Statement from the Acting Assistant Director for Biological Sciences on Proposal Submission Limits


In August, the BIO directorate released new solicitations to its proposal submission process to eliminate deadlines and limit the number of proposals that could be submitted to a given division annually by a PI or co-PI. As BIO was receiving far more worthy proposals than it has money to support, this submission cap was established with a view to ensuring that BIO’s merit review process would not be overwhelmed with the move to no deadlines.

In the ensuing three months, the community expressed serious concern that this new policy would hinder collaboration as well as limit funding prospects for new investigators. BIO places a high value on collaboration and on fostering careers of new investigators; thus, we held internal discussions to consider ways to address these concerns. In addition, relatively few proposals have been submitted to BIO since the release of the solicitations.

Having listened to community concern and tracked the current low rate of submission, and following extensive internal consultation, BIO is lifting all PI or co-PI restrictions on proposal submission for FY 2019, effective immediately.

BIO recognizes that it is important to track the effects of the no-deadline policy on proposal submission patterns, to ensure that a high-quality review process is sustained. Therefore, we are seeking approval from the Biological Sciences Advisory Committee to establish a subcommittee to assist in developing the evidence base for any future policy changes that may be needed.

Solicitations for proposals will be amended and released over the next few weeks to reflect these changes.

 

Meet DEB: David Cannatella


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David Cannatella

Name: David Cannatella, Systematics and Biodiversity Sciences Program Officer

Education: BS in Zoology, University of Southwestern Louisiana; MS, MA, and PhD in Systematics and Ecology, University of Kansas.

Home Institution: University of Texas at Austin

Tell us about your research: I’m an evolutionary biologist with a passion for understanding the amphibian Tree of Life. My lab focuses on research on evolution of frogs from a phylogenetic perspective. These include speciation, biogeography, biodiversity of Neotropical species, phylogenomics, integrating fossil and phenotypic data, acoustic communication, aposematism and chemical defense in poison frogs.

Several of these topics revolve around poison frogs, a group of about 300 Neotropical species, many of which are brightly colored and have distasteful alkaloid compounds in their skin. This is how the frog warns a predator to leave it alone. In the big picture, this combination of a warning signal (bright colors) and a defense (distasteful chemicals) has evolved independently several times and in different ways in animals such as bumblebees, skunks, coral snakes, monarch butterflies, nudibranch mollusks, and salamanders. Frogs don’t make their own alkaloids, but instead get them from arthropod prey, and store them in their skin. This raises a basic question—why don’t the poison frogs poison themselves? To answer this, we look at the complex interactions between behavioral ecology, phylogenomics, and molecular evolution, to understand how the frogs make their living in the natural environment, how these interactions evolved at local and large scales, and how the frog is protected from its own toxins at the molecular level. These approaches rely on new directions that are led by my graduate students and postdocs.

Why do you want to serve NSF? As the primary federal agency supporting evolutionary research, NSF relies on input and expertise from the community of scientists to assess what type of science best serves the community and nation, now and for the future. I was really excited by the possibility of working with others to contribute to the advancement of the best science, even though I had just a vague idea of what day-to-day life would be like.

What are you most looking forward to during your tenure at NSF? I am enthused by the chance to interact with a large and diverse community of scientists, some on temporary assignment like myself, and others who have dedicated their talents long-term to promoting excellence in research and researchers. Also, during my break from academic life I hope to pick up some administrative skills that will be useful when I return to UT.

 

 

New LTREB Solicitation Released


The new solicitation for the Long Term Research in Environmental Biology (LTREB) Program has been released. The LTREB program supports the generation of extended time series of data to address important questions in evolutionary biology, ecology, and ecosystem science. LTREB was designed to support decadal projects. Funding for an initial, 5-year period requires a decadal research plan and a description of core data. Renewal proposals are submitted for the second five years of support. Proposals can be submitted to three Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) clusters—Ecosystem Science, Population and Community Ecology, and Evolutionary Processes.

The main new feature of the LTREB solicitation is an increase of the maximum budget, to $600,000 for a 5-year duration in total costs (direct plus indirect).

Important requirements for all NSF proposals are open data, and data-sharing. LTREB projects have been ahead of the curve regarding sharing data with other investigators in order to stimulate data reuse, synthesis, and the generation of novel ideas. If you have been collecting long-term data, and want to test hypotheses related to those data, the LTREB Program may be of interest to you.

NSF Announces New Measures to Protect Research Community from Harassment


From the BIO Blog, “The National Science Foundation (NSF) has taken the next steps in its agency-wide effort to protect the research community from harassment, publishing a term and condition that requires awardee organizations to report findings and determinations of sexual harassment, as well as establishing a secure online portal for submitting harassment notifications.

To access these resources, please see the press release, the NSF Fact Sheet, and visit nsf.gov/harassment.”

 

A Letter from the Acting Assistant Director


Dr. Joanne Tornow, BIO Acting Assistant Director, has written a letter to the community addressing the recently released no-deadline solicitations and answering some commonly asked questions.

Remember that we also released our own in-depth explainer around our Core Programs’ switch to no-deadline and produced a handy chart for understanding which programs still have a deadline and whether or not they are subject to a submissions cap.

Lastly, if you still have questions about our recent changes or anything DEB-related, please email us at debquestions@nsf.gov.