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
Did you know that about 80% of all NSF proposals are processed within 6 months of submission? Or that last year’s funding rate in MCB was 37%?
There are many other funding opportunities such as Research Experiences for Teachers Sites in Biological Sciences, LEAding cultural change through Professional Societies, international opportunities in collaboration with French, Israeli, or British collaborators, and many more.
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.
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.
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!
As noted on BIO Buzz, the blog of the Assistant Director for Biological Sciences (BIO), BIO has released a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) to provide supplementary funding in support of recent college graduates who were not able to get research experience due to impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Research Experiences for Post-baccalaureate Students (REPS) supplemental funding requests will be reviewed for funding consideration upon receipt. To receive full funding consideration for FY2021, requests should be submitted by July 2, 2021. Supplemental funding requests submitted after that date will be considered if funds are available.
What is the eligibility requirement for PIs requesting a REPS supplement? PIs with active awards from BIO (funded through DBI, DEB, EF, IOS, or MCB) are eligible to request supplements. Awards in no-cost extension are eligible, but if more time is needed to enable completion of the post-baccalaureate research, then another extension may need to be requested. Recipients of fellowship awards (GRFP or Postdoc fellowships) are not eligible to apply.
What is the eligibility requirement for participation in REPS? The student must have graduated with a bachelor’s degree and must not currently be enrolled in another degree program. The goal of this DCL is to ameliorate effects of the pandemic on the ability for undergraduates to engage in research experiences. Priority should be placed on students who are from underrepresented groups or students who have not participated in any type of research experience. Proposers are also strongly encouraged to consider involving veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Do participants have to be US citizens or permanent residents? Yes.
Does the supplement request have to include the student’s identity at the time of submission? Yes, please include information about the individual to be trained, for example, a biosketch or resumé, including their date or expected date of graduation. This information should be included in the “Justification for Supplement.” This opportunity is not intended to provide funds to PIs who would then advertise for a student to support. Rather, the student should have been identified before requesting the supplement.
For additional information please reach out to the cognizant Program Officer on your award or one of the below REPS Program contacts:
Dr. Sally O’Connor, Program Director, Division of Biological Infrastructure, email@example.com
Dr. Paulyn Cartwright, Program Director, Division of Integrative Organismal Systems, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Marcia Newcomer, Program Director, Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, email@example.com
Dr. Chris Balakrishnan, Program Director, Division of Environmental Biology, firstname.lastname@example.org
The BIORETS solicitation (NSF 21-584) seeks proposals that provide research experiences for groups of teachers in fields supported by the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO). The research experiences are intended to be translated into curricular changes that have long-term impact on science education and encourage students to enter STEM-related professions.
A BIORETS project should provide a cohort of at least 8-10 middle school, high school, and/or community college STEM teachers with immersive, authentic research experiences in the biological sciences over a period of at least six weeks, typically during the summer.
Proposals submitted to this solicitation are strongly encouraged to involve PIs, co-PIs, postdoctoral fellows, students, and teachers who are members of groups that have been historically underrepresented in STEM, as well as teachers who serve in schools and educational settings with high proportions of students in such groups. Proposers are also encouraged to consider involving veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces as part of NSF’s broader effort to promote the participation of military veterans in STEM research and education.
Full proposals are due Aug. 2, 2021 and on July 31 of successive years. Proposals must be prepared and submitted via research.gov or grants.gov. Read the solicitation for all details. A virtual office hour focusing on the BIORETS solicitation will be held July 1 from 1-2 pm. A registration link is available on the MCB Office Hours page.
Many researchers report that they are intimidated by the thought of calling a program officer (PO) to discuss their project proposal because they don’t how to initiate the conversation or what questions to ask. Program officers in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) recommend that principal investigators start by conducting background research on their project idea and send a one-page summary (see pp 10-13) before scheduling a call with a PO. An early conversation can help a researcher identify the most appropriate program and PO for a proposal. Below are some considerations for each step.
Some items you may wish to research before a phone call:
Award size, duration, and limitations of the solicitation
Any program specific requirements of the solicitation
A one-page summary should include: (be prepared to discuss these topics in depth during a phone call)
Your questions and specific aims
The big picture of your research area and knowledge gaps you are addressing
Key preliminary data and rationale
Overall intellectual merits and broader impacts
Any visuals that may be helpful
Possible topics and questions to bring up in a phone call: Program fit:
Does my project fit this program?
What other programs or solicitations may be appropriate for my project?
Do my broader impacts fit NSF expectations?
What is the difference between broader impacts and broadening participation?
Do broader impacts and intellectual merits need to be integrated? Are mine sufficiently integrated?
Should I structure broader impacts and intellectual merit plans in the same way?
Specifics of proposal preparation:
Are my preliminary data in line with what the program expects?
To what extent should I describe results from prior support?
What kinds of equipment costs can be requested?
How much salary can I ask for myself, postdoc, or graduate student?
Do I have to include undergraduates in participant support costs?
What is the best way to fund a collaboration?
Can I submit the same proposal to another funding agency?
How long does the review process take?
Can I be funded by the same NSF program for two different projects?
What kinds of direct costs are allowable in budget line G6 Other?
NSF’s review process:
When is a good time to submit a proposal, given that there is no deadline?
Will the reviewers be experts in my field?
When should I expect a decision?
What are my options if my proposal is declined?
Will my declined proposal be evaluated by the same reviewers in the next round?
Did you know?
MCB holds virtual office hours on topics specific to the MCB research community once each month. Visit this page to register for upcoming events and to access past presentations. For more information on working with Program Officers, read this NSF 101 post on NSF’s Science Matters blog.
This month, the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) held informational webinars reviewing relevant highlights of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities – Excellence in Research (HBCU-EiR) solicitation (20-542). The webinars provided an overview of the solicitation, best practices for submitting competitive proposals, and an introduction to the four divisions of NSF’s Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO).
To watch the webinar recording, click here (access passcode: wyc^Jh9F).
To view the slides from the presentation, click here:
Additionally, in June 2021, MCB will provide webinar-based, interactive workshops on proposal-writing and the merit review process to HBCU faculty and staff who have registered for the workshop and submitted required pre-work. Since 2018, MCB has provided these workshops to HBCU institutions. Preliminary data indicates that participants who attend the webinar-based workshop tend to submit stronger proposals that are funded at higher rates than non-participants.
If you work at an HBCU and are interested in participating in the June workshops, request a registration form via email at MCBwebreg@nsf.gov. Registration deadline is Thursday, May 6, 2021. Please share this information with appropriate faculty and staff.
A new Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) was issued by the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) on the development of new tools and methods to advance our understanding of cells. Tool Development for Cell Biology, or Tools4Cells (NSF 21-057), seeks to expand our knowledge of cells using interdisciplinary approaches that can leverage advances in other fields and apply them to cell biology. Some examples of these advances include gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9 applied to probe gene localization, and the application of cryo-EM and x-ray free electron lasers to the study of protein structure and dynamics.
Read more about the DCL criteria and proposal submission details here.
In April, the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) will offer an informational webinar reviewing relevant highlights of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities – Excellence in Research (HBCU – EiR) solicitation (NSF 20-542). The webinar will introduce program directors from MCB, provide an overview of the solicitation, and provide tips and best practices for submitting competitive proposals. The webinar will also include an introduction to each of the four divisions of NSF’s Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO):
MCB – Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences
DBI – Division of Biological Infrastructure
DEB – Division of Environmental Biology
IOS – Integrative and Organismal Systems
Faculty from eligible institutions are encouraged to attend the webinar. Registration is required; to register, click on the link that corresponds to the date you plan to attend.
In June, MCB will provide webinar-based, interactive workshops featuring the merit review process. The workshops are open to faculty and staff at HBCU institutions who have completed a required pre-work assignment and registered to participate.
***Data indicates that participants who attend the webinar-based workshop tend to submit stronger proposals that are funded at higher rates than non-participants.***
A series of emails about the June workshops is currently being sent to department chairs or grants offices at HBCUs. If you work at an HBCU and wish to receive these emails directly, send your request to MCBwebreg@nsf.gov. Please share this information with appropriate faculty and staff.
The DCL encourages professional societies to submit proposals to facilitate changes that lead to broader participation at all levels of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics workforce in biology. Such changes are expected to lead to a community of biologists, including those in positions of authority, that more fully reflects the demographic constitution of the US population.
Applicants may submit conference proposals, planning proposals, or proposals to develop a Research Coordination Network (RCN). See the announcement for submission details.
Proposals submitted by May 14, 2021, may be funded during FY 21; proposals submitted after May 14 will be considered for funding in FY 22.
Additionally NSF is offering a webinar for the LEAPS program on March 24th at 2 p.m. EST. We encourage representatives from societies across the biological sciences and those societies focused on broadening participation (SACNAS, AISES, ABRCMS) and/or from the NSF INCLUDES National Network to participate. Individuals from Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other organizations/institutions serving diverse populations are also encouraged to attend.