Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology

On October 13, 2015, BIO hosted an informative webcast about Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology (PRFB). The deadline for PRFB proposals (for Fiscal Year 2016 funding) is November 3, 2015.

The webcast was lead by NSF staff from BIO’s Division of Biological Infrastructure and the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems.

BIO makes PRFB awards to recent recipients of the doctoral degree for research and training in selected areas* supported by BIO and with special goals for human resource development in biology (awards are not made to institutions). The fellowships encourage independence at an early stage of the research career to permit Fellows to pursue their research and training goals in the most appropriate research locations, regardless of the availability of funding for the Fellows at that site.

*For FY 2016 and beyond, the areas are:

  1. Broadening Participation of Groups Under-represented in Biology
  2. Research Using Biological Collections, and
  3. National Plant Genome Initiative (NPGI) Postdoctoral Research Fellowships.

The webcast provides information for potential applicants regarding when and how to apply and common pitfalls and problems to avoid.

To download a copy of the PowerPoint presentation used by BIO staff or to view the archived webcast, visit http://www.tvworldwide.com/events/nsf/151013/. To view the webcast, you must register with your email address (registration is free).

As of October 21, more than 120 participants registered for and participated in or watched the archived version of the webcast.

A later webcast, planned for 2016, will target graduate advisors of future applicants and established scientists interested in serving as sponsoring scientists to NSF Fellows in the future.

The postdoctoral research experience represents a critically important career transition for future leaders in biology. If you have questions about the PRFB Program, contact the Program Officers listed on the Program Summary web page (note, inquiries for program areas 1 and 2 should be sent to bio-dbi-prfb[at]nsf[dot]gov and for area 3, the NPGI PRF, inquiries should be sent to dbipgr[at]nsf[dot]gov).

Biological Sciences Guidance on Data Management Plans

On October 1st, 2015, BIO made available an updated version of “Biological Sciences Guidance on Data Management Plans.”

A Data Management Plan (DMP) must be included with a full proposal and should describe how a project will conform to NSF policy on the dissemination and sharing of research results (see NSF 15-1 and NSF 16-1). The DMP is evaluated as part of the Merit Review process, either under the Intellectual Merit or the Broader Impacts criterion, or both, as appropriate for the scientific community of relevance. BIO anticipates differences in data management practices across the many research communities we support and recognizes that not all data are appropriate for post-project dissemination or preservation.

Generally, the DMP addresses two different aspects of the research process:

  • data handling during the project (which concerns robust and reliable research), and
  • preparation of data (software/materials/etc.) for dissemination or deposit for future access.

In brief, a DMP should include:

  • the types of data, samples, physical collections, software, curriculum and other materials to be produced in the course of the project;
  • standards to be used to contain and describe those data and materials, including (data) format and metadata standard;
  • policies that pertain to sharing and access, including where appropriate, consideration of
    • appropriate protection of privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property, or other rights or requirements; and
    • allowances or restrictions on re-use, re-distribution, and the production of derivatives;
  • plans for depositing or archiving data, samples, and other research products to preserve access to them.

In response to consultations with the scientific community and BIO’s Program Officers about data management, this updated BIO Guidance on DMPs is intended to clarify several required components identified in NSF policy. Please note that program-level data management requirements may be more specific or extensive than the BIO Guidance on DMPs, and you are advised to contact a BIO Program Officer if you have any questions related to a DMP in the program context.

Future blog posts will address BIOData as well as changes in the newly released version of the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG; NSF 16-1); the new PAPPG is effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after January 25, 2016.

Research at the Interface of Biological, Mathematical and Physical Sciences (BioMaPS)

by Dr. Jim Olds, BIO AD

As transdisciplinary research becomes more mainstream, the National Science Foundation has supported this trend by creating new programs and unique funding streams to support collaborations and individual research that gets at the “sticky edges” between disciplines.

BioMaPS, or Research at the Interface of Biological, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, is an example of how a cross-Directorate initiative (involving BIO and the Directorates for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) and Engineering (ENG)), can be used to strategically invest in research on living systems across scales, from atoms, to organisms, to the environment.

The goals of BioMaPS involve discovering fundamental new knowledge at the intersections of biology, math, and physical sciences to better understand and replicate nature’s ability to network, communicate, and adapt and to enable innovation in national priorities such as clean energy, advanced manufacturing, and understanding the brain. For example, BioMaPS has and will accelerate the generation of bio-based materials and the advanced manufacturing of bio-inspired nanosensors, devices and platforms. Such investments are essential to the nation’s prosperity, economic competitiveness, and quality of life.

In fiscal years 2014 and 2015, NSF invested approximately $60 million total in BioMaPS-related research and plans to continue supporting this vital investment with the goal of attracting scientists and engineers to transdisciplinary research and educating the STEM workforce of tomorrow. For BIO, Emerging Frontiers has been providing matching funds to supplement the support of BioMaPS awards by established BIO programs.

In FY14, BIO supported 106 BioMaPS awards. Modeling and Informatics proposals across all four of BIO’s divisions were jointly funded with the MPS and ENG Directorates for modeling of biological systems. Fifteen proposals had applications in instrument development, and 10 proposals had applications in bio-manufacturing. Projects ranged from instrumentation for high-speed, high-volume 3D imaging in vivo to unlocking the mechanism of tRNA translocation through the ribosome using large-scale molecular simulation.

Recently, BioMaPS FY15 funding was used to provide to Dr. Jennifer Doudna a Creativity Extension for her existing award, “Mechanisms of Acquired Immunity in Bacteria” (Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences). Dr. Doudna is a pioneer in studying Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPRs), whose function in bacteria is to recognize and destroy incoming phage or plasmid DNAs. CRISPR technology is now revolutionizing the biotech industry.

If you think your research meets the criteria of a BioMaPS project or you are considering developing a research project that reflects BioMaPS goals, please contact the Program Director for an established BIO program (i.e., there is not a separate solicitation or Dear Colleague Letter soliciting proposals specifically for BioMaPS funding).