Welcome to BIO Buzz, the blog for the Office of the Assistant Director (OAD) within the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) at the National Science Foundation (NSF). 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!
Research funded by the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) and other directorates at NSF have a long history of helping to address societal challenges. From the basic science that identified the enzymes critical to PCR to increased understanding of fire regimes that has helped mitigate the impacts of wildland fire on home, life, and the economy.
NSF has now launched new webpages to help the research community connect our funding opportunities with the societal challenge the research they support can help address — something like a translational lens through which to view solicitations and Dear Colleague Letters.
You can learn more about the topics and view funding opportunities from across NSF that support research on the pages, organized by directorate.
As always, if you have a specific question about where your research might fit we encourage you to reach out to a program officer. If your research doesn’t fit under a program they manage, they can help you find the right program.
BIO is pleased to welcome Dr. Allen J. Moore as the new Division Director for the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB). Dr. Moore comes to NSF from the University of Georgia where he serves as a Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Entomology and was Associate Dean for Research in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
His research interests focus on the evolution and genetics of traits expressed in and influencing social interactions and the genetics, development and evolution of differences between the sexes within a species. This work integrates statistical, genetic, and behavioral approaches to studying various species of burying beetle (Nicrophorus spp.). Dr. Moore’s lab also collaborates on work involving the milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) and the white fly (Bemisia tabaci).
In his new role, Dr. Moore will lead DEB to advance our knowledge of evolution, ecology, systematics, and ecosystem science and in supporting the array of researchers working in those fields.
BIO wants to thank Dr. Leslie Rissler for stepping up as Acting Division Director for the past several months. Her work in ensuring a smooth transition is truly appreciated.
I am pleased to welcome Dr. Denise Dearing to BIO as the new Division Director in our Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS). Dr. Dearing joins us from the University of Utah where she is a Distinguished Professor and was previously the Inaugural Director of the School of Biological Sciences, and Chair of the Department of Biology before that.
Dr. Dearing’s research focuses on the ecology and evolution of dietary specialization in mammalian herbivores. In that work, she has trained dozens of postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduates. She and her lab seek to understand the physiological, microbial and behavioral mechanisms used by herbivores to metabolize or circumvent dietary toxins. Her past NSF funding includes a postdoctoral fellowship; awards from IOS, including a CAREER award and other grants for work in nutritional ecology and disease ecology from multiple BIO divisions.
In her new role, Dr. Dearing will lead IOS in supporting the research community in advancing our understanding of organisms as integrated units, including in how they behave, develop, and interact with a changing environment.
I want to personally thank Dr. Michelle Elekonich for her service as Acting Division Director for IOS over the past year and more, and both Dr. Charles Cunningham and Dr. Edda “Floh” Thiels for serving as Acting Deputy Division Director while Dr. Elekonich took on her interim role. All of their work in guiding IOS during this transition is greatly valued and appreciated.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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.
At the end of 2021, BIO said goodbye to our long-time colleague Alan Tessier as he began his retirement.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.