outlined and described in more detail in the solicitation;

  1. NSF Cover Page
  2. Fastlane application form (this form can only be accessed in FastLane)
  3. Project Summary (one page, only)
  4. Project Description (limited to 6 pages, including all figures and tables)
  5. References Cited (no page limit)
  6. Biographical Sketch (page limit of 2)
  7. Current and Pending Support (be sure and include current and planned submissions to other fellowship programs)
  8. Two letters of reference (submitted directly to FastLane by the letters’ authors)

The duration of the fellowship for the first two competitive areas is 24-36 continuous months, while that of the third competitive area is 36 continuous months. As for the award amounts, please see the solicitation. For additional questions about the PRFB, please email bio-dbi-prfb@nsf.gov and best of luck!

Graduate Research Fellowship Program: October Deadline


The deadline for the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is coming up!  Now is the time to direct students to this opportunity.  Below we highlight the specifics of this fellowship opportunity, but it is also key to remember that this program supports students on the basis of their potential for significant research achievements in STEM.  The application consists of two statements and three supporting letters.  The statements include the Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals statement (3 pages), and a Graduate Research Plan (2 pages).  Although the nature of the first essay is the same no matter the stage of the applicant, the second essay varies substantially among stages and is viewed differently by reviewers.

For undergraduates applying, this essay is intended to reflect the type of project the student would like to do as they look forward to their graduate program, whereas for current graduate students, and especially those beginning their second year of graduate school, the project is typically more specific and better grounded in their current program and broader research plans. In all cases, the application is viewed holistically and evaluated on both the research potential and broader impacts associated with the applicant.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program grants three years of financial support for pursuing a research-based master’s or PhD degree in science technology, engineering, math, or STEM education. Applicants must demonstrate significant achievements in STEM and attend any accredited college or university in the United States or its territories.

Eligibility

  • Applicants must be a US citizen, national, or permanent resident
  • Applicants can apply while still in their undergraduate program but must be accepted into a graduate degree program by the time they accept the Fellowship
  • Applicants can have completed no more than 12 months of full-time graduate study by August 1st but can only apply once as a graduate student, either in their first or second year (see the solicitation for details as this is a new policy in 2017).
  • Different fields of study have different deadlines within NSF. Below is the schedule for each field of study
Fields of Study 2017 Deadlines 2018 Deadlines
Life Sciences, Geosciences October 23 October 22
Computer and Information Science and Engineering, Engineering, Materials Research October 24 October 23
Psychology, Social Sciences, STEM Education and Learning October 26 October 25
Chemistry, mathematical Sciences, Physics and Astronomy October 27 October 26
Reference Letter Submission November 2 November 1
  5:00 PM ET 5:00 PM ET

Benefits

  • $34,000 annual stipend
  • Cost of Education allowance of $12,000 to the institution
  • Professional development opportunities through Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW) and Graduate Research Internship Program (GRIP)
  • Access to supplemental funding to sustain research while on medical deferral (e.g. maternity/paternity leave)

Read the current solicitation for the full set of guidelines, and for additional questions please reach out to the Graduate Research Fellowship Operations Center, telephone: 866-NSF-GRFP, 866-673-4737 (toll-free from the US and Canada) or 202-331-3542 (international) or email: info@nsfgrfp.org

 

 

Preliminary Proposal External Report Released


In 2012, DEB and IOS (the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems) instituted major changes to the proposal submission process, piloting a program now known as the preliminary proposal system. DEB and IOS switched to an annual submission deadline, capped the number of proposals a PI can submit at two, and required a four-page preliminary proposal be submitted and reviewed by a panel before PIs could be invited to submit a full 15-page proposal. As you may remember from a previous DEBrief post, the reasons for the switch were multifaceted.

After three years, DEB and IOS contracted an outside group (Abt Associates) to evaluate the success of this pilot program.  Abt analyzed NSF administrative data and submissions from three years before and three years after the creation of the preliminary proposal system.  They also surveyed the PI community and NSF BIO staff to evaluate whether or not those changes were meeting the above stated goals of reducing the work load and to gauge the community’s satisfaction.  You can find the full report here.

DEB and IOS are always striving to best serve their communities of scientists. We want to support the best basic research and we want the determination of what is “best” to be judged by a system of peer-review that is not onerous. We are actively discussing the results of this external review to determine whether to retain or alter the preliminary proposal process.

Featuring the OPUS Program


DEB’s Opportunities for Promoting Understanding through Synthesis (OPUS) Program, provides mid- and late-career scientists the opportunity to synthesize their career’s work to make a new contribution in their field.  The DEB clusters fund OPUS activities over 1-2 years to create products that contribute substantially to the development of new knowledge, understanding, and research direction in a field, as well as to the development of an investigator’s future work. These can include syntheses of collaborations as well.  Proposals to this program can be submitted to any of the core cluster areas:   Evolutionary Processes (EP), Systematics and Biodiversity Science (SBS), Population and Community Ecology (PCE), or Ecosystem Science (ES).

We look forward to receiving your OPUS proposals in August and hope future investigators will read this and be inspired to submit an OPUS proposal in the near future. The funds are often used for sabbatical support, however they can be applied to any normally allowable research expenditure required to complete the project. OPUS projects must primarily synthesize published data rather than engage in new data collection.  Previous products from OPUS awards have included books, films, and high impact peer-reviewed publications.  You can see a list of recent awards made through this program here.

Here’s a quick look at how support has been distributed since the program’s inception. We’ve received a total of 247 OPUS proposals and have supported 72, for an overall funding rate of 29%. Although awards are evenly distributed among the Core clusters (Fig 1), the funding rates vary somewhat: 34% for EP, 36% for SBS, 20% for PCE, and 36% for Ecosystems.  This likely reflects the fact that submissions have been concentrated in PCE (Fig 1).  Additionally, SBS did not participate in the OPUS program until after 2009.

OPUS 1

Figure 1- OPUS Submissions and Awards by DEB Core Cluster, EP-Evolutionary Processes, SBS- Systematics and Biodiversity Science, PCE- Population and Community Ecology, ES- Ecosystem Science.

Most, but not all, OPUS projects are submitted by single investigators. Of the 72 awards made, nine female (13%) and two minority PIs (3%) have been funded (Fig 2).  Of the proposals submitted, only 33 (12%) were led by female PIs, although 50 (20%) involved female PIs or Co-PIs. Of all the submissions, 8 investigators chose not to self-identify their gender but all the awarded proposals self-identified.  Furthermore, only 8 (5%) were led by minority PIs, although 14 (6%) involved minority investigators as PI or Co-PI. These statistics only include those who chose to self-identify.  24 investigators chose not to specify their race but all the awarded proposals self-identified. Those cases where PIs did not identify their gender or minority status were excluded from this summary of PI demographics, as is also true in Figure 2.The vast majority of applications came from institutions with numerous Ph.D. programs, but Predominately Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) achieve similar success rates; the success rate of applications from Ph.D. granting institutions is 27%, PUI submissions were funded at a rate of 50%, and MSI submissions at a rate of 27%.

Figure 2 shows OPUS PI and Institutional Demographics. PUI- institutions that are primarily undergraduate and have awarded 20 or fewer Ph.D./D.Sci. degrees in all NSF-supported fields during the combined previous two academic years. MSI denotes Minority-serving Institutions and PhD-Institutions denotes schools that award more than 20 D.Sci degrees in all NSF-supported fields during the combined previous two academic years.

So what makes a great OPUS? We’re looking for a new idea or framework resulting from an existing body of work; think of a brand new album, not a “greatest hits” or “remastered” collection. As always, NSF is eager to support diverse community members. Visit the solicitation page here and contact a Program Officer to consider whether you have a project to submit!

 

New Required Format for Collaborators & Other Affiliations


Are you planning to submit a proposal to NSF? As of April 24, 2017, there is a new required template for the submission of the Collaborators & Other Affiliations (COA) information.  This is the information that must be submitted by each PI, co-PI, or Other Senior Personnel identified on a proposal (i.e., anyone who has a biosketch in the proposal) that helps NSF to avoid conflicts when requesting reviews from the community.  Don’t confuse this spreadsheet template with the Personnel List Spreadsheet template required by the DEB solicitation: http://www.nsf.gov/bio/deb/debpersonnellist.xlsx. They are two different things.  There should only be one Personnel List Spreadsheet that lists all of the people associated with an entire project emailed to DEB as instructed in the solicitation, whereas each person associated with a project must have their Collaborators & Other Affiliations (COA) information submitted as a Single Copy Document using this new template.

This new standardized format will ensure that the information is complete, and most importantly, searchable by NSF Program Officers. It includes a section for the person’s name and affiliation(s), PhD Advisors/Advisees, Collaborators, Co-Editors, and other Relationships, with detailed descriptions of who should be included in each section as described in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures guide.

Most important things to remember:

  1. Each person listed on a proposal as PI, co-PI, or Other Senior Personnel must submit the document along with their Biosketch and their Current and Pending Support Statement.
  2. After filling out the template, the document must be saved as .xlsx or .xls format, and uploaded to FastLane as a Collaborators & Other Affiliations Single Copy Document
  3. The template and more information about this new process can be found online here: https://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/coa.jsp

So why not get ahead of the crowd and make sure that you and all of your collaborators have an updated Collaborators & Other Affiliations template filled out and ready to go? This is not something you want to be pulling together from all of your collaborators the day before you are trying to submit a proposal. And why not share this new NSF process with your Sponsored Research Office, as well?