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French Agence Nationale de la Recherche/Physics/MCB Lead Agency Agreement at the Physics – Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Interface

The NSF Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences in the Directorate for Biological

Sciences and Division of Physics in the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (NSF/MCB and NSF/PHY) recently released Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) “ANR – NSF/Physics/MCB Lead Agency Opportunity at the Physics – Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Interface” (NSF 21-120). This DCL announces the continued collaboration between the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) and NSF to support projects that use multidisciplinary approaches to examine mechanisms underlying essential life processes at the molecular, subcellular, and cellular scales. Proposals that use physics based experimental and theoretical approaches are encouraged. 

Under the lead agency agreement, researchers can submit a single collaborative proposal that will go through a streamlined review process either at NSF or at ANR. In FY 2022 (October 2021-September 2022), NSF will serve as the lead agency for all proposals. Proposals should be submitted to: NSF 21-593 Division of Physics: Investigator Initiated Research Projects. The deadline for proposals is December 14, 2021. While proposals are submitted to NSF/PHY, they will be jointly reviewed by PHY and MCB.

Simultaneously, the French institution must submit a proposal with the identical Project Description, with any required additional information to ANR, via the ANR submission system (https://anr.fr/fr/appels/). The deadline for this is December 15, 2021.

For full details on submission guidelines, program priorities, and contact information, see the DCL: NSF 21-120.

Upcoming NSF Merit Review Survey

Have you submitted or reviewed an NSF proposal? We want to hear from you

This week, recent NSF applicants and reviewers will be emailed a survey link to provide feedback on their experience with the merit review process. Eligible individuals will be those who have submitted and/or reviewed proposals between October 1, 2018 and September 30, 2020. Results from this survey will help NSF understand critical elements of the merit review process, including perceptions of fairness, quality, satisfaction, and burden for individual directorates and NSF as a whole. In the past, survey findings led to improvements, such as revisions to reviewer training to enhance the quality of reviews used to make funding decisions.   

If you have submitted or reviewed a proposal within the past two years, check your inbox on October 19 for your personal link to the survey. Your feedback is a crucial to the ongoing improvement of the merit review process. If you do not see the email in your inbox, check you spam folder. Please reach out to MeritReviewSurvey@nsf.gov with questions.

This survey is sponsored by the Office of Integrative Activities, and survey invitations will come from Insight Policy Research, an independent contractor conducting the survey.  PI and reviewer participation is voluntary and confidential. This survey should take no more than 20 minutes. 

 Thank you in advance for helping us continually improve the NSF merit review process.

Welcome to FY22 – Recap of MCB funding opportunities and priorities

Greetings from all of us in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences at the National Science Foundation! 
The new federal fiscal year FY 2022 is underway and we are looking forward to all the exciting science you will propose and accomplish in the coming year.

Stay Informed on News and Updates by Following the MCB Blog
Watch this space, where we will announce funding opportunities and tell you about virtual and in-person venues to talk with MCB program officers. The blog is also where we share information about the MCB portfolio and announce new funding opportunities. Look here, too, if you are interested in rotating or permanent employment opportunities in MCB. 

Keep up to Date on Upcoming and Past Virtual Office Hours
We use the linked Virtual Office Hours site to share an archive of advice from program directors to applicants. The recorded sessions and files walk through a variety of topics from how to prepare a budget, tips for developing broader impacts activities, and how to submit a proposal to suggestions for writing effective, constructive reviews.

Check out a Quick recap of MCB Highlights to Kick Off the New Funding Year

Engage with MCB Virtually
For the time being, MCB will continue to have virtual review panels and program directors will visit scientific meetings virtually, too. If your conference, department, or institution would like a virtual visit, don’t hesitate to contact a program director to see what can be arranged. All of us at MCB look forward to serving you in the year ahead.

NSF EFRI Solicitation: Engineered Living Systems Topic (Focus on Sustainable Engineering and Safe Built Environment)

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently released a new solicitation (NSF 21-615) topic as part of its FY22 Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) Program, entitled, Engineering Living Systems (ELiS).

The Emerging Frontiers and Multidisciplinary Activities (EFMA) Office will host an informational webinar on October 15, 2021, at 2 PM EDT, to discuss the EFRI program and answer questions about the FY 2022/23 solicitation. To register for this webinar, go to this link.

The EFRI-ELiS topic will support transdisciplinary research to advance the design, modeling, fabrication, and manufacturing of engineered living systems to address societal needs as well as the associated ethical, legal, and social implications of using living systems as building blocks and components for next-generation sustainable engineering. More specifically, ELiS will seed and catalyze transformative and convergence research with the goal of creating living systems for sustainable engineering with a focus on three national/societal needs: Thread 1) a sustainable built environment, Thread 2) monitoring and surveillance for a safe built environment, and Thread 3) biomining for sustainable metal extraction and resource recovery. ELiS will also contribute to the development of the basic science and engineering knowledge needed to advance the respective missions of our Federal Partner Agencies including 1) NASA’s goals for sustainable space exploration and 2) the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA)’s goals for the development and deployment of enabling capabilities to understand the built environment, threats, and vulnerabilities.

Each proposal submitted in response to this topic of the EFRI solicitation is required to address one of the three research threads and each of the foundational research components listed below:

  • Foundational Research: 1) design and/or modeling, 2) fabrication and/or manufacturing, and 3) ethical, legal, and social implications.
  • Research Thread 1: Sustainable Built Environment
  • Research Thread 2: Monitoring and Surveillance for a Safe Built Environment
  • Research Thread 3: Biomining for Sustainable Metal Extraction and Resource Recovery

The full solicitation (21-615) can be found here. Letter of Intent will be due on November 10, 2021. Preliminary Proposal will be due on December 16, 2021. Full Proposal will be due on March 10, 2022.

BIO-wide Virtual Office Hour on changes in the new NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures guide

Join the Directorate for Biological Sciences for a BIO-wide Virtual Office Hour at 3:00 PM Eastern Time on October 26, 2021 on the changes in the new NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG, 22-1), which  became effective on October 4, 2021.

Representatives from NSF’s Policy Office will present on the changes and be available for questions. 

Register in advance for this webinar:
https://nsf.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_udIs4ENmQxetfQUu4LSpeQ

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

As a reminder, the PAPPG is comprised of documents relating to the Foundation’s proposal and award process for the assistance programs of NSF. The PAPPG, in conjunction with the applicable standard award conditions incorporated by reference in the award, serve as the Foundation’s implementation of 2 CFR §200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards.

The new PAPPG (22-1) can be found at https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/policydocs/pappg22_1/nsf22_1.pdf and a list of changes begins on page 2 of the PDF.

JOB ANNOUNCEMENT: BIOLOGICAL SCIENCE ADMINISTRATOR (PROGRAM DIRECTOR)

Directorate for Biological Sciences - 5th best place to work in the federal government

The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences is looking for one Permanent Program Director for the Genetic Mechanisms cluster. The cluster supports inventive research to address fundamental mechanisms involved in the organization, dynamics, processing, expression, regulation, and evolution of genetic and epigenetic information.

Program directors are an essential part of NSF’s mission, primarily responsible for the administration of the merit review of submitted proposals; managing an effective, timely peer review process; ensuring broad participation of reviewers and increasing involvement of under-represented groups; and building an award portfolio that supports the vision and goals of the National Science Foundation and MCB.

For more information and to apply, please visit USA Jobs for more information before the vacancy closes on September 1, 2021.

NSF 21-100 DCL RENEWAL: BIO AND UKRI/BBSRC COLLABORATION AND BLOG ANNOUNCEMENT

The National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) recently released Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) “UKRI/BBSRC-NSF/BIO Lead Agency Opportunity in Biological Informatics, Microbes and the Host Immune System, Quantum Biology and Synthetic Cell” (NSF 21-100). This DCL announces the continued collaboration between the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and BIO on topics of strategic importance to both agencies. The topics for the coming fiscal year FY 2022 remain the same as those announced for FY 2021.

Under the lead agency agreement, researchers can submit a single collaborative proposal that will go through a streamlined review process either at NSF or at UKRI, on behalf of both NSF/BIO and UKRI/BBSRC.

Potential proposers should submit a letter of Intention to Submit (ITS) by September 22, 2021. If both agencies agree that the research topic fits the topical areas identified for FY 2022, researchers will be invited to submit a full proposal to the appropriate NSF or UKRI program.

Projects must address the priorities of both UKRI/BBSRC and participating NSF/BIO Divisions. Proposers must provide a clear rationale as to the need of the US-UK collaboration, including the unique expertise and collaboration that the team will bring to the project.

For full details on submission guidelines, program priorities, and contact information, see DCL NSF 21-100.

BLOG ANNOUCEMENT: The MCB Blog members will be going on a hiatus until mid-August. We hope to see you again in the fall!

MCB WELCOMES SPENCER SWANSEN

Spencer Swansen recently joined the division in June as a program assistant.

Photo of Spencer Swansen.

What is your educational background?

I attended Seattle Pacific University during undergrad, with degrees in Biology (BS) and Ecology (BS). I was fortunate to be a part of an NSF-funded REU over the summer of 2014 at UC-Riverside, studying fungal interactions at the Center for Plant Cell Biology. Afterwards, I started a Peace Corps Masters International in Forest Resource Management at the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. For my Peace Corps service, I was a Youth in Development volunteer in northern Thailand, teaching life skills and English. For my Masters research, I surveyed the community on their perspectives toward land use and potential land conversions. After two amazing years, I closed service two weeks before Peace Corps Volunteers were evacuated around the globe in response to the pandemic.

What has surprised you most about working at the NSF?

One thing that has surprised me about NSF is the intention behind the funding. I will admit that as a student (especially in forestry classes) I grew tired of academia and felt it was an echo chamber with self-perpetuating systems and structures. I have been very pleasantly surprised since starting work at the NSF, though. Not only is there a focus on funding transformational research, whether high risk or otherwise, but there is also a focus on broadening participation and giving more people the opportunity to pursue a passion for science and research. In just a few weeks, I have come to learn that everyone working at NSF shares these intentions. In my role I will be supporting those who make decisions on funding, organizing panels and processing awards and more. I will also get to be exposed to amazing research, and I can already tell that my love for science is being rekindled (sounds cheesy, but it’s true!).

MCB BIDS FAREWELL TO DR. ELEBEOBA MAY

Dr. Elebeoba May joined MCB in November 2017 as a program director in the Systems and Synthetic Biology (SSB) cluster and ended her almost four year term as a rotator under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) in June.

Photo of Dr. Elebeoba May

What was the highlight of your time at NSF?

Hands down the people I worked with, and second, the new cross-cutting initiatives I had a chance to help develop were the highlights of my experience. From walking into the building and seeing the NSF mural to exiting the elevator (sometimes unsure which way to turn) and seeing the giant paper snowflakes the MCB staff hung as holiday decor, it was always clear that people – my colleagues –  are the heartbeat of NSF and they were the greatest thing about being at NSF. 

Every day that I had the chance to interact with my MCB colleagues in the halls of NSF (pre-COVID) or on Zoom was a highlight for me. I could always count on having impromptu scientific discussions sometimes after being startled in the hallway (you know who you are), or following my perfectly timed but unintended interruption of a colleague’s lunch (sorry), or even as I wandered the halls searching for chocolate or KIND bars (we all do it). It was even more rewarding when those discussions turned into a nugget of an idea and eventually into a new initiative in the form of a DCL or solicitation.  I’ve had the chance to be a part of the process of growing such new ideas into an initiative a couple of times and that was extremely fulfilling and something I had no expectation of when I first joined MCB.  It’s a real testament to our MCB and BIO leadership that as rotating PDs, we have the opportunity and are encouraged to not only think outside of the box but to build programs across disciplinary boundaries and boxes. In sum, through the people and programs at NSF, I gained unique perspectives and a greater appreciation for the vastness and interconnectedness of science and the importance of the people who do the science.

What was your first impression of the NSF? How did that change over time?

My encounters with NSF started as a graduate student and later with my first review panel, which was for the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). Those two experiences and service on many other review panels that followed made me think of NSF as a group of people that cared about science and the groups of people doing the science. Not much has changed in my original impression of the Foundation, but I think that my experiences have repeatedly affirmed those initial thoughts and made me realize that my first impression was just the tip of the iceberg of the integrated Intellectual Merit and Broadening Participation charge that NSF stewards and champions. I found that this dual focus on excellent science and inclusive science are woven into the DNA of MCB and BIO. But one part of my impression that did change, or was a bit revised, was how NSF goes about realizing these goals. I originally saw NSF mainly as unilaterally establishing programs or guidance to which we, the community, would respond. However, I now understand NSF is a steward of these areas, but the community of basic science, engineering, mathematics researchers and educators have to be engaged and partner with NSF to realize these goals. This change in perspective will undoubtedly influence how I view and realize my responsibility to continue to engage with NSF post my tenure as a program director. 

What would you tell someone who is thinking about serving as a program director at the NSF?

Do it! And, perhaps it’s not so bad to do it when you’re mid-career. My experience was so much more than I expected. I learned a lot of what I would categorize as “behind the curtain” stuff, such as how the Foundation sets priorities and how to differentiate those seemingly (from the outside) blurry lines between programs. One rather rewarding aspect of my experience was the ability to see the tangible impact of the programs we managed and developed on my community.  It was fulfilling to have the occasion to shine a light on areas and communities that have the potential to be highly impactful but have not received much attention or investment. The ability to be part of the conversation, engage new voices in the community, and make a difference broadly on the trajectory of individual investigators has been a uniquely rewarding experience. My time in MCB is something I am grateful for and will carry with me for the rest of my career.