Upcoming Virtual Office Hours: OPUS Proposals 


Join us June 8th from 1pm-2pm EDT for DEB’s next Virtual Office Hour. Program Officers will provide an introduction to the Opportunities for Promoting Understanding through Synthesis (OPUS) Solicitation (NSF 20-564). 

Representatives from each of the four DEB core programs will be available for questions, which can be on any DEB or NSF topic. 

Please use the registration link below to participate. Upcoming DEB Virtual Office Hours are announced ahead of time on DEBrief, so sign up for blog notifications for reminders.  

REGISTER HERE 

If you can’t make it to this or any future office hours, don’t worry! Come back to the blog, as we will be posting a recap and the presentation slides. As always, our Virtual Office Hours will happen on the second Monday of every month from 1pm-2pm EDT. Below is a list of upcoming dates and topics (subject to change), so be sure to add them to your calendars! 

 

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics: 

June 8: OPUS 

July: No Office Hours 

August 10: CNH2: Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental Systems 

September 14: Macrosystems Biology and NEON-Enabled Science (MSB-NES) 

October TBD: BIO Postdoc Program 

November 9: Intro to DEB 

December 14: Supplements 

January 11: TBD 

Upcoming Virtual Office Hour: RAPID/ EAGER/Conferences


Join us March 9th from 1pm-2pm EST for DEB’s next Virtual Office Hour. Program Officers will provide an introduction to 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). Representatives from each of the four DEB core programs will be available for questions. Questions can be on any DEB topic.

Please use the registration link below to participate. Upcoming DEB Virtual Office Hours are announced ahead of time on DEBrief, so sign up for blog notifications for reminders. Also, follow us on the NSF Biology Twitter account (@NSF_BIO) for same day alerts about the DEB Virtual Office Hours.

REGISTER HERE

If you can’t make it to this or any future office hours, don’t worry! Come back to the blog, as we will be posting a recap and the presentation slides. As always, our Virtual Office Hours will happen on the second Monday of every month from 1pm-2pm EST. Below is a list of upcoming dates and topics, so be sure to add them to your calendars!

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:

March 9: RAPID/EAGER/Conferences

April 13: Opportunities for Promoting Understanding through Synthesis (OPUS)

May 18: CAREERs

June 8: BIO Postdoc Program

EDGE (Enhancing Discovery through GEnomics Tools)


The Biological Sciences directorate recently published the new EDGE (Enhancing Discovery through GEnomics Tools) solicitation (20-532), which includes some notable changes that may represent a new opportunity for investigators who would typically seek funding from DEB. It has two tracks:

  1. Functional Genomic Tools Track
  2. Complex Multigenic Traits Track

The most significant change is the incorporation of a complex multigenic traits track to support hypothesis-driven research aimed at linking genotypes to phenotypes. This track was included to promote the development of theory, tools, and approaches that will enable prediction of quantitative traits for a diversity of organisms in a variety of contexts (environmental, developmental, social, and/or genomic). Its inclusion is an explicit acknowledgment of the fact that many biologically and ecologically relevant traits are the result of interactions among multiple genes, many of which may have small effect and whose expression depends on the dynamics of regulatory networks.

Those who study the evolution and expression of ecologically relevant traits, plant microbial interactions, microbial metabolism and community structure, and behavior may be particularly interested in the solicitation. There is no deadline associated with this solicitation. If you are interested in learning more about this funding opportunity, please read the solicitation, email the EDGE Working Group (BIOEDGE@nsf.gov) with specific questions about proposed research, and attend the upcoming webinar on January 31.

Event: EDGE Program Webinar

Date/Time: Friday, January 31, 2020, from 2:00pm – 3:00pm Eastern Time

  • Event Number: 906 284 287
  • Event Password: Edge2020!

 

From The AD: New Funding Opportunities for Understanding the Rules of Life


Dear Colleagues,

BIO is excited to announce to the biological sciences community two new funding opportunities under the Understanding the Rules of Life (URoL) Big Idea: 1) Epigenetics and 2) Microbiome Theory and Mechanisms (MTM). The URoL Big Idea seeks to create a new paradigm at the convergence of science, engineering, and technology that will elucidate theoretical frameworks (rules) to enable prediction of the diversity of evolutionary solutions that biological systems use to support life processes seen across the planet. The National Science Foundation has recently invested $36 million in the first projects under the URoL portfolio from two separate solicitations and across more than thirty institutions.

The Epigenetics and MTM opportunities represent a collaboration across Directorates and Offices within the National Science Foundation. Specifically, Epigenetics intends to enable innovative research and promote multidisciplinary education and workforce training in the broad area of epigenetics, while MTM aims to understand and establish theory and mechanisms that govern the structure and function of microbiomes.

Integrative perspectives and research approaches from more than one research discipline are welcomed, as this is a cross-Directorate effort. The interdisciplinary scope of both programs aims to provide unique training and outreach opportunities to train the next generation of scientists in a diversity of scientific approaches and to engage society more generally.

Both programs offer two submission tracks:

  • Track 1 – for projects with a total budget of up to $500,000 and an award duration of up to 3 years, and
  • Track 2 – for projects with a total budget of up to $3,000,000 and award duration of up to 5 years.

For complete details on deadlines and submission guidelines, refer to the Epigenetics program website or contact the Epigenetics Team (epigen@nsf.gov), and the MTM program website or the MTM Team (microbiome@nsf.gov).

BIO looks forward to continuing working on this cross-Directorate venture.

Sincerely,
Image of the signature of Dr. Joanne Tornow, Assistant Director for Biological Sciences
Joanne Tornow, PhD
Assistant Director for Biological Sciences

New BIO Funding Opportunity for the Reintegration of Biology


Supporting fundamental biological research that takes an integrative approach to understanding life’s key innovations is a priority for the BIO Directorate. Despite biology’s unifying goal of understanding the processes that generate and sustain life, the actual practice of modern biology has become increasingly fragmented into subdisciplines due, in part, to specialized approaches required for deep study of narrowly defined problems.

BIO now aims to strengthen the connections between biological subdisciplines and encourage a reintegration of biology through a new funding opportunity: Biology Integration Institutes. Letters of Intent are due on December 20, 2019 and full proposals are due on February 6, 2020.

The Biology Integration Institutes will support collaborative teams of researchers at a level not feasible in most existing core programs and over a more extended timeframe than is typical of standard NSF awards. Our goal is to stimulate creative integration of diverse biological disciplines using innovative experimental, theoretical, and computational approaches to discover underlying principles operating across all levels of life, from biomolecules to organisms, species, ecosystems, and biomes. While this solicitation focuses on the integration of biological disciplines, any field beyond biology may be included as needed to address the overarching biological theme.

We also intend for the Institutes to enable research and training in a truly integrated environment, preparing the next generation of biological scientists to pursue discipline-spanning research throughout their careers. In these ways, the Biology Integration Institutes will enable the workforce and innovations that will inspire new applications to drive our bioeconomy and provide solutions to pressing societal challenges.

Proposals may be submitted in one of two tracks. Implementation proposals are for teams that have already developed an Integrative Research Plan around a theme of significance, designed an educational approach that employs effective methods for depth and breadth of training, and prepared a cohesive and sustainable Management Plan that is ready for deployment. Design proposals are for teams to develop communities and groundbreaking ideas to be submitted to later competitions as Implementation proposals through diverse and sustained activities, including workshops and follow-up meetings.

This funding opportunity is a part of BIO’s larger efforts to stimulate integrative thinking in the biological research community. To learn more about the Biology Integration Institutes, visit the solicitation and program website, or reach out to the cognizant program directors:

We need GRFP Reviewers!


The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing full-time research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in STEM.

The GRFP is expected to receive thousands of applications and we need more reviewers with Ecological and Neuroscience backgrounds. If you are interested in serving as a reviewer, please register at this link:

https://nsfgrfp.org/panelist_info/registration

Registration simply signals your interest to the managing Program Officer and is not an obligation or commitment to review. Please share this link with anyone you know who might be interested in serving as a reviewer.
For GRFP applicants, remember: The full proposal deadline for Life Sciences is October 21, 2019.

For more information about the GRFP, please visit the program page and FAQs.

Writing Budget Justifications


A budget justification is the narrative that accompanies your budget and can be up to 5 pages in length. This is where investigators validate and explain the dollar amounts they requested in their line-item budget. Justifications explain pay rates and outline equipment, materials, and supplies requests. Investigators should ask themselves if their budget justifications are answering these questions;

  1. Why are these requested funds needed?
  2. How does each item in the budget help meet the proposed deliverables?
  3. How were these requested funds estimated?

The first place to start before writing any budget justification is the PAPPG. In addition to all the picky details provided there, here are three general pieces of advice that typify budgets that meet little resistance when it comes time to fund your project. The best budget justifications tend to have these things in common:

Use of Parallel Formatting with the Budget Pages

The absolute best way to organize and format your budget justification is to use the same letter and number system used in the budget template. This also helps your Program Officer locate specific items and amounts.

Using Senior Personnel as an example, your budget template will look something like this;

budget just.png

Then your budget justification for this exciting, cross-disciplinary proposal should follow this order;

A. Senior Personnel

 

  1. Pomona Sprout- Principal Investigator, # months’ work/year, list specific responsibilities and explain how she arrived at this calculation.Year 1 $$$$, Year 2 $$$$, Year 3 $$$$, Year 4 $$$$
  2. Indiana Jones- Co-Principal Investigator, # months’ work/year, list specific responsibilities and explain how he arrived at this calculation.Year 1 $$$$, Year 2 $$$$, Year 3 $$$$, Year 4 $$$$

Salaries: Time and Rates

For all personnel, show what amounts you are asking for and state how you calculated those salary amounts. Give a monthly breakdown and include any fringe rates.

If you are requesting more than two months’ salary for any senior personnel, clearly justify that the rationale fits into one of these two categories:

  1. the person has a soft money position, or
  2. the project scope requires buying out of teaching time.

Section G. Other Direct Costs

Section G is often where confusion happens. The best way to avoid confusion is to start in the PAPPG. It clearly defines which costs should live in lines G1-G6. Some key points to keep in mind are;

  • Do not include funds for Materials and Supplies under Participant Support Costs (section F), even if those items will be used by students or other trainees. List them under G.1.
  • Section G.3 (Consultant Services): If you are using the consultant category, Program Officers may request additional information as to each individual’s expertise, primary organizational affiliation, normal daily compensation rate, and number of days of expected service.
  • Section G.5 (Subawards): For each subaward, a budget and budget narrative need to be prepared and submitted. Please make sure that the subaward budgets list the subawardee institution and PI (and not the information of the lead proposal again).
  • Section G.6 (Other Direct Costs – Other) is a catch-all category that will always attract scrutiny, so especially for this section be sure to be explicit about what you’re requesting, why, and how much it will cost. Also,
  • Graduate student tuition goes in G.6. Other.

In Conclusion

Justify everything. Assume nothing. If necessary, clarify the NSF budget guidelines with your Authorized Organizational Representative prior to submitting a proposal. This is especially important for rare or unusual expenditures, such as foreign subawards or consultancies or salary requests beyond two months for any senior personnel. It’s also important for normal expenditures like travel.

For example, don’t just write, “I need $8000 for international travel to go to two meetings in Europe.” PIs should use an airfare estimator and show the breakdown of costs.

Again, make sure your Program Officer understands how you came up with the total number you’re requesting in each category. There’s no harm in adding a table to show calculations. And this may seem obvious, but make sure the numbers in the budget justification match the numbers in the budget.

Finally, if most of your work is off-campus, check with your Authorized Organizational Representative about whether the off-campus indirect cost rate applies. Different institutions have different policies on when the off-campus rate is appropriate.

For additional tips on preparing an award budget, visit our friends over at the MCB blog.