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.

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.

 

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!

 

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.

Program Announcement: DEB Core Programs & LTREB Solicitations Updates


Updated guidelines are now available for submissions under the two-stage DEB preliminary/full proposal system. Both DEB Core Programs and Long Term Research in Environmental Biology (LTREB) have been updated.

The new DEB Core Programs publication is NSF 17-512[i].

The new LTREB publication is NSF 17-513[ii].

Please read these guidelines if you plan to submit a preliminary proposal.

In this post, we’re providing a brief summary of the notable points and key changes, but this is not sufficient information to complete a submission.

Both solicitations

  • The definition of “Eligible Institutions” has been updated with limits on the eligible institution types. Institution types that do not meet this definition remain eligible as sub-awardees, but cannot be the primary grant recipient.
  • The deadline for submitting the Personnel List Spreadsheet (from a template, submitted by email) has been reduced to 1 business day (from 3 days) after the proposal deadline for both preliminary and full proposals.
  • The purpose and procedures for requesting a full proposal deferral have been updated and clarified.
  • The requirement for full proposals to provide results of prior NSF support has been clarified and emphasized.
  • The guidelines for Letters of Collaboration (to confirm cooperation or involvement of persons or organizations not receiving funding under the proposal) have been updated to clarify the purpose of, and limits on, such letters.

DEB Core Programs

  • The Core Programs solicitation now includes instructions for submission of international collaborative proposals involving eligible collaborators in the UK (via NERC) or Israel (via BSF). These instructions continue the partnerships originally advertised as Dear Colleague Letters.
  • The budget cap for the small grants (SG) option has been increased to $200,000.

LTREB

  • The Project Description page limit for RENEWAL proposals has been increased from 8 to 10 pages.

Changes Beyond the DEB Solicitations

IOS

Many of our PIs have research interests that overlap between DEB and the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS). New submission guidelines for the preliminary proposal system in IOS have also been published as NSF 17-508. Check with IOS and the IOS Blog for additional information.

NSF-wide

Please take note that the NSF general proposal guidelines have also been revised. This information is provided in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG), which previously comprised two publications known as the Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) and Award & Administration Guide (AAG). The new version of the PAPPG, is a single consolidated guide:  NSF 17-1. The guidelines in PAPPG 17-1 apply for proposals submitted or due, or awards made, on or after January 30, 2017. This document contains the full set of general guidelines to PIs, including everything from proposal preparation to award reporting and close-out.

A summary explanation of the new PAPPG format and changes from the previous edition of the guide can be read here: https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/policydocs/pappg17_1/sigchanges.jsp

These revisions have minimal effect on the requirements for the upcoming DEB preliminary proposal deadline (since the PAPPG comes into force on Jan 30, 2017 – a week after the pre-proposal deadline).

The guidelines in PAPPG 17-1 will apply for invited full proposals (due next August), and other proposals you may be planning to submit to DEB or other NSF programs.

For instance, starting on Jan, 30 2017 any RAPID or EAGER proposals intended for DEB would list the NSF 17-1 PAPPG program announcement number on the proposal cover page.


[i] The old solicitation NSF 15-609 is no longer accepting new proposals.

[ii] The old solicitation NSF 16-500 is no longer accepting new proposals.

Reminder: Project Reports Required for New and Continuing Funding


Note: This is an edited version of a post originally appearing on May 20, 2014.

This is a critical reminder for anyone who currently has a continuing grant[i] OR has been (hopes to be) recommended for funding in the remainder of fiscal year 2016 (i.e. now through October 1, 2016).

We need you to complete your reports now for projects funded in prior years, up to and including FY 2015, in order to release FY 2016 funds. Continue reading