New OPUS Solicitation

The OPUS (Opportunities for Promoting Understanding through Synthesis) program enables PIs to create new understanding of their research systems and questions by supporting synthesis activities based on published, peer-reviewed research. The traditional OPUS is now called OPUS: CRS (Core Research Synthesis). This presents an opportunity for a researcher at any career stage to synthesize a significant body of their research to create a new and enhanced understanding of an important topic in DEB science.

The new OPUS: MCS (Mid-Career Synthesis) track targets a specific academic rank (associate professor or equivalent) at a critical career stage. An OPUS: MCS requires the PI to collaborate with a mentor at another institution to acquire needed knowledge or skills to enable a new synthesis of their research interests. Projects should present a compelling case that the planned activities and products will provide new insights to existing problems or identify new, but related, problems that were previously inaccessible without the new methodology or approach. Hopefully, the result will enhance the PI’s productivity, improve their retention as scientists, and promote a diverse scientific workforce, including more minorities and women at high academic ranks.

The two tracks are outlined in detail on the OPUS web site and in the solicitation (NSF 18-582). If you are considering an OPUS submission, we suggest that you email one of the OPUS contacts listed on that web page as well as a program officer in the appropriate DEB cluster for your research area.

DEB Caps Explained

Proposal Type Caps Deadline Submission Guidelines
DEB Core (EP, ES, PCE, SBS) DEB Core Cap: 1

Any submission as a PI or Co-PI to any of these proposal types counts towards the DEB Core cap of 1.

No deadline 18-587
SG No deadline 18-587
RUI No deadline 14-579
OPUS Deadline 18-582
LTREB No deadline 18-597
BEE Designation No deadline 18-587
Rules of Life Rules of Life Cap: 1 No deadline 18-587
CAREER Lifetime limit of 3 Deadline 17-537
RCN No cap No deadline 17-594
Conferences No cap No deadline PAPPG
EAGER No cap No deadline* PAPPG
RAPID No cap No deadline* PAPPG
RAISE No cap No deadline* PAPPG
EEID EEID Cap: 2 Deadline 18-581
CNH No cap Deadline 18-503
Dimensions of Biodiversity Dimensions Cap: 1 Deadline New Solicitation TBA

Figure 1. Column one lists some of the many types of proposals that come into our core and special programs. The second column shows you which proposals are limited by a cap. The third column tells you which proposal type has a deadline, and the final column points you to where to look for guidance when preparing the proposal.

For example; In a given fiscal year, an investigator may submit 1 proposal to EEID, 1 to CNH, 1 to CAREER, 1 to Rules of Life, and 1 to the DEB Core (ES, EP, PCE, SBS, BEE) but not LTREB because that exceeds the DEB Core cap of 1.

*Unless specified in an accompanying Dear Colleague Letter

The New DEB Core Programs Solicitation is Here!

DEB’s new core programs solicitation has been published. While many parts of the solicitation remain the same, there are a handful of key differences. This post will outline the new submission mechanism, review the eligibility requirements under the new cap, define the new Bridging Ecology and Evolution designation and Rules of Life, and explain the data storage and accessibility requirements. Our blog posts are not intended to cover all the changes to our solicitation. We encourage you to read the entire solicitation carefully.

Submission Mechanism

DEB’s core programs are no longer on an annual deadline. You can submit your proposal today, tomorrow, next month or next year. Please take the freedom and space to plan and collaborate. This change to no-deadline means we’ll be holding panels throughout the year, but the number and size of our panels may vary. We are still requiring the Personnel List Spreadsheet to be submitted with your proposal. Please use the updated version that can be found in the new solicitation.

When you choose to submit your proposal, it should be a full proposal. We are no longer accepting preliminary proposals. In an earlier post we outlined the pros and cons of the preliminary proposal system.

In sum, you can submit your full proposal any time starting now.

Eligibility for the DEB Core programs under the No-Deadline system

There is one “core program solicitation” that contains two tracks, one a “core track” and one a “Rules of Life” track.

In a given fiscal year, an investigator may be listed as a PI or co-PI on no more than one proposal submitted to the DEB core programs track.  Proposals in excess of the PI/co-PI limit for any person will be returned without review in the reverse order received. There is no limit on the number of proposals on which an investigator may be listed as Lead of a Subaward or as Other Senior Personnel.

Within the core program solicitation, there is a second track called Rules of Life for research that spans divisions in the Directorate of Biological Sciences (see below for more details). This track has its own, separate cap of one proposal for the BIO Directorate. This means investigators can be on the cover sheet as a PI or Co-PI on one proposal to our core program and on one proposal to the BIO-wide Rules of Life initiative.

With the end of deadlines and the flexibility in panel configuration that will ensue, DEB has been thinking about ways to encourage more interdisciplinary research. To enable more submissions that cross program boundaries, two new submission options will be available, one for projects that span more than one DEB core program (Ecology and Evolution), and one for projects that cross the BIO divisions (Rules of Life).

The new Bridging Ecology and Evolution (BEE) designation on DEB’s core track seeks to encourage research and training that integrates ecological and evolutionary processes to provide new insights into environmental biology. Projects should span, at minimum, one of the ecology clusters (Ecosystem Sciences, and Population and Community Ecology) and one of the evolution clusters (Evolutionary Processes, and Systematics and Biodiversity Sciences). Projects designated as BEE proposals should focus on the interplay between ecological processes and evolutionary processes, providing insights into the feedbacks and consequences at the interface of these disciplines. PIs are encouraged to include a statement in the Project Description about the conceptual basis and justification for this integration in advancing ecological and evolutionary science. To submit a BEE proposal, simply begin the title with the acronym “BEE:” and submit it to one of the targeted clusters. BEE proposals will be reviewed by a panel of ecologists and evolutionary biologists who will evaluate the quality of the integration and the potential to provide new insights for eco-evolutionary science. A BEE proposal counts as the PIs and co-PIs’ one allowed submission per year to the DEB core programs. More information about BEE is in the DEB solicitation.

The BIO Directorate’s Rules of Life (RoL) Track seeks to support integrative research and training that aims to identify the underlying general principles that operate across hierarchical levels of living systems, from molecules to organisms to ecosystems, and that explain emergent properties, e.g., robustness and adaptability. RoL proposals must address questions of importance to two or more of the BIO Divisions (Environmental Biology, Integrated Organismal Systems, Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Biological Infrastructure). Successful projects will advance the understanding and predictive capabilities of key properties of living systems that emerge from the interaction of genomes, phenotypes, and environment acting over space and time. A RoL proposal should be submitted to one of the programs in DBI, DEB, IOS, or MCB. One or more additional programs in a different division should be specified on the cover page and the integration between the programs should be discussed in the Project Summary Overview section. More information about the RoL Track is in the DEB solicitation.

Data Dissemination and Accessibility

DEB is ratcheting up expectations of data archiving and accessibility, as is generally the case across NSF. Our new solicitation makes clear that PIs who have had prior support within the last five years must provide details on how data have been permanently archived and made publicly available. This information should go in the “Results from Prior NSF” section, following the format described in the PAPPG (II.C.2.d.iii). Likewise, when submitting Annual and Final Reports, BIO PIs will be required to “include information about progress made in data management and sharing of research products (e.g., identifier or accession numbers for data sets…and other types of data sharing and dissemination).”

It will be increasingly important to craft thoughtful and thorough Data Management Plans when submitting new proposals. Reviewers and Program Officers will pay particular attention to how data and specimens are stored and when and how they will become publicly assessable. For context and guidance, see

If you have not already, we encourage you to thoroughly read the new solicitation, subscribe to the blog, and sign up for email alerts at to stay current on all NSF news and updates.




IACUC Updates for 2018

Many people in the DEB community work with vertebrate animals, and therefore require approval from their Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs) to conduct their research.

Since NSF does not oversee or regulate animal research, it is important for investigators to know that a project’s IACUC approval must be adequately documented before program officers can recommend an award for funding. In this blog post we offer answers to common questions regarding the NSF documenting procedures for IACUC protocols to help you to efficiently comply with the existing policy.

  1. Where can I find information on NSF guidelines regarding IACUCs?

The NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) contains the official policy on how to document your IACUC approval in your proposal (Part I, Chapter II Proposal Preparation Instructions, D. Special Guidelines, 4. Proposals Involving Vertebrate Animals).

  1. Where in the proposal is IACUC approval documented?

On the proposal cover page there is a box that should be checked if the proposal includes research with living vertebrate animals. Immediately following there is a space to provide the IACUC protocol approval date as well as the Public Health Service (PHS) Approved Animal Welfare Assurance number.

  1. How do I know if my institution already has PHS assurance?

Institutions proposing to use vertebrate animals in an NSF-funded project are required to list their single and unique PHS assurance number on the NSF proposal cover sheet. If there is no PHS assurance number listed, check the NIH/OLAW website for the current list of PHS assured institutions: For the IACUC approval to be accepted by NSF, the organization must have a current PHS Approved Assurance. If your institution doesn’t have a current PHS Approved Animal Welfare Assurance number, please list it as “pending” on submission. If NSF intends to make an award to your institution, it will submit a direct request to NIH/OLAW to start the assurance process.

  1. What if I have a current IACUC protocol that encompasses the type of work that I am proposing to do in the NSF proposal that I am submitting?

If the box for vertebrate animals is checked, and an IACUC approval date and PHS Assurance number are provided on the proposal cover page then no additional IACUC documentation is required for the proposal to be recommended or an award processed. When the officer from your institution’s Sponsored Research Office (SRO) signs off on the proposal, they are affirming that the approved protocol exists and is congruent with the work outlined in the NSF proposal. It is important to note that this IACUC protocol must still be current at the time of the proposal submission and an approved protocol for the project must be maintained for the duration of the award (most IACUC protocols expire after 3 years).

  1. What if I do not have an approved IACUC protocol for the proposal I am submitting?

If your IACUC protocol is not yet approved, you can indicate that the IACUC approval is “pending” on the cover page. If you fall in this category, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • IACUC committee tend to meet at a pre-set schedule throughout the year. If you have not yet started the IACUC approval process, please be aware of these timelines and recognize that awards cannot be processed at NSF without IACUC approval.
  • Once granted, NSF must receive a signed IACUC approval from your institution, that must explicitly reference the proposer’s name, the title and number of the NSF proposal, and the date of IACUC approval.
  1. What if the research I am proposing to do will take place outside of the United States?

Projects involving the care or use of vertebrate animals at an international organization or international field site also requires approval of research protocols by the US grantee’s IACUC. Often, local approval from an international institution will also be necessary. Always ask the IACUC at your institution about how they handle international projects that involve living vertebrates.

  1. If the NSF proposal is for a fellowship or for an individual (e.g. postdoc), how is the documentation for the IACUC different?

For fellowships and proposals to individuals, a signed letter from the institution must still be submitted to NSF prior to an award action even if there is an IACUC approval date and PHS Assurance number documented on the proposal cover page at the time of submission. The letter must include the IACUC approval date, the institution’s PHS Assurance number, and it must specifically reference the proposer’s name, the title and number of the NSF proposal, and the date of IACUC approval.

  1. What if I am applying for a fellowship or award to an individual and I plan to conduct this work outside of the United States?

If the proposal is to fund an individual (not an institution) and the proposed work is to take place outside of the U.S., then a signed letter from the appropriate official at the foreign institution must be submitted to NSF that confirms that the work will comply with applicable laws in that foreign country and that it will adhere to the International Guiding Principles for Biomedical Research Involving Animals.

  1. If I am applying for an REU (or any other award supplement) will I need to submit IACUC documentation?

Supplements to existing awards generally do not require a separate IACUC approval letter unless the IACUC approval on the parent award is more than three years old or the scope of the project has changed substantially.

If the scope of the work has changed, in lieu of resubmitting an entirely new IACUC protocol an amendment to your existing IACUC protocol may suffice. An amendment is typically much easier to prepare than a new protocol. Check your institution’s IACUC policies to see what types of revisions are recognized as appropriate for a protocol amendment.

  1. If I am submitting a collaborative proposal with multiple institutions will each institution need a separate approved IACUC protocol?

Each institution that proposes to conduct research with living vertebrates must have their own current and approved IACUC documentation – this includes work conducted by a non-lead collaborative institution and work conducted under a subaward.

  1. My proposed research entails using multiple species of living vertebrates, and/or multiple locations. Will one IACUC protocol be sufficient?

Depending on the nature of the work, one IACUC may not be sufficient to cover the entire scope of your work. Please confirm with your institution’s IACUC that all of the work is being covered.

  1. I am submitting a proposal to NSF, but I am not sure if the vertebrate animal work in the proposal requires IACUC approval (e.g., the research involves only observations of vertebrates in the field).

Ask your institution’s IACUC whether the proposed work warrants IACUC approval. If the IACUC does not think one is needed, we recommend that you procure an email from the chair of the IACUC committee (using their institution email) stating that IACUC approval is not necessary for the scope of the proposed work. It is always safer to have the committee make this decision rather than making the decision on your own. Usually, such email can be obtained ad hoc, outside of your institutions regular IACUC meeting and review schedule.

  1. What about preserved specimens — will I need an IACUC to work with non-living vertebrate animals from a natural history collection?

IACUC approvals are only necessary for research with living vertebrate animals.

  1. My proposal doesn’t include vertebrate animals in a research capacity, but my broader impacts and/or outreach activities do involve vertebrate animals. Will I still need IACUC approval?

Most likely IACUC approval is still necessary in this circumstance. Please contact the NSF animal welfare officer for additional information.


NSF’s Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education wants to hear from YOU!

The National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education (AC ERE) invites your input on possible environmental research and education directions to further advance national security and economic competitiveness.

The AC ERE has been interested broadly in fundamental environmental research and education that also has societal utility, and is particularly interested in approaches that promote convergent research across disciplines and sectors to address economic competitiveness and economic security.

To identify emerging research questions in these areas, the AC ERE is reaching out to interested and knowledgeable members of the scientific community in all disciplines and interdisciplinary areas for their views. The AC ERE is also interested in the views of professionals who are directly involved in decision-making or operational activities in these areas, and who therefore can provide a very practical perspective on high-priority research and education topics.

The AC ERE invites individuals and groups of individuals to provide input on one or both of the topics described above via this link:

The online submission form requires the following information:

  1. Author name(s) and affiliation(s);
  2. Valid contact email address;
  3. Title of the response;
  4. An abstract (200 words or less) summarizing the response; and
  5. Checkbox to consent to allow the AC ERE to display the submitted information, consistent with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (

You will also be asked to identify whether your response focuses on questions in environmental research and education that are pertinent to a) economic growth and competitiveness, b) national and human security, or c) both topics. The submission form includes the following question prompts. Respondents may respond to all or any subset of these questions.

  • What are the major environmental research priorities with the greatest potential to contribute to economic growth and competitiveness and/or national or human security/wellbeing? Priorities could, for example, include empirical, theoretical, or qualitative analyses, establishing baselines, and/or experimental studies. (500 words or less)
  • What methodologies should be used for conducting such studies? Methodological recommendations could include the prospects for interdisciplinary and/or convergent research approaches, including modeling, theory, empirical, qualitative, and/or experimental studies. Methodological recommendations could also discuss the scope of studies, e.g. the balance between single-investigator studies and large teams. (500 words or less)
  • What education (including formal and informal), research, and training opportunities – for students, postdoctoral researchers, and mid-career scientists – are needed? Opportunities might include interdisciplinary, team-based, or other innovative, value-added strategies for realizing higher levels of depth and breadth at the individual level, and/or expansion of the current environmental research community through inclusion of currently under-represented groups. (500 words or less)
  • Beyond economic competitiveness and national security, what other high priority drivers of environmental science and education need attention? (200 words or less)

Submissions must be received by 5:00 PM Eastern Time on August 20, 2018. Respondents may edit their responses while completing the survey, but will not be able to save work in progress to complete later. Respondents will see a confirmation screen upon successful submission responses.

The committee and associated staff will read and analyze all responses received, and use them, in addition to its own background work, to develop a report on these topics to inform NSF and the community. It intends to publish this report by the end of 2018.

The AC ERE also anticipates making submissions publicly accessible through its website ( Authors who do not wish to have their full responses posted online may restrict access to the AC ERE and associated staff. However, the author(s) name and affiliation, submission title, and abstract will be included in the publicly accessible list of responses regardless.

The AC ERE invites you to step outside of the immediate demands of your current research and to think boldly about the opportunities for advancing environmental research and education into its next stage through a lens focused on economic competitiveness and/or national security. The Committee looks forward to your contributions.

For questions concerning this effort and submission of input, please contact Leah Nichols, Executive Secretary for the AC ERE, at

Coastlines and People (CoPe) Scoping Sessions: Apply to attend workshops Sept. 26-28, 2018

We’re encouraging you to apply to attend scoping sessions to identify priorities for a research initiative focused on coastal regions. Applications are due by August 12, 2018 (11:59pm local time) and the workshops will be held September 26-28, 2018. More information is available on the CoPe scoping session website
Coasts are paramount to our nation’s economic prosperity, sustainability and national security. The National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorate of Geosciences in collaboration with the Directorates for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences, Engineering, Education and Human Resources, and Biological Sciences are looking to better understand the research priorities related to advancing understanding of the impacts of coastal environmental variability and natural hazards on populated coastal regions. The outcomes from these scoping sessions will inform future research opportunities from NSF to expand and innovate coastal research and include state, federal and local stakeholders.  Interdisciplinary research on coastal processes, the built environment, and the people that inhabit coastal regions, serves as an opportunity to engage under-represented groups and build on broadening participation efforts of NSF’s INCLUDES.
Four, simultaneous, three-day scoping sessions will be hosted by the University Cooperation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR )and facilitated by KnowInnovation on behalf of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Workshop sites include San Diego, California, Chicago, Illinois, and Atlanta, Georgia with a fourth ‘virtual’ workshop held on mountain time.
Applicants will be notified by late August. Travel support will be provided for participants invited to attend. More information and answers to frequently asked questions can be found on the CoPe scoping workshop website

2018 Summer Meeting Schedule

It’s that time of year again! DEB representatives will be attending the Ecological Society of America (ESA) conference in New Orleans August 5-10 and the Evolution conference in Montpellier August 19-22. The table below tells you which Program Officers and Senior Managers will be attending the meetings.

Be sure and stop by the NSF exhibitor booth at the ESA conference to chat with staff and Program Officers. We’re ready to talk about the latest NSF news and funding opportunities. Remember to also visit our colleagues at the NEON booth.

We’ll be hosting a session at ESA on Tuesday, August 7th from 11:30am-1:15pm entitled “Navigating NSF: Opportunities for Funding Research and Training.” There will also be an outreach talk at 12:45 on Tuesday, August 21st in room B113 at the Evolution Conference. See you there!


Ecological Society of America, New Orleans

August 5-10

Program Officers and Senior Managers Cluster
Elizabeth Blood ES
Kathy Cottingham PCE
Dan Gruner PCE
Stephanie Hampton Division Director
Matt Kane ES
Doug Levey PCE
Cesar Nufio PCE
Alan Tessier Deputy Division Director
Betsy von Holle PCE

Evolution, Montpellier

August 19-22

George Gilchrist EP
Stephanie Hampton Division Director
Leslie Rissler EP
Chris Schneider SBS