New Funding Opportunity: Predicting future pandemics to protect our health, communities, and economy

Predicting and preventing pandemics that have not yet happened is the focus of a new funding opportunity from the U.S. National Science Foundation. Researchers from a broad range of scientific disciplines — including those across the biological sciences — are invited to submit proposals to develop multidisciplinary research centers that can address the complex challenges involved in forecasting and avoiding future pandemic-scale outbreaks.

The Predictive Intelligence for Pandemic Prevention initiative, is aimed at better understanding the dynamic nature of pathogen and disease emergence, which poses a continuing risk to our national security, health, and economic stability. The solicitation builds on a series of interdisciplinary workshops held this past year, and provides support for planning activities that identify interdisciplinary grand challenges that can only be overcome through the integration of computational, biological, engineering, and social/behavioral approaches; propose novel conceptual research and technology developments aimed at overcoming those challenges; and formulate interdisciplinary teams to conduct that work.

Phase I proposals are due on Oct. 1, 2021. A solicitation for Phase II Center Grants is expected to be released in FY 2022.

An informational webinar will be held on July 13. Visit NSF Predictive Intelligence for Pandemic Prevention webinar for log-in information.

For additional information and the full proposal solicitation, visit Predictive Intelligence for Pandemic Prevention Phase I: Development Grants (PIPP Phase I).

If you have questions, please contact the cognizant Program Officers at PIPP@nsf.gov.  

Update: New COVID-19 Response to Support Post-Baccs

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) recognizes the importance of early-career research experiences and that the COVID-19 pandemic has denied many undergraduates – especially those from groups underrepresented in STEM – such a research experience, whether it was to be supported by a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site, REU supplements, or individual arrangements with faculty mentors.

BIO has issued a new Dear Colleague Letter (DCL), Research Experience for Post-Baccalaureate Students (REPS), which invites Principal Investigators (PI) of active awards to submit a supplemental funding request to support the research training of post-baccalaureate students. These supplements will support research experiences for students who have completed a bachelor’s degree but who are not currently enrolled in another degree program and who were denied an undergraduate research experience – whether it was to be supported by a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site, REU supplements or individual arrangements with faculty mentors – as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through this DCL opportunity, we expect that PIs will provide the REPS participants with an independent but guided research project and professional development to better prepare them for graduate education or entry into the workforce. Ideally, the REPS participants will be involved in the development of their research project.

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. 

Full information on this invitation can be found on the NSF website at: https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2021/nsf21085/nsf21085.jsp?org=NSF.

More information on BIO’s efforts to support the research community in recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic can be found in an earlier post on this blog “Update on COVID-19 Recovery Efforts” or on NSF.gov.

Webinar: LEAPS for Biology

As noted previously on this blog, NSF has recently launched a new opportunity for professional societies to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion — LEAPS (LEAding cultural change through Professional Societies) for Biology. 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.

If you have any questions, please contact one of the following Program Officers:

Fourth Interdisciplinary Workshop in Series on Pandemic Prediction and Prevention Approaching

The Directorates for Biological Sciences (BIO); Computer Information Science and Engineering (CISE); Engineering (ENG); Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE); and the Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) at the National Science Foundation (NSF) have jointly supported a series of interdisciplinary workshops to engage research communities around the topic of Predictive Intelligence for Pandemic Prevention.

The fourth and concluding workshop will be held on March 22-23, 2021 and examine how human attitudes, social behavior, and the drivers underlying both contribute to disease transmission through their determination of policy and behavioral obstacles and supports. We encourage investigators across the biological sciences involved in infectious disease-related research to participate as the workshop will provide an opportunity to network with researchers in akin areas across the sciences and engineering. You can register at https://nsf.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_p3YtA1RwQPCV6z1wWZAx7g.

Previous workshops have focused on the ability to rapidly detect and assess the threat of emerging pathogens; an understanding of how the global behavior of an organism is related to interactions between components at the molecular, cellular, and physiological scales; and the identification of pre-emergence and the prediction of rare events.

The goal of the series is to bring together interdisciplinary experts in the biological, engineering, computer, and social and behavioral sciences to start conversations and catalyze ideas on how to advance scientific understanding beyond state-of-the-art in pre-emergence and emergence forecasting, real-time monitoring, and detection of inflection point events in order to prevent and mitigate the occurrence of future pandemics. As per our mission, these NSF supported workshops will focus on the foundational knowledge and capabilities needed to inform future infectious disease outbreak prediction and pandemic prevention.

Each of these workshops is expected to have up to 50 invited active participants. The community can participate in a listen-only mode and interact through chat and Q&A functions.

 More information on the series can be found at https://www.nsf.gov/events/event_summ.jsp?cntn_id=302023&org=CISE.

NSF Launches New Opportunity for Professional Societies to Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The National Science Foundation has recently released a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) encouraging professional societies to work together to form networks to promote cultural change in biology to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. The DCL, called LEAPS (LEAding cultural change through Professional Societies) of Biology, intends to fund conference proposals, planning proposals, and Research Coordination Network (RCN) proposals that will facilitate collaboration among biology professional societies with the goal of broadening participation of the STEM workforce at scale.  

This DCL encourages submissions from societies focused on broadening participation (SACNAS, AISES, ABRCMS) and/or from the NSF INCLUDES National Network. Professional societies are uniquely positioned to lead cultural, structural, and social change through appointing or electing society leaders, convening meetings, publishing, issuing awards, providing training, and creating career support networks. They can shape the culture at the scale of the (sub-) discipline and have the potential to influence other disciplines, institutions, and departments.

Potential partnerships could also include 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. The participation of multiple societies from more than one biological discipline and/or of multiple societies from the same discipline that range in membership size is also encouraged.  

For more information, please read the full DCL. To be considered for funding in fiscal year 2021, proposals should be submitted by May 14, 2021. Proposals submitted after that date will be considered for fiscal year 2022 funding.

For questions concerning the DCL, please contact one of the following Program Directors:

Update on COVID-19 Recovery Efforts

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact both researchers and research infrastructure alike. Despite the negative effects, the research community has continued to advance our knowledge, spur innovation, and make discoveries. You also continue to serve as reviewers and panelists, for which we thank you.

Throughout the past year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has supported the research community by providing guidance, funding flexibilities, and deadline extensions. This support will remain a top priority for NSF as we seek to recover from the pandemic. Up-to-date information on these offerings continues to be added to the agency’s Coronavirus Information page.

As we continue to assess the ongoing impact the pandemic is having on the scientific workforce, NSF and the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) recognizes that it is particularly affecting individuals at critical career points and those at historically under-resourced institutions. While broad support for the community continues to be our priority, including in the opportunity to request supplements to existing awards, BIO wants to highlight the below programs that can support these specific groups. 

Researchers across the biological sciences should review these opportunities and share within their networks. In order to answer any questions you may have about these efforts, or the support available to the wider community, we held a BIO-wide virtual office hour on Tuesday, March 2 from 11AM to 12 PM Eastern. A recording of the session is available (Access Passcode: ++6ZM*=i).

On behalf of BIO and all of NSF, I thank you for your continued work and support during these trying times.

Sincerely,

Joanne Tornow
NSF Assistant Director, BIO


Postdoctoral Research Fellows
As we did in FY 2020, BIO intends to increase the total amount of funding available through the Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology (PRFB) Program to support early-career scientists as they embark on research projects investigating life from the genome to the ecosystem level.  

Early-career Investigators
BIO plans an increase to the number of Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) awards across the Directorate, sustaining the enhancement of these awards within BIO in FY 2020.

Mid-career Researchers
Through the Transitions to Excellence in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Research  (Transitions) program in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) and the NSF-wide Mid-Career Advancement (MCA) program, BIO will support researchers at the Associate Professor stage or equivalent, to substantively enhance and advance their research program through mutually beneficial partnerships. Transitions also supports those at the Full Professor stage, or equivalent.

Undergraduate Biology Education
BIO recently published a Dear Colleague Letter encouraging proposals for the Research Coordination Networks for Undergraduate Biology Education (RCN-UBE) Program, which seeks to improve undergraduate biology in different areas, including through the use of virtual learning, by leveraging the power of a collaborative network.

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

Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation

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).

NSF Announces Call for Center for Advancement and Synthesis of Open Environmental Data and Sciences

NSF has released a new solicitation for a Center for Advancement and Synthesis of Open Environmental Data and Sciences (NSF 21-549). Letters of Intent for the solicitation are due on April 1, 2021

Exemplifying open and team science, the Center will be fueled by open and freely available biological and other environmental data to catalyze novel scientific questions in environmental biology through the use of data-intensive approaches, research networks, and training in the accession, management, analysis, visualization, and synthesis of large data sets.

The Center will provide vision for speeding discovery through the increased use of large, publicly accessible datasets – such as those provided by the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio), the LTER network, Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), and others – to address biological research questions through collaborations with scientists in other related disciplines, as well as key questions that emerge at interfaces between biology, informatics, and a breadth of environmental sciences.

It also will foster the development of generalizable cyberinfrastructure solutions and community-driven standards for software, data, and metadata that support open and team science, and role-modeling best practices.

The Center will be a leader in diversifying the data-intensive environmental science workforce across demographic, geographic, institutional, and disciplinary dimensions and will further enable data-driven discovery through immersive education and training experiences to provide the advanced skills needed to maximize the scientific potential of large volumes of available open data.

For more information on the solicitation, including a list of cognizant Program Officers, please visit the program page: https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505829&org=NSF&sel_org=NSF&from=fund.

Recap of BIO-wide Virtual Office Hours on Migration to Research.gov and Launch of Demo Site

As described in a Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 20-129) and in an earlier post on this blog, proposal submissions for the “no-deadline” programs within the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) are migrating to Research.gov. This effort is the first phase of a migration of all NSF solicitations to Research.gov.

During the week of October 19, BIO Program Officers held a series of virtual office hours to assist the community through this change. The slides from the office hours are linked below.

NSF recently released a proposal preparation demonstration site, which provides proposers the opportunity to create Research.gov proposals in the role of a Principal Investigator (PI) prior to preparing and submitting proposals in the actual Research.gov Proposal Submission System. All research community demo site users must sign in to Research.gov to access the demo site. For further demo site details, please see the Research.gov advisory and demo site Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) available via the Research.gov About Proposal Preparation and Submission page left navigation menu. A set of topic-specific video tutorials is also available.

If you have any questions regarding the migration process, please reach out to your cognizant Program Officer; the Program Officer for the program to which you are applying; or BIOnodeadline@nsf.gov, which is monitored by Program Officers from across BIO. Technical support and FAQs and videos on proposal submission through Research.gov are also available.

 If you have IT system-related questions, please contact the NSF Help Desk at 1-800-381-1532 (7:00 AM – 9:00 PM ET; Monday – Friday except federal holidays) or via rgov@nsf.gov. Policy-related questions should be directed to policy@nsf.gov.

If you would like to stay up to date on future enhancements to Research.gov and important information about FastLane, please subscribe to NSF’s System Updates listserv by simply sending a blank email to system_updates-subscribe-request@listserv.nsf.gov and you will be automatically enrolled.

From the AD: BIO “No-Deadline” Solicitations Migrating to Research.gov

As part of NSF’s ongoing efforts to innovate and migrate proposal preparation and submission capabilities from FastLane to Research.gov (see Important Notice No. 147), the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) has announced that proposal submissions for our “no-deadline” programs will migrate to Research.gov beginning with revised solicitations to be released in the near future. This change was announced in a Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 20-129) released today and is the first phase of a migration of all NSF solicitations to Research.gov.

Specifically, the following programs will have new solicitations published in the coming weeks at which point investigators should begin submitting proposals through Research.gov. There will be a grace period of 90-days from the date on which the new solicitations are published during which proposals can still be submitted through FastLane. After the 90-day period, the new solicitations will no longer be available in FastLane and any new proposals must be submitted through Research.Gov (or Grants.Gov).

The programs whose solicitations will migrate from FastLane to Research.gov are:

Research.gov improves the user experience while also reducing administrative burden. The system is also flexible enough to meet both users’ changing needs and emerging government requirements. A significant fraction of proposals is already being submitted through Research.gov and investigators report it to be intuitive to use. We do not anticipate that the change to Research.gov will have significant impacts on the submission process. This migration will not affect the merit review process in any way.

To support the community through this migration, technical support and FAQs and videos on proposal submission through Research.gov are available. In addition, we are offering a series of BIO-wide virtual office hours during which you can ask questions of BIO Program Officers.

The virtual office hours will occur on Monday, October 19 at 11 a.m. EDT; Tuesday October 20 at 10 a.m. EDT; Wednesday, October 21 at 1 p.m. EDT; and Thursday, October 22 at 3 p.m. EDT. Members of the community can register for these sessions via NSF.gov.

Finally, if you have any immediate questions please reach out to BIOnodeadline@nsf.gov, which is monitored by Program Officers from across BIO.

Sincerely,

Image of the signature of Dr. Joanne Tornow, Assistant Director for Biological Sciences

Joanne S. Tornow, Ph.D.

Assistant Director