FYI: AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships

For several years DEB has hosted AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellows. We have reaped the benefits of this excellent Fellowship program, and think talking about it here will be of interest to some of the faculty, students or post-docs in the DEB community.

Are you looking for a sabbatical or to explore new ways to utilize your scientific training?

Want to learn about federal policy from an inside perspective?

Perhaps you are considering opportunities for non-academic science careers.

Then you may wish to consider applying for a Science & Technology Policy Fellowship with AAAS (the American Association for the Advancement of Science). AAAS Fellows are doctoral-level trained individuals who gain insight into the US federal enterprise during a one to two year post-graduate experience. Fellows can be from a wide array of disciplines, and from any career stage. The distribution of AAAS Fellows’ ages have spanned over 5 decades and ranged from late 20s to early 70s! AAAS S&T Fellows contribute to their offices in myriad ways, but their specific roles are often dependent on the mission of the agency and the needs of the office. In DEB, AAAS S&T Fellows have a unique opportunity to engage in international science policy, offering Division and programmatic level strategic planning, as well as gaining insight into the merit review process.

AAAS S&T Fellows not only make valuable contributions to their offices, but throughout the entire experience the Fellows are engaged in professional development trainings. These trainings range from ‘the essentials of science communication’ to ‘developing a negotiation toolkit’ to technical workshops on ‘text mining big data using R code’.

Furthermore, one of the greatest benefits of the AAAS S&T Fellows program is being inducted into a highly connected network of science professionals. Many AAAS alumnae continue working in government after their fellowship, but others have gone on to influential positions throughout academia, industry, and non-profit sectors. The breadth of the Fellows’ network is truly impressive.


What are people saying about the AAAS S&T Policy Fellows?

In a 2014 PNAS article on graduate education and postdoctoral training, authors Bruce Alberts et al, gave the AAAS S&T Policy Fellows program a ringing endorsement by saying:

“…. the AAAS Science and Technology Fellowships for 40 y has allowed carefully selected scientists and engineers with advanced degrees to work in the US government in Washington, DC. Historically, approximately half of these Fellows have remained in policy positions, occupying critical positions that greatly benefit the nation….”

(full disclosure, of course: Bruce Alberts has previously served as editor-in-chief of AAAS’s main publication Science)

However, the National Science Board, the policy making body for NSF, also recognized the AAAS S&T Fellowship program in their hallmark Public Service Award in 2014. #nobigdeal #kindofabigdeal


Not convinced yet that this is a unique and special program? Check out some of these notable alums:

Honorable Rush D. Holt: AAAS CEO, former U.S. House of Representatives Congressman

Frances A. Colón: Acting Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State

Rosina Bierbaum: Professor and former Dean, University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment

Steven Buchsbaum: Deputy Director, Discovery at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


The AAAS S&T Fellowship offers placement in seven different program areas. Check to see if you are eligible to apply and read testimonials from former Fellows.

Applications for the 2016-2017 Fellowship cycle are open from now until November.

DEB Summer 2015: Where to find us at Professional Meetings

We’ve got a busy summer meeting schedule and are offering numerous opportunities to hear the latest NSF updates, meet your Program Officers, and learn about funding opportunities in-person. Since it is so close this year, there will be a fairly large contingent of us heading up to Baltimore for the ESA meeting. But, we’re not forgetting the other side of the house; we’ll have representatives at both of the big, international evolution conferences. We’ll also be at the IALE Congress and the joint Botany meeting, and we were already at ASM earlier this season.

And remember, if you can’t make it to our lunchtime brown-bag sessions to hear the latest from DEB, you can always email one of the attending Program Officers to set up another meeting time, catch us in the poster hall, or drop by our information tables (where available).


26 – 30 June, 2015: Guarujá, Brazil. Evolution 2015

Featuring: Simon Malcomber, David Mindell, Sam Scheiner, Kelly Zamudio

Presentation Followed by Q & A (NSF Update)
Sunday 28 June, 12:00 – 13:30 (during lunch break), Meeting Room Diamantina


6 – 9 July, 2015: Portland, OR. 9th International Assoc for Landscape Ecology World Congress

Featuring: George Malanson

Panel Discussion: Funding Opportunities for Landscape Ecology at the US National Science Foundation
Monday 6 July, 5:30 PM – 6:30 PM, See Final Schedule for Location

Additional Notes: Tuesday eve poster session is a good time to meet up with George.


25 – 29 July, Edmonton, Alberta. Botany 2015

Featuring: Joe Miller

With Special Appearances: Roland Roberts, Judy Skog

NSF Information Booth (Exhibitor #114)
All Days, Staffed during poster sessions, by appointment and whenever we can be there, Hall D.

NSF Outreach Presentation and Discussion
Wednesday 29 July, noon, location TBA (check final program).


9 – 14 August, 2015: Baltimore, MD. Ecological Society of America 2015

Featuring: Henry Gholz, Doug Levey, Sam Scheiner, Alan Tessier, Alan Wilson, George Malanson, Diane Pataki, John Adamec, Shannon Jewell

With Special Appearances by: Matt Kane (TBD), Betsy Von Holle (W, Th, F), Emily Leichtman (Su, M)

NSF Information Booth (Exhibitor #438)
Monday 10 – Thursday 14 August, All-day, Baltimore Convention Center Poster/Exhibit Hall.

Special Session (SS 2): Ecology on the Runway: An Eco-Fashion Show and Other Non-Traditional Public Engagement Approaches
Monday 10 August, 11:30 AM-1:15 PM, Baltimore Convention Center 310.

Special Session (SS 10): New Frontiers: Bridging the Gaps Between Continental and Global-Scale Research Networks, A Special AGU-ESA Event and Evening Social
Monday 10 August, 8:00 PM-10:00 PM, Baltimore Convention Center 309.

Workshop (WK 53): Federal Agency Networking Session (Come and meet your Program Officers from NSF and beyond!)
Thursday 13 August, 11:30 AM-1:15 PM, Baltimore Convention Center 316.


9 – 15 August, 2015: Lausanne, Switzerland. European Society for Evolutionary Biology

Featuring: George Gilchrist and Leslie Rissler

Presentation followed by Q & A (NSF Update)
Thursday 13 August, noon, location TBA.

Additional Notes: This will be the same program as presented at Evolution 2015 (if you’re like us and had to choose one or the other, we’ve got you covered!)

Draft of revisions to NSF-wide grant and proposal policies up for public comment

Each year or so, NSF releases an updated version of its agency-wide guidance for proposals and grants, called the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG). This big document consists of two parts: instructions for proposers (the GPG, or Grant Proposal Guide) and instructions for awardees (the AAG, or Award Administration Guide).

The PAPPG sets the ground-rules for NSF programs. Solicitations, like the DEB Core Programs solicitation, exist to enumerate specific variances from the basic rules, for example the format and contents of a preliminary proposal. Solicitations, however, also refer back to the PAPPG and follow the ground-rules for everything except those specific variances. A good example of this is that the requirements for proposal font size are detailed in the PAPPG and we have no reason to repeat or modify that in the DEB Core Programs solicitation but they apply to both preliminary and full proposals.

Changes to the PAPPG trigger new proposal preparation requirements for all NSF programs and may require you to do something differently in your next submission to the DEB Core Programs (or anywhere else), but changes to the PAPPG do not override anything explicitly described in our solicitation.


Right now, a draft version of the changes has been made available to the public for comment through 20 July, 2015. The wording of this public version indicates that these revised rules are expected to come into force in January 2016; this is right around our next preliminary proposal deadline. Based on the experience of prior years, the final version will probably be published at some point in October so that you have fair warning of the rule changes and will be expected to follow them beginning on the TBD January date. Between July and October there is a period to review the comments and prepare the final revised version for public posting.

We’re mentioning this here because there are proposed revisions that are likely relevant to you and we want you to be aware of them as early in the process as possible.

The official notice of the request for comments is available in the Federal Register:

This includes an explanation of the request, how to submit comments, and the comment deadline.

The actual draft is hosted on the website here:


There are numerous small and several more substantial changes noted in the draft. The online document is conveniently marked up with comments and highlights for new/edited text and comments to note where material was removed.

Here are a few revisions that we noted that might be of particular interest to our readers:

On page 20 (of the PDF), it notes that your research office/organizational representative needs to complete organizational sign off before a proposal can be submitted (even for preliminary proposals); this might require modifications to your preparation timeline. (Organizational sign-off is mentioned/added in many other spots throughout the document too.)

On page 25, there’s a re-emphasized note about an issue we’ve mentioned here before: You should have only 1 FastLane ID per individual.

On page 30, the GPG is (finally!) addressing the issue of your collaborator (aka conflict) lists being too long for the 2-page Biosketch by moving them into a separate Single Copy Document.

On page 33, and in a few other places, there are new requirements for reporting via your proposal Cover Page “dual use research of concern” (e.g., work with certain pathogens and toxins).

Pages 34 – 37 include several changes/clarifications relevant to the written components of your proposals: stronger requirement to enter a Project Summary in the FastLane forms (instead of uploading a PDF), a prohibition against hyperlinks in your Project Description, a template for Letters of Collaboration (if you’ve submitted to the DEB core programs recently, you’ve already been doing this), the revised Biosketch format (sans collaborators and other affiliations), and a requirement that each Biosketch be uploaded as a separate file (no more bundling as a single file).

There are a couple of changes with respect to budget preparation, the most notable (at least to us) being a requirement that sub-awards include overhead at the sub-awardee’s federally negotiated rate (or a de minimis rate of 10%).

On page 44, the instructions for current and pending (C&P) support also are changed to require a separate document (no bundling as a single file) for each of the senior personnel on the proposal and the definition of C&P is expanded to include “internal institutional support”.


The important outcome here is to make yourself aware of the proposed changes and change timeline and to make sure that your research administration officials are also aware of them so that this fall you will be able to follow the correct version of the GPG for our preliminary proposal deadline.

Are small grants doing well in review?

In contrast to the trend of decreasing numbers of preliminary proposals, we have seen a rapid increase in the category of Small Grant preliminary proposals (these are also included in the total counts in our previous post).

DEB Small Grants 2012 2013 2014 2015
Submitted N/A 83 95 126
Invited N/A 20 25 29
Invite Rate N/A 24% 26% 23%


We attribute this to a growing awareness of this option to submit preliminary proposals with total budgets under $150K. Small grants came about in the second year of the preliminary proposal system in response to a long-standing desire, expressed by numerous voices in our communities, for some sort of “small” category. DEB realized it was particularly appropriate in the case of the preliminary proposal system in order that reviewers be able to adjust their expectations for the scope of a project relative to the expense without requiring the extensive preparations of a full budget. We added the category to our solicitation for the 2013 preliminary proposal deadline.

We’ve had lots of positive feedback on this option, but also recognize that awareness still needs to be improved among both applicants and reviewers. This year, 8% of all preliminary proposals were identified as small grants.

Small Grants are found in all four clusters and are generally on the increase, but we also think feedback, such as this post, is necessary to successfully integrate this idea into our communities and maintain enthusiasm for this option. We would not be surprised to see these numbers grow to the point where SGs make up as large a part (or larger) of the preliminary proposal pool as Predominantly Undergraduate Institutions or Beginning Investigators.

Since 2013, we’ve funded 22 awards based on invited full small grants (9 of 18 in 2013, 12 of 24 in 2014, and 1 of 1 in 2015 thus far[1]), for a 51% success rate at the full proposal stage. This is roughly twice the success rate of full proposals without the SG designation.


[1] Not everyone who received an invitation eventually submitted a full proposal (individual reasons vary). Also, we have an award already based on a 2015 preliminary proposal because instead of inviting a full proposal, DEB determined this project was appropriate for the EAGER mechanism and invited the team to submit an EAGER proposal allowing for quick turnaround of an award.

DEB Spring 2015 Panel Update

At this point everyone should have heard back on your DEB Preliminary Proposals from the spring panels. If you have not:

1) Log in to your FastLane account. The information should be accessible there, but also make sure your contact email is correct because a typo there would prevent you from receiving updates and notifications.

2) If you were a CoPI, check with the lead PI on the preliminary proposal. The lead PI should have the results of review.

3) Did it wind up in your spam folder?

4) If you have exhausted all of the above options and have had no other contact with your DEB Program Officer, then it’s probably a good time to send us an email.


Preliminary Proposal Panel Results

DEB panels reviewed 1495 preliminary proposals; in consideration of the reviews and panel discussion, DEB Program Officers extended 383 invitations to submit full proposals for the August 2015 deadline. The Division-wide invitation rate for the preliminary proposals was 26%. Below, we detail the results of preliminary proposal review by programmatic cluster.

Cluster Invited Not Invited Total Invite Rate
Systematics and Biodiversity Science 87 221 308 28%
Evolutionary Processes 105 331 436 24%
Population and Community Ecology 107 320 427 25%
Ecosystem Science 84 240 324 26%
Grand Total 383 1112 1495 26%


This is the fourth round of preliminary proposal review for DEB core programs, which was started in 2012. DEB extended more invitations and achieved a higher invitation rate in comparison to prior years.

2012 2013 2014 2015
Reviewed 1626 1629 1590 1495
Invited 358 365 366 383
Invite Rate 22% 22% 23% 26%


As we discussed in our recent post on per-person success rate, the launch of the preliminary proposal system drew in a large number of “new” applicants. We believe we are now seeing this wave of applicants pass and this is reflected in the decrease in number of preliminary proposals reviewed in DEB as our communities realize that preliminary proposals do not make grants easier to get.

At the same time, the number of invitations has gone up. The increase is primarily a result of program management decisions as we have been able to refine our expectations for the number of proposals that will come to the full proposal panel through other mechanisms (CAREER, OPUS, RCN, and co-review). Update: Returned Project Reports

A big thank you to the several PIs who let us know they were having trouble finding the PO comments when reports were sent back from review with requests for revision. We passed them along to the team, and it looks like we now have a response.

The most recent update to the platform includes changes to the project reporting interface that should make it easier to find and view the PO comments. The screenshot below from the online Help guide provides the new details.


(click image to open larger version)

The automatic email you receive when a report is returned should also (now or soon) have a better explanation of how to find these comments, but we haven’t seen that yet.

A reminder to check your FastLane Profiles

For any demographic analysis or comparison, NSF is reliant on the self-reported characteristics of participants in all phases of proposals and awards. Completion of the profiles is voluntary but critical for linking demographic data to proposal, funding, and review patterns. And, importantly, your profile provides the contact information that we use to reach out to you. So if your email address and institutional information are not up to date you may miss out on funding opportunities or critical notifications that affect your eligibility for funding.

So, is your FastLane PI profile complete, up to date, and error-free?

What about your OTHER FastLane profile? When was the last time you completed your Reviewer information?

Yes, that’s right; if you’ve taken part in both sides of the NSF merit review process you have two[i] separate FastLane profiles: one as a PI and another as a reviewer (or panelist).

Across NSF, our community members are pretty good about completing PI profiles (>80% coverage) but are far less likely to complete the profile as a reviewer (<<50% coverage).

As a PI or CoPI, one can update a PI profile in FastLane at any time.

Log in under “Proposals, Awards and Status


(click images to enlarge)

You can go directly to your PI profile from the first landing page or update the information before starting work on a proposal.

The form itself includes your name, organizational affiliation, contact information, degree information, and demographic characteristics. (Screenshot below from the FastLane online Help guide.)


Before your next application, perhaps right now, please take the time to log in to FastLane and make sure your PI profile is up to date.

Reviewer profiles can only be updated when you log in to complete a review request

(As far as we know, though if you want to take a shot at logging in using a link in an old panel or ad hoc review invitation and find that it does let you access your profile, please tell us so we can update this accordingly.)

Panelists ( and individual ad hoc reviewers ( have separate log-in pages on FastLane.

However, both take you to similar landing pages, and both provide the same options for updating a profile.


(Again, screenshots from the FastLane help guide.)

While you should confirm and take the time to correct any errors in your contact information, the most often missing pieces are demographic. [They’re even incomplete in the above Help Guide images!]

The reviewer demographic form asks the same questions and provides the same response options as the PI profile form.


So please, the next time you review for us, take a moment to complete your profile so we can put some data behind our efforts to make sure our review processes are representative of our communities.


[i] We’ve also noticed that a fair number of you have extra accounts lying around beyond those two; please call the FastLane Help desk to have that fixed.