The OPUS (Opportunities for Promoting Understanding through Synthesis) program enables PIs to create new understanding of their research systems and questions by supporting synthesis activities based on published, peer-reviewed research. The traditional OPUS is now called OPUS: CRS (Core Research Synthesis). This presents an opportunity for a researcher at any career stage to synthesize a significant body of their research to create a new and enhanced understanding of an important topic in DEB science.
The new OPUS: MCS (Mid-Career Synthesis) track targets a specific academic rank (associate professor or equivalent) at a critical career stage. An OPUS: MCS requires the PI to collaborate with a mentor at another institution to acquire needed knowledge or skills to enable a new synthesis of their research interests. Projects should present a compelling case that the planned activities and products will provide new insights to existing problems or identify new, but related, problems that were previously inaccessible without the new methodology or approach. Hopefully, the result will enhance the PI’s productivity, improve their retention as scientists, and promote a diverse scientific workforce, including more minorities and women at high academic ranks.
The two tracks are outlined in detail on the OPUS web site and in the solicitation (NSF 18-582). If you are considering an OPUS submission, we suggest that you email one of the OPUS contacts listed on that web page as well as a program officer in the appropriate DEB cluster for your research area.
DEB would like to announce that the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) program will be issuing a call for pre-proposals this winter. The program is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), managed by the National Academies of Science and coordinated with six federal agencies, including NSF. Its goal is “to build scientific capacity and empower researchers in developing countries to use science, technology, innovation, and partnerships to address local and global development challenges.”
Who should apply?
Currently funded principal investigators looking for grants to support collaborators in PEER-eligible countries and focus areas.
U.S. researchers cannot submit PEER proposals. Instead, they must be submitted by foreign collaborators working with US PIs with active awards from NSF, NASA, NIH, Smithsonian Institution, USDA, and/or USGS.
Who is eligible?
- Be based at an academic institution, non-profit organization, or government-managed research laboratory, center, or institute in a PEER-eligible country or focus area;
- Hold a career-track position or equivalent at their institution;
- Work in the country from which they are applying; and
- Be nationals (citizens or permanent residents) of the PEER-eligible country for the focus area to which they are applying.
See full eligibility requirements here.
What are the due dates and how do I apply?
A new call for proposals will be issued in October 2017 and the deadline for pre-proposals is January 12th, 2018. Pre-proposals must be submitted through this online application system. Please keep checking the National Academies website for updates and further due date information.
Where can I find more information?
NSF Guidelines and Contact Information
Program Details and Updates on the National Academies Website
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;
- NSF Cover Page
- Fastlane application form (this form can only be accessed in FastLane)
- Project Summary (one page, only)
- Project Description (limited to 6 pages, including all figures and tables)
- References Cited (no page limit)
- Biographical Sketch (page limit of 2)
- Current and Pending Support (be sure and include current and planned submissions to other fellowship programs)
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and best of luck!
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.
- 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
|Life Sciences, Geosciences
|Computer and Information Science and Engineering, Engineering, Materials Research
|Psychology, Social Sciences, STEM Education and Learning
|Chemistry, mathematical Sciences, Physics and Astronomy
|Reference Letter Submission
||5:00 PM ET
||5:00 PM ET
- $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: email@example.com
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.
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.