Welcome

tornow headshotWelcome from BIO Assistant Director Joanne Tornow

As the Assistant Director of the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) at the National Science Foundation, it is my pleasure to welcome you to BIO Buzz, the blog for BIO’s Office of the Assistant Director. This blog will be a platform for disseminating information about policies, procedures, activities and initiatives that extend across BIO Divisions and affect the biological sciences community as a whole.

Our vision for the Directorate requires that the shared core values of the BIO Divisions—transparency, accountability, and inclusiveness—are reflected in the activities of the BIO Front Office. One step toward realizing this vision is to advance our existing communications strategy and enhance engagement within the Directorate and between BIO, the scientific community, and the general public. Effective communication is essential to fulfilling the missions of NSF and BIO. We hope you find the information here informative. Welcome to BIO Buzz!

Help us find the next BIO AD

Dear BIO Community,  

As you may have heard, after 23 years at NSF, I will be retiring at the end of September 2022. It has been a pleasure to serve this community and the nation through multiple steads in the Directorate for Biological Sciences, and especially for the last four years as BIO’s Assistant Director.

I know that, given the staff and leadership in BIO, the community will be in very good hands and NSF will continue to support the cutting edge of biology and its connections to other areas of science and engineering.

That said, NSF has begun a search for the next Assistant Director for Biological Sciences. Director Panchanathan released a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) requesting recommendations for the search committee to consider. Specifically, they are looking for outstanding leaders who have a deep record of scholarship and understand the issues facing the biological sciences, particularly in terms of support for fundamental research, innovation, broadening participation, and workforce development.

Recommendations should be sent via email to biosrch@nsf.gov by Friday, August 12, 2022. Further information on the review criteria, BIO, and the search committee can be found in the DCL.

Thank you for all you do to advance the biological sciences and to support the development of the next generation of biologists. The advances this community has made and the ones we will make are critical to addressing the most important challenges and making the best use of the grandest opportunities now and into the future.

Sincerely,
Joanne Tornow

NSF Convergence Accelerator Announces New Tracks with Potential for Biology

The NSF Convergence Accelerator program addresses national-scale societal challenges through use-inspired convergence research. Using a convergence approach and innovation processes like human-centered design, user discovery, and team science and integration of multidisciplinary research, the program seeks to transition basic research and discovery into practice—to solve high-impact societal challenges aligned with specific research themes (tracks). The program recently released the tracks for the FY 2022 cohort, which hold significant potential for the biological sciences:

  • Track H: Enhancing Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities: Serves as a platform to bring together researchers, practitioners, and stakeholders from a wide range of disciplines and sectors to work on use-inspired solutions to enhance quality of life and employment access and opportunities for PWDs. 
  • Track I: Sustainable Materials for Global Challenges: Aims to converge advances in fundamental materials science with materials design and manufacturing methods in an effort to couple their end-use and full life-cycle considerations for environmentally- and economically-sustainable materials and products. 
  • Track J: Food & Nutrition Security: Accelerates convergence across food and nutrition sectors to address intertwined challenges in supporting population health, combating climate change, and addressing the nutritional needs of the most vulnerable by empowering youth, women, and disadvantaged communities.

For more information on the Convergence Accelerator and its phased model, and to read the full solicitation and broad agency announcement, please visit the Convergence Accelerator program page.

New Opportunity: Pathways to Enable Open-Source Ecosystems (POSE)

NSF has funded myriad research projects that resulted in publicly accessible, modifiable, and distributable open-source software, hardware, or data platforms. Now we are looking to support the development of these and other widely-used open-source products into open-source “ecosystems” (OSEs), each comprising a distributed community of developers and a broad base of users in academia, industry and government through a new program: Pathways to Enable Open-Source Ecosystems (POSE)

These OSE’s will aid in developing new technology solutions to problems of national, societal, and economic importance, such as mitigating climate change, combating biodiversity loss, feeding the planet sustainably, and limiting the spread of infectious diseases. All of which engage the biological sciences and support BIO priorities.

You can read all about POSE, including proposal requirements, deadlines, and phases, and find contact information for the cognizant Program Directors on the program page.

Opportunities to Learn More
NSF Program Directors representing the POSE program will hold an informational webinar on March 23, 2022 from 3:30 PM ET to 4:30 PM ET.

Please register for the webinar here: https://nsf.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_GDUveT2ZTBG4c-tNxaODoA.

From The AD: Acknowledging the Service of Alan Tessier

Dear BIO Community,

At the end of 2021, BIO said goodbye to our long-time colleague Alan Tessier as he began his retirement.

A headshot of Alan Tessier
Alan Tessier has retired after 17 years at NSF.

Over the last several years, Alan served as my right hand – and sometimes my left, too – in his role as Deputy Assistant Director for the Directorate. Around the halls of BIO, Alan was known for his nearly encyclopedic knowledge of NSF policy and procedures and forethought about how changes thereto might be interpreted and who they would impact. Personally, I found his openness to team building, community engagement, and sharing all that he knows as some of his greatest contributions.

Trained as an aquatic ecologist, Alan spent 17 years with NSF, beginning as a rotating program director in the Division of Environmental Biology, through a time as Deputy Division Director in the Division of Environmental Biology, and ending as Deputy Assistant Director for BIO.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Alan had a distinguished career in academia, including as a professor at Michigan State University.

Alan’s imprint on BIO and NSF cannot be captured in words, but key aspects of his work include efforts to advance convergence and environmental research. Alan served Executive Secretary and Chair of the Working Group for the Environmental Research and Education coordination activity and was critical in the development of what is now the Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental Systems (DISES) program.

As I noted, he was also a champion of strong teamwork between program officers and administrative staff, which has created a positive work environment in BIO and our ability to support the scientific community so well.

Engaging you all, the community, was also one of Alan’s foci. He promoted diverse connections with and support of the research community, including leading BIO’s transition to eliminating deadlines for the core programs and supporting community engagement with NEON as the facility came online to maximize its utility for cutting edge research.

As you can see, and I hope as you experienced, Alan did a lot over his time at NSF and made DEB, the BIO front office, the Directorate, and the whole agency better for it.

We thank Alan for his service, will miss him, and wish him well in retirement.

Sincerely,

Engaging Scientific Societies in Culture Change: New BIO-LEAPS Solicitation

Building off a successful DCL issued last year, we are pleased to announce the new Leading Cultural Change Through Professional Societies of Biology (BIO-LEAPS) solicitation.

The program aims to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in biology at scale through culture change by leveraging the leadership, broad reach, and unique ability of professional societies. Professional societies are uniquely positioned to help facilitate culture change in their disciplines through: publishing journals, fostering scientific discussion and debate, broad membership (including membership from academia, government agencies, and private businesses), hosting large scientific meetings that can serve as networking and professional development opportunities for people at many professional levels, and electing leaders that greatly influence views and norms within a discipline.

As we recognize that disciplines and societies may be at different points in assessing and addressing their culture, the program has three tracks — Evaluation, Design and Plan, and Implementation. The Evaluation Track is for projects focused on assessment and research of the values, norms, priorities, and practices associated with the culture of the discipline or sub-discipline. The Design Track is for projects to develop an evidence-based plan to address broad-scale culture change within a discipline or sub-discipline. The Implementation Track is for projects to implement evidence-based cultural change strategies that leverage the influence of biological professional societies.

Proposals are due on July 1, 2022.

For further explanation of the tracks, complete submission requirements, and additional information, please see the BIO-LEAPS program page and solicitation 22-542. You can also contact the working group at BIO-LEAPS@nsf.gov.

Two webinars (March 21, 2022 from 2-3 EST and April 22, 2022 from 3-4 EST) are being planned to provide the community the opportunity to learn more about the program and ask questions of cognizant program officers. Please monitor the BIO-LEAPS program page for registration links.

Understanding the Rules of Life: Emergent Networks (URoL:EN) Webinar Announced

As noted previously on BIO Buzz, NSF has recently released a revised solicitation under the Understanding the Rules of Life: Emerging Networks (URoL:EN) program. To help inform the community of the changes in and particulars of the new solicitation, the program team will be holding a webinar on Friday, January 7, 2022 from 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. ET.

Program Officers will provide an introduction of the revised cross-Directorate solicitation and will be available for questions.

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

Proposals under the solicitation should be submitted by March 1, 2022.

For more information, see the previous BIO Buzz post.

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

Check out the new Understanding the Rules of Life (URoL) Solicitation

NSF has just released a revision to the new Understanding the Rules of Life: Emergent Networks (URoL:EN) solicitation that builds on previous solicitations and awards under NSF’s Understanding the Rules of Life Big Idea. The solicitation (22-532) also supports BIO’s efforts to integrate within and across the biological sciences, as well as support interdisciplinary science.

The program supports research to understand “rules of emergence” for networks of living systems and their environments. These emergent networks are made up of the interactions among organismal, environmental, social, and human-engineered systems that are complex and often unexpected given the behaviors of these systems when observed in isolation. The often-unanticipated outcomes of these interactions can be both wide-ranging and enormously impactful.

URoL:EN projects will use convergent scientific approaches to explore these interactions and contribute to understanding rules of life through new theories and reliable predictions about the impact of specific environmental changes on behaviors of complex living systems, or engineerable interventions and technologies based on a rule of life to address associated outcomes for societal benefit.

Submissions must be made by March 1, 2022.

We encourage you to monitor the BIO homepage on NSF.gov and the URoL:EN program page for further information and opportunities to connect with the cognizant program officers.

NSF Issues New Challenge to Identify Systemic Strategies to Address Long-Term Impacts of COVID-19 on DEI in STEM

NSF has announced the “Taking Action: COVID-19 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Challenge,” an ideas challenge for Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs). The challenge is designed to highlight the need for institutional solutions to mitigate the long-term, negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) of undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). 

Because the issues impacting STEM undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty vary, the challenge is divided into four categories:

A banner noting the title of the challenge and sponsoring NSF programs. The banner includes a simulation-derived image of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen.
  1. STEM undergraduates at community and technical colleges;
  2. STEM undergraduates at four-year institutions;
  3. STEM graduate students and postdoctoral researchers; and
  4. STEM faculty. 

Each category will have first-, second-, and third-place cash winners and may include up to 10 honorable mention designees.

Winners will be announced in March 2022 and will be invited to present their ideas with the community at a future NSF event. All prize-winning and honorable mention submissions will be added to a repository and made available to the public. 

The NSF programs sponsoring the challenge include: Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP), ADVANCE, Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP), Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES), Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program (HSI), Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP), and Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP)

Eligibility

All eligible IHEs are encouraged and invited to submit descriptions of institutional actions that have been implemented, or will be implemented, such as new and revised policies, procedures, and practices to ensure continued progress toward more diverse, equitable, and inclusive STEM higher education programs and institutions. Submissions from Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and community and technical colleges are particularly encouraged in all challenge categories for which they are eligible. IHEs do not need to have a grant from NSF to submit to this challenge. 

More information

You can find more information and apply for this challenge on Challenge.gov.

BIO Releases New Solicitations Aimed at Broadening Participation

The last year-and-a-half has shown NSF’s Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) the need for ongoing and new efforts to broaden participation and enhance diversity in the biological sciences given the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals in historically under-represented groups, those at historically under-served institutions, and on those institutions themselves. Of course, these issues did not arise during the pandemic. They are historic and COVID-19 has only heightened them.

To achieve greater diversity across the biological workforce, BIO has released two new solicitations, highlighted below.

Details of these funding opportunities will be featured in the upcoming VOH on November 18, at 1pm ET. Register for that session here.

Building Research Capacity of New Faculty in Biology (BRC-BIO)

  • Awards will provide the means for new faculty (i.e., those at the Assistant Professor rank (or equivalent) with service at that rank for no more than 3 years by the proposal submission date) — primarily at MSIs, PUIs, and other universities and colleges that are not among the nation’s most research-intensive institutions — to initiate and build independent research programs by enhancing their research capacity. These projects might also include biology-focused research collaborations among faculty within the same institution, across peer-, or research-intensive institutions, or partnerships with industry or other non-academic partners that advance the candidate’s research program.
  • Full proposal windows: January 3-31, 2022 and June 1-30, 2022

Research and Mentoring for Postbaccalaureates in Biological Sciences (RaMP)

  • Awards will establish networks to support full-time research, mentoring, and training for recent college graduates who have had few or no research or training opportunities during college in research fields typically supported by the Directorate of Biological Sciences.
  • Full proposal deadline: January 20, 2022

To help the community become acquainted with these new efforts focused on broadening participation, Program Directors from across the Directorate for Biological Sciences will hold a Virtual Office Hour on November 18 at 1pm ET.

Register at https://nsf.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_QJdSn2DFQUOpIFOu_oW-Cg.


Upcoming NSF Merit Review Survey

Dear colleagues, 

Next 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.