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 and the URoL:EN program page for further information and opportunities to connect with the cognizant program officers.

New DCL Seeks to Discover the Rules of Life

Care Of New Life - Baby Plant
Image: Romolo Tavan

In 2016, NSF Director France Córdova unveiled ten “Big Ideas” to shape NSF’s priorities for investment at the frontiers of science and engineering, and drive American science into the future. One in particular – “Understanding the Rules of Life” – has reshaped how we at the BIO Directorate think about scientific inquiry in the biological sciences. The Rules of Life Big Idea seeks discoveries that will allow us to accurately predict change and outcomes in biological systems, and to develop infrastructure and innovative tools to help us ask more complex questions than ever before.

NSF has now published a Dear Colleague Letter (“DCL”; NSF 18-031) catalyzed by this Big Idea, titled, “Rules of Life: Forecasting and Emergence in Living Systems.” This DCL solicits research proposals to develop a better understanding of complex interactions within biological systems, and identify causal, predictive relationships across scales, levels of organization and layers of complexity – so-called “rules” for how life functions.

This DCL describes an initial opportunity to identify areas where such rules may exist, to drive progress toward their discovery, and to focus efforts on using these rules for prediction and design of biological systems. Activities supported through this DCL include conferences, EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGERs) and Research Advanced by Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (RAISE) grants to create opportunities for enabling predictive capability.

The knowledge, infrastructure and human capital that will be needed to successfully address such complex questions and identify Rules of Life will require convergence of research across many disciplines. As a result, Directorates across NSF are participating in this DCL, including BIO, Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), Education and Human Resources (EHR), Engineering (ENG), Geosciences (GEO), Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) and Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE). Interdisciplinary and collaborative research proposals are welcomed under this DCL.

Be sure to read the DCL and Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide to find complete details about the Rules of Life, instructions for submission and all deadlines.

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