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 (email@example.com), and the MTM program website or the MTM Team (firstname.lastname@example.org).
BIO looks forward to continuing working on this cross-Directorate venture.
Joanne Tornow, PhD
Assistant Director for Biological Sciences
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:
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:
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.
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;
- Why are these requested funds needed?
- How does each item in the budget help meet the proposed deliverables?
- 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;
Then your budget justification for this exciting, cross-disciplinary proposal should follow this order;
A. Senior Personnel
- Pomona Sprout- Principal Investigator, # months’ work/year, list specific responsibilities and explain how she arrived at this calculation.Year 1 $$$$, Year 2 $$$$, Year 3 $$$$, Year 4 $$$$
- Indiana Jones- Co-Principal Investigator, # months’ work/year, list specific responsibilities and explain how he arrived at this calculation.Year 1 $$$$, Year 2 $$$$, Year 3 $$$$, Year 4 $$$$
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:
- the person has a soft money position, or
- the project scope requires buying out of teaching time.
Section G. Other Direct Costs
- 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.
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.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) received more than 800 idea submissions for the NSF 2026 Idea Machine competition. Entries were judged and 33 are still in the running for the grand prize. Now, we need YOU to help NSF determine which entries will advance to the next stage by watching entrants’ video pitches and commenting on the importance and potential impact of their Big Ideas, as well as providing suggestions on how their ideas can be improved.
Watch the video pitches and review entries from 05/31/2019 – 06/26/2019 at nsf2026imgallery.skild.com.
The BIO CAREER deadline is July 17, 2019.
For those of you preparing to submit your CAREER proposal, there are two important things that should not be left until the last minute:
- Including a Departmental Letter of Support.
- Clearly demonstrating the integration of your research and education activities.
Departmental Letter of Support
This is a key requirement for any CAREER proposal that needs to be uploaded into supplemental documents.
From the solicitation (17-537),
“1. Departmental Letter (a proposal submitted without this Letter will be returned without review) – NSF encourages organizations to value and reward the integration of research and education and the effective mentoring of its early-career faculty in their department. This integration of research and education requires close collaboration between the CAREER Principal Investigator (PI) and his/her organization throughout the duration of the award. To demonstrate the department’s support of the career development plan of the PI, the proposal must include one (and only one) letter from the PI’s department head (or equivalent organizational official). In cases of joint appointments, the letter should be signed by both department heads. The letter, which will be included as part of the consideration of the overall merits of the proposal, should demonstrate an understanding of, and a commitment to, the effective integration of research and education as a primary objective of the CAREER award.”
Integration of Research and Education
Most successful CAREER proposals demonstrate a strong and clear integration of research and education. Your research and education activities should be linked and inform one another. As always, feel free to visit NSF’s award search to view the abstracts of successful CAREER proposals. Many will provide information about how the PI created synergy between research and teaching. Some PIs will even share their proposal or provide advice if asked…but not if unasked.
Reporting your demographic information to NSF is voluntary, but it helps to ensure that we are adequately serving our broad and diverse community of investigators and providing equal access to programs and other opportunities at NSF.
Below are answers to commonly asked questions about reporting demographic information to NSF taken from our FAQs about the management of your user account with NSF.
|Do I have to provide my demographic information?||Submission of the requested demographic information is voluntary and is not a precondition of an award.|
|If I do not provide any demographic information for a particular question, what will appear on my profile?||If demographic information is not provided for any or all demographic questions, the answer(s) will be shown as blank in the My Profile Edit mode and “Not Provided” will be displayed in the My Profile View mode.|
|Why is my demographic information being collected?||NSF asks for demographic data relating to gender, ethnicity/race and disability to gauge whether our programs and other opportunities in science and technology are fairly reaching and benefiting everyone regardless of demographic category; and to ensure that those in underrepresented groups have the same knowledge of and access to programs, meetings, vacancies, and other research and educational opportunities as everyone else.|
Your demographic information has moved from Fastlane to Research.gov.
To view or update your demographic information (gender, ethnicity/race, disability status), please follow the directions below:
- Sign in to Research.gov and click “My Profile”
- Demographic information is located on your “View/Edit Profile” page
- Scroll down to the Demographic Information section at the bottom of your profile
There’s a new version of the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide, or PAPPG (NSF 19-1). Check out a summary of the significant changes from prior versions and clarifications found in the new PAPPG here: https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/policydocs/pappg19_1/sigchanges.jsp
For international collaborations, please note the Cover Page has a new box to check for any international subawards and consultancies.
The guidelines in NSF 19-1 apply for proposals submitted or due, or awards made, on or after February 25, 2019. For instance, starting today (March 4, 2019) any RAPID or EAGER proposals intended for DEB would list the NSF 19-1 PAPPG program announcement number on the proposal cover page.
The PAPPG contains the full set of general guidelines to PIs, and includes everything from proposal preparation to award reporting and close-out. Many program-specific solicitations will reference the PAPPG for instructions on proposal submission, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with this document and make sure that your Sponsored Projects Office is aware of this new version.