Office hours

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.



Adding Impact to your Broader Impacts: Office Hours with ARIS

Join program officers from the Directorate for Biological Sciences in a discussion of Broader Impacts with guest speaker Susan Renoe from the NSF-supported Center for Advancing Research Impact in Society (ARIS).

ARIS works with scientists to help them engage in activities that have meaningful and long-term impact in their communities and society. The center offers strategies for building capacity, growing partnerships, and leveraging existing resources to enhance the impact of individual and institutional efforts to benefit society.

Topic: How to Ensure That Your Broader Impact and Broadening Participation Plans Have IMPACT

Guest Speaker: Dr. Susan Renoe, Executive Director, ARIS (NSF award 1810732).

Time: Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2 pm – 3pm EST.

Registration is required: Click here and select the November 18, 2020 option from the drop-down selection for “Time.”

Visit the Office Hours page of this blog for access to presentations from previous office hours.

Office Hours: Q&A on Responding to Community Needs; CAREER Deadline Extended

Virtual Office Hours: Q&A
At the virtual Office Hours event hosted July 8 by the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB), program directors addressed questions submitted by the MCB research community. Topics included research and funding priorities, COVID-19 concerns, the no-deadline proposal submission process, broader impacts, and more. Visit the Office Hours page to view the presentation as well presentations from as all earlier Office Hours.

The next Office Hours will be held August 12, 2020 at 2-3pm EST; the topic will be “NSF-Supported Facilities of Interest.” Registration is required; register here.


CAREER Deadline Extension
NSF understands that universities and research institutions are facing unprecedented pandemic-related challenges. In response, the proposal deadline for the Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) (NSF 20-525) has been extended to Tuesday, August 11, 2020. For more information, read the blog post from the Division of Environmental Biology.

BIO-wide virtual office hours recap

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Directorate of Biological Sciences (BIO) recently held virtual office hours addressing the impact of the pandemic on solicitations and awards. Representatives from all four BIO divisions attended the event, which included information on NSF’s latest community guidance. Access the presentation slides and get further details by visiting the BIO Buzz Blog.

MCB Office Hours Nov. 13

During this Office Hour we will discuss Award types and Funding Mechanisms followed by an open Q&A session. Questions should be broad and of potential interest to others.

Division Leaders and Program Directors from all four MCB clusters: Cellular Dynamics and Function (CDF), Genetic Mechanisms (GM), Molecular Biophysics (MB), and Synthetic and Systems Biology (SSB) will be present.

DATE: Wednesday, Nov. 13
TIME: 2-3 pm (Eastern Standard Time)
REGISTRATION LINK:
https://nsf2.webex.com/nsf2/onstage/g.php?MTID=e8f6e83805a92d4976895ee2f6addbe42

Register to participate and submit your questions via this link.

Click on the link “Subscribe to NSF-MCB” (right side of the page) to receive notifications of new posts as well as the link for each month’s Virtual Office Hours event.