The Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO)– and other directorates at NSF–have a long history of funding basic research that can be used address all sorts of societal challenges. For example, molecular-scale research that identified heat-tolerant enzymes from microbes in hot springs proved critical to the discovery of PCR, which is now widely applied for medical testing (like for COVID-19). Another example, at the ecosystem scale, is research on fire regimes that is helping us learn how to mitigate the impacts of wildland fire on home, life, and the economy.
NSF has now launched new webpages to help the research community connect our funding opportunities with three societally-relevant challenges the research might help address: Biotechnology to Advance the U.S. Bioeconomy, Emerging Infectious Diseases and Life on a Warming Planet.
The webpages can serve as a kind lens to envision how basic research could be applied or translated. Also, because some of the research funding opportunities featured on the webpages cut across divisions in BIO and across other directorates, the information also provides a view of connections across the Foundation.
For MCB PIs, we note that all four the MCB clusters–Cellular Dynamics and Function (CDF), Genetic Mechanisms (GM), Molecular Biophysics (MB), and Systems and Synthetic Biology (SSB)–welcome proposals addressing at least one aspect the three societal challenge areas. For example, CDF would support research advancing the understanding of how cells act and react as a dynamic machine to inform cell-based biotechnology; GM would be interested in research on causal relationships between genome structure and function to enable technological interventions aimed at controlling cellular responses to changing environments; MB would support research to develop new tools that enable, and demonstrate the limits of, prediction of viral evolution; and SSB would be interested in projects to engineer plant symbionts or plant microbiomes to enhance plant performance traits (e.g., growth, yield, and drought resistance).
We invite you to explore the webpages to learn more about the topics and view funding opportunities, organized by directorate.
As always, if you have a specific question about where your research might fit, we encourage you to reach out to a program director. If your research doesn’t fit under a program they manage, they can help you find the right program.