On April 19, 2022, program officers from the Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI) within the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) at the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) held a virtual office hour session discussing the Building Research Capacity of New Faculty in Biology (BRC-BIO) and Leading Culture Change Through Professional Societies of Biology (BIO-LEAPS) programs.
The staff provided a brief overview of BRC-BIO and BIO-LEAPS and were available for questions. Below are some of the questions asked with their answers. If you have project-specific questions, please reach out to a DBI program officer (and if you are an awardee, please contact your cognizant program officer).
The slides from this Office Hour are available here:
Q: Could I share a one-page statement with BRC-BIO officers to check if my idea fits well with the goal of this funding program?
A: Yes! We strongly encourage all PIs to submit a one pager to the program officers, and to do so early so that they can receive feedback. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Can you please clarify when your tenure appointment start date would need to be to make you eligible to apply to the BIO-BRC program. Can you take COVID disruptions into account for this?
A: Lead PIs must be at the Assistant Professor rank (or equivalent), with service at that rank for no more than 3 years by the proposal submission date. The solicitation was written to account for made to take COVID impact in the deadline. However, any formal leave may be subtracted if certified by the Department.
Q: Does prior NSF support make you ineligible for the BRC-BIO program?
A: Prior NSF support is not a criterion or an exclusion, so it does not affect your eligibility.
Q: If an assistant professor moves location, does their clock re-start for BRC-BIO?
A: Yes, if you move location and you are now an Assistant Professor at a new institution, then your clock does restart.
Q: If the PI belongs to an under-represented group, can they still apply? Or is the requirement of being at an MSI/PUI institution necessary as well for the BRC-BIO?
A: There is no eligibility requirement related to the PI’s identity. Eligibility is linked to the institution type and the appointment of the PI.
Q: Could we apply to the BRC-BIO solicitation along with the RUI solicitation, or other solicitations such as CAREER or core solicitations?
A: These are distinct opportunities at NSF. Submission to the BRC-BIO solicitation does not affect your ability to submit and be funded by other mechanisms for other projects. Projects submitted to different opportunities should not overlap.
Q: Does the PI need to have an appointment in a Biology department in order to apply to the BRC-BIO program? Or can faculty in Biomedical Engineering, Biochemistry, Chemistry or Engineering apply?
A: You do not need to have an appointment in a Biology department. Eligibility is not based on the department. However, the content/research question of the proposal needs to be focused on basic biological questions. If you have some question about the appropriateness of your project idea please reach out to email@example.com.
Q: For BIO-BRC, will there be a chance for resubmissions if time permits? And are there expectations for preliminary data?
A: Yes, provided you are still eligible you can resubmit. There is no expectation for preliminary data. However, reviewers consider feasibility so it is wise to motivate and justify the project with reference to the existing literature.
Q: Is there a formal resubmission opportunity for unfunded proposals and, if so, does the three year eligibility used for the resubmission or only the original submission?
A: There is no separate resubmission process. If your proposal is declined, and you revise your proposal in response to the reviews you receive, and you are still eligible to apply to the BRC-BIO program, then we welcome a proposal from you.
Q: For BRC-BIO, it was mentioned that it could be a collaborative grant with other institutions, including R1s. Do all co-PIs need to be within the 3-year appointment window?
A: No. Only the PI needs to be in the eligibility window. For co-PIs, there are no restrictions.
Q: Could you expand a little more on the impact statement please?
A: We really would like you to express the importance of this award for meeting the goals of the solicitation. That is, to help establish you as a faculty member in both your teaching and research missions. In addition, how does funding this project support the expansion of research opportunities for students at your institution, and/or helps to build infrastructure for research for your institution. Essentially, we want to you tell us why this project fits the solicitation well in this statement.
Q: If my PUI institution has a track record of successfully obtaining NSF RUIs/CAREERs — does this mean that my institution may not qualify?
A: If your institution is classified as a PUI, then you are eligible to apply.
Q: Does being an Adjunct Professor count towards the clock for BRC-BIO?
A: No. Adjunct Professor status does not impact the clock.
Q: For the BRC-BIO solicitation, are there any plans for supporting career development of early-career scientists in industry?
A: This solicitation is specific for PIs in academia. However, they are allowed to have collaborators and partners who are early career scientists in industry. The lead PI, however, cannot be in industry.
Q: Is there a limit for the total number of attempts to submit to BRC-BIO?
A: No, as long as you are eligible each time.
Q: If an institution is both an R1 and an MSI are they eligible for BRC-BIO?
A: The R1 designation would exclude such an institution.
Q: For new PUI faculty considering the BRC-BIO, how do you define that their workload has both research and educational responsibilities? Most of the PUI faculty have heavy teaching loads without specific research. What is needed to demonstrate that they do research. For example, if the PUI does research during summer or as part of authentic research experiences in the classroom, does that count as research?
A: We understand that faculty at PUIs have heavy teaching loads. Summer research, or research during the academic year both count. Even if the individual has not yet begun their research and wishes to use this award to support their research initiation, they are eligible. The PI needs to demonstrate that the research funded by this award will be supported by the department (which should be expressed in the institutional letter) and can lead to sustained research efforts in the future (including future submissions to the NSF).
Q: Would equipment costs greater than $50,000 be considered (when a justification is provided in the proposal)?
A: Yes. If you have further questions about this please email firstname.lastname@example.org. .
Q: How long can a BRC-BIO award last?
A: Awards are for 3 years, but no-cost extensions are available in precisely the same terms associated with other awards at the NSF.
Q: Can BRC-BIO award applications be less than 3 years, for example 2 years?
A: Yes, up to 3 years.
Q: For the BIO-LEAPS solicitation, can you define more specifically the term ‘professional societies’ in this context? Can you give examples? Do research centers within a research university count if it has broad faculty and student membership?
A: The term “professional societies” is open in terms of which institutions can apply, as we did not want to be prescriptive about this term. It is more important to leverage the idea of the special capabilities that professional societies have. Meaning, a broad reach to the scientific community that can facilitate significant culture change within the discipline.
Q: Does BIO-LEAPS plan to fund proposals coming out of a single society, or are proposals required to have a collaboration of several societies to be competitive?
A: This is more about broadness of reach. You are not required to have a collaboration of several societies. However, reviewers will be assessing the reach of the proposal to affect culture change broadly.
Q: Are there other funding mechanisms for funding small/regional societies’ meetings through NSF that have a focus other than extensive culture change initiatives?
A: Core programs do generally support workshops under some circumstances. Please reach out to your program officer of the relevant program to discuss these possibilities.
Q: Should RaMP proposals be linked to an existing funded research project or piece of instrumentation?
A: There is no such requirement for applying to RaMP.