Macrosystems Biology and NEON-Enabled Science (MSB-NES)

Monday, December 3, 2018

NSF 19-538

Summary of Program Requirements

Synopsis of Program:

The Macrosystems Biology and NEON-Enabled Science (MSB-NES): Research on Biological Systems at Regional to Continental Scales program will support quantitative, interdisciplinary, systems-oriented research on biosphere processes and their complex interactions with climate, land use, and invasive species at regional to continental scales as well as training activities to enable groups to conduct Macrosystems Biology and NEON-Enabled Science research.

Proposers are encouraged to use NEON resources, and proposals for substantive and innovative NEON-enabled research will be prioritized for funding. Substantive NEON-enabled projects rely on data and/or samples collected by NEON, co-locate research activities at NEON sites, and/or develop tools that will explicitly enhance the processing, use, and/or analysis of NEON data or collections within the context of Macrosystems Biology research questions.

Cognizant Program Officer(s):

Please note that the following information is current at the time of publishing. See program website for any updates to the points of contact.

  • Michael W. Binford, telephone: (703) 292-7346, email: mbinford [at] nsf [dot] gov

  • Daniel S. Gruner, telephone: (703) 292-7946, email: dgruner [at] nsf [dot] gov

Award Information

Anticipated Type of Award: Standard Grant

Estimated Number of Awards: 18 to 21

Award sizes are anticipated to average less than $1,000,000. The amount of funding is approximate, pending availability of funds.

Anticipated Funding Amount: $9,000,000

Categories of Awards:

Macrosystems Research Awards (MRA). Awards to advance Macrosystems Biology research broadly, including substantively NEON-enabled research, and innovative training to conduct this research. These awards may be up to 5 years in duration; 3 to 5 awards are anticipated. These awards will average $1,000,000.

Macrosystems Small Awards (MSA). Awards employing targeted approaches to advance understanding of regional to continental-scale processes, or addressing a theoretical challenge such as scaling or teleconnections, and prioritizing the use or development of NEON data and/or infrastructure. Proposals from early career investigators remain a priority. These awards will be limited to $300,000 and up to 3 years in duration; 13 to 18 awards are anticipated.

Budget and duration should reflect the scope and complexity of the work proposed. Proposal budgets should be generated with attention to the amount of funding available and the expected number of awards.


Eligibility Information

Who May Submit Proposals:

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

  • Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) - Two- and four-year IHEs (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members. Special Instructions for International Branch Campuses of US IHEs: If the proposal includes funding to be provided to an international branch campus of a US institution of higher education (including through use of subawards and consultant arrangements), the proposer must explain the benefit(s) to the project of performance at the international branch campus, and justify why the project activities cannot be performed at the US campus.
  • Non-profit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research labs, professional societies and similar organizations in the U.S. associated with educational or research activities.

Who May Serve as PI:

There are no restrictions or limits for either MRA or MSA proposals.

Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization:

There are no restrictions or limits.

Limit on Number of Proposals per PI or Co-PI:

There are no restrictions or limits.

Proposal Preparation and Submission Instructions

A. Proposal Preparation Instructions

  • Letters of Intent: Not required
  • Preliminary Proposal Submission: Not required
  • Full Proposals:

B. Budgetary Information

  • Cost Sharing Requirements:

    Inclusion of voluntary committed cost sharing is prohibited.

  • Indirect Cost (F&A) Limitations:

    Not Applicable

  • Other Budgetary Limitations:

    Other budgetary limitations apply. Please see the full text of this solicitation for further information.

C. Due Dates

  • Full Proposal Deadline(s) (due by 5 p.m. submitter's local time):

         February 25, 2019

PhD Student Opening: Arkansas State University – Lorence Laboratory

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


The Lorence Laboratory at Arkansas State University invites applications for a PhD student to join the project “Comparative Genomics and Phenomics Approach to Discover Genes Underlying Heat Stress Resilience in Cereals” funded by the National Science Foundation. This work takes places as part of a vibrant collaborative research consortium involving faculty at University of Nebraska Lincoln, Kansas State University and Arkansas State University.  The project will create the foundational knowledge needed to improve wheat and rice yields under stressful environments. Trends at the global level, regional level, and farm level point to an increase in minimum night temperatures that is significantly higher than the rate of increase in maximum day temperatures. Increases in night temperatures significantly decrease the grain yield and quality of major crops such as rice and wheat, which, together, provide over 50% of the caloric intake for humans worldwide. To ensure global food security, there is an urgent need to improve crop resilience to high night temperature stress-induced yield and quality losses. This project builds upon complementary expertise and infrastructure in Nebraska, Kansas, and Arkansas to develop novel research infrastructure and make discoveries that ultimately lead to development of higher yielding and resilient cultivars for U.S. farmers.


Specific Duties:

The student will work as part of a multidisciplinary team testing the effect of high night temperature stress in the physiology and yield of a rice diversity panel that will be grown in experimental plots in Arkansas. This student will also explore the link between ascorbic acid content and chalkiness in the grain of this rice diversity panel. High-throughput plant phenotyping approaches will be a key component of this project.



We are seeking a highly motivated student with knowledge (MS) in plant biology, plant biochemistry, biotechnology or related field and hands-on experience conducting field work with plants. A good command in both oral and written English is required. Additional experience working with cereals is a plus. Ability to work well with a team, self-motivate, work independently as well as possess high enthusiasm for science are the most important attributes we are looking for.

The selected candidate will receive 3 years of stipend and tuition. This student will be also be provided unique cross-training opportunities as well as resources to participate at regional, national and international meetings.

Applications should include a cover letter, curriculum vitae, and names of contact information of 3 references. Please send applications to Prof. Argelia Lorence at alorence [at] astate [dot] edu. The application deadline is March 30, 2018 to start this position in June 2018. Evaluation of candidates will be based on the letter, quality and relevance of previous studies and publications (if any).



For additional details about this position, please contact Dr. Lorence (alorence [at] astate [dot] edu).

Dimensions of Biodiversity FY2018

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Program Solicitation
NSF 18-512

General Information

Program Title:

Dimensions of Biodiversity

Synopsis of Program:

Despite centuries of discovery, most of our planet's biodiversity remains unknown. The scale of the unknown diversity on Earth is especially troubling given the rapid and permanent loss of biodiversity across the globe. The goal of the Dimensions of Biodiversity campaign is to transform, by 2020, how we describe and understand the scope and role of life on Earth.

This campaign promotes novel integrative approaches to fill the most substantial gaps in our understanding of the diversity of life on Earth. It takes a broad view of biodiversity, and focuses on the intersection of genetic, phylogenetic, and functional dimensions of biodiversity. Successful proposals must integrate these three dimensions to understand interactions and feedbacks among them. While this focus complements several core programs in BIO, it differs by requiring that multiple dimensions of biodiversity be addressed simultaneously, in novel ways, to understand their synergistic roles in critical ecological and evolutionary processes, especially pertaining to the mechanisms driving the origin, maintenance, and functional roles of biodiversity.

The Dimensions of Biodiversity program includes partnerships with the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) of Brazil, and the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa in fiscal year 2018.

Investigators wishing to inquire about the suitability of potential projects for Dimensions of Biodiversity are encouraged to email a brief summary and contact information to Dimensions [at] nsf [dot] gov.

Proposal Preparation and Submission Instructions

A. Proposal Preparation Instructions

  • Letters of Intent: Not required
  • Preliminary Proposal Submission: Not required

B. Budgetary Information

  • Cost Sharing Requirements:

    Inclusion of voluntary committed cost sharing is prohibited.

  • Indirect Cost (F&A) Limitations:

    Not Applicable

  • Other Budgetary Limitations:

    Not Applicable

C. Due Dates

  • Full Proposal Deadline(s) (due by 5 p.m. submitter's local time):

         February 28, 2018

Dear Colleague Letter: NSF Accepting Proposals Related to Hurricane Irma

Friday, September 29, 2017

NSF 17-135

September 18, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

With the second major hurricane – Hurricane Irma – to strike the United States, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and its staff remain strongly committed to supporting the people and institutions affected by these storms. Now that the consequences of these disasters are upon us, new science and engineering questions are being raised. Through this Dear Colleague Letter, NSF encourages the submission of proposals that seek to address the challenges related to Hurricane Irma. NSF also will support fundamental science and engineering research projects whose results may enable our country to better prepare for, respond to, recover from, or mitigate future catastrophic events. Research proposals relating to a better fundamental understanding of the impacts of the storm (both physical, biological and societal), human aspects of natural disasters (including first responders and the general public), emergency response methods, and approaches that promise to reduce future damage also are welcome.

With NSF support, researchers have a long history of advancing understanding and knowledge about natural and built environments, as well as the relationship between humans and their environments in the context of large-scale disasters. Fundamental science and technological advancements are vital to our continued improvement of disaster preparation and restoration. For example, NSF-funded research has advanced understanding of the mechanisms that cause levee failures, gained new knowledge on the performance of critical infrastructure, and supported efforts to improve flood water decontamination. Researchers also have improved our ability to better predict, with longer lead times, the path of tropical cyclones. NSF support for researchers has led to the deployment of underwater rescue robots in an effort to safeguard emergency workers, developed real-time flood potential models, conducted effectiveness assessments of oil plume dispersants, assessed and advised better hazard-resistant buildings, and developed liquefaction mitigation methods in response to earthquakes. In addition, NSF-funded researchers have made ground-breaking discoveries about the long-term psychological and emotional impacts of national disasters.

Multiple proposal mechanisms are available to conduct new research related to Hurricane Irma.

  • RAPID: Proposals focusing on projects with severe urgency with regard to availability of, or access to, data, facilities or specialized equipment, including quick-response research on natural disasters. RAPID proposal project descriptions are expected to be brief and may not exceed 5 pages, with a maximum request of $200K for one year, although many are much smaller. See the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) Chapter II.E.1 for instructions on preparation of a RAPID proposal. (
  • EAGER: Proposals to conduct fundamental research representing exploratory work in its early stages on untested, but potentially transformative, research ideas or approaches. This research may be considered especially "high risk-high payoff" in the sense that it, for example, involves radically different approaches, applies new expertise, or engages novel disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspectives. EAGER proposal project descriptions are expected to be brief, and may not exceed 8 pages. Requests may be up to $300K and with a maximum award duration of two years. See PAPPG Chapter II.E.2 for instructions on preparation of an EAGER proposal (
  • Supplements to existing awards: Small amounts of supplemental funding to existing awards may be requested. See PAPPG Chapter VI.E.4 for instructions on preparation of a supplemental funding request (

To submit a RAPID, EAGER or supplemental funding request, investigators must contact the NSF Program Officer most closely related to the proposal topic before submitting, to determine if the proposed activities meet NSF's guidelines for these types of submissions or whether the proposed work is more suitable for submission as an unsolicited proposal. The contact people listed below, one from each NSF directorate, can help investigators identify the appropriate Program Officer.

Proposals submitted pursuant to this DCL may request the use of NSF-funded advanced computing resources such as Blue Waters or Stampede2. In these cases, investigators must contact the NSF Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (OAC) prior to submission of the proposal.

Proposals may be submitted at any time.

Investigators with general questions are advised to contact one of the following Directorate liaisons:

BIO: Elizabeth Blood, eblood [at] nsf [dot] gov, (703) 292-4349

CISE: David Corman, dcorman [at] nsf [dot] gov, (703) 292-8745

EHR: David Campbell, dcambel [at] nsf [dot] gov, (703) 292-5093

ENG: Joy Pauschke, jpauschk [at] nsf [dot] gov, (703) 292-7024

GEO: Mike Sieracki, msierack [at] nsf [dot] gov, (703) 292-7585

MPS: John Gillaspy, jgillasp [at] nsf [dot] gov, (703) 292-7173

OAC: Ed Walker, edwalker [at] nsf [dot] gov, (703) 292-4863

SBE: Robert (Bob) O'Connor, roconnor [at] nsf [dot] gov, (703) 292-7263

Signed by:

James Olds, AD BIO

James Kurose, AD CISE

James Lewis, AD EHR

Dawn Tilbury, AD ENG

William Easterling, AD GEO

James Ulvestad, AD MPS

Fay Cook, AD SBE

Suzanne Iacono, Office Head, OIA

New Missouri Transect Newsletter!

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Missouri EPSCoR Newsletter is now out.  You can read it online here:

Read both issues of The Transect here.

If you want a hard copy, please send a request at missouriepscor [at] missouri [dot] edu (subject: The%20Transect%20newsletter) .

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


  1. What are the major changes in submission?
  2. Why was the "Submission Target Date" changed to “Proposals Accepted Anytime”?
  3. When can I submit a proposal?
  4. Is there a 90-day waiting period for proposal submission from the time the solicitation was released?
  5. Do I need to confirm that the date I want to submit my proposal is acceptable?
  6. Is there a preferred time of year to submit a proposal in response to a "No Deadline" solicitation?
  7. Is there any advantage to submitting at or near the beginning of a fiscal year?
  8. Will this new submission plan affect the Merit Review process?
  9. When will I be notified of the funding recommendation for my proposal?
  10. May I submit a one-page description to the Program Directors to make sure the proposal is a program fit for PGRP?
  11. What is the “Collaborations and Other Affiliations” workbook and how should it be submitted?


  1. My proposal was declined and I’ve decided to collaborate with someone else who would be a better choice for PI. May that person resubmit the proposal?
  2. May I be PI on more than one proposal submitted to this PGRP solicitation in a 12-month period?
  3. May I be a co-PI on more than one proposal submitted to this solicitation?
  4. May I be a PI on a proposal and co-PI on another proposal submitted to this solicitation?


  1. It looks like proposals that focus on developing tools or community resources are no longer invited in this new solicitation. Is this true?
  2. I would like to submit a proposal to the ECA opportunity during my tenure year. Am I still eligible?
  3. I would like to submit a proposal to the ECA (or the MCA) opportunity. Am I required to include a co-PI who will serve as a mentor (for the ECA) or facilitate training in plant genomics (for the MCA)?
  4. I would like to submit to the ECA (or the MCA) opportunity, but my institution does not have a tenure process. My institution has a similar process called a “rolling five” appointment [or some other type], but true tenure is not available. Am I still eligible to apply to either opportunity?


  1. How can I communicate my comments about the changes in this solicitation?
  2. What if my question is not addressed by these FAQs?

The following set of questions and answers refer to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the PGRP Program Solicitation NSF 16-614: Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP) . They are not intended to be a modification of the Program Solicitation.

Before preparing PGRP proposals, please read the PGRP (NSF 16-614) solicitation and refer to the general information about NSF proposal submission including the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) submission guidelines available at
FAQs about FastLane, the NSF site for submitting proposals, can be found at


  1. What are the major changes in submission?

    Instead of a "target date" or "deadline," proposals may now be submitted at any time.

  2. Why was the "Submission Target Date" changed to “Proposals Accepted Anytime”?

    PGRP is evaluating whether increasing submission opportunities will have different outcomes from a single competition per year with a preset target date. These include:

    • Attracting new ideas and participants into the PGRP program
    • Encouraging the development of transdisciplinary collaborations
    • Offering the community flexibility to select a submission date that allows time for building effective collaborations
    • Increasing the quality of proposals submitted 
  3. When can I submit a proposal?

    Proposals are accepted anytime.

  4. Is there a 90-day waiting period for proposal submission from the time the solicitation was released?

    No. There is no waiting period. You may submit a proposal as soon as the solicitation is released.

  5. Do I need to confirm that the date I want to submit my proposal is acceptable?

    No. Any submission date is acceptable.

  6. Is there a preferred time of year to submit a proposal in response to a "No Deadline" solicitation?

    No. However, it is important for project planning purposes to note that proposals submitted after April of each fiscal year will be recommended for funding with start dates after October 1, the first day of the next fiscal year.

  7. Is there any advantage to submitting at or near the beginning of a fiscal year?

    No. The selection of a submission date should be based on the best time for the PI(s) to submit a high quality proposal.

  8. Will this new submission plan affect the Merit Review process?

    No, the ability to submit proposals any day, any time does not affect the review process. PGRP will continue to provide ad hoc and/or panel review for all proposals submitted. We expect to hold several panels per year in response to proposal submission load.

  9. When will I be notified of the funding recommendation for my proposal?

    PGRP intends to recommend proposals for award or decline within six months of submission.

  10. May I submit a one-page description to the Program Directors to make sure the proposal is a program fit for PGRP?

    Yes. We encourage the PI of a project to contact a PGRP Program Director before submitting a proposal to ensure program fit.

  11. What is the “Collaborations and Other Affiliations” workbook and how should it be submitted?

    The Collaborators and Other Affiliations workbook provides information to help Program Directors select reviewers who do not have any potentially biasing relationships (personal or professional) with either the PI/co-PI(s) or the submitting institution(s). Information regarding collaborators and other affiliations must be provided for each individual identified as senior project. A workbook template is found at and instructions for filling out the workbook are included in the solicitation and on the first tab of the template. Per the instructions in the PGRP solicitation, the workbook must be prepared using the designated template and submitted as a Single Copy document with the proposal. After submission of the proposal, the workbook should be sent as an attachment to an email message to the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS), using the email address provided in the template.


  1. My proposal was declined and I’ve decided to collaborate with someone else who would be a better choice for PI. May that person resubmit the proposal?

    Yes, but he/she may not resubmit within 12 months counted from the date of submission of the declined proposal. The proposal would be returned without review if it is resubmitted within 12-months regardless of the PI composition.

  2. May I be PI on more than one proposal submitted to this PGRP solicitation in a 12-month period?

    No. An investigator may serve as PI on only one proposal during a 12-month period, counted from the date of submission of a proposal as PI.

  3. May I be a co-PI on more than one proposal submitted to this solicitation?

    Yes. You may be a co-PI on more than one proposal. However, investigators should be aware that time commitments are considered in the review process of all proposals. Overly committed co-PIs may reduce reviewer confidence that project objectives can be achieved.

  4. May I be a PI on a proposal and co-PI on another proposal submitted to this solicitation?

    Yes. This is acceptable under the new solicitation.


  1. It looks like proposals that focus on developing tools or community resources are no longer invited in this new solicitation. Is this true?

    Definitely not! The area called RESEARCH-PGR still invites proposals that focus solely on tool and resource development in addition to proposals that focus on genome-wide scale hypothesis-driven research. Please contact PGRP Program Directors if you have additional questions.

  2. I would like to submit a proposal to the ECA opportunity during my tenure year. Am I still eligible?

    You are eligible for up to 4 years from the start of the tenure appointment. If you have questions about your eligibility, please contact a PGRP Program Director for guidance.

  3. I would like to submit a proposal to the ECA (or the MCA) opportunity. Am I required to include a co-PI who will serve as a mentor (for the ECA) or facilitate training in plant genomics (for the MCA)?

    No. You are not required to include a co-PI. However, reviewers will be asked to comment on mentoring and/or training. For that reason, it is in your best interest to articulate how you will be mentored and/or trained. Please refer to the solicitation for additional details.

  4. I would like to submit to the ECA (or the MCA) opportunity, but my institution does not have a tenure process. My institution has a similar process called a “rolling five” appointment [or some other type], but true tenure is not available. Am I still eligible to apply to either opportunity?

    Yes. Equivalent career stages are eligible. Please contact a PGRP Program Directors if you need further clarification.


  1. How can I communicate my comments about the changes in this solicitation?

    Please email your comments to the Plant Genome Research Program at dbipgr [at] nsf [dot] gov. PGRP wants to hear about and will share with IOS and BIO your experiences, opinions, suggestions for improvements, and other comments about the changes in this solicitation.

  2. What if my question is not addressed by these FAQs?

    Please ask us! Contact information for PGRP Program Directors and management in IOS can be found in the solicitation and at the Division website (

Dear Colleague Letter: FY 2017 Innovations at the INFEWS Funding Opportunity on Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Water

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

NSF 17-013

October 7, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

In 2010, NSF established the Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES)1 investment area to lay the research foundation for decision capabilities and technologies aimed at mitigating and adapting to environmental changes that threaten sustainability. Some SEES investments advanced a systems-based approach to understanding, predicting, and reacting to stress upon, and changes in, the linked natural, social, and built environments. In this context, the importance of understanding the interconnected and interdependent systems involving food, energy, and water (FEW) has emerged. In 2015, NSF Issued a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL): SEES: Interactions of Food Systems with Water and Energy Systems2 to accelerate fundamental understanding and stimulate basic research on the connections and interdependencies among these three systems.

Through this Dear Colleague Letter (DCL), issued by the Divisions of Chemistry (CHE) and Materials Research (DMR) in the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences and the Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems (CBET) in the Directorate for Engineering, the NSF aims to specifically focus on advancing knowledge of the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles; the production and use of fertilizers for food production; and the detection, separation, and reclamation/recycling of nitrogen- and phosphorus-containing species in and from complex aqueous environments.

Humanity is reliant upon the physical resources and natural systems of the Earth for the provision of food, energy, and water. It is becoming imperative that we determine how society can best integrate across the natural and built environments to provide for a growing demand for food, water and energy while maintaining appropriate ecosystem services. Factors contributing to stresses in the food, energy, and water systems include increasing regional, social, and political pressures as result of land use change, climate variability, and heterogeneous resource distribution. These interconnections and interdependencies associated with the food, energy and water nexus create research grand challenges in understanding how the complex, coupled processes of society and the environment function now, and in the future. There is a critical need for research that enables new means of adapting to future challenges. The FEW systems must be defined broadly, incorporating physical processes (such as built infrastructure and new technologies for more efficient resource utilization), natural processes (such as biogeochemical and hydrologic cycles), biological processes (such as agroecosystem structure and productivity), social/behavioral processes (such as decision making and governance), and cyber elements. Investigations of these complex systems may produce discoveries that cannot emerge from research on food or energy or water systems alone. It is the synergy among these components, in the context of sustainability that will open innovative science and engineering pathways to produce new knowledge and novel technologies to solve the challenges of scarcity and variability. This DCL, which is part of the Innovation at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems (INFEWS) portfolio,3 addresses emerging science, technology, and engineering relevant to food, energy and water systems.

The availability of nitrogen, phosphorus, and water are the three main factors that limit our ability to produce enough food to feed the growing population of the planet. The nitrogen cycle is one of the most significant biogeochemical cycles on Earth, as nitrogen is an essential nutrient for all forms of life. Although freely available in the atmosphere as dinitrogen, access to fixed forms of nitrogen constitutes, in many cases, the most limiting factor for plant growth. The industrial production of ammonia for fertilizers via the current Haber-Bosch process is an energy intensive process that consumes 1-2% of the world's annual energy supply. For these reasons, the need for advanced catalytic methods for the reduction of dinitrogen to ammonia remains a requirement for sustainability in the food, energy and water systems cycle.

Similarly, phosphorus is also essential to plant and animal nutrition. Approximately 80% of the world's economically-viable phosphorus is obtained from "phosphate rock" that is localized in a single place. Phosphate rock is a more concentrated commodity than petroleum, and like petroleum, the world's supply of phosphorus is threatened by political instability and monopolistic economic practices. Management of phosphorus is a bit of a paradox because, while the world may face a shortage of phosphorus-containing fertilizer later this century, many regions are currently afflicted with an oversupply in both inland and coastal waters causing algal blooms that can produce extremely dangerous toxins that can sicken or kill people or animals, create dead zones in the water, raise treatment costs for drinking water, and hurt industries that depend on clean water. The ability to provide field-deployable, inexpensive, and environmentally-and energetically-sustainable sensors for real-time application and monitoring of nitrogen or phosphorus-containing species to agriculture while reducing the amount of these species in waste or run-off streams would benefit food production, benefit water quality, and result in significantly less energy consumption.

The increased demands for fresh water for crops/livestock and energy production will significantly add to the current stress on non-renewable groundwater resources. It is estimated that seven billion people in sixty countries will experience water scarcity by 2050 at current rates of water usage. This will place additional stress on both food supplies and energy consumption rates. These needs necessitate scientific and technological innovations that will address global problems that center on fresh water. In particular, the food production system generates waste streams that are characterized by high concentrations of organic matter, nitrogen- and phosphorus-containing species in water. New approaches are needed to overcome the cost of inefficient and energy-intensive detection, sequestration, and removal/recycling of such species while also preserving water quality.

This component of the NSF Innovations at the Nexus of the Food, Energy and Waters Systems (INFEWS) investment is designed to advance a new understanding of the role of the chemistry of nitrogen, phosphorous, and water in the nexus of food, energy and water systems, "INFEWS: N/P/H2O." While fundamental science and engineering research will underpin solutions to these areas of national and international need, it must also be recognized that technological innovations themselves require resources for development and deployment. Ostensible solutions to the challenge of N, P, and water supply cannot be premised on the assumption that energy, chemical feedstocks, and other required resources will be available in great abundance.

In FY 2017, the topics of interest in INFEWS: N/P/H2O include innovative, fundamental research to:

  1. advance catalytic methods for the reduction of dinitrogen to ammonia that permit reductions in the energy requirements for fertilizer production;
  2. develop new sensing modalities that will lead to field-deployable, inexpensive, and environmentally and energetically sustainable sensors for real-time monitoring of nitrogen- or phosphorus-containing species as they move, via agricultural run-off, to other water systems; and
  3. develop methods for the selective and efficient detection, sequestration/separation, and recycling of nitrogen and phosphorous species from water (For proposals submitted to CHE, proposals should focus on gaining an understanding of the supramolecular recognition and binding of environmentally-relevant nitrogen- and phosphorus-containing species.); and
  4. develop new materials to optimize the availability of N and control the utilization of P while managing effluents within the context of sustainable energy and preservation of our natural resources.

Proposals in response to this investment area should be submitted to the existing program of interest in –CHE, DMR and CBET within the existing submission windows (deadlines) of the programs. The proposal title must begin with "INFEWS N/P/H2O:". Other than the proposal title, the cover page should be prepared as a regular unsolicited proposal submission to the program. The most competitive proposals will address how the project conceptually advances innovations at the nexus of the food, energy, and water systems and sustainability of the proposed solution, i.e., the monetary and energetic costs for translation and scale-up.

Proposals are welcome from either multiple or single investigators. Interdisciplinary proposals that involve principal investigators traditionally supported by the three participating divisions (CHE, DMR, and CBET) are also welcome. Such proposals should be submitted to the most relevant program in CHE, DMR, or CBET. CHE and DMR welcome proposals responding to this Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) in all programs, while CBET welcomes proposals responding to this DCL in the Environmental Engineering, Environmental Sustainability, or Catalysis and Biocatalysis Programs. Please consult the Divisional webpages for more details on specific interests.4,5,6

The challenges at the food, energy, and water nexus are frequently international, and experts around the globe have relevant expertise and resources. Proposals including international collaboration are encouraged when those efforts enhance the merit of the proposed work. The U.S. team's international counterparts generally should have support or obtain funding through their own national or regional sources.

Proposals may be submitted in combination with other solicitations. For example, if there are strong collaborations with industry, the Dear Colleague Letter: Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI)7 can be used in conjunction with this effort. Similarly, proposals may be submitted in combination with the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program,8 Facilitating Research at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions: Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) and Research Opportunity Awards (ROA)9 solicitation. These proposals should be submitted to the appropriate solicitation and add INFEWS to the title (For example, RUI: INFEWS N/P/H2O: Name of your proposal). Other mechanisms such as EAGER10 and INSPIRE11 may also be appropriate, but principal investigators are required to check with the cognizant program officers for additional guidance. For general questions about INFEWS, email the listed representatives in either CHE,12 DMR,13 or CBET.14

To see examples of awards made under the Food-Energy-Water investment area, visit the NSF Award Abstracts Database,15 and enter 'food, energy, and water' in the 'Search Award for:' dialogue field. Alternatively, please visit the webpages of the disciplinary programs of interest in the participating divisions. Under each program, find the link to recent awards made in that program and look for those that contain `FEW' in the proposal title.

We are excited by the opportunities in the INFEWS area and encourage our communities to contribute to our sustainable future by participating in this important funding investment area. If interested, please contact the Program Officers listed in References 11, 12 and 13, rather than the signatories of this DCL, for assistance.

Fleming Crim
Assistant Director
Directorate for Mathematical & Physical Sciences

Pramod Khargonekar
Assistant Director
Directorate for Engineering


  1. Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability NSF-Wide Investment (SEES):
  2. SEES: Interactions of Food Systems with Water and Energy Systems DCL:
  4. Division of Chemistry webpage:
  5. Division of Materials Research webpage:
  6. Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems webpage:
  7. GOALI:
  8. CAREER:
  9. RUI:
  10. EAGER
  11. INSPIRE:
  12. CHE Program Officers: Tim Patten (tpatten [at] nsf [dot] gov), Suk-Wah Tam-Chang (stamchan [at] nsf [dot] gov), Lin He, (lhe [at] nsf [dot] gov) and Colby Foss (cfoss [at] nsf [dot] gov).
  13. DMR Program Officers: Alex Klironomos (aklirono [at] nsf [dot] gov), Andrew Lovinger (alovinge [at] nsf [dot] gov), and Sean L. Jones (sljones [at] nsf [dot] gov).
  14. CBET Program Officers: William Cooper (wcooper [at] nsf [dot] gov), Bruce Hamilton (bhamilto [at] nsf [dot] gov) and Robert McCabe (rmccabe [at] nsf [dot] gov).
  15. NSF Awards Search:

NSF announces $55 million toward national research priorities

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

EPSCoR RII Track-2 awards build coalitions, train workforce

Researcher Stephen Foulger works at the Advanced Materials Research Lab in Anderson, South Carolina. Credit and Larger Version

Press Release 16-095

August 22, 2016

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has made 11 awards totaling $55 million aimed at building research capacity to address fundamental questions about the brain and develop new innovations at the intersection of food, energy and water systems.

The cooperative agreements are through NSF's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) as part of its Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-2 investment strategy. RII Track-2 builds national research strength by initiating collaborations across institutions in two or more EPSCoR jurisdictions. These four-year awards support 27 institutions in 18 eligible jurisdictions.

"These awards represent a tremendous value for the scientific community, as they foster research into some of the most pressing issues facing U.S. society while simultaneously supporting collaborative research programs and workforce development," said Denise Barnes, head of NSF EPSCoR. "Whether by expanding our knowledge of the brain, or by improving how our water, food and energy systems work efficiently together, these projects hold the promise of transforming our daily lives."

The RII Track-2 awards support research while also requiring award recipients to invest in developing a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce -- particularly of early-career faculty researchers.

The project titles, principal investigators, lead institutions, and funding totals for the 11 awards are listed below.

Research into fundamental questions about the brain

Probing and Understanding the Brain: Micro and Macro Dynamics of Seizure and Memory Networks
Leonidas Iasemidis

Institution: Louisiana Tech University

This collaborative project between institutions in Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama will investigate the origins and impacts of brain seizures associated with epilepsy, a disorder affecting 1 percent of the global population. Epilepsy can serve as a window into brain function because it causes different types of impairment depending on the location of seizures within the brain. In this project, researchers will conduct long-term, in-depth recording and mathematical analysis of neural activity in humans and animals to uncover the causes of seizures, as well as the impacts of seizures on higher brain functions such as memory.

The Creation of Next-Generation Tools for Neuroscience -- Noninvasive Radioluminescence Approaches to Optogenetics
Stephen Foulger

Institution: Clemson University

Optogenetics is a transformative method in neurobiology that uses light to precisely activate neurons. The method is currently limited by the inability of visible light to penetrate deep within the brain. This project brings together a group of uniquely qualified chemists, engineers and neuroscientists from South Carolina, Alabama and New Mexico to overcome that limitation by creating a novel, non-invasive method for optogenetic brain stimulation involving low-dose x-ray activation of radioluminescent nanoparticles.

Neural networks underlying the integration of knowledge and perception
Jared Medina

Institution: University of Delaware

This project brings together an interdisciplinary team of neuroscientists from Delaware, Nevada and Nebraska to probe the complex relationship between existing knowledge and new information obtained through sensory perception. The project establishes collaborative research capacity in neuroimaging, neurostimulation and neuropsychology among the three jurisdictions that will provide training and research support to students and faculty, and serve as a model for multi-institutional consortia.

Neural Basis of Attention
Peter Tse

Institution: Dartmouth College

Focused attention is critical to countless daily tasks, from operating machinery to maintaining safety in high security settings. This project forms a consortium of neuroscientists in New Hampshire, Montana, Rhode Island and Nevada to develop a greater understanding of attention. The goal of this project is to develop a unified model of attention that applies across multiple domains, from single cells to large brain circuits. The consortium expects to establish lasting collaborations, build industrial partnerships, expand the neuroscience workforce, and extend educational opportunities to traditionally disadvantaged groups.

Research at the nexus of food, energy and water

Sustainable socio-economic, ecological, and technological scenarios for achieving global climate stabilization through negative CO2 emission policies
Benjamin Poulter

Institution: Montana State University

This project establishes a coalition to examine the consequences of an economy based on bioenergy and "carbon capture and sequestration" (the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide from power plants and at other sites so the greenhouse gas is kept out of the atmosphere) in the Upper Missouri River Basin. The team, which includes researchers from Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota, seeks to identify a framework of carbon mitigation strategies that would minimize conflicts with food security and clean energy production priorities.

Sensing and Educating the Nexus to Sustain Ecosystems (SENSE)
David White

Institution: Murray State University

This project expands and enhances the capabilities of Kentucky and West Virginia to study surface water, providing a foundation for understanding how agriculture and hydropower production affect water quality. Experts in engineering and aquatic ecology will install more than 30 new measurement systems in hydropower reservoirs and agricultural watersheds across the two states. Studies will focus on identifying the presence, extent and timing of harmful algal blooms as they relate to water quality.

Emergent Polymer Sensing Technologies for Gulf Coast Water Quality Monitoring
Jason Azoulay

Institution: University of Southern Mississippi

This collaboration between Mississippi and Alabama develops advanced polymer-based sensing technologies to detect pollutants in Gulf Coast aquatic ecosystems. Assessing and managing sustainable resource utilization in the Gulf Coast requires rapidly deployable, highly sensitive, specific sensors. The project combines approaches from chemistry, biochemistry, geochemistry, marine science, computational science, polymer science, and engineering to achieve this vision.

Center for a Sustainable Water, Energy, and Food Nexus (SusWEF)
Nelson Cardona-Martinez

Institution: University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez

SusWEF initiates a strategic research and education partnership between researchers in Puerto Rico and South Carolina to address problems at the nexus of food, energy and water systems. The project aims to identify technologies that will lead to more sustainable agricultural practices, increased energy efficiency, and improved soil and water quality.

Improving Water Management, Treatment and Recovery in Oil and Gas Production
Edward Peltier

Institution: University of Kansas Center for Research Inc.

More than 20 billion barrels of water are contaminated in the United States each year as a byproduct of unconventional oil and gas production. This project establishes a collaboration between researchers in Kansas and West Virginia to develop innovations to reduce the need for fresh water in oil and gas production and more safely reuse or dispose of the water used in those operations.

Collaborative Research and Education on Synergized Transformational Solar Chemical Looping and Photo-Ultrasonic Renewable Biomass Refinery
Hongtao Yu

Institution: Jackson State University

This consortium among researchers in Delaware, Mississippi and Wyoming studies the technological potential of novel biochar-based materials for carbon dioxide capture, water purification, and food production. Biochar, a plant-matter based charcoal, is a byproduct of some biofuel production. This project would develop technologies to improve the sustainability of biofuel production and use.

Assembling Successful Structures: Lignin Beads for Sustainability of Food, Energy, and Water Systems
Dorin Boldor

Institution: Louisiana State University Agricultural Center

This partnership between Louisiana and Kentucky researchers seeks to produce advanced materials from lignin, a class of organic polymers found abundantly in plants and particularly in wood. Its goals include deriving value-added chemicals, byproducts of biofuel production that can serve as alternatives for chemicals on which industry depends. The interdisciplinary team of chemists and engineers will perform laboratory studies and computer simulations to provide the foundation for future technologies to enhance sustainable food, energy and water systems.


Media Contacts
Rob Margetta, NSF, (703) 292-2663, rmargett [at] nsf [dot] gov

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

Useful NSF Web Sites:
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Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Missouri Transect is excited to circulate the first Dear Colleague Letter for the NSF INCLUDES program.

The full solicitation can be found here.  Some important deadlines to keep in mind are:

  • Preliminary Proposal Due Date(s) (required) (due by 5 p.m. proposer's local time): April 15, 2016
  • Full Proposal Deadline(s) (due by 5 p.m. proposer's local time): June 24, 2016

Access the Dear Colleague Letter here or read below:

February 22, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

I write to invite your participation and leadership in the NSF INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) initiative.

Today, NSF is releasing the first NSF INCLUDES solicitation, which aims to fund approximately 40 Design and Development Launch Pilots at ~$300,000 each. I encourage you to enlist partners (e.g., industry, foundations, states) who can help leverage and expand support beyond the Federal dollars. More importantly, in FY 2017, all of these Pilot projects will be eligible to apply for full NSF INCLUDES Alliances, proposed in the President's FY 2017 Budget Request at a level of $12.5 million each for five years.

Diversity – of thought, perspective, and experience – is essential to achieving excellence in 21st century science and engineering research and education. And, there is a business case for diversity. A recent McKinsey & Company study found that companies were 15% more likely to gain financial returns above their national industry median if they were in the top quartile of gender diversity; the probability climbed to 35% for companies in the top quartile for racial/ethnic diversity.

NSF INCLUDES is a comprehensive national initiative to enhance U.S. leadership by seeking and developing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) talent from all sectors and groups in our society through access and engagement. It aims to improve the preparation, increase the participation, and ensure the contributions of individuals from groups that traditionally have been underserved and/or underrepresented in the STEM enterprise. The U.S. science and engineering workforce can thrive if women, blacks, Hispanics, and people with disabilities are represented in percentages comparable to their representation in the U.S. population. According to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, we have a long way to go to reach that goal. We can achieve national STEM diversity and its benefits to our Nation if we commit to national STEM inclusion.

Many people, projects and organizations already have achieved significant successes toward greater STEM inclusion. Yet, according to a National Academies report, many larger challenges still remain: under-preparation and lack of opportunity for members of all demographic groups to become "STEM-capable"; under-resourcing as seen in growing disparities of access to quality learning and technology; and under-production of STEM graduates from the above-mentioned sectors.

The goal of NSF INCLUDES is to achieve significant impact at the national scale within the next ten years in transforming STEM so that it is fully and widely inclusive. That will require strong partnerships and collaborations among many organizations and people in the overall STEM talent development eco-system. You and your organization can play a large role in this initiative.

Collaborative alliances, spanning education levels, public and private sectors, and including new partners, will need to be developed, expanded, organized and built by leveraging state-of-the-art knowledge on scaling of social innovations. For example, "Collective Impact" approaches that incorporate key success determinants such as common agendas, shared measurements, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communications, and backbone support organizations have the potential to yield large-scale progress towards NSF INCLUDES goals. The latest knowledge from the science of broadening participation provides a strong foundation, and novel systems approaches and designs for achieving scale will be critical. I invite you to read the growing literature on the positive impacts of diversity in teams, and the subtle, but pervasive, biases that can diminish our collective action.

As university and college presidents and chancellors, and heads of organizations funded by the National Science Foundation, I urge you to take a direct and personal role in helping to build these collaborative alliances – with ambitious goals for STEM inclusion – at a national scale. There is rich variation across the Nation in terms of local resources, talent and expertise as well as in the specific roadblocks and challenges you may face. We leave the specific nature of each alliance and the ambitious goals it will aim to achieve to you to define. NSF's goal is to achieve impact at scale on STEM inclusion. We need your leadership if we are to succeed.

I invite you to become a leader in the NSF INCLUDES initiative. To learn more about this exciting program, go to


France A. Córdova


Hunt, V., Layton, D., & Prince, S. (February, 2015). Diversity matters. McKinsey & Company.

Kania, J., & Kramer, M. (2011). Collective impact, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter. Retrieved from

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (2015). Women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation.

Committee on Underrepresented Groups and the Expansion of the Science and Engineering Workforce Pipeline, Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy, & Policy and Global Affairs (2014).

Expanding underrepresented minority participation: America's science and technology talent at the crossroads. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.