The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its latest Virtual Office Hour on November 14, 2022. Program Officers provided information on how to write a great proposal. We host these office hours 1-2pm EST on the 2nd Monday of every month. There is a designated theme each time, but attendees are welcome to ask about other NSF-related topics. Program Officers from different research areas are present at each Virtual Office Hour, so a wide range of scientific perspectives are represented.
The presentation and other documents are available here:
If you were unable to attend, here are some of the questions asked during the Q & A section:
Q: How do I know which Program Officer within a program to contact with a 1-page summary or to set up an appointment to talk with? Do Program Officers ever suggest an alternative program that would better fit?
A: You can pick any name off the list of associated Program Officers for the program of interest. Program Officers carefully review submitted 1-pagers with their program and provide feedback to the PI via phone/email. They will discuss programmatic fit as well as suggest alternative programs and how to contact those programs. We suggest that if you want to contact more than one program or Program Officer then you should send one email that includes all of the Program Officers you have interest in speaking with. This makes it easier for us to coordinate one response with the most accurate information about programmatic fit.
Q: NSF proposal guidelines prohibit submitting proposals with substantial overlap at the same time. Sometimes the timing of these special programs is such that we are prevented from submitting to them because of another proposal under consideration with substantial overlap. Can you comment on the ‘substantial overlap’ issue regarding Life on a Warming Planet research?
A: Duplicate submissions are prohibited, but proposals with some overlap are allowed. But we need to avoid the potential to fund the same research twice. Thus, when submitting a proposal, there is a required document called Current and Pending Support where you describe how the current proposal and any pending submissions overlap. Please reach out to a Program Officer if you have concerns about ‘substantial overlap’ in your submissions.
Q: Would climate change research be a fit for the Using the Rules of Life to Address Societal Challenges program?
A: Yes, per the solicitation: “Through use-inspired research using convergent, multidisciplinary approaches, URoL:ASC seeks to apply lessons learned from studying rules of life across a broad array of living systems to tackle pressing societal concerns. These concerns include but are not limited to: climate change and associated risks, including geohazards, extreme events, and loss of biodiversity; environmental degradation, including impacts on land and water resources; inequalities in availability of and access to essential natural assets; lack of sustainability, including for food, energy, and waste production; and threats from pandemic disease, among others.” If you have specific questions about a research idea and its appropriateness for this program, please contact URoL-ASC@nsf.gov.
Q: We would like to submit a proposal to Biodiversity on a Changing Planet to work with colleagues in a foreign country, but there are ongoing travel restrictions there. Should we propose work that assumes such travel will be possible even with ongoing restrictions and potentially challenging political landscape? Is it important to suggest that we have a ‘plan B’ in case we can’t go?
A: Ensure that you have a clear description of the partnership and how it would work, and it would be helpful to have a description of ‘plan B’ should travel restrictions impact your research. All research faces some uncertainty and some risk of events beyond your control limiting progress. But if those risks are too high, reviewers may not see the project as feasible or worth the investment.
Q: For Biodiversity on a Changing Planet, do successful proposals integrate across all levels (cellular, organismal, ecological, evolutionary, geological, and/or paleontological perspectives) or is a subset of these approaches acceptable? e.g., should all proposals include a cellular approach?
A: A subset is perfectly acceptable. There are some revisions in the upcoming solicitation that will help clarify the language. Keep an eye out on the BoCP solicitation website for updated information.
Q: Does the Organismal Response to Climate Change (ORCC) program allow for NSF-NERC collaborations? If not, to which programs can a NERC collaboration proposal be submitted?
A: At this time, NERC partnerships are not allowed but this doesn’t preclude you from working with colleagues in the UK or any other international partners. NSF-NERC collaborative proposals can be submitted to the DEB core programs (Ecosystem Science, Evolutionary Processes, Population and Community Ecology, and Systematics and Biodiversity Science). Additionally, the Directorate of Geosciences accepts NSF-NERC collaborative proposals.
Q: I work in the agriculture sector. Will that be a limitation when submitting a proposal to NSF?
A: No, but you are encouraged to review the Who May Submit Proposals section of Eligibility Information in the solicitation of interest to you. For example, the DEB (core programs) solicitation states that proposals may only be submitted by institutions of higher education or non-profit, non-academic organizations. Other NSF solicitations have different eligibility requirements.
Please reach out to a Program Officer if you have any questions about the proposal submission and review process in DEB programs. NSF has suggested 5 tips on working with Program Officers as part of the NSF 101 series on our Science Matters blog.
Check out the upcoming office hour topics below and be sure to check back here or on the NSF Events Page for information on how to register. Our next virtual office hours will be held December 12, 2022, from 1-2pm Eastern Time and the topic will be the Mid-Career Advancement Solicitation.
Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:
December 12: Mid-Career Advancement Solicitation
January 9: Biodiversity on a Changing Planet (BoCP) Update
February 13: How to Write a Great Budget
March 13: PAPPG: Cracking the code – Understanding NSF policies and procedures that shape your funding opportunities
April 10: Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (PUI)
May 8: CAREER Solicitation