New NSF documents go live! Important notes if you are planning to submit a DEB proposal in 2016

For those of you in the DEB community planning to submit a proposal in 2016, please take note of some important new NSF documents that recently came on-line.



Division of Environmental Biology Core Programs:

Long Term Research in Environmental Biology:

Dimensions of Biodiversity:

Long Term Ecological Research:

Near the top of each solicitation you can find a section entitled “Important Information and Revision Notes“. These sections briefly highlight any changes in a new program solicitation from an earlier year’s vintage.


Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG):

The PAPPG is made up of two sections 1) the Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) and 2) the Award Administration Guide (AAG). In contrast to program solicitations, which provide specific information for a particular competition, the PAPPG is an NSF wide document that provides high-level guidance on NSF submission and administration policies.

Effective January 25, 2016, all proposals submitted to NSF must adhere to the guidance outlined in this updated PAPPG version, NSF 16-1.

You may have seen our prior blog post that highlighted some of the anticipated PAPPG changes that were coming down the pike, or you may have seen the recent BIO BUZZ blog post on the topic as well. Just to make sure that no one misses this announcement, now that the new PAPPG is live, here are some important updates to be aware of.

  • Proposal submission by 5pm local time will now be strictly enforced. Any proposal submitted at 5:01pm will not go through.
  • The Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) in your sponsored research office must sign off on the proposal at the time of submission.
  • Proposals that fall within the category of Dual Use Research of Concern must be identified as such. This is NSF’s implementation of a US Government wide policy for institutional oversight.
  • Biosketches must be submitted individually for each PI and senior personnel and not compiled in one PDF. See our previous post, specifically myth #8, for detailed instructions and screenshots on how to do this. It is worth noting, that adding a non-Co-PI Senior Personnel does not require that person to have a Fast Lane account and international Senior Personnel can upload biosketches in this fashion. (This is particularly relevant for teams submitting proposals under the DEB NERC or DEB BSF Dear Colleague Letters).
  • Collaborators & Other Affiliations Information will now be submitted as single copy documents and not as a part of the biosketch nor as supplementary documents

For the complete list of PAPPG revisions and updates see the link below:


Dear Colleague Letters (DCL):

Lastly, the two DEB-focused international Dear Colleague Letters that were published in 2014 are still in effect for the 2016 core programs proposal cycle. These DCLs outline agreements with two international funding agencies. They enable US and UK investigators or US and Israeli investigators to submit a single collaborative proposal that will undergo a single review process.

Natural Environment Research Council:

US-Israel Binational Science Foundation:



New BIO-wide Guidance on Data Management Plans

On October 1st, BIO posted to its website an updated BIO Data Management Plan (DMP) Guidance document. In consultation with BIO Program Directors (2013-2015) and analysis of BIO DMPs (2013-2014), the guidelines have been revised to clarify what’s expected in terms of content, and to also include very general procedures for their review across the proposal and award management cycle. The guidelines are generally similar to the prior guidance documents issued in 2011 and 2013 and reflect the continued development of best practices and research community expectations.

A link to the new guidance on the BIO homepage goes to the Biological Sciences Guidance on Data Management Plans webpage:

(The direct URL for the document is:

New Report from the Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education

The Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education (AC ERE) recently published a new report entitled, America’s Future: Environmental Research and Education for a Thriving Century. Image of cover page from the NSF AC ERE report, America’s Future: Environmental Research and Education for a Thriving Century.

The AC ERE is a multi-disciplinary group of scientists who advise NSF senior management on strategic planning for NSF’s agency-wide environmental research and education portfolio. The group was established in 2000 by then Director Dr. Rita Colwell, in recognition that environmental science and engineering is intrinsically multi-disciplinary and must involve all parts of NSF.

A description of this latest report of the AC ERE can be found on the NSF News page, here: ,

For further information about the AC ERE purpose, members, and meetings as well as this report and past reports, visit the AC ERE home page on

FYI: Merit Review Survey requests, check your inbox

Many (most?) of you likely have gotten an email from NSF asking you to take part in an upcoming survey.  This is a legitimate request. The email from NSF shouldn’t have an actual link to the survey; it’s just a notice that you will receive an invitation.  The actual invitation should follow today; it will be from NSF’s contractor, Insight Policy Research, and contain a link to the online survey.

This is an NSF-wide survey of investigators and reviewers.  The survey is intended to help NSF to learn more about the impact of its merit review process on proposers and reviewers.  This is something that NSF has done at intervals since 1976.  The last time this was done was roughly a decade ago and we’ve referenced the resultant report,  called the IPAMM and published in 2007, on this blog several times.  Please help us out by taking some time (est. 30 minutes) to complete the survey.

Nearly all individuals who have submitted proposals to and/or reviewed for NSF in the past few years are being invited to participate in the survey.  NSF is hoping for substantial response rates so that results are representative of all of the academic disciplines that receive awards from NSF, of a broad spectrum of research and educational organizations, and of many different demographic groups

If survey participants have specific questions about the survey, the invitation email includes an email address for Insight’s Help Desk, .


Note: This survey is separate from the planned assessment of the DEB and IOS preliminary proposal system. We are still working on obtaining a contractor to conduct our targeted assessment. However, please take both opportunities to provide input to NSF to ensure that the agency-wide survey captures the opinions of our communities as well as our later targeted review is expected to do.

Panel Summaries: Panelist Guidance and PI Expectations

We’ve previously posted about what we are looking for in strong individual reviews of proposals. After receiving individual reviews, most proposals handled by DEB are brought to a panel meeting. After discussing a proposal, the panel prepares a document called the Panel Summary. In this post, we describe Panel Summaries, our goals in what we want them to communicate, and the steps DEB has recently taken to improve them.

What are Panel Summaries? (short version)

A Panel Summary is the written record of the review panel discussion of a proposal.

When you hear back from DEB about a proposal, you typically receive several documents in FastLane:

  • all individual reviews (generally at least 3 from panelists and ad hoc reviewers),
  • a context statement describing the program and review process employed,
  • a Panel Summary and/or a Program Officer comment explaining the program decision.

The Panel Summary is the justification of the panel’s recommendation to the Program and to the PI. It is the most important document the PI receives. It acts as a bridge between the reviews and the panel’s recommendation, helping the PI to understand how and why the panel came to its decision.

What are we hoping to see in a well-written Panel Summary?

The single most important point to keep in mind for crafting a useful Panel Summary is that it needs to provide evaluative statements about a proposal and to justify those statements with specific details and feedback. However, this is not easy to do given that variation in proposals, reviews, panel discussions, and panelists’ writing styles all contribute to the Panel Summary. [This is why Panel Summaries are one of the items we’ve been monitoring and seeking to better manage and improve under the preliminary proposal system. More on this below.]

A good Summary is clear and concise in regards to the panel evaluation. It provides a consensus advisory statement from the panel to NSF about the merits of a particular proposal after consideration and discussion of all viewpoints. As with individual reviews, the panelists are asked to consider the proposal in light of the NSF merit review criteria and any additional criteria applicable to a specific program or funding opportunity. Program Officers and staff also provide feedback during the panel meeting to ensure that Summaries are complete and compliant with policies (e.g., confidentiality).

As far as style and approach, our previous advice on crafting individual reviews applies here too. But keep in mind that a Panel Summary differs from an individual review in that it is a summary of panel discussion, not of the individual reviews – This is another important point. The other major difference between an individual review and a Panel Summary is the context in which they are written. While your individual review is written prior to the panel, alone, and in an environment of your choosing, Panel Summaries are written in the midst of a panel with several other panelists who must sign-off on the final product providing advice.

What steps are we taking to encourage useful Panel Summaries?

For many years now, DEB has been providing panelists with a template for completing Panel Summaries. Ongoing evaluation has motivated us to modify the template and provide additional instructions to panelists on the purpose of a Panel Summary.

The purpose of the new template is to provide greater clarity for both the panelists and the PIs as to what we expect to see in each of the sections of a Summary.

DEB Panel Summary Template provided to panelists during Fall of 2015.

DEB Panel Summary Template

The new template features familiar headings that outline the major points to be considered by the panel and couples those with brief prompts (in red italics) that are intended to be kept in the document so that both panelists and PIs will have constant reminders of what we are asking of panelists in each section of the template.

In addition to this template, which will be provided to each panelist as a document file, panelists will also receive hard-copy guidance documents for their panel work-spaces that reiterate our verbal instructions about writing strong and complete Panel Summaries. This guidance document includes short example phrasings, and call-out boxes to highlight common issues with content, style, and formatting. You can read it for yourself below:

DEB Panel Summary Guidance handout for Fall of 2015

DEB Panel Summary Instructional Handout, Page 1 DEB Panel Summary Instructional Handout, Page 1

By putting these documents out here, we are hoping you, our community members, who are both our PIs and panelists, can be partners with us in maintaining awareness of what we are looking for in high quality Panel Summaries. We think establishing clarity and mutual understanding of the role of panel summaries before you find yourself in panel or receiving a decision from a Program Officer will contribute toward a culture that demands and provides high quality review documentation for everyone.



Upcoming Deadlines for DEB Supplements and other Summer Opportunities

It’s that time of year again when we remind our active grantees about the education and broadening participation supplements available to DEB awards.

Additional details on the components to include in each type of supplement request and information on budgets can be found on-line at


Requests for this set of DEB supplements should be submitted by Tuesday December 1st, 2015 and the first Tuesday in December annually thereafter. DEB treats our December date as a deadline in the sense that later requests are considered only if there are remaining funds and sufficient time to process the request before the intended start date. All requests must be submitted through FastLane.

Supplement Types:

  • Research Experiences for Teachers (RET)
  • Research Assistantships for High School Students (RAHSS)
  • Research Opportunity Awards (ROA)
  • Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)

Additional REU Options for Dimensions of Biodiversity PIs only:

  • Dimensions Broadening Participation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (D-BP-REU)

NOTE: The US-Brazil International Research Experiences for Undergraduates (IREU) opportunity is no longer available.

Other types of supplement requests should be discussed with your program officer. If you have any additional questions, please contact the relevant DEB Program (check the DEB staff listings on the NSF website).


Supplements are only available to PIs and co-PIs with active DEB awards. Please note that some of the special programs accept supplement requests, and others do not. If your program is not listed here, and/or if you have questions about supplement eligibility for your current award, please contact your cognizant Program Officer.

Core DEB Y Y Y Y N
Dimensions of Biodiversity N N N N Y
Genealogy of Life Y Y Y Y N

Before submitting a supplement request, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • no supplements can be awarded if there are any overdue project reports associated with anyone on the award including co-PIs and all members of a collaborative project
  • supplemental funds must be expended by the expiration date of the original award
  • the IRB/IACUC documentation must be up-to-date and include the time frame of the supplement
  • if the award budget already included Participant Support funds to support students or teachers, you must clearly explain the extenuating circumstances leading to the request for more such funding
  • as budgets allow, DEB typically provides funds for one REU student per year, but will consider supporting two REU students if the PI can demonstrate a unique opportunity for broadening participation from traditionally underrepresented groups in the biological sciences.

Supplement Descriptions:

Additional details on the components to include in each type of supplement request and information on budgets can be found on-line at

  • RET – The Dear Colleague Letter: “Research Experience for Teachers (RET): Funding Opportunity in the Biological Sciences” (NSF 12-075) describes how NSF awardees can provide integrated research and education experience for K-12 teachers by including the active participation of these teachers in funded research projects. The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) enthusiastically supports these supplemental awards. The intent of this endeavor is to facilitate professional development of K-12 science teachers through research experience at the cutting edge of science.
  • RAHSS – The Dear Colleague Letter: “Research Assistantships for High School Students (RAHSS): Funding to Broaden Participation in the Biological Sciences” (NSF 12-078) describes how NSF awardees can foster interest in the pursuit of studies in the Biological Sciences; and broaden participation of high school students, particularly those who are underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities, and women in sub-disciplines where they are underrepresented. The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) enthusiastically supports these supplemental awards.
  • ROA – The goal of a “Research Opportunity Award (ROA)” (NSF 14-579) opportunities is to enhance the research productivity and professional development of science faculty at primarily undergraduate institutions (including community colleges) through research activities that enable them to explore the emerging frontiers of science. Such research not only contributes to basic knowledge in science but also provides an opportunity to integrate research and undergraduate education. The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) enthusiastically supports this activity.
  • REU – The “Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)” supplements (NSF 13-542) support NSF awardees in providing integrated research experiences for undergraduates. The intent of the REU supplement is to help undergraduates participate fully in a research enterprise, from inception and design of the project, to completion and dissemination of results. REU projects should involve students in meaningful ways in research projects, and provide opportunities for high-quality interaction of students with faculty and/or other research mentors, and access to appropriate facilities and professional development opportunities. Hence, the request should emphasize expected student involvement and mentoring.
  • D-BP-REU – The Dimensions of Biodiversity (DoB) Program encourages requests for supplemental funding to broaden participation in the biodiversity—related workforce. These supplements are funded through the “Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)” solicitation (NSF 13-542) and are intended to support students from underrepresented groups and enhance cooperative efforts between PIs with active Dimensions of Biodiversity research awards and faculty at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs) or Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). This two-mentor model allows the REU student the opportunity to work with a DoB investigator and provides continued mentorship from the faculty member at the PUI or MSI after the student’s research experience with the DoB investigator is completed. The BP-REU is only available as a supplement to Dimensions of Biodiversity awards.


Beyond the DEB Supplements…

there’s also this opportunity from the NSF International office (note: these follow a separate schedule and procedure from the DEB supplements mentioned above):

The National Science Foundation (NSF) East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes (EAPSI) Fellowship Program provides U.S. graduate students in science and engineering with an opportunity to spend 8 weeks (10 weeks for Japan) during the summer conducting research at one of the seven host locations in East Asia and Pacific: Australia, China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, and Taiwan. The program is a collaboration between NSF and counterpart agencies in each host location.

EAPSI is open to graduate students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents and are enrolled in a research-oriented Masters or Ph.D. program in science or engineering. Applicants must propose a research project in a field of science, engineering or STEM education supported by NSF, including Engineering; Computer and Information Science and Engineering; Mathematical and Physical Sciences (Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry, Materials Science); Biological Sciences; Geosciences; Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences; Education (STEM); and Multidisciplinary Research in these fields. Applicants identify and contact host researchers on their own, prior to submitting their EAPSI proposal; lists of prospective host institutions are available at the end of each Handbook.

NSF provides EAPSI Fellows with a $5,000 stipend and roundtrip airplane ticket to the host location. Our foreign counterparts provide in-country living expenses and accommodations (arrangements vary by host location). Please see for additional information for the Program Solicitation (NSF 13-593); host location-specific Handbooks; How to Apply Guide; and Helpful Tips for Applicants.

In 2015, approximately 214 EAPSI Fellows travel to seven locations in the East Asia and Pacific:

  • Australia – 26
  • China – 40
  • Japan – 65
  • Korea – 25
  • New Zealand – 15
  • Singapore – 15
  • Taiwan – 25

The application submission deadline for the Summer 2016 is November 12, 2015.

EAPSI Informational Webinars will be conducted on Tue, Oct. 6, and Fri, Oct. 23 at 2:00 pm ET. Log-in instructions are available at