The new NSF CAREER solicitation is out, and there's one major change: PIs can now include faculty-level collaborators on the budget as Senior Personnel (or as consultants). However, you'll still want to be very careful that the collaborator's role in your project is not central. The NSF CAREER is all about the PI and building her/his career, so it must be clear that the project is the PI's vision and that the PI is the central mover of the project. We'll discuss this more in the March issue of the Research Development & Grant Writing Newsletter, out March 15th. 

NSF Programmatic Changes

In separate Dear Colleague Letters, NSF announced the reorganization of the Systematics and Biodiversity Science (SBS) cluster in the Biological Sciences directorate (DEB division) and the realignment of the Service, Manufacturing, and Operations Research (SMOR) progam in the Engineering Directorate (CMMI division).

  • The SBS cluster will be reorganized into a core program named the Systematics and Biodiversity Science (SBS). Proposals that formerly would be submitted to the Phylogenetic Systematics, Biodiversity: Discovery and Analysis, and the Genealogy of Life programs will now be submitted to SBS. This change will affect preliminary and full proposals submitted to the 2018 deadlines for the DEB Core Programs solicitation.
  • The SMOR program is being renamed Operations Engineering (OE) and will focus on fundamental research in quantitative methods strongly motivated by problems that have potential for high impact in engineering applications. Areas of priority include: production and advanced manufacturing systems, public safety and security, healthcare delivery, and sustainability, as well as new and emerging areas. More here.

White House Announces National Microbiome Initiative

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced a new National Microbiome Initiative (NMI) to foster the integrated study of microbiomes across different ecosystems. NMI has three goals:

(1) Supporting interdisciplinary research to answer fundamental questions about microbiomes in diverse ecosystems.

(2) Developing platform technologies that will generate insights and help share knowledge of microbiomes in diverse ecosystems and enhance access to microbiome data.

(3) Expanding the microbiome workforce through citizen science, public engagement, and educational opportunities. 

NMI will launch with a  combined Federal agency investment of more than $121 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 and 2017 funding for cross-ecosystem microbiome studies. This includes proposed funds: $10M to DOE, $12.5M to NASA, $20M  to NIH, $16M to NSF and $15.9M to USDA. A number of universities, foundations and institutes will also fund research on microbiomes. See the White House OSTP release for details.

Article in Science: NSF director unveils big ideas

Science magazine reports that NSF director France Cordova has unveiled a list of nine big ideas where increased NSF funds provided by Congress could make a big difference. This is part of NSF's argument for increased funding as NSF is drafting its 2018 FY budget request. It will take a while to find out if this strategy has any impact on Congress, but it provides a useful window into what NSF sees as the big challenges that they want to impact. If, as a researcher, you're doing research relevant to any of these topics, be sure to keep an eye on this. 

Here's the list 


  • Harnessing data for 21st century science and engineering
  • Shaping the human-technology frontier
  • Understanding the rules of life (i.e., predicting phenotypes from genotypes)
  • The next quantum revolution (physics)
  • Navigating the new Arctic (including a fixed and mobile observing network)
  • Windows on the universe: multimessenger astrophysics


  • More convergent research
  • Support for midscale infrastructure (costing tens of millions of dollars)
  • NSF 2050 (i.e., a common fund to seed large, ambitious projects)

See the Science website for more details (and click here to see a more detailed description of each item)..

Upcoming IES Funding Webinars

The Department of Education's extramural research arm, the  Institute of Education Sciences (IES), has a number of interesting webinars coming up. These webinar are typically very helpful to those who are new to pursuing IES funding or are new to a specific program at IES. Note, especially, that IES has the following webinars scheduled:

  • IES Basic Overview of Research Grants
    Thursday, May 26th, 11:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m. EDT
    Learn about the funding opportunities in NCER and NCSER. IES staff will review our FY 2017 competitions and describe the purpose of each, requirements and recommendations, and the peer review process used to determine what applications are funded.
    To register for the webinar, please click here.
  • IES Webinar on Funding Opportunities for Minority Serving Institutions
    Tuesday, May 31th, 1:30 p.m.–3:00 p.m. EDT
    Learn about the Pathways to the Education Sciences Research Training Program (84.305B) grant competition, which will establish research training programs at Minority Serving Institutions (or their partners) that prepare upper-level undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, and/or master's degree students to pursue doctoral study in the education sciences. IES staff will also provide information about the other funding opportunities and the peer review process.
    To register for the webinar, please click here.

New National Academies Report: Recommendations to NSF on Advanced Computing Infrastructure

A new National Academies Report (downloadable for free) provides recommendations of a committee to NSF on future needs for advanced computing infrastructure. These kinds of reports and recommendations often find their way into solicitations at NSF. PIs should keep an eye out for reports in their disciplines if they want to know where future funding is headed.

NSF CAREER Webinar Scheduled May 26th

NSF is hosting a webinar for those interested in the NSF CAREER program from 1 - 3 pm Eastern Daylight Time on May 26, 2016. This is billed primarily as an opportunity to ask questions, and participants are encouraged to check out CAREER resources on NSF's website before the webinar. Note, however, that eligibility questions will not be addressed on the webinar. For more info, see the webinar webpage.

Great NIH Resource: Expenditures by Category

NIH recently published a very interesting and useful table detailing the funding allocated over recent years by research, condition, or disease category. This data includes estimated amounts for 2016 and 2017. You can click through on any year and category to see what projects were funded. Follow those links as you would use results from a RePORTER query to identify program officers, study sections and FOAs. A great resource for PIs trying to figure out where at NIH their research fits! Click here to go to NIH's table.

NOAA Science Collaboration Program

The NOAA Science Collaboration Program (NSCP/$75 million) represents an effort to support the development of undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral researchers and scientists with expertise in NOAA-related sciences. This will be accomplished through collaborations between these scientists and professionals in areas of mutual interest across the full spectrum of NOAA sciences. It is expected that some of the scientists will collaborate onsite at NOAA facilities and laboratories. NOAA will also support associated workshops that will serve to further enhance collaborative relationships. Through this funding opportunity, NOAA is also interested in supporting complementary earth-systems modeling efforts in areas such as hydrology and coastal dynamics which can serve as a catalyst for collaborations between NOAA professionals and scientists supported through this program. NOAA will support social science research that evaluates the impact of NOAA-related science to society and seeks to find ways to determine how environmental and related sciences can be communicated and utilized more effectively to protect life and property, assist decision makers, and enhance economic development. See NOAA-NWS-NWSPO-2017-2004858 NOAA Science Collaboration Program Due June 13.

USDA Announces $1.2 Million in Available Funding for Aquaculture Research

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on April 6th that more than $1.2 million in available funding to support the development of environmentally and economically sustainable aquaculture in the United States. This funding is available through the Aquaculture Research Program, administered through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Applications are due May 17. Please see the RFA for more information.

Higher Funding Rate for NSF in FY 2017?

Interesting testimony by NSF Director France Cordova to Congress last week: *The President's Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Request for the National Science Foundation http://www.nsf.gov/about/congress/114/fc_fy17budgetnsf_hscience_160322.jsp*. NSF's FY 2017 Budget Request includes two areas of major emphasis: Clean Energy R&D and strengthening support for core activities, with a special focus on support for early career investigators…New one-year mandatory funding totaling $400 million will support the fundamental, curiosity-driven research that is NSF's principal contribution to the Nation's science and technology enterprise. In particular, *this funding will support more scientists and engineers at the early stages of their careers* -- who bring particular expertise in data- and computationally-intensive activities -- to quicken the pace of discovery and advance the leading edge of research and education. This *funding will allow for an estimated 800 additional research grants to be made from a pool of highly-rated proposals that would otherwise be declined for lack of funding*. This additional funding would bring NSF's FY 2017 funding rate to an estimated 23 percent.

Of course, this is all just a request at this point. We will have to wait to see how Congress responds.

Changes in 2016 NSF GPG

There are a number of changes in the new NSF 2016 Grant Proposal Guide, for example:

There are a number of changes in the new NSF Grant Proposal Guide (effective for proposal to be submitted on or after Jan. 25, 2016). For example: 

  • Chapter II.C.1.e, Collaborators & Other Affiliations Information, is a new single-copy document that requires each senior project personnel to provide information regarding collaborators and other affiliations. This information used to be provided as part of the Biographical Sketch. The new format no longer requires proposers to identify the total number of collaborators and other affiliations when providing this information.
  • Chapter II.C.2.f, Biographical Sketch(es), has been supplemented to inform proposers that they may use third-party solutions to develop their biographical sketch, however, the information they submit must be compliant with NSF proposal preparation requirements. In addition, it is no longer allowable for the biographical sketches of all senior personnel to be grouped together in a single PDF file. Biographical sketches must now be uploaded separately for each individual identified on the proposal as senior personnel. Biographical sketches for Other Personnel and for Equipment proposals (Chapter II.C.2.f(ii) and (iii) respectively), however, should be uploaded as a single PDF file in the Other Supplementary Documents section of the proposal.
  • Chapter II.C.2.h, Current and Pending Support, has been revised to reflect that all current project support should be listed in this section of the proposal, including internal funds allocated toward specific projects. It is no longer allowable for the current and pending support of all senior personnel to be grouped together in a single PDF file. Current and pending support must now be uploaded separately for each individual identified on the proposal as senior personnel.
  • Chapter II.C.2.b, Project Summary, has been modified to remind proposers that only Project Summaries that use special characters may be uploaded in the Supplementary Documents section. Such Project Summaries must contain separate headings for Overview, Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts or the proposal will be returned without review.
  • Chapter VI.B.5, Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC), is an entirely new section and serves, in conjunction with coverage in the GPG, as NSF’s implementation of the US Government Policy for Institutional Oversight of Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern.

NSF Dear Colleague Letter lists International Funding Mechanisms

A recent NSF Dear Colleague letter was issued to remind researchers involved in the BRAIN initiative of funding programs and mechanisms that support international cooperation. Most of these programs are equally applicable to international collaborations in other research topics funded by NSF and bear repeating:

Submitting a proposal to NSF EHR? Consider including a Cyberlearning component.

NSF's Directorate of Education and Human Resources (EHR) recently released a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) encouraging proposals to its programs that include a Cyberlearning component. Cyberlearning is described in a recent NSF solicitation as including "three program thrusts: innovation, advancing understanding of learning in technology-rich learning environments, and promoting generalizability and transferability of new technological genres." This recent DCL clarifies that in addition to supporting that solicitation, EHR is interested in seeing similar components in other proposals to EHR programs. Those preparing proposals to these programs, such as DRK-12MSPAGEP, etc. should consider whether a Cyberlearning component would make sense for their project since having one could make their proposal more competitive.

Who Funds What: A Quick Guide

This table (in pdf) gives an overview of the agencies (and a few foundations) that are most active in funding academic research and what types of research they fund. The links take you to the funding page of the agency (which can sometimes to be difficult to find for agencies where funding research is not a major part of their mission), not just to the agency's home page.

Video: How to Use the NSF Website to Identify the Core Program that Fits Your Research

When pursuing research funding from NSF, it's extremely important that you identify the program or programs within NSF that best fit(s) your research. A good place to start is the NSF website. This video shows how to the use the website to identify the program (and program director) that is most likely to be interested in funding your research. The next step will be to contact the program director to discuss whether your research fits their program.

Video: How to Use NIH's RePORTER to Identify the Study Section and Program that Fits Your Research

NIH's RePORTER awards database has been around a while now, but many researchers aren't aware that NIH has been adding a number of nifty new capabilities that make this a powerful research tool that you can use to identify the IC, program and study section that best fits your research. This video shows how to do that.