1/11/2020 Virtual Office Hours Recap – Integrative Research in Biology Solicitation

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its latest Virtual Office Hour on January 11, 2020. We host these office hours from 1-2 pm EST on the 2nd Monday of every month. Each session has a designated theme, but attendees are welcome to ask about other NSF-related topics. Program Officers provided an introduction to the new Integrative Research in Biology (IntBIO) solicitation (NSF 21-543).

The presentation and other documents are available here:

Slides (PDF)

PAPPG 20-1

IntBIO solicitation page

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

Q: What do you mean by subdisciplines in biology?

A: The solicitation purposefully does not define subdiscipline, because we think that the definition depends on the discipline that you are already in. We do not want to put artificial constraints on the research. We want to receive creative questions from the community and therefore want you to define what your subdiscipline is and how other subdisciplines will help answer the question you pose.

Q: Is the solicitation limited to collaboration between BIO subdisciplines only or could the project also involve collaboration between BIO and another field?

A: The IntBIO solicitation requires at least two subdisciplines in biology but there can also be collaboration with any other field outside biology as well.

Q: If we’ve already submitted a standard collaborative proposal that we think might be appropriate for IntBIO, is there a mechanism to flag or route the proposal to be reviewed for it?

A: You should contact the Program Officer of the program to which you have already submitted. IntBIO has some special solicitation-specific criteria that you may not have addressed in an already-submitted proposal. So, a first step would be to determine whether your current idea is a fit for IntBIO and then whether there are other elements that you need to incorporate into your current proposal. This might require you to withdraw and resubmit to IntBIO.

Q: Can I apply for this grant if I am not a US citizen?

A: The solicitation states the eligibility requirements. In brief, institutions of higher education having a campus located in the US and non-profit, non-academic organizations in the US are eligible to apply. If you have an appointment at such an institution and your institution deems you eligible to apply on its behalf, then you may apply to IntBIO.

Q: Can collaborators be located in other countries?

A: According to the NSF PAPPG 20-1, NSF will consider support for foreign organizations in certain circumstances, e.g., as long as the foreign organization makes a unique contribution or offers significant education, training or research opportunities to the US. See this link for details. It is highly recommended that you contact a Program Officer about your specific situation as during the review process, reviewers will be asked if the collaboration with a foreign lab is well-justified.

Q: Will IntBIO be replacing other integrative research programs within BIO?

A: No, IntBIO does not replace any program. It specifically replaces the Rules of Life Track previously contained in the core solicitations of BIO’s four divisions. IntBIO offers an additional opportunity for engaging in integrative research across subdisciplines.

Q: Aside from the integrative nature of the work, what other differences should we be aware of in these IntBIO proposals?

A: The research should address an overarching question that crosses scales of biological organization to make new discoveries about how biological systems function and interact. In addition, IntBIO proposals are expected to include a training and education plan aimed at producing a new generation of diverse scientists who are trained in integrative approaches to biological research.

Q: What share of the workload would be expected for two or three PIs? If two, it is 50/50 or can it be 75/25?

A: This is entirely dependent on the goals of the project and should be consistent with the contributions (intellectual and budgetary) that are needed to answer the questions posed.

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 February 10, 2020, from 2-3 pm EST and will provide instructions on how to prepare a proposal budget. We will be joined by representatives from the Division of Grants and Agreements (DGA).

Be sure to check back here or on the NSF Events Page for information on how to register.

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:

February 10: How to prepare a great budget (note special time 2-3 pm Wednesday Feb. 10)

March 8: Beginning Investigators

April 12: How to write a great proposal

May 10: CAREER Solicitation

New Dimensions of Biodiversity (21-545) Solicitation Released

The new solicitation for Dimensions of Biodiversity (21-545) has just been released, with a deadline of March 26, 2021. The Dimensions of Biodiversity program has transformed how we describe and understand the scope and role of life on Earth. Successful proposals to this program fully integrate the genetic, phylogenetic, and functional dimensions of biodiversity.

This year’s solicitation is once again in cooperation with international funding agencies in China, Brazil, and South Africa. To further promote international biodiversity projects, the 2021 Dimensions of Biodiversity program is open to applications involving U.S.-China, U.S.-São Paulo, and U.S.-South Africa Collaborative Research Projects. Projects that involve only U.S. participants will not be considered in 2021.

The U.S. PIs submit to NSF and the collaborating Chinese, Brazilian, or South African PIs submit to their appropriate national funding agencies. In developing your proposal, please be aware that your team will need to submit joint proposals to different agencies. Note that the deadlines for NSF proposals may differ from those for the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) of Brazil, and the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa. Projects supported by NSF and more than one of the international partner agencies will also be considered, but proposals must be submitted to each agency involved in the project.

Proposals that investigate marine biodiversity or marine environments are not eligible, and, if submitted, will be returned without review.

Any proposal submitted in response to this solicitation should be submitted in accordance with the current NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 20-1).

If you have questions about a potential project for Dimensions of Biodiversity, please send an inquiry to Dimensions@nsf.gov.

Meet DEB: Maureen Kearney

While in Ireland on fieldwork, Maureen happened to visit a sheep farm with a new litter of sheep-puppies.

Name:   Maureen Kearney

Education: PhD, Biological Sciences, George Washington University.

Tell us about your research: My core research expertise began in biodiversity studies, phylogenetics, reconstructing the Tree of Life, and the use of phylogenies to test evolutionary hypotheses. I’m particularly interested in a holistic approach to phylogenetics, integrating diverse types of biodiversity data – from the genetic and phenotypic data we obtain from extant organisms to important fossil history data. Such an approach confers big testability payoffs, but also presents interesting analytical challenges that smart systematists continue to work on. The Tree of Life is also an excellent organizing principle for biodiversity, and can therefore be utilized as a tool to help us connect biodiversity patterns and processes to global change and sustainability efforts – an important area I’m also engaged in.

Through the years, I’ve worked on some areas of history and philosophy of systematics and biology, focusing on issues ranging from species concepts to organismal trait delimitation to phylogenetic data and methods. Systematics and evolution have traditionally been rich subjects for philosophy of science.  As the fields evolve, these interests continue.

Most recently, though, I’ve been really immersed in broad science policy issues that cross over all the STEM fields – issues, for example, such as STEM cultures that either enhance or detract from equity and inclusion in the sciences (a “science by all and for all” vision). In this regard, I’m really interested in the emerging ‘science of science’ approach, because it allows us to investigate the scientific enterprise as a complex, dynamic ecosystem. Important components of that system include research cultures, current norms and incentives for scientists and mentors, collaboration, peer review, funding processes, and the drivers and constraints that affect scientific discovery, creativity, innovation, productivity, and impact. This type of systems approach is a familiar mindset to many biologists!

Tell us about your NSF Experience/History:  NSF supported my dissertation research, and also my early research career at the Field Museum of Natural History. I served as a reviewer and panelist periodically and then moved to NSF for about eight years, serving as a permanent Program Director in DEB/SBS (~2008-2015), which I very much enjoyed.

I’ve had an approximate five-year hiatus from NSF: In 2015, I moved to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History as Associate Director for Science, which was a great opportunity to develop strategies for mobilizing historical collections data and natural history research as tools for global change studies. Then I was fortunate to work for several years as Chief Program Officer at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where I became immersed in those broad issues at the intersection of science, society and policy.

Returning to NSF/BIO/DEB is like a homecoming to me – there is just no beating the combination of the NSF mission, the positive organizational culture, and the collegial work environment in BIO/DEB. And, I feel the same about once again serving the biodiversity and systematics scientific community.

What are you looking forward to in your tenure here at NSF? I look forward to being closer to emerging scientific research again and to assisting the scientific community. I also hope to bring my recent experiences in science policy back to NSF in some productive ways. Not least, I am really looking forward to working with such dedicated, collaborative, and fun colleagues. The sense of community, hard work, and shared values in BIO/DEB and the related scientific community is important to me.

Upcoming Virtual Office Hours: Integrative Research in Biology (IntBIO) Solicitation

Join us Monday, January 11th from 1pm-2pm EST for DEB’s next Virtual Office Hour. Program Officers will provide an introduction to the new cross-divisional Integrative Research in Biology solicitation (IntBIO; NSF 21-543). This solicitation invites submission of collaborative proposals that tackle bold questions in biology and require an integrated approach to make substantive progress. Integrative biological research spans subdisciplines and incorporates cutting-edge methods, tools, and concepts from each to produce groundbreaking biological discovery. Representatives from each of the program will be available for questions.

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.


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 (subject to change), so be sure to add them to your calendars and register ahead of time!

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:

January 11:  Integrative Research in Biology (IntBIO) – Update on Rules of Life

February 10: How to prepare a great budget (note special time 2-3 pm Wednesday Feb. 10)

March 8: Beginning Investigators

April 12: How to write a great proposal

May 10: CAREER Solicitation

New: Enabling Discovery through GEnomics (EDGE) Solicitation

A webinar on the EDGE program will be held on January 15, 2021 at 2pm EST. More information on how to register can be found here.

The new EDGE solicitation (NSF 21-546) from the Biological Sciences directorate includes some notable changes: 

  1. With this solicitation, NSF Directorate of Biological Science is joined by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) in support of tool development and research to solve the grand challenge of uncovering the rules that underlie genome-to-phenome relationships.
  2. The solicitation now has a deadline – March 21, 2021.

Through the Enabling Discovery through GEnomics (EDGE) program, NSF and NIH support research to advance understanding of comparative and functional genomics. The EDGE program supports the development of innovative tools, technologies, resources, and infrastructure that advance biological research focused on the identification of the causal mechanisms connecting genes and phenotypes. The EDGE program also supports functional genomic research that addresses the mechanistic basis of complex traits in diverse organisms within the context (environmental, developmental, social, and/or genomic) in which they function. These goals are essential to uncovering the rules that underlie genome-to-phenome relationships and predict phenotype, an area relevant to Understanding the Rules of Life: Predicting Phenotype, one of the 10 Big Ideas for NSF investment. The goals also support the NHGRI priority to establish the roles and relationships of all genes and regulatory elements in pathways, networks, and phenotypes.

Recap of BIO-wide Virtual Office Hours on Migration to Research.gov and Launch of Demo Site

As outlined in Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 20-129), submissions to the Directorate of Biological Sciences (BIO) programs have begun migrating to Research.gov. Starting January 5, 2021, the Division of Environmental Biology’s Core Programs’ solicitation will no longer be available in FastLane and any new proposals must be submitted through Research.gov or Grants.gov.  Proposals started in FastLane have the option to be submitted in FastLane or you can start your proposal over in Research.gov or Grants.gov. Unfortunately, it is not possible to transfer proposal information from FastLane to Research.gov or Grants.gov. Please keep in mind that any proposal file updates or budget revisions must also be executed in the system you submit your proposal

During the week of October 19, BIO Program Officers held a series of virtual office hours to assist the community through this change. The slides from the office hours are linked below.

NSF recently released a proposal preparation demonstration site, which provides proposers the opportunity to create Research.gov proposals in the role of a Principal Investigator (PI) prior to preparing and submitting proposals in the actual Research.gov Proposal Submission System. All research community demo site users must sign in to Research.gov to access the demo site. For further demo site details, please see the Research.gov advisory and demo site Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) available via the Research.gov About Proposal Preparation and Submission page left navigation menu. A set of topic-specific video tutorials is also available.

If you have any questions regarding the migration process, please reach out to your cognizant Program Officer; the Program Officer for the program to which you are applying; or BIOnodeadline@nsf.gov, which is monitored by Program Officers from across BIO. Technical support and FAQs and videos on proposal submission through Research.gov are also available.

 If you have IT system-related questions, please contact the NSF Help Desk at 1-800-381-1532 (7:00 AM – 9:00 PM ET; Monday – Friday except federal holidays) or via rgov@nsf.gov. Policy-related questions should be directed to policy@nsf.gov.

If you would like to stay up to date on future enhancements to Research.gov and important information about FastLane, please subscribe to NSF’s System Updates listserv by simply sending a blank email to system_updates-subscribe-request@listserv.nsf.gov and you will be automatically enrolled.

12/14/2020 Virtual Office Hours Recap – Mid-CAREER Advancement Solicitation

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its latest Virtual Office Hour on December 14, 2020. We host these office hours from 1-2 pm EST on the 2nd Monday of every month. Each session has a designated theme, but attendees are welcome to ask about other NSF-related topics. Program Officers provided an introduction to the new cross-directorate Mid-Career Advancement (MCA) program (NSF 21-516).

The presentation and other documents are available here:

Slides (PDF)

PAPPG 20-1

MCA Solicitation webpage

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

Q:  What are the goals of the MCA?

A: Two of the major goals of the MCA include broadening participation and workforce development. The MCA enables a more diverse STEM workforce by facilitating research productivity and creativity from mid-career scientists and engineers. This targeted career stage is one where researchers typically have fewer institutional resources, higher service and teaching responsibilities, and a need for retooling. Data show that women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities spend more time with service and teaching at the expense of research. This may lower the likelihood of their promotion to the highest academic and leadership ranks. The MCA aims to provide a mechanism to improve broadening participation and will thus contribute to fostering a more diverse, world-class science and engineering workforce. The MCA also aims to enable bold and innovative convergence research by increasing networking and communication within and across fields of science and engineering.

Q: Does the applicant have to be tenured? What about tenure-track associate professors?

A: You do not need to be tenured to apply for the MCA. You must be an Associate Professor or have an Associate Professor Equivalency appointment and have had that rank for at least 3 years. These equivalencies are defined in the solicitation. Additionally, there is no requirement that you stay at that rank for the duration of the award.

Q: Does MCA support collaborations with international Partners?

A: The MCA solicitation does support collaboration with international Partners. However, as described in the PAPPG chapter 1.1.E6, funding is rarely provided for a foreign individual or organization’s involvement.

Q: Does the Partner need to be mid-career as well? Can they be junior? Or from any industry?

A: The Partner can be of any rank. Partners can also be from local, state, tribal or federal government agencies as well as national labs, museums, or other facilities. If industry collaborations are sought, these should be submitted as a GOALI proposal and follow the additional guidance here.

Q: Does the Partner have to be from a different institution or different field of science or engineering?

A:  No, but the partnership is an important component of the MCA and should be well justified. The collaboration between the PI and the Partner(s) should be mutually beneficial and create “added value” beyond that which would occur through a typical collaboration (for example, by opening new avenues of inquiry). Partner(s) from outside the PI’s own subdiscipline or discipline are encouraged, but not required, to enhance interdisciplinary networking and convergence research across science and engineering fields.

Q: What is a typical budget for the MCA?

A: MCA awards provide funds to the PI and include a) a total of 6.5 months of salary support to be spent over the course of the entire award (3 years), and b) $100,000 in direct costs in support of the research and training plan. In addition, a total of one month of summer support for the Partner can be requested (in lieu of summer support for the Partner, other reasonable costs may be considered). The budget should also include funds to cover the cost of attendance of the candidate to a 2-day awardee meeting during the first and final years of the award. Costs for one Partner to accompany the PI could be included during the first or last year, but not both.

Additional answers to questions can be found on the IOS blog where they hosted a virtual office hours on this topic in November, and there will be a FAQ document on the MCA webpage soon.

MCA proposals have a target date of February 1, 2021. If you have any questions, please email MCA.info@nsf.gov.

Our next virtual office hours will be held on January 11, 2020, from 1-2 pm EST and will provide an introduction to the Integrative Research in Biology (IntBIO) Solicitation (NSF 21-543), which replaces BIO’s Rules of Life track.

Be sure to check back here or on the NSF Events Page for information on how to register.

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:

January 11: Integrative Research in Biology (IntBIO)

February 10: How to prepare a great budget (note special time 2-3 pm Wednesday Feb. 10) 

March 8: Beginning Investigators 

April 12: How to write a great proposal 

May 10: CAREER Solicitation 

Integrative Research in Biology (IntBIO) Solicitation NSF 21-543

A new solicitation has been issued by the Directorate for Biological Sciences that is relevant to DEB Investigators, NSF 21-543.     

The Integrative Research in Biology (IntBIO) program replaces the Rules of Life track, which was previously a part of the core program solicitations in the four Divisions of the Directorate for Biological Sciences. The new program refines and expands the former submission track.

This solicitation invites submission of collaborative proposals that tackle bold questions in biology and require an integrated approach to make substantive progress. The collaborative interdisciplinary teams should also be fully engaged in the training and education of the next generation of scientists who will be future leaders in integrative research.

Note that proposal submissions to IntBIO have a deadline of March 16, 2021. Also note that, as BIO progresses in migrating proposal submissions to Research.gov, submissions to IntBIO must be made through Research.gov or Grants.gov.

Investigators are encouraged to explore the solicitation and to contact one of the Program Officers listed on the IntBio web page for more information. Additional information about this opportunity will be provided during the January 2021 DEB Virtual Office Hour.