Recap of Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology (PRFB) Webinar

On November 16, the PRFB program team hosted a Q&A session that provided an opportunity for the community to ask questions about the program, the proposal process, and other topics. Below are some of the questions asked with high-level responses. For a number of questions, participants were encouraged to contact relevant Program Officers in order to have a more in-depth discussion.

If you are interested in the PRFB program, we encourage you to read the full solicitation (21-614) and reach out to the program team via email (bio-dbi-prfb@nsf.gov for Areas 1&2, dpibgr@nsf.gov for Area 3) with any questions.

A reminder, the full proposal deadline is December 6, 2021.

NOTE: There has been a change in the length of the biosketch requirements. The previous solicitation required a 2-page biosketch for both the fellow and the sponsoring scientist. This has now been updated to reflect the current guidance of the PAPPG, which is a 3-page biosketch for both the fellow and the sponsoring scientist(s). 2-page biosketches cannot be uploaded in Research.gov.

NOTE: We are aware the proposal submission system indicates that proposals being submitted are for  FY2020 instead of the FY2022 competition. This will not affect the progress of your submission or review at all.

Does Maternity Leave count against your time for the 15-month eligibility requirement?

No, maternity leave does not count against the 15-month requirement.

Does the PRFB require a Collaborators and Other Affiliations (COA) form?

The PRFB program does not require a COA document. Please refer to the “How to Apply” document located here: https://www.nsf.gov/bio/prfb/applicant_how_to_apply_prfb.pdf

Can we request proposal reviewers like other NSF proposals?

These proposals are only reviewed in panel, not by ad hoc reviewers. So, suggesting reviewers is not advisable.

Do we need a conflict-of-interest form for the sponsoring scientist(s)?

No

Can we apply to both the PRFB and also a full NSF grant? If we receive both, can we do one while completing the other?

Note that multiple proposals submitted to the NSF cannot have significant overlap with each other. If a full NSF grant has you listed to perform the same research as that proposed in your PRFB, that would not be allowable. Also note that there are many U.S. institutions that do not allow a postdoctoral fellow to be a PI on a proposal. So, check with your institution if this is allowable. However, if your institution allows you, and the proposal is on a different topic than the one you are applying for in the PRFB, this may be allowable. Please reach out to a program officer to discuss these instances further.

Can you defer acceptance if an unforeseen circumstance extends your PhD?

There is some flexibility in terms of when you can accept the fellowship. Typically, you have until June 1st of the following year to start your fellowship. This is subject to change, but it is a general guideline. For example, if you submit December 2021, are notified of acceptance in April 2022, you can start as late as June 2023.

Is there a cap at how many proposals get funded under each area?

There is no cap per se. As listed in the solicitation, the total budget for this year’s competition is $19,000,000 with 120 estimated awards that will be made. This is generally split among the three areas, not necessarily equally, and depends upon the number of submissions to each area. The success rate is generally similar to those of other programs in BIO.

What types of materials are appropriate for the bio sketch?

The biosketch is a fillable PDF, with different sections. It will depend upon which section in the biosketch you are filling out. Examples include journal articles, R packages, or other synergistic activities if appropriate.

If we are doing fieldwork to collect live animals, do we need to submit permits before applying to the PRFB?

No. IACUC or IRB are not required to be in place prior to applying. Collection permits, if required, would be important to have in place, particularly if you are doing destructive sampling of collections. These could be uploaded in supplementary documents.

In Competitive Area 2, should our broader impacts specifically address impacts at the postdoctoral level, just like in competitive area 1?

No. They do not have to specifically address postdocs.

Can we propose to live abroad?

Yes. If you propose to live abroad and work abroad for more than a year, you can apply for a 3-year award for Areas 1 and 2. Applicants to area 3 can propose to spend all 3-years abroad. 

What area should I apply to if my proposal fits well in to either Area 1 or Area 2?

Contact a program officer to discuss your proposal more in depth to better answer this question.

Can biosketch include papers that are under review?

Yes, they can. They can also include pre-prints if they are on a pre-print server (such as BioRxiv).

Is there is a limit to how long we can spend working in an institution other than the primary host institution, such as the lab or co-adviser?

This should be addressed in your sponsoring scientist statement. However, you still need to have a primary advisor, and a primary sponsoring institution. There is no limit per se to the number of co-advisors you may have. But it is important to discuss where you are getting your primary training and professional development from.

Is it a problem if the work I propose is related to (though not a duplicate of) work that is currently funded in my sponsoring scientist’s lab?

It is expected that postdoctoral fellows will do work related to the work in the sponsor’s lab, as that is the lab the fellow is getting their training and professional development in. However, we expect that the primary driver of the postdoctoral research question is the postdoctoral fellow, and not the sponsoring scientist. However, duplicate work can not be submitted. If you have a question about this, please reach out to a program officer for further clarification.

For Competitive Area 2, does our research need to span across all three listed hierarchical levels? Example, from molecules to organisms to ecosystem, or can we propose something that spans across two levels?

You only need to address two of the hierarchical levels. It is important that you explicitly describe the different levels you are looking at and make the argument that your data will be relevant to multiple levels of study.

If you are co-advised, should each sponsoring scientist submit a biosketch?

Yes. However, regardless of the number of sponsors or locations, sponsoring scientist(s) must describe and integrate their contributions to your training and professional development in a single sponsoring scientist’s statement.

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