What do you want to see in 2017?

We want to make sure this blog is serving the needs of the DEB community so please take a minute and tell us what you’d like to see more of in the coming year.

Share Your Ideas on Cyberinfrastructure

A new NSF Dear Colleague Letter (DCL; NSF 17-031) has been posted: Request for Information on Future Needs for Advanced Cyberinfrastructure to Support Science and Engineering Research (NSF CI 2030).

From the DCL:

“NSF Directorates and Offices are jointly requesting input from the research community on science challenges and associated cyberinfrastructure needs over the next decade and beyond. Contributions to this Request for Information will be used during the coming year to inform the Foundation’s strategy and plans for advanced cyberinfrastructure investments. We invite bold, forward-looking ideas that will provide opportunities to advance the frontiers of science and engineering well into the future.”

We encourage DEB to weigh in- what do you see as the cyberinfrastructure that will be needed to advance ecology, evolution, and systematics?

The DCL points to an external submission website (http://www.nsfci2030.org). Please note that the deadline for submissions is April 5, 2017 5:00 PM ET.  Questions about this effort and the submission process should be sent to Dr. William Miller, Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, at this email address: nsfci2030rfi@nsf.gov.

Reminder: Preliminary Proposals Due January 23

DEB Core Programs and LTREB

Preliminary proposal submissions for DEB Core Programs and Long Term Research in Environmental Biology (LTREB) are due by 5:00PM (submitter’s local time) this January 23rd, 2017.

Please see our past post for updates to the DEB Core Programs and Long Term Research in Environmental Biology solicitations.


The deadline for preliminary proposal submissions for the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) is different from DEB Core Programs and LTREB.  The IOS deadline for preliminary proposals is January 19th, 2017. Be sure and check out their blog for any updates.

MacroSystems Biology and Early NEON Science

A cross-posting from the NSF BIO Division of Biological Infrastructure blog (DBInfo) that we thought would be of interest to our readers too.


What do a fungal disease, lake sediments, and weather radar have in common?

They are all components of research projects funded by the NSF Macrosystems Biology and Early NEON Science Program (MSB). (You can find a list of active awards here.)

Last week, the NSF headquarters served as the gathering place for a meeting of Principal Investigators (PIs) and other researchers working on MSB projects from across the country. We wanted to share with you a little bit more about this unique program in the NSF BIO portfolio and some of the outcomes of the meeting.

Dr. Olds and Dr. Waring are standing in a meeting room in front of a wall with Dr. Warings scientific poster hanging on it. There are other posters in the background. The NSF’s Assistant Director for Biological Sciences, Dr. Jim Olds, speaks with MacroSystems Biology researcher Dr. Kristen Waring.

About the Program

Originally just called “Macrosystems Biology,” the Macrosystems Biology and Early NEON Science program is an NSF BIO funding competition that made its first round of awards in FY 2011. The next…

View original post 924 more words

Preliminary Proposal Evaluation Update for DEB and IOS: Surveys Arriving Soon

Dear Researcher,

We are writing today to alert you that you may soon receive an invitation by e-mail to participate in a short survey conducted by Abt Associates on behalf of the US National Science Foundation (NSF). This is a legitimate request and we invite you to participate.

This survey is part of an independent evaluation of the two-step merit review process (preliminary proposal system) implemented by the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) and Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS). Some of you may have also received an invitation to complete a broader merit review satisfaction survey within the past year. These are complementary but completely separate activities.

The goal of this survey is to examine the level of satisfaction with the two-step merit review process (preliminary proposal system) pilot in DEB and IOS and to estimate the workload associated with preparing and reviewing proposals. The survey is being sent to a sample of DEB and IOS applicants and reviewers and to a comparison group from similar NSF programs which have not adopted the two-step process. This approach will enable us to understand the relative advantages and limitations of the change as well as to capture everyone’s perspective.

While participation in the survey is voluntary, we hope that you will take a few minutes to share your views. Research community input is vital to developing the best approaches to handle the large number of grant applications without compromising the quality of review and that is why your participation is very important. Thank you in advance for your help.


Paula Mabee, Division Director Heinz Gert de Couet, Division Director
Division of Environmental Biology Division of Integrative Organismal Systems
National Science Foundation National Science Foundation

Note: Pursuant to 5 CFR 1320.5(b), an agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to an information collection unless it displays a valid OMB control number. The OMB control number for this collection is 3145-0215. Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average less than 10 minutes per response, including the time for reviewing instructions. Send comments regarding this burden estimate and any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden, to: Reports Clearance Officer, Office of the General Counsel, National Science Foundation, Suite 1265, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22230.

DEB 2016 Summer Meetings Schedule

Meeting season is upon us. Here’s a quick overview of the where, when, and who for finding your DEB representatives at annual meetings this summer. Note: Lists of expected attendees are tentative and subject to change. Check back for updates and additional details of scheduled sessions and other outreach activities as they become available.


Society of Wetland Scientists’ 2016 Annual Meeting


31 May – 4 June 2016; Corpus Christi, Texas

Liz Blood (Ecosystems)


EEID (Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease)


3 – 5 June 2016; Ithaca, New York

Sam Scheiner (Evolutionary Processes); Karen Alroy (Science Associate); Diana Weber (AAAS S&T Policy Fellow)


ASLO Summer Meeting


5 – 10 June 2016; Santa Fe, New Mexico

Alan Tessier (DDD); Lou Kaplan (Ecosystems); Maria Gonzalez (Population and Community Ecology); Tim Kratz (Macrosystems & NEON Science); Mike Vanni (Postdoctoral Fellows program in DBI)

Event: NSF Funding Opportunities in Aquatic Sciences; Date: Tuesday, 7 June; Time: 12:00 – 13:30


ASM Microbe 2016


16 – 20 June 2016; Boston, MA

Matt Kane (Ecosystems); Leslie Rissler (Evolutionary Processes)


Evolution 2016 (ASN/SSE/SSB)


17 – 21 June 2016; Austin, Texas

Paula Mabee (DD); George Gilchrist, Paco Moore, Leslie Rissler, Sam Scheiner (Evolutionary Processes); Gordon Burleigh (Systematics and Biodiversity Science)

Event: NSF information session; Date: Monday, 20 June; Time: 12:00 – 13:00


Botany 2016


30 July – 3 August 2016; Savannah, Georgia

Gordon Burleigh, Joe Miller & Simon Malcomber (Systematics and Biodiversity Science)

ESA Ecology 2016


7 – 12 August 2016; Ft Lauderdale, Florida

Alan Tessier (DDD); Doug Levey & Betsy Von Holle (Population and Community Ecology); Liz Blood, Henry Gholz & Karina Schäfer (Ecosystems); Janice Bossart (Evolutionary Processes); Cheryl Dybas (Public Affairs); John Adamec (Staff)

Booth: #333

Event: Funding Agency Information Session; Date: Monday, 8 August; Time: 11:30-13:15


North American Ornithological Conference 2016


16 – 20 August 2016; Washington, DC

Doug Levey (Population and Community Ecology)


ecoSummit 2016


29 August – 1 September 2016; Le Corum, Montpellier, France

Karina Schäfer (Ecosystems)


Entomology 2016 (XXV International Congress of Entomology)


25 – 30 September 2016; Orlando, Florida

Janice Bossart (Evolutionary Processes)

Evaluating the Preliminary Proposal System, an update.

Our last post, tracing the fate of proposals over the two-stage review process, worked with data that had been pulled together for our Committee of Visitors (COV) in 2015. For those of you unfamiliar with NSF COVs, the short version:

A COV is a special type of panel established, in our case, under the Advisory Committee for BIO. Instead of reviewing proposals, however, the COV reviews the entire merit review and award process. They look at individual reviews and panel summaries provided by you, our management of the merit review and decision-making process, and the resulting portfolio of awards. Every program at NSF undergoes a COV review every three years.

We’ll leave the in-depth discussion of the COV process to another time, but thought you would be interested in some related follow-up.

The DEB COV met last June. It was chaired by Dr. Steward Pickett and the Advisory Committee for BIO was represented by Dr. Paul Turner. After the committee completed its work, a report was transmitted to the BIO Advisory Committee for approval.

Dr. Turner presented the 2015 DEB COV report to the NSF Advisory Committee for BIO at their fall meeting (29 Sept. 2015). The report, and a response document prepared by BIO to outline our planned follow-up actions, were accepted by the Advisory Committee. Both documents have been published to the nsf.gov website. The COV report, and BIO response are both available for download and sharing.

The COV report endorsed our plan to formally evaluate the preliminary proposal process in DEB and IOS via a third-party provider. At the time of the COV we were working to develop a solicitation for a contractor to carry out the work. We were successful in soliciting several bids[i]. After review of the bids, a 1-year contract was awarded to Abt Asssociates out of Cambridge, MA to conduct a study. This organization has extensive experience as third-party program evaluators for government clients and scientific research programs. The contract began in March, 2016 and is well underway. The project team is presently developing the necessary survey instruments and beginning to work with program data. The project is scheduled for completion by February 2017. We look forward to sharing the results with you as we are able.

We plan to post additional updates to DEBrief as project milestones are reached. However, this is also a first heads-up that Abt may reach out to you to by email to participate in the evaluation. Please make sure your FastLane contact info is up to date so you don’t miss it.

In the interim, the COV report also covered the first two years of preliminary proposals and might be of interest.


[i] The federal contracting process is a bit like the proposal process but operates under a much more extensive set of regulations.