Changes to Graduate Research Fellowship Program Eligibility

(Links updated March 29, 2016)

On March 7, 2016 the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Education and Human Resources issued a Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 16-050) identifying changes in eligibility to the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP).

Effective as of the 2017 competition (Fall 2016 deadlines), NSF will limit graduate students to only one application to the GRFP, submitted either in the first year or in the second year of graduate school.1 No change is made to the eligibility of undergraduates, of bachelor’s degree holders without any graduate study, or of individuals who have had an interruption in graduate study of at least two consecutive years.2

Read the Dear Colleague Letter and access Frequently Asked Questions (NSF 16-051)

1 First-year graduate students in Fall 2015 who applied to the 2016 GRFP competition will be allowed to apply a second time in Fall 2016, if they are otherwise eligible. All other graduate students are subject to the new eligibility requirements.
2 See the GRFP Program Solicitation: NSF 15-597

Press Release 16-033 (March 29, 2016): NSF awards 2016 Graduate Research Fellowships

NSF Announces Participation in National Research Infrastructure for Neuroscience Effort

In a Dear Colleague Letter dated February 19, 2016, the Directorates of the National Science Foundation announced the NSF’s intention to foster the development of a national research infrastructure for neuroscience to support collaborative and team science for achieving a comprehensive understanding of the brain in action and context.

This multi-directorate effort is part of the NSF’s Understanding the Brain activity, including NSF’s participation in the White House’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

Image of a fruit fly brain.
Image of a fruit fly brain highlighting the region that processes olfactory information (green). The fruit fly brain is a powerful model for understanding human biology. Credit: Jessica Plavicki and Grace Boekhoff-Falk, University of Wisconsin Madison

Understanding the brain is one of the grand scientific challenges at the intersection of experimental, theoretical, and computational investigation in the biological, physical, social and behavioral sciences, education research, and engineering.

Achieving a comprehensive understanding of the brain requires increased emphasis on systematic, multidisciplinary collaboration and team science to establish quantitative and predictive theories of brain structure and function that span levels of organization, spatial scales of study, and the diversity of species. This challenge necessitates the development of innovative, accessible, and shared capabilities, resources and cyberinfrastructure, along with the eventual organizing of these into a coherent national infrastructure for neuroscience research.

This effort will be realized through a phased approach.

Read more…

BIO’s FY 2017 Budget Request

On February 9, 2016, the National Science Foundation rolled-out its FY 2017 budget request to Congress.

Information about the NSF’s budget request can be found on, including a summary brochure, a press release, fact sheets, the Director’s presentation slides, and more.

Dr. Jim Olds, NSF Assistant Director for Biological Sciences, rolled-out the budget request for the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO). BIO currently supports 68% of academic basic research in non-medical biology.


The total FY 2017 request for BIO is $790.52 million, a 6.2% increase over the FY 2016 estimate. Of the $790.52 million, $745.73 million is discretionary funding and $44.79 million is new mandatory funding*.

The table below identifies how BIO’s request is distributed across its Divisions.

FY 2017 Request (millions)
Molecular and Cellular Biosciences $136.77
Integrative Organismal Systems $215.40
Environmental Biology $145.17
Biological Infrastructure $135.74
Emerging Frontiers $157.44 (includes mandatory funding)

BIO’s top priority is core research across biology. Broad support for academic basic research in biology is necessary to produce the knowledge that will address national needs in agriculture, health, the environment, and continuing innovation for the bioeconomy, which has already shown progress in areas such as biofuels, biorenewable chemicals, and nanotechnology.

BIO funding priorities for FY 2017 include the following:


BIO support for clean energy technology would provide funds for research in areas such as: systems and synthetic biology to streamline and scale the metabolic and energetic potential of living organisms, to produce non-petroleum based sources of important chemicals, materials, feed stocks, and fuels; bioinspired design of new proteins and other complex biomaterials that can transform light into energy; and investigations to assess the impact of fuel and/or bio-renewable chemical production to assess the potential environmental impacts of these technologies.

Understanding the Brain combines support for activities relevant to the the White House’s BRAIN Initiative and continuing NSF support for activities in the areas of cognitive and neuroscience.

Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems (INFEWS) will be stressed in NSF-wide and BIO specific programs, such as Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH) and Macrosystems Biology (MSB). Also, a joint solicitation between BIO’s Division of Integrative Organismal Systems and USDA NIFA, called Plant Biotic Interactions (PBI), will be issued in FY 2016, with initial awards funded in FY 2017.

BIO’s budget request includes increased support for microbiome research. Microbiome investments support research on the role of microbes in plant and animal function, productivity, health, and resilience to environmental change, as well as microbes’ role in soil and marine ecosystems. Studies of microbiomes occur on a broad range of scales from metagenomics, which looks at the entirety of collective genomes in microbial communities, to individual community composition and collective metabolic activity. The joint IOS/NIFA solicitation mentioned above will include support for microbiome research.

major investments

In FY 2017, as NEON nears completion, BIO will assume full responsibility for NEON operations and oversight. With the need for increased oversight, BIO will transfer program management for NEON operations from Emerging Frontiers (EF) into the Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI),   which   has   long-standing   experience   managing   cooperative   agreements and infrastructure, such as Science and Technology Centers (STCs), iPlant (now CyVerse), and other BIO Centers for Analysis and Synthesis. Funding for early NEON science, including continuing support for the MacroSystems Biology (MSB) program, remains a priority.   NSF is in the process of evaluating new managing organizations for NEON operations and maintenance.

BIO will sustain support for new mid-scale projects to advance data, software, and collaborative infrastructure in support of several priority areas through the Advances in Biological Informatics (ABI) Program, BIO Synthesis Centers, as well as ongoing solicitations, e.g., Software Infrastructure for Sustained Innovation (SI2). In FY 2017, SI2 will begin to focus on software infrastructure for major projects and awards including STCs, iPlant (now CyVerse), and Major Research Facilities and Construction (MREFC) projects.

The NSF-wide BioMaPS investment seeks to discover fundamental new knowledge to enable innovation in national priorities such as clean energy, climate science, and advanced manufacturing. In FY 2017, BIO will sustain support for this activity. One area of emphasis will be synthetic biology, which is a convergent area at the intersection of biology, engineering, and physical sciences that informs our ability to design and build novel biological functions and systems using engineering principles.

Understanding the Rules of Life represents our shared vision for core research. Support for this new emphasis includes research areas such as the genotype to phenotype challenge, plant and microbial sciences, including the study of microbiomes, synthetic biology, origins of life, and developing biological theory as a framework for the rules of life. Quantitative approaches that integrate the mathematical and physical sciences, computer science, and engineering into advancing basic biological understanding underpinning the study of the rules of life will be encouraged.


BIO’s FY 2017 budget request also includes support for early career scientists through enhanced funding for PIs, new efforts to train graduate students, and targeted support for postdoctoral fellows. BIO will participate in the NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) program. And a BIO Research Training Grant (RTG) Program would provide $6.16 million to improve graduate education.

BIO will participate in the NSF initiative, Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners that have been Underrepresented for Diversity in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES), an effort to increase the preparation, participation, advancement, and potential contributions of those who have been traditionally underserved and/or underrepresented in STEM fields. BIO will also continue participation in the NSF-wide program ADVANCE as part of its ongoing commitment to broaden participation to build strategies and models to increase the participation, retention, and advancement of women in all STEM academic careers.

Finally, in the area of innovation activities, the FY 2017 budget includes support for an Origin of Life Ideas Lab – a partnership between NSF BIO and NASA Astrobiology to stimulate creative thinking and new research on the earliest events leading to life on Earth. Projects resulting from the Ideas Lab would explore plausible pathways for the origin of life that would contribute directly to our understanding of the indispensable properties of life on Earth and inform our search for life on other worlds, and would contribute to a theoretical framework for the “metabolism first” and “RNA first” hypotheses for the origin of life.

*Mandatory funding, also known as “direct spending,” is a different category of Federal spending than NSF typically sees. It is most commonly associated with entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) and is not subject to discretionary caps. In FY 2017, the Administration is seeking legislation to provide mandatory funding for NSF and other R&D agencies on a one-time basis.



Meeting NSF’s Technical Reporting Requirements

PIs must use to meet all NSF technical reporting requirements, including submission of annual, final, and project outcomes reports.

  1. What is Required?

NSF requires that all Principal Investigators (PIs) submit annual reports during the course of an award and a final report no later than 120 days following expiration of an award. Each report is reviewed by the award’s managing Program Officer; the reporting requirement is met only after the Program Officer has reviewed and approved the report.

NSF also requires…

Read more…

Revised Grant Proposal Guide for 2016

A revision of the Grant Proposal Guide will be in effect on January 25, 2016. Note – the revisions apply to all proposals due on or after January 25th.

You can access the 2016 GPG here:

Read about the changes & clarifications to the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (which includes the GPG) here:

Remember, when the instructions in a solicitation differ from the GPG, the solicitation is what you should follow. If you have any questions regarding what guidelines to follow, don’t hesitate to contact the Program Director/Officer for the program to which you are applying. Contact information is always listed on the Program Summary page.

Trick or Treat? Searching for program information on

What’s the trick to finding what you’re searching for on

With Halloween 2015 approaching, you’ve probably been thinking about a lot of scary things. We know navigating can be scary for some people, especially first time visitors. So we thought we should shed some light on the process to make it less scary. Grab some candy, and enjoy this treat.

This post is specifically about using the search function to find program information, but you can also navigate the site using the menus at the top of the page. “Quick Links” at the top right corner of the page may also get you where you want to go. Here’s a screenshot of what the top of the main page looks like: menus

Let’s type something into the search box and see what results we get. We’ll search “Dimensions of Biodiversity,” which is the name of one of BIO’s funding programs.

type in search box

Hit enter and you will see a page full of results like those you see in the screen capture below (assuming no files have been changed “behind the scenes” since this blog post was written). The initial set of results is from a search of “All NSF,” meaning all of

(Click to enlarge images.)


You can filter the results to show only pages related to funding or news. If you click on “More,” you can also filter results to show items related to research discoveries, events, or, statistics (such as pages from the Science and Engineering Indicators). Note, when you chose a filter from “More,” it replaces the “News” option, but don’t worry, “News” hasn’t disappeared, it is now under “More.”


So what are all of these results?!? We are going to demystify them for you.

The best way to find what you are looking for is to look at the URLs of the pages in addition to the page titles and descriptions. Here is an annotated version of the search results, set to “All NSF”.

annotated search results

Filter your results with the “Funding” filter and apply what you just learned. (We’ll enjoy some candy while you do that.)

Now filter your results with the “News” filter to see what news-related results look like. Here is what you will find:


Finally, filter your results with the “Discoveries” filter. Discovery items are stories about NSF-funded research and are different from press releases.


Now, let’s return to the last item in your unfiltered search results…the tricky publication from 2011. Does the page contain news or discovery content? How do you know?

It’s actually an old solicitation. This is tricky because we suggested you look for a fiscal year (“FY”) to identify solicitations, but older solicitations may not have a FY in their titles or descriptions; additionally, their descriptions may not tell you they are archived (we’re working on this!). All other signs point to it being a solicitation, but if in doubt, click the link and open the document. If the document has been archived, there will be a statement on the document itself that says, “This document has been archived and replaced by ______.”

We are working to add archive tags to older documents and make search results relevant. Currently, we are identifying the best search result for a particular keyword or phrase so we can direct the system to recommend those “best bets” to you at the top of the results. As we do so you will see more search results that include a recommended page, like this:

screen shot with recommended page

We hope this quick guide has cleared away some of the cobwebs and given you a better view of how is organized.

Revised Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (Effective 2016)

A revised Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (NSF 16-1) will be effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after January 25, 2016.

The PAPPG includes the Grant Proposal Guide and Award and Administration Guide.

Significant revisions include:

  • enforcement of 5 p.m. submitter’s local time across all NSF funding opportunities;
  • implementation of NSF’s Public Access Policy;
  • submission of proposal certifications by the Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) concurrently with proposal submission;
  • NSF’s implementation of the U.S. Government Policy for Institutional Oversight of Life Sciences on Dual Use Research of Concern;
  • provision of Collaborators and Other Affiliations information as a  new single-copy document, instead of as a part of the Biographical Sketch;
  • submission of Biographical Sketches and Current and Pending Support separately for each senior personnel;
  • electronic signature and submission of notifications and requests by the AOR only;
  • revision of time-frame for submission of final project reports, project outcomes reports and financial closure of awards to 120 days after the award end date; and
  • numerous clarifications throughout the document.

Webinar information

For more information, contact policy[at]nsf[dot]gov.

NSF Broader Impacts

Last updated: 4/20/2016

Are you looking for information about the Broader Impacts Merit Review criterion? Not sure what qualifies as a Broader Impacts activity? Check out these resources and then take a quiz to test your Broader Impacts smarts!

Here’s where to find information about Broader Impacts from NSF:

The NSF Office of Integrative Activities Broader Impacts web page:

Office of Integrative Activities web page

Scroll down on the OIA page and you’ll see a list of related web pages:

OIA web page related links

The Broader Impacts Perspectives brochure can be downloaded as a .pdf. The brochure includes highlights from the Broader Impacts Infrastructure Summit and examples of Broader Impacts activities.

Cover of brochure

If you are planning to submit a proposal to NSF, be sure to follow the instructions in the Grant Proposal Guide (GPG). The GPG is part of the current NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPP), publication number NSF 16-001 (aka 16-1) dated January 25, 2016: (Significant changes and clarifications from the previous guide can be found here:

The GPG includes important information about the Broader Impacts and Intellectual Merit Merit Review criteria in a few different places: the Project Summary section (IIC2b), the Project Description section (IIC2di), and the Merit Review Principles and Criteria section (IIIA).

Screen shot of the Grant Proposal Guide web page.
The Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) is part of the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPP).


Review the resources above and come back and take our Broader Impacts quiz!

(Click all images to enlarge.)

True or false, your research itself must fulfill the broader impacts review criterion








Remember to share your stories about Broader Impacts activities with your Program Officer and via email to broaderimpacts[at]

Related documents and resources:

NSF-funded National Alliance for Broader Impacts (supported by awards MCB-1408736, MCB-1313197, and IIA-1437105)

NSF Broadening Participation Portfolio:

NSB-2015-14: Report to the National Science Board on the National Science Foundation’s Merit Review Process FY 2014 (May, 2015)

NSB-2015-19: National Science Board Resolution on NSF and the National Interest (May 6, 2015)

NSF Important Notice No. 137 (IN-137): New Steps to Enhance Transparency and Accountability at the National Science Foundation (Jan 13, 2015)

Press Release (14-163): National Science Foundation updates transparency and accountability practices (Dec 3, 2014)