Funding & Service

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!

Research Experiences for Post-Baccalaureate Students in Biology (REPS) DCL

Reposted from our friends at the DEBrief Blog.

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.

Below we provide answers to some pertinent questions regarding this opportunity. Full information on this invitation can be found on the NSF website at: https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2021/nsf21085/nsf21085.jsp?org=NSF.

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, soconnor@nsf.gov
  • Dr. Paulyn Cartwright, Program Director, Division of Integrative Organismal Systems, pcartwri@nsf.gov
  • Dr. Marcia Newcomer, Program Director, Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, mnewcome@nsf.gov
  • Dr. Chris Balakrishnan, Program Director, Division of Environmental Biology, cbalakri@nsf.gov

Research Experiences for Teachers Sites in Biological Sciences (BIORETS)

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.

Proposal submissions, Step One: Call a Program Officer and … say What?

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:

  • The current research portfolio of the program
  • Abstracts of funded projects related to yours
  • 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?

Broader impacts:

  • 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.



2021 HBCU-EIR INFORMATIONAL WEBINARS: VIDEO RECORDING AND SLIDES AVAILABLE

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.govRegistration deadline is Thursday, May 6, 2021. Please share this information with appropriate faculty and staff.

New DCL: Tool Development for Cell Biology (Tools4Cells)

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.

HBCU – EiR Informational Webinars: April 14 and 22

HBCU-Excellence in Research informational webinars will be held April 14 , 10-11 am EST, and April 22, 2-3 pm EST.

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.

Broadening Participation: New Funding Opportunity

The Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) has released a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) to facilitate cultural changes in the biological sciences to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion: “LEAding cultural change through Professional Societies (LEAPS) of Biology.”

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.

If interested, please register in advance at:

https://nsf.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_fMuNjibLT4OZeAq4VLQNCg. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Fourth Interdisciplinary Workshop in Series on Pandemic Prediction and Prevention Approaching

The fourth and concluding workshop of a series of interdisciplinary workshops to engage research communities around the topic of Predictive Intelligence for Pandemic Prevention will be held Monday and Tuesday, March 22-23.

Registration is required. Click here for more information about the workshop.

NSF Calls for Examinations of Emergent Networks as Part of Understanding the Rules of Life “Big Idea”

Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation

Reposted from Bio Buzz, the blog of the Assistant Director of Biology.

The biological world is interconnected by complex networks. What are the rules that control these networks? How are the interactions altered by environments? Are the rules similar across all biological scales? How can an understanding of such roles be harnessed to benefit society?

The new Understanding the Rules of Life: Emergent Networks (URoL:EN) solicitation encourages convergent, cross-disciplinary research – including the biological sciences – to examine such rules, the outcomes of these interactions, and to aid in the prediction of emergent properties. The program also seeks to train STEM practitioners to contribute to this area of convergent research. Proposals under the solicitation should be submitted by May 10, 2021.

As part of the Understanding the Rules of Life: Predicting Phenotype, one of ten “Big Ideas” NSF-wide, this new solicitation builds on previous URoL programs to help increase knowledge and the ability to predict an organism’s observable characteristics—its phenotype—from its genotype.

Understanding the mechanisms at play in the interconnections between living organisms and their environments, across every biological scale, will provide vital insight into grand biological challenges, help advance biotechnology to spur the US bioeconomy, and aid in solving some of society’s issues, including the growing impacts of infectious disease and climate change.

Investigators from across the biological sciences are encouraged to submit proposals in concert with researchers in other disciplines, including the mathematical and physical sciences, geosciences, computer and information sciences, engineering, and behavioral and social sciences.

Directorates from across NSF will be holding a virtual office hour on March 11 beginning at 2:00pm Eastern to answer questions on the solicitation. Register in advance for this webinar: https://nsf.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_kP23L5ymTFKw5EVCqBFcCQ.

For full details and guidance on award types, amounts and other questions, see Understanding the Rules of Life: Emergent Networks (URoL:EN).