DEB Resources and Links

Pointers to answers for common questions already online:

How does the NSF proposal merit review process work? NSF has an interactive diagram of the general process here Rollover-text provides a summary of each step in the process, but clicking on the numbered steps takes you to a more detailed walk-through with additional resource links.

What is NSF’s definition of “interdisciplinary”? Start here for an overview of the definition and application of the concept in merit review:

What constitutes “transformative research”? Start here for an overview of the definition and application of the concept in merit review:

How do I find out what research has been previously funded? Information on all NSF awards can be searched, viewed, and downloaded from The “Advanced Search” options are useful for narrowing search criteria.

Where can I find funding rates and historical budget data? NSF’s Budget Division maintains a public interface for accessing these data at This is the source for official NSF data. Note: aggregations of official data are usually coarser than information provided informally in DEBrief posts.

DEB-Relevant Funding Opportunity Quick Links

This is just a sample of NSF funding opportunities which could support DEB researchers. For a complete list of DEB-relevant opportunities check out the list on DEB’s site.

Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants

Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants in the Directorate for Biological Sciences (DDIG) These grants provide partial support of doctoral dissertation research to improve the overall quality of the research project.

Core Programs

Ecosystem Science Cluster The Ecosystem Studies Program (ES) supports investigations of ecosystem structure and function across a diversity of spatial and temporal (including paleo) scales to advance understanding of: 1) material and energy fluxes and transformations within and among ecosystems; 2) roles and relationships of ecosystem components in whole-system structure and function; 3) ecosystem dynamics, resilience, and trajectories of ecosystem change through time; and 4) linkages among ecosystems in space, time, and across spatial & temporal scales.

Evolutionary Processes ClusterThe Evolutionary Processes Cluster supports research on microevolutionary processes and their macroevolutionary consequences. Topics include mutation, gene flow, recombination, natural selection, genetic drift, assortative mating acting within species, speciation, and long-term features of evolution.  Includes the Evolutionary Genetics Program and the Evolutionary Ecology Program .

Population and Community Ecology Cluster– The Population and Community Ecology Cluster supports research that advances the conceptual or theoretical understanding of population ecology, species interactions and community dynamics in terrestrial, wetland and freshwater habitats.

Systematics and Biodiversity ScienceThe Systematics and Biodiversity Science Cluster supports research that advances our understanding of the diversity, systematics, and evolutionary history of organisms in natural systems.  Includes Biodiversity: Discovery & Analysis, Phylogenetic Systematics, and Advancing Revisionary Taxonomy and Systematics.

Targeted Feeder Programs

Proposals following these solicitations are generally reviewed alongside core program projects in DEB but have additional unique submission and review criteria.

Long Term Research in Environmental Biology (LTREB)- Researchers must have collected at least six years of previous data to qualify for funding, and these data must motivate the proposed research. The proposal must present a cohesive conceptual rationale or framework for ten years of research (an initial 5-year proposal and subsequent renewal) utilizing the extended time series of biological and environmental data to address ecological and evolutionary processes and resolve important issues in organismal and environmental biology. Preliminary proposals are required for LTREBs in DEB.

All proposals submitted to the LTREB program are co-reviewed by participating clusters or programs (see linked site for details). Proposals must address topics supported by these programs. Researchers who are uncertain about the suitability of their project for the LTREB Program are encouraged to contact the cognizant program director.

Opportunities for Promoting Understanding through Synthesis (OPUS)- All four clusters within the Division of Environmental Biology (Population and Community Ecology, Ecosystem Science, Evolutionary Processes and Systematics and Biodiversity Science) encourage the submission of proposals aimed at synthesizing a body of related research projects conducted by a single individual or a group of investigators over an extended period. OPUS proposals will often be appropriately submitted in mid-to-late career, but will also be appropriate early enough in a career to produce unique, integrated insight useful both to the scientific community and to the development of the investigator’s future work. In cases where multiple scientists have worked collaboratively, an OPUS award will provide support for collaboration on a synthesis.

Research Coordination Networks (RCN)- The goal of the RCN program is to advance a field or create new directions in research or education. Groups of investigators will be supported to communicate and coordinate their research, training and educational activities across disciplinary, organizational, geographic and international boundaries.

Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program- The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity for awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI)- The Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) activity supports research by faculty members of predominantly undergraduate institutions. RUI proposals are evaluated and funded by the NSF programs in the disciplinary areas of the proposed research. Eligible “predominantly undergraduate” institutions include U.S. two-year, four-year, masters-level, and small doctoral colleges and universities that (1) grant baccalaureate degrees in NSF-supported fields, or provide programs of instruction for students pursuing such degrees with institutional transfers (e.g., two-year schools), (2) have undergraduate enrollment exceeding graduate enrollment, and (3) award an average of no more than 10 Ph.D. or D.Sc. degrees per year in all NSF-supportable disciplines. Preliminary proposals are required for RUIs in DEB.

Other Small or Unique Funding Requests

See BIO’s “Supplements and Other Opportunities” page for additional opportunities.

Early-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER)- PI(s) must contact the NSF program officer(s) whose expertise is most germane to the proposal topic prior to submission of an EAGER proposal.

Grants for Rapid Response Research (RAPID)- PI(s) must contact the NSF program officer(s) whose expertise is most germane to the proposal topic before submitting a RAPID proposal.

Conference/Symposia/Workshop SupportPI(s) should contact the NSF program officer(s) whose expertise is most germane to the proposal topic prior to submission of a request.

Research Opportunity Award Supplements (ROA)- These supplements to support collaboration with faculty at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions are described within the RUI solicitation. NSF/BIO has a Dear Colleague Letter emphasizing this opportunity.

Research Experiences for Teachers (RET)- These supplements to support extension of research experiences to K-12 teachers are described in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates solicitation. NSF/BIO has a Dear Colleague Letter emphasizing this opportunity.

Research Assistantships for High School Students (RAHSS)- These supplements are intended to provide research experiences for talented high school students who are members of groups traditionally underrepresented in BIO sub-fields.  NSF/BIO provides instructions for this opportunity via a Dear Colleague Letter.

Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)- The REU solicitation supports supplements to new or active research awards or as independent proposals for REU Sites that engage a number of students in research.

Special Programs in DEB

Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER)- NSF established the Long Term Ecological Research Program (LTER) in 1980. Research at LTER sites provides experiments, databases, and research programs for use by other scientists. It must test important ecological or ecosystem theories including, but not limited to, ecosystem stability, biodiversity, community structure, and energy flow. LTER currently supports 26 active sites representing major biotic regions of the continental US and Alaska, the marine environment, and the Antarctic continent.

Geneaology of Life (GoLife)- The ultimate vision of this program is an open access, comprehensive Genealogy of Life that will provide the comparative framework necessary for testing questions in systematics, evolutionary biology, ecology, and other fields. Strategic integration of this genealogy of life with data layers from genomic, phenotypic, spatial, ecological and temporal data will produce an extensive synthesis of biodiversity and evolutionary sciences. The resulting knowledge infrastructure will enable synthetic research on biological dynamics throughout the history of life on Earth, within current ecosystems, and for predictive modeling of the future evolution of life.

Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID)The focus of this program is the understanding of disease transmission dynamics through both ecological and evolutionary processes. Proposals without substantial ecological and evolutionary components will not be considered. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the USDA, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the NIH, and the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) participate in the EEID program.  Additional information and NIH contacts can be found at:

Dimensions of BiodiversityThe Dimensions of Biodiversity campaign seeks to transform how we describe and understand the scope and role of life on Earth. This activity complements several core NSF programs and differs by requiring the integration of genetic, taxonomic/phylogenetic, and functional dimensions of biodiversity in innovative or novel ways, to understand their synergistic roles in critical ecological and evolutionary processes. It includes support for collaborative research in Brazil and China.  NASA has also added support for projects that incorporate substantive use of satellite remote sensing technologies.

Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH)- This program promotes interdisciplinary analyses of relevant human and natural system processes and complex interactions among human and natural systems at diverse scales. The most recent revision of the solicitation included special emphasis on sustainability related proposals.

Selected Cross-Cutting Special Programs of DEB Relevance

Innovation Corps Program (I-Corps)- The purpose of the NSF I-Corps grant is to give the project team access to resources to help determine the readiness to transition technology developed by previously-funded or currently-funded NSF projects.

Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER)- The PEER program was established under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between NSF and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). PEER is a USAID-funded competitive grants program that provides an opportunity to support scientists in developing countries who work with NSF-funded scientists at U.S. institutions.

Dear Colleague Letters

These are announcements which identify emphasis areas for proposals while taking advantage of previously established funding opportunities. For example, Dear Colleague Letters focused on quickly addressing environmental and engineering challenges arising from disasters often direct PIs to the RAPID funding mechanism.