NSF Convergence Accelerator Announces New Tracks with Potential for Biology

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.

From The AD: Acknowledging the Service of Alan Tessier

Dear BIO Community,

At the end of 2021, BIO said goodbye to our long-time colleague Alan Tessier as he began his retirement.

A headshot of Alan Tessier
Alan Tessier has retired after 17 years at NSF.

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.

Sincerely,

Engaging Scientific Societies in Culture Change: New BIO-LEAPS Solicitation

Building off a successful DCL issued last year, we are pleased to announce the new Leading Cultural Change Through Professional Societies of Biology (BIO-LEAPS) solicitation.

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.

Proposals are due on July 1, 2022.

For further explanation of the tracks, complete submission requirements, and additional information, please see the BIO-LEAPS program page and solicitation 22-542. You can also contact the working group at BIO-LEAPS@nsf.gov.

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.

Check out the new Understanding the Rules of Life (URoL) Solicitation

NSF has just released a revision to the new Understanding the Rules of Life: Emergent Networks (URoL:EN) solicitation that builds on previous solicitations and awards under NSF’s Understanding the Rules of Life Big Idea. The solicitation (22-532) also supports BIO’s efforts to integrate within and across the biological sciences, as well as support interdisciplinary science.

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.

Submissions must be made by March 1, 2022.

We encourage you to monitor the BIO homepage on NSF.gov and the URoL:EN program page for further information and opportunities to connect with the cognizant program officers.

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

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