Reintegrating Biology Workshop Series Outcomes

The BIO Directorate considers integrative approaches to understanding life’s key innovations as essential for understanding the full diversity of mechanisms regulating fundamental biological processes.

The Reintegrating Biology series of workshops (https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1940791&HistoricalAwards=false) included a combination of virtual and in-person events and provided a venue for the broader biological community to discuss the opportunities and challenges for integrating across the biological sub-disciplines. As part of this series of workshops, a total of 318 researchers participated in four concurrent jumpstart meetings in Atlanta, Austin, San Diego and virtually during December 4-6, 2019.  Participants collaborated on a series of vision papers describing what could be accomplished by reintegrating across the subdisciplines of biology, and some of the obstacles preventing such a reintegration from happening. So far, 60 vision papers have been received and can be viewed at: https://reintegratingbiology.org/vision-papers/. Other vision papers have already been submitted for publication. The next Reintegrating Biology event will be a virtual Microlab on January 16 where participants from the four jumpstart meetings will discuss similar themes that emerged during the different events.

NSF would like to thank the participants of the four jumpstart meetings and the broader biological research community for helping make the series of reintegrating biology workshops such a success. These discussions will inform both current integrative biology funding opportunities such as the Rules of Life track in each of the divisional solicitations and the Biology Integration Institutes program (https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505684&org=BIO&from=home), as well as future activities.

From the AD: Save the Date for BIO’s 2020 Distinguished Lecture Series

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Dear Colleagues,

Please join the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) for the 2020 Distinguished Lecture Series.

BIO’s Distinguished Lecture Series brings eminent researchers to NSF Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia to speak to BIO scientists, other scientists in the agency, staff members, and a broader Washington-area audience about their research.

Below is more information about the 2020 Distinguished Lecture Series Speakers. Refer to BIO’s homepage for updated information as the lecture dates get closer.

If you wish to attend in person at NSF Headquarters (2415 Eisenhower Ave, Alexandria, VA 22314), please contact Nick Hunt (jamhunt@nsf.gov). Advance sign-up requests are required, and guidelines for visiting NSF are at https://www.nsf.gov/about/visit/

I hope you will be able to attend what are sure to be stimulating and thought-provoking lectures.

Sincerely,

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

Joanne Tornow, PhD
Assistant Director for Biological Sciences

 

BIO’s 2020 Distinguished Lecture Series

Image of Dr. Michael Lynch Dr. Michael Lynch

Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution

Arizona State University

January 22

11-12pm

E3410

Image of Dr. David Micklos Dr. David Micklos

Dolan DNA Learning Center

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

March 5

3-4pm

E3410

Image of Dr. Jef Boeke Dr. Jef Boeke

Institute for Systems Genetics

New York University Langone Medical Center

May 21

11-12pm

E3410

Image of Dr. Hopi Hoekstra Dr. Hopi Hoekstra

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Harvard University

September 24

11-12pm

TBA

 

From the AD: Remembering Dr. Mary Clutter

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Dear Colleagues,

I am deeply saddened to inform you of the passing of Dr. Mary Clutter.

 

Image of Dr. Mary Clutter
Dr. Mary Clutter Image credit: National Science Foundation

Dr. Clutter served as the Assistant Director (AD) for the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) from 1992 to 2005, during which time she served two stints as acting Deputy Director for NSF.  Prior to that, she served as Division Director for Cellular Biosciences in what was previously the Directorate for Biology, Behavioral, and Social Sciences (BBS), as Science Advisor in the Office of the Director from 1985 to 1987, and as a Program Director starting in the 1970s.  She passed away on Sunday, December 8, 2019.

 

Dr. Clutter was a native of Pennsylvania and attended Allegheny College, where she obtained an undergraduate degree in biology.  She later earned her masters and doctorate degrees from the University of Pittsburgh.  She joined NSF as a rotator from Yale University and subsequently was appointed permanently.

Dr. Clutter was always about science first.  Her prescient view of 21st Century Biology predicted it to be integrative from the molecule to the environment, interdisciplinary across all disciplines, driven by a revolution in genomics and computational biology.  She championed plant biology and genomics, advocated for the creation of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), and fostered innovative funding mechanisms within BIO (e.g., Research Coordination Networks and Graduate Research Traineeships) that were subsequently embraced agency-wide.  Furthermore, her commitment to advancing women in academe, in science, and at the NSF was a major hallmark of her time as AD for BIO.  Most notable was her policy memo that prohibited BIO funding of workshops and conferences that did not include women among the presenters, a courageous stance that was noted at the time by the Washington Post.  Dr. Clutter is also credited with the second largest reorganization within NSF in 1992 that resulted in the creation of the Directorates for Biological Sciences and Social, Behavior and Economic Sciences.

Dr. Mary Clutter leaves behind a vibrant legacy that will live on in the memories of her NSF colleagues. We are forever grateful for her service, dedication, and visionary leadership.

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

 

From The AD: New Funding Opportunities for Understanding the Rules of Life

Image of the world with "NSF" lettering in white.

Dear Colleagues,

BIO is excited to announce to the biological sciences community two new funding opportunities under the Understanding the Rules of Life (URoL) Big Idea: 1) Epigenetics and 2) Microbiome Theory and Mechanisms (MTM). The URoL Big Idea seeks to create a new paradigm at the convergence of science, engineering, and technology that will elucidate theoretical frameworks (rules) to enable prediction of the diversity of evolutionary solutions that biological systems use to support life processes seen across the planet. The National Science Foundation has recently invested $36 million in the first projects under the URoL portfolio from two separate solicitations and across more than thirty institutions.

The Epigenetics and MTM opportunities represent a collaboration across Directorates and Offices within the National Science Foundation. Specifically, Epigenetics intends to enable innovative research and promote multidisciplinary education and workforce training in the broad area of epigenetics, while MTM aims to understand and establish theory and mechanisms that govern the structure and function of microbiomes.

Integrative perspectives and research approaches from more than one research discipline are welcomed, as this is a cross-Directorate effort. The interdisciplinary scope of both programs aims to provide unique training and outreach opportunities to train the next generation of scientists in a diversity of scientific approaches and to engage society more generally.

Both programs offer two submission tracks:

  • Track 1 – for projects with a total budget of up to $500,000 and an award duration of up to 3 years, and
  • Track 2 – for projects with a total budget of up to $3,000,000 and award duration of up to 5 years.

For complete details on deadlines and submission guidelines, refer to the Epigenetics program website or contact the Epigenetics Team (epigen@nsf.gov), and the MTM program website or the MTM Team (microbiome@nsf.gov).

BIO looks forward to continuing working on this cross-Directorate venture.

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

Share your Input on Cyberinfrastructure

NSF recently released a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) inviting the community to provide input on data-intensive science and engineering research questions and challenges and the essential data-related cyberinfrastructure (CI) services and capabilities needed to publish, discover, transport, manage and process data in secure, performant and scalable ways to enable that data-intensive research.

This is an opportunity for the BIO community to provide input on questions, challenges and associated needs specifically related to data-focused CI. While this DCL is not a funding opportunity, all input would be used to inform the refinement of NSF’s CI investment strategy and planning of future NSF funding opportunities.

For more information on how to submit ideas, please refer to the DCL (NSF 20-015) or contact the NSF Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, nsfdatacirfi@nsf.gov.

The deadline for submissions is December 16, 2019.

INCLUDES Virtual Office Hour

Please join us for the upcoming information session on the Inclusion Across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (NSF INCLUDES) program on October 17th, 2019 from 1pm-2pm EST!

During this Virtual Office Hour, program directors from the NSF INCLUDES Implementation Team will discuss the program’s history and new planning grants solicitation (NSF 19-600). Following the discussion, program directors from NSF INCLUDES and the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) will answer questions from attendees during an open question and answer period.

Join us remotely and bring questions, comments and concerns! Please use the registration link below to register for our October 17th Virtual Office Hour.

Click here to register

NSF INCLUDES is one of the 10 Big Ideas and is a comprehensive national initiative to enhance U.S. leadership in STEM discoveries and innovations focused on NSF’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and broadening participation in these fields. These planning grants support efforts necessary to build capacity to establish future centers, alliances or other large-scale networks endeavoring to address a broadening participation challenge in STEM at scale.

The first deadline for full proposals is December 3, 2019.

For more details, refer to the full solicitation: NSF 19-600

NEON Webinar

Learn about the upcoming NEON Webinar from our colleagues in the Division for Biological Infrastructure here or below.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently announced its intention to carry out a competition to manage the Operations and Maintenance of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). The Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 19-080) announcing this decision:

  • provides general information on NEON,
  • communicates that NSF anticipates initiating the competition,
  • provides information on provisional goals,
  • outlines a timeline for the competition, and
  • invites comments and questions from eligible organizations interested in this competition (submit via neon-bot@nsf.gov).

NSF will be hosting a webinar on September 11th at 2pm regarding the planned competition for operation and management of NEON. Individuals, teams, and organizations interested in submitting proposals should try to participate.

This webinar will discuss the timeline for executing the competition for the management of NEON Operations and Maintenance. It will highlight key decision points by NSF and identify critical dates for activities related to the competition. The webinar will also provide information on the post-award oversight requirements for awards managed through cooperative agreements (CAs). Following the presentation, there will be a question and answer period.

For further details about the competition, please consult the NEON Program webpage and DCL (NSF 19-080).

For more details about NEON, please consult the NEON Project webpage.

BIO Welcomes New DBI Division Director

BIO is very pleased to welcome Dr. Patricia Soranno as the new Division Director for the Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI). Dr. Soranno is a freshwater ecologist coming to us from Michigan State University where she is a Professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Dr. Soranno is a prominent researcher in the field of landscape limnology, meaning that she studies the multi-scaled spatial and temporal drivers of freshwater chemistry and biology. She has strong interests in fostering the development of data-intensive approaches in ecology, with an emphasis on collaborative science networks. Her experience with NSF includes being supported by the Macrosystems Biology-Early NEON Science program, the Coupled Natural-Human Systems program, and working with humanities scholars on team science supported by the Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences Directorate. In coming to NSF, she steps away from her role as founding Editor-in-Chief of Limnology & Oceanography Letters.

As Division Director for DBI, Dr. Soranno will assume leadership over all of BIO’s infrastructure programs, from physical and cyber-infrastructure to human resources. DBI manages large unique BIO projects such as the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) and diverse BIO Centers, as well as core programs that innovate and sustain cyberinfrastructure, instrumentation, and other tools that enable biological research.  DBI also provides support for postdoctoral fellowships, REU sites, biological collections and field stations.

BIO would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to Dr. Lisa Clough, Section Head for the Ocean Section within the Division of Ocean Sciences in the Directorate for Geosciences, for selflessly fulfilling the role of Acting Division Director in DBI. Her dedication, hard work, and professionalism are deeply valued and appreciated.

Integrating Biology

Biology has the goal of understanding the processes that generate and sustain life.  Despite this unifying principle, the actual practice of modern biology has become increasingly fragmented into subdisciplines due, in part, to specialized approaches required for deep study of narrowly defined problems.  BIO aims to encourage a unification of biology. Our goal is to stimulate creative integration of diverse biological disciplines using innovative experimental, theoretical, and computational approaches to discover underlying principles operating across all hierarchical levels of life, from biomolecules to organisms, species, ecosystems, and biomes.

Earlier this year we asked you, as members of the biological sciences community, for high-level ideas on the research questions and topics that would benefit from NSF investment in a truly integrated research environment. The responses from across the country offered a broad range of fundamental biological questions spanning the scales of biological organization. BIO now wants to grow and enrich the conversation with a view to priming the formation of new NSF-supported research teams around these questions.

To that end, we invite you to register for one of several Virtual Town Hall discussions, which will take place the week of September 16, 2019. These events will help identify themes for more focused, in-person discussions that will take place later in the fall – fertile soil for germination of new, foundational cross-disciplinary ideas that will unify and advance the biological sciences.

More details can be found at https://reintegratingbiology.org/.

NEXT STEPS for NEON

One of BIO’s highlights from this current fiscal year is the movement of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) from construction into full operations. 179 data products are now freely available to the scientific community and the public on the NEON Data Portal, and we are pleased to note that downloads of the data are rapidly increasing as is use of NEON data in publications. NEON data is also transforming ecological education at a diverse range of institutions.

NSF recently announced (NSF 19-080) its intent to launch an open competition for the management of NEON’s future operations and maintenance. NSF’s major facilities routinely undergo such a merit-based, peer-reviewed process, thus the announcement signals that NEON has matured into a fully-functioning Observatory.  The review process will take roughly two years, with the new award expected to commence in late 2021.  As always, NSF will be relying on community expertise in the merit review process, which will ensure that NEON is an effective resource for ecology for years to come.

We recognize that members of the scientific community may have questions and input for NSF as we embark on this process. We welcome community input, and to that end, we will host a NEON Information Session and Question and Answer Period on Monday, August 12, at the Ecological Society of America’s Annual meeting in Louisville, KY. For those who won’t be at ESA, questions and input can be directed to the cognizant program officer, Dr. Roland Roberts (neon-bot@nsf.gov).

We hope to see many of you at ESA.