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.

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:

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.

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

Analyzing the Impact of No Deadlines

As you may know, as announced in FY 2018, most programs across the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) had no deadline in FY 2019, a change from previous years. BIO, with the help of a subcommittee of the BIO Advisory Committee, has analyzed proposal data* from FY 2018 and FY 2019 and provided a review of the impact of that change on proposal submissions, funding rates, and more. I’d like to thank that group for their work and share some of the analysis.

The biggest takeaways are – as shown in the chart below – the number of proposals received in FY 2019 was less than in FY 2018, and the funding rate increased in FY 2019 compared to FY 2018. Specifically, In FY 2018 the funding rate across BIO was 21.0% and in FY 2019 it rose to 28.1%.

A chart depicting the change in funding rates and proposal submissions within BIO between FY 2018 and FY 2019.We saw no substantial impact on gender, race, or ethnicity of submitters (PIs or co-PIs on proposal submissions). However, we have seen an increase in the number of individuals who do not provide these data. Similarly, a significant number of co-PIs do not report the year of their highest degree. We are actively monitoring this trend and encourage submitters to provide this information as it helps us better understand the biological sciences community and those seeking funding from BIO.

Lastly, there was a slight shift to shorter periods between submission and funding decision in FY 2019 as compared to FY 2018. There were, however, external circumstances that could have affected this outcome, including the lapse in appropriations. Future data will enlighten our interpretation of the trends in these and other metrics.

BIO will continue to monitor these metrics and others moving forward to measure the impact of the no-deadline policy over time.

*Data includes externally reviewed proposals in core and special programs across all BIO Divisions. It does not include internally reviewed proposals such as RAPIDs, EAGERs, RAISEs, supplements, or conferences, nor does it include human resource proposals such as Fellowships. The unit measured is proposals, which counts single proposal and collaborative proposals as individual units.

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

Image of the world with

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

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

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