New & Noteworthy

Archive for August, 2011

30 Aug 2011

Some NSF BIO Programs to Limit Research Proposals, Change to Annual Funding Cycle

The National Science Foundation Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) has announced major changes to the process some of its divisions use to receive and review research proposals. The details are provided in a 15 August 2011 Dear Colleague letter from Dr. Joann Roskoski, acting director of BIO.

The letter reads:

As you are no doubt aware, the proposal workload across the Foundation has increased dramatically over the past decade. For example in IOS, the number of unsolicited proposals received into the core programs during this time period has increased 43% while the number of awards made has decreased by 11 percentage points, from 28% to 17%. Clearly, this is a burden on the Program Directors and administrative staff at NSF as well as on the community, who, in addition to submitting proposals are also called upon to serve as ad hoc and panel reviewers.

Effective immediately, the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) has initiated new procedures for the submission and review of regular research proposals to the core programs within the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB), Division of Environmental Biology (DEB), and Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS). One goal of these new procedures is to reduce the burdens on the PI and reviewer communities associated with intensifying competition for limited funds. A second is to better manage proposal processing in the face of growing proposal submission numbers while maintaining the high quality of the merit review process and resulting funding selections. In response to these challenges, three BIO Divisions are revising their procedures for submission and review of research proposals. The changes for MCB were previously announced in a new solicitation (; NSF-11-545).

DEB and IOS will both implement an annual cycle of preliminary and full proposals beginning in January 2012. Preliminary proposals will be accepted in January. Following review by a panel of outside experts, each applicant will be notified of a binding decision to Invite or Not Invite submission of a full proposal. Please note that each investigator is limited to submitting two preliminary proposals a year to either Division, whether as a PI, co-PI or lead senior investigator of a subaward.

All proposals submitted to DEB or IOS in response to the core program solicitations, and to the Research at Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) and Long-term Research in Environmental Biology (LTREB) solicitations, must pass the preliminary proposal stage. The only exceptions are LTREB Renewals.

RAPIDs, EAGERs, conferences/workshops and supplemental funding requests will continue to be accepted at any time by IOS and DEB programs. Proposals submitted in response to special solicitations (e.g. BREAD, CAREER, CNH, EEID) will remain unaffected by these new review procedures. However, OPUS and RCN proposals will only be accepted by the core programs in DEB and IOS once a year at the August deadline for full proposals.

Full details can be found in a new Program Solicitation that will be posted on each Division’s website (DEB) and (IOS). A single set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about these changes also can be found at and linked from each Division website. In addition, both IOS and DEB will be hosting webinars to provide further information, please see the Division websites for details and contact information if you have questions or concerns.

Dr. Joann Roskoski
Assistant Director (Acting)
Directorate for Biological Sciences

24 Aug 2011

NSC Alliance President Offers Commentary in Nature

NSC Alliance President, Dr. William Brown, has published a commentary, “Conservation: Invest in a DNA bank for all species,” in the 25 August 2011 issue of Nature.

An excerpt from the article:

To complement its efforts to conserve nature in the wild, the Convention on Biological Diversity should develop a comprehensive and adequately funded global effort to preserve intact genomes and viable cells for every known species and for new species as they are discovered. Super-cold freezing is the current method of choice, from a whole rhino skin to a bacterium.

Freezing tissue costs US$200–300 per species, with negligible maintenance costs. Preserving material from all the roughly 1.8 million known species would cost about $540 million. The United States spends more than $1 billion every four days on the war in Afghanistan. So less than $1 billion to preserve the DNA of all known species on Earth, with whom we share billions of years of evolutionary history, seems like good value.

To view the full article (fee may apply), please visit

19 Aug 2011

NSC Alliance Comments on IMLS’ Strategic Plan

On 19 August, the NSC Alliance wrote to Ms. Susan Hildreth, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), about the strategic planning efforts her agency is currently undergoing.  The letter highlighted the important role that collections play in our nation’s research enterprise, and called for increased IMLS involvement in several areas.

“As an important federal partner to museums, IMLS should provide financial support, training opportunities, and other resources to assist with the digitization of U.S. based scientific collections,” states the letter.  “The IMLS should also help natural history museums develop and implement disaster and safety plans that will safeguard collections and protect museum personnel and visitors in the event of a catastrophic event.”

Click here to read the letter

17 Aug 2011

NSC Alliance Writes to Senator Whitehouse about Collections

On 3 August 2011, the NSC Alliance wrote to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) about scientific collections as a source of baseline environmental data.  The letter was in response an inquiry Senator Whitehouse made on the issue of baseline data on ocean environments during a recent hearing held by the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife.

Click here to read the letter

15 Aug 2011

Statement from IMLS Director Susan Hildreth on Agency Reorganization

12 August 2011

This is an important time in the development of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. During my term at IMLS we will be implementing the reauthorization of the Museum and Library Services Act, developing a new five year strategic plan with emphasis on performance, and responding to and planning for reduced budgets.

In order to assure that we are able to achieve the many tasks ahead, I have reorganized our leadership team to draw on the core strengths of our current staff, to add capacity where I believe it is required and to align with the priorities of the Museum and Library Services Act.

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Claudia French as IMLS Deputy Director for Museum Services. Ms. French has most recently served as Director of the California Museum for History, Women and the Arts. Marsha Semmel, who has been both Deputy Director for Museum Services and Director of Strategic Partnerships will continue to serve in her critical role as Director of Strategic Partnerships.

Claudia French brings strengths in museum development and administration as well as deep experience in the foundation and non-profit worlds. For the last five years, she has successfully reinvigorated the exhibitions, programs and visibility of the California Museum for History, Women and the Arts. Originally organized as a state history museum located in Sacramento, under her leadership and with the vision of First Lady Maria Shriver, the museum has been transformed into a state-of-the-art venue hosting nationally and internationally known exhibitions.

Ms. French has served as the executive director and development director of The Gill Family Foundation in Denver, the AIDS Action Foundation in Washington, DC, as well as working in both the Baltimore Goodwill Industries and the Girl Scouts Council of the Chesapeake Bay. She has an extensive background in grants administration and program development.

Since 2006, Ms. Semmel has been serving in both the position of Deputy Director for Museums and the position of Director of Strategic Partnerships. She also held a third position when she ably led the agency as Acting Director in 2010. Ms. Semmel has immense talents and experience and has made outstanding contributions to IMLS. She is a natural collaborator. She was hired as the first-ever IMLS director of strategic partnerships, and she has built a solid reputation for IMLS with outside partners including federal agencies, foundations, social entrepreneurs, and leading thinkers. I feel it is critical for IMLS to have a full time Director of Strategic Partnerships, and I’ve asked Ms. Semmel to continue providing her highly effective leadership in this role. I also want to make sure that the museum program is receiving the attention and focus that it deserves; and thus I feel that it is important for that program to have full-time executive leadership as well.

Please join me in welcoming Claudia French to IMLS.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit

09 Aug 2011

NSF Cuts BIO Funding Slightly in FY 2011 Spending Plan

NSF has released its spending plan for fiscal year (FY) 2011. Since Congress did not finish their work on FY 2011 appropriations until mid-April, NSF and other agencies have released their spending plans with only two months remaining in the fiscal year.

NSF received $6.859 billion in FY 2011, $12.6 million less than the previous year. According to the details recently released by NSF, BIO will receive $711.6 million in FY 2011, a $3.1 million decrease. Within the Biological Sciences Directorate, the Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, Integrative Organismal Systems, and Emerging Frontiers subactivities were cut slightly. Funding for Environmental Biology and Biological Infrastructure subactivities were raised by a small amount.

More details are available at

09 Aug 2011

NSF Solicits Proposals for Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced the availability of funding to enhance and expand digitization of and access to existing biological and paleontological collections in the United States.

The solicitation differs from NSF’s first digitization grant opportunity in several ways. It provides multiple year deadlines for the program. It allows smaller requests from collections to become partners to existing networks in order to fill gaps in digitization. Funding will be prioritized to projects that fill these gaps in online access to specimen data and that integrate with ongoing digitization activities. The Directorate for Geosciences, Earth Science Division has also been added as a formal program partner.

Proposals are due by 31 October 2011. For more information, visit