Announcing the Switch to No-Deadline


As per the newly issued Dear Colleague Letter, the core programs in the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) are discontinuing the use of the preliminary proposal mechanism.  We are enacting a “no-deadline”, full proposal mechanism for proposals submitted to the core programs, including the DEB LTREB program. There will be no call for preliminary proposals in January 2018. Instead, new solicitations describing funding opportunities will be released in 2018, for awards starting in fiscal year 2019.

Why did DEB make the decision to switch to a “no-deadline” model and what does that mean for submitting proposals?

After a three year pilot of the preliminary proposal system, DEB contracted an outside agency, Abt, to conduct an evaluation of the pilot program. You can read about the results of that report, and get a link to the full report on a previous blog post here.  In sum, the assessment found the switch to preliminary proposals produced mixed results.

With respect to the scientific community, the preliminary proposal system achieved our objective of reducing demands on the reviewers, PIs, and institutions. Yet, the system also produced a frustrated PI community who found the “one date deadline” model too restrictive.

DEB staff largely viewed the preliminary proposal system positively, yet noted significant drawbacks. On the positive side, the system was efficient at filtering out proposals at the preliminary proposal stage, thus improving the quality of full proposals. It also simplified program budget management as all of the full proposals were funded at the same time of year.  However, it exacerbated workload in the winter and spring, making those very stressful times of the year. Concerns were also expressed about the fact that preliminary proposals were not subject to (ad hoc) review, and further, that interdisciplinary preliminary proposals could not be co-reviewed across programs. This latter issue was a decisive factor for BIO senior managers. They felt that the preliminary proposal system worked against efforts to encourage more integrative and interdisciplinary research; i.e., proposals that crossed BIO divisions and spanned levels of biological organization.

DEB will release new solicitations, in spring/summer 2018, with guidelines for submitting full proposals at any time of the year, to any of the DEB core programs. The first awards from those proposals would be made in FY 2019 (FY19 begins on October 1, 2018). These upcoming solicitations will also announce and provide guidelines for writing proposals related to the BIO initiative: Understanding the Rules of Life with the goal of promoting research that crosses BIO divisional, disciplinary boundaries (i.e. DBI, EF, IOS, and MCB).

What are the additional benefits of the no-deadline model to the investigator?

If you’ve been hindered in the past by ill-timed teaching loads, health or personal issues, field work, or other career commitments, consider the burden lifted. You now have the power to determine when and how your project ideas are written and submitted. Investigators can write and submit proposals during times of the year best suited to their schedules. By removing the annual deadline, you and your collaborators have more time and flexibility to coordinate on proposals. The no-deadline model also makes space for planning your submission around major life events.

What’s next?

For the next 6 months, we will be completing review of the full proposals already received in response to the CAREER and August 2nd core program submission deadlines, and making award recommendations.  We then anticipate finalizing our new solicitations and planning for how to handle a review process designed around no-deadline submissions.  We hope investigators will take the extra time to carefully craft proposals and submit them only when they are ready. From our side, we anticipate creating more integrative and dynamic panels that better accommodate the interdisciplinary science we see bubbling up in all of our core programs. But truly, there’s a great deal we can’t predict; we’re taking a risk in moving back to full proposals. Managing funding programs when you don’t know how many or when proposals will be submitted, is a bit scary. We are willing to take this risk in the hopes that this new model will result in better proposals and more integrative science while at the same time providing greater flexibility to the community.

We encourage you to check out the FAQ sheet around the new announcement, subscribe to the blog, sign up for email alerts at nsf.gov, and stay tuned for more details to follow.

Remembering Our Friend and Colleague Henry Gholz


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Henry Gholz

 

Dr. Henry Gholz, a former Program Director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) died on Saturday, September 30, 2017 while rock climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park. He was a wonderful friend and revered colleague to many at NSF and in the ecology research community.

Henry received B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Forest Science & Ecology from Oregon State University. He then joined the faculty of the University of Florida, where he worked for twenty-two years, becoming a leader in research on the ecology of forest ecosystems.  Henry joined DEB as a Program Director in 2000, and beginning in 2002 he led the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites program for a ten-year period.  He was recognized with a standing ovation, and was presented with a special plaque for his service at the 2012 LTER All Scientists Meeting (http://news.lternet.edu/images/henry-gholz-honored-lter-all-scientists-meeting). Following a 1-year sabbatical, Henry returned to DEB as a Program Director in the Ecosystem Science Cluster, and for the Macrosystems Biology program in Emerging Frontiers until his retirement last year.

While at NSF, Henry was known as an enthusiastic and collaborative advocate for ecology, who worked tirelessly to create new opportunities for the environmental biology research community. He made many friends during his sixteen years at the NSF as a result of his warm and caring personality.  Following retirement from NSF, Henry lived with his wife, Dr. Jan Engert, in Ft. Collins, CO.  At the time of his death, he was serving as a Visiting Scientist at Batelle Ecology, working with the National Ecological Observatory Network.  Henry is survived by his wife Jan, his children Nate, Sophie, and Sean, and several grandchildren.

The above is just a brief of sketch of a leading scientist and wonderful individual who impacted many people’s lives. With that in mind, we invite Henry’s many friends and colleagues to offer your thoughts and memories of him in response to this blog post.

Meet DEB: Daniel Gruner and Kathryn Cottingham


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Daniel Gruner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name: Daniel Gruner, Population and Community Ecology & Macrosystems Biology

Education: A.B. in Biology, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY, Ph.D. in Zoology, University of Hawai‘i, Mânoa, HI

Home Institution: University of Maryland

Tell us about your research,

I am a rotating Program Officer and an entomologist and ecologist interested in species interactions in food webs, the maintenance of biodiversity in ecological communities, and the biogeography of both, particularly on islands. Generally, I seek to test fundamental ecological theory in empirical systems and, using synthetic approaches such as meta-analysis, to apply basic principles to understanding and mitigating the impacts of global climate change and the spread of invasive species. In recent years, my projects have focused on mangrove-marsh ecotones in Florida and the Caribbean; evo-ecological community assembly and biogeography on Pacific Islands, primarily Hawaii; experimental manipulations of herbaceous plant communities in the global Nutrient Network; and on the ecology and integrative biology of invasive forest insects, such as the European Sirex woodwasp and the emerald ash borer.

What made you want to serve NSF?

The National Science Foundation has provided support for my research at every career stage, enabling numerous projects that would have been impossible otherwise. In the scientific tradition, we rely on peer review and public financial support to advance scientific progress, and we commit to serve our peers and institutions in kind. Foremost, I came to NSF to serve the scientific community and the greater population who rely upon science and support it with their tax dollars. I also expect to learn a great deal from colleagues at NSF and from the PI community that will help me better communicate my ideas and broaden participation in science.

What are you most looking forward to during your tenure at NSF?

When serving on review panels, I enjoyed diverse colleagues coming together to debate the merits of proposals at NSF. It is a privilege to read a broad array of interesting proposals, to meet new colleagues, and hear new perspectives while gleaning lessons for best practices in writing grants. Although we cannot fund all projects that come to NSF, the objectivity and fairness of the NSF review process has always been striking. As a rotating Program Officer, I look forward to diving deeper into this process behind the scenes and learning to hold this standard. At the very top of my list, I can’t wait to make those phone calls to early career scientists to announce their first major NSF award.

Cottingham

Kathryn Cottingham

 

Name: Kathryn Cottingham, Population and Community Ecology

Education: B.A. Drew University, M.S. University of Wisconsin at Madison, Ph.D. University of Wisconsin at Madison

Home Institution: Dartmouth College

Tell us about your research,

I am a rotating Program Officer and an aquatic ecologist with a strong side interest in the applications of ecological principles to problems in both environmental and human health. I typically approach problems using a mix of modeling, experiments, and field observations, as appropriate for the research question, and because my undergraduate training was in both mathematics and biology, I have a strong quantitative bent (although I can’t pretend to keep up with all the new, exciting techniques being developed in both modeling and statistics!).  Right now, I am particularly interested in the cyanobacterial taxa that have not read the limnology textbooks and are blooming in economically-valuable, low-nutrient, clear-water lakes located within mostly forested watersheds.  I want to understand what is causing those blooms, both within a summer and on longer time scales, and to evaluate whether there are management strategies that might keep the blooms from getting any worse in the future.

What made you want to serve NSF?

Being a rotator is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I see this position as an opportunity to give back to the broader ecological research community while also learning from the experience in ways that I hope will enrich my research and that of my trainees, collaborators, and institutional colleagues.  The seed was planted nearly 20 years ago, when my postdoc mentor, Tom Frost, rotated through DEB.  Tom spoke so highly of the experience – both professionally and personally – that I put it on the bucket list early in my time as a faculty member.  Since then, I have been eagerly awaiting the time when my kids would be old enough to take advantage of the many opportunities available in the DC-area that are not available in rural Hanover, New Hampshire.

What are you most looking forward to during your tenure at NSF?

I am particularly excited to learn more about the full breadth of research that is being done across the country and around the world, especially in the DEB fields with which I have little firsthand experience, and to help make that research possible.

 

Officially in Alexandria!


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DEB has officially moved to our new office building in Alexandria! Our new address is 2415 Eisenhower Ave, Alexandria, VA 22314. As you can see in the photo above, we’re just a few steps away from the Eisenhower Avenue metro stop and only a few stops down from Washington National Airport (DCA). Above is the exterior of our new NSF headquarters and below is the mural that greets people arriving at the Directorate for Biological Sciences.

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All future panelists will be welcomed and registered at our visitor’s lobby. Below is an example of what a typical panel room looks like but some panels will be hosted off-site and some rooms may vary.

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panel room

All future NSF visitors and on-site panelists should carefully read any instructions and documents sent out prior to your visit. Also, if your home institution is enrolled in eduroam you can now access an eduroam hotspot when visiting NSF.  Most importantly, please be sure you have a valid ID that is compliant with the REAL ID Act; if your state issued ID is not compliant, bring your passport. We hope to see you soon!

 

 

Meet DEB: Matthew Carling and Christopher Schneider


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Matthew Carling

 

 

Name: Matthew Carling, Evolutionary Processes Program Officer

Education: B.S. University of Michigan, Ph.D. Louisiana State University

Home Institution: University of Wyoming

Tell us about your research,

I am serving as a rotating Program Officer which means I do all the same tasks as permanent Program Officers (facilitate panels, make funding recommendations, day-to-day grant administration, etc.) but I’m also representing my community of investigators here at NSF for a few years before I return to my home institution in Wyoming. As an investigator, I am a museum-trained ornithologist and most of the work in my lab involves trying to understand the mechanisms and processes underlying speciation and adaptation. For example, we have a number of projects focused on using naturally occurring hybrid zones between closely-related bird species to understand both the generation and maintenance of reproductive isolation. As the curator of the University of Wyoming Museum of Vertebrates, I am also actively engaged in building and using museum collections not just for research, but also to engage the public in myriad ways.

What made you want to serve NSF?

The prospect of joining a dynamic and dedicated group of fellow program officers and staff working as a team to help push science forward. Plus, I’m not going to lie, there are better restaurants here than in Wyoming.

What are you most looking forward to during your tenure at NSF?

Community service. A core part of the mission of NSF is “to promote the progress of science,” and, to me, that involves working closely with the scientific community to identify the best ways to do exactly that – promote scientific progress. I am also looking forward to trying to help PIs, particularly early-career PIs, in any way I am able so they can better understand what makes a successful proposal.

 

Schneider

Christopher Schneider

Name: Christopher Schneider, Systematics and Biodiversity Science Program Officer

Education: B.S. Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR, M.A. University of Texas at Austin, Ph.D. University of California at Berkley

Home Institution: Boston University

Tell us about your research,

I am serving as a rotating Program Officer. I am a broadly trained vertebrate zoologist, systematist, and evolutionary biologist specializing in the study of frogs and lizards. Much of my career has been spent studying the mechanisms that generate the remarkably high biodiversity of mountainous regions in the tropics, which comprise only about 5% of the world’s landmass, but may contain two-thirds of the world’s vertebrate animal species. I use a combination of expeditionary field work and molecular genetic analyses to test hypotheses about the origin of species, their history and biogeography. I have worked in Australia, Brazil, West Africa, Sri Lanka, Ecuador and the Caribbean and I continue to marvel at the stunning diversity and variety of species, many new to science, that we study.

What made you want to serve NSF?

NSF is the hub of some of the most exciting science on the planet and I’d imagined that working there as part of a purpose-driven team to support science would be deeply rewarding. Yet, somehow, the time was never right. My responsibilities to graduate students and my home institution (Boston University), a child in school, and a spouse’s career all conspired to make a move to NSF seem implausible. In addition, I love the academic life of scholarship, teaching, research, and student mentorship, so was not in a hurry to set that aside. But late last year the stars aligned. My lab became smaller and more manageable, the Systematics and Biodiversity Sciences Cluster in the Division of Environmental Biology had an opening, my wife accepted a great job offer in the area, and my child went off to college. Needless to say, I am thrilled to finally be working with the outstanding scientists and staff at NSF.

What are you most looking forward to during your tenure at NSF?

A key part of NSF’s mission is to support the basic sciences that drive innovation and understanding. It is exciting to be part of that mission and I look forward to working with my colleagues and staff to support the best science, develop new research funding opportunities, and maintain the vibrant atmosphere of exploration and discovery that advances science and education and inspires the public.

 

Graduate Research Fellowship Program: October Deadline


The deadline for the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is coming up!  Now is the time to direct students to this opportunity.  Below we highlight the specifics of this fellowship opportunity, but it is also key to remember that this program supports students on the basis of their potential for significant research achievements in STEM.  The application consists of two statements and three supporting letters.  The statements include the Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals statement (3 pages), and a Graduate Research Plan (2 pages).  Although the nature of the first essay is the same no matter the stage of the applicant, the second essay varies substantially among stages and is viewed differently by reviewers.

For undergraduates applying, this essay is intended to reflect the type of project the student would like to do as they look forward to their graduate program, whereas for current graduate students, and especially those beginning their second year of graduate school, the project is typically more specific and better grounded in their current program and broader research plans. In all cases, the application is viewed holistically and evaluated on both the research potential and broader impacts associated with the applicant.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program grants three years of financial support for pursuing a research-based master’s or PhD degree in science technology, engineering, math, or STEM education. Applicants must demonstrate significant achievements in STEM and attend any accredited college or university in the United States or its territories.

Eligibility

  • Applicants must be a US citizen, national, or permanent resident
  • Applicants can apply while still in their undergraduate program but must be accepted into a graduate degree program by the time they accept the Fellowship
  • Applicants can have completed no more than 12 months of full-time graduate study by August 1st but can only apply once as a graduate student, either in their first or second year (see the solicitation for details as this is a new policy in 2017).
  • Different fields of study have different deadlines within NSF. Below is the schedule for each field of study
Fields of Study 2017 Deadlines 2018 Deadlines
Life Sciences, Geosciences October 23 October 22
Computer and Information Science and Engineering, Engineering, Materials Research October 24 October 23
Psychology, Social Sciences, STEM Education and Learning October 26 October 25
Chemistry, mathematical Sciences, Physics and Astronomy October 27 October 26
Reference Letter Submission November 2 November 1
  5:00 PM ET 5:00 PM ET

Benefits

  • $34,000 annual stipend
  • Cost of Education allowance of $12,000 to the institution
  • Professional development opportunities through Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW) and Graduate Research Internship Program (GRIP)
  • Access to supplemental funding to sustain research while on medical deferral (e.g. maternity/paternity leave)

Read the current solicitation for the full set of guidelines, and for additional questions please reach out to the Graduate Research Fellowship Operations Center, telephone: 866-NSF-GRFP, 866-673-4737 (toll-free from the US and Canada) or 202-331-3542 (international) or email: info@nsfgrfp.org

 

 

Dear Colleague Letter: Hurricane Harvey


NSF is now accepting proposals related to Hurricane Harvey. The new Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) outlines the three types of proposals that may be submitted to conduct new research related to Hurricane Harvey including RAPIDs, EAGERs, and supplemental funding requests. Investigators must contact the NSF Program Officer most closely related to the proposal topic before submitting. Please read the DCL carefully and follow the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) instructions.  NSF has also created a new web portal for institutions affected by Harvey with information on where to direct inquires.

Those of us serving in DEB are continuing to keep all those affected by Harvey in our hearts and thoughts during this terrible time. If you have any questions after reaching out to your relevant Program Officer, please contact our designated liaison for BIO, Elizabeth Blood, eblood@nsf.gov, (703) 292-4349.