Tag: NSF

NSF Rapid Response Grants available for oil spill research

The National Science Foundation issued a dear colleague letter last week encouraging researchers to use the agency’s Rapid Response Grants mechanism to request funding for studies of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and its effects.

If you’re wondering just how rapid the Rapid Response grants are, take note: the agency announced a Rapid Response award to UC Santa Barbara just 31 days after the start of the spill to study the effects of dispersants on microbial degradation of oil.

NSF: Data management plans to be required for applicants

Starting in October 2010, applications to NSF must include a supplementary two-page about this over the summer.

The new requirement is designed to help NSF meet its obligations for more open research under the Open Government Directive.

NSF, NIH, Commerce Dept. announce i6 Challenge

The three agencies have teamed up to introduce yet another “innovation” competition (PDF)–in this case it’s to support “innovative ideas to drive technology commercialization and entrepreneurship.”

The 6 in i6 apparently refers to the six teams that will receive $1 million awards for their projects from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and an additional $6 million that is set aside for related funding through the NIH and NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

The deadline for applications to EDA’s part of the program is July 15, 2010. A conference call is scheduled for potential applicants on May 17th.

More information is available at EDA’s i6 site.

NSF inspector curbs fraud investigations for porn complaints

The Washington Times reports that NSF’s inspector general’s office spent so much time, though it’s not clear how many investigations are ongoing or how many specifically involved employees viewing pornography at work.

Maybe when Blue Waters comes online, they can devote some computation to developing better site-blocking algorithms for the agency…

The weekly news drop

If Representative Lipinski’s National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2010 survives the legislative process intact, NSF will receive a 19% increase in funding over 2010 levels next year (compared to a 7% increase under the president’s proposed budget). The Act calls for a 55% increase in funding over five years to $10.7 billion in 2015. As always, writedit provides a good overview.

Jeff Mervis of AAAS’s ScienceInsider asks whether NSF is taking enough risks.

Former NSF director Guy Stever died this week. The current director comments on the passing of his friend and colleague.

Yudhijit Bhattacharjee of ScienceInsider reports on the National Science Board’s decision to leave information on the state of American’s knowledge and understanding of evolution out of the 2010 report on Science and Engineering Indicators. (Full story is here if you have access to Science.) PZ Myers over at Pharyngula stirs the pot a bit more.

NIH Director Francis Collins rebuked the American College of Pediatricians for using language from one of his books “to make a point against homosexuality.” In this letter the group’s president points school district superintendents across the country to FactsAboutYouth.com where this article uses quotes from Dr. Collins and others to “educate” school officials.

We’re in the wrong business. The real NIH money is in staffing!

Roderic Pettigrew, director of NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, told attendees at the Design of Medical Devices conference that they’ll have to do more with less, and the key is innovation.

Meredith Wadman of Nature reports that the  WiCell Research Institute has submitted an application for NIH approval to fund research involving four Bush-era stem cell lines, including the frequently used H7 and H9 lines. Approval may come in a matter of weeks.

It’s been two weeks since the Dept. of Ed. announced Delaware and Tennessee were the only states to receive awards under the first round of Race to the Top, but you can expect it to stay in the news for a while. Some states have announced doubts about applying again, and a few have said officially they won’t pursue a piece of the remaining $3.4 billion. Others are considering extensive revisions to their applications.

At least one state is taking it’s case to the airwaves. Ed groups are making ad buys to promote New York’s application.

The VP’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, says be on the lookout for $2 billion in funding for education and training through community colleges, including funding partnership with regional industries.

Changes to the NSF MSP program

NSF published a revised program solicitation for the Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program last week with the following program changes:

  • The program now has a separate due date for Targeted Partnerships (October 14 this year). The Institute Partnerships, MSP-Start Partnerships, Phase II Partnerships, and RETA Projects are now due in July.
  • The program no longer requires that the PI on partnership proposals be a mathematician, scientist, or engineer and a college or university faculty member. In place of this requirement the solicitation now includes an additional review criterion designed to encourage involvement of math, science, or engineering faculty.
  • The definition of nonprofit organization has been tweaked under the eligibility requirements. Nonprofit organizations eligible to serve as lead on a partnership must be a “nonprofit research institute or a nonprofit professional association with demonstrated experience and effectiveness” in math or science education.
  • The maximum award for Targeted Partnership proposals has been reduced to $10 million.
  • The Research, Evaluation, and Technical Assistance (RETA) program now encourages submissions in any of the three elements rather than requiring all three.

Due to the late release of the program revisions, MSP proposals are not eligible under the Innovation through Institutional Integration (I3) program this year. Presumably they will be eligible next year if the new solicitation is posted in time.

The total funding for the program has increased by $7 million to $42 million, and NSF anticipates making 27 awards. Last year the program reserved $5.5 million for I3 projects, so the late announcement may work to the benefit of those institutions that aren’t in a position to apply under I3.

Quoting Gandhi

In a post earlier this year, literary agent Nathan Bransford recounted the experience of a friend who reviews grant proposals for a living. In summary, “Apparently everyone who applies for a grant quotes Gandhi!”

Nathan goes on to explain that in writing queries to find an agent, just as in writing grant proposals, sometimes it helps to step back and ask what everyone else is likely to do and then do something different. Certainly, if you stretch too far toward the different end of the spectrum, you risk alienating the prospective agent (or reviewers and program officers), but the point is still valid.

Good writing is rarely sufficient to get a project funded (though it doesn’t hurt!), and most funding agencies and foundations aren’t keen on funding yesterday’s projects that have just been repackaged in today’s buzzwords. Increasingly, grant makers are asking for explicit statements within proposals describing how a proposed idea or specific approach is innovative, and the profusion of programs to fund innovation further underscores this focus (e.g., herehere, herehere, here, here, and half a dozen other places).

The NIH proposal writing guide presents one approach to distinguishing your research from other work out there:

Is Your Idea Original?

  • Check the literature to verify that the exact project you are considering has not been done before. Search the literature and the NIH CRISP database to minimize overlap with similar studies.
  • Assess the competition. See which other projects in your field are being funded, and consider turning competitors into collaborators to improve the strength of your proposal.
  • Carve out a niche that will allow you to significantly advance knowledge in your respective field. 

Did you catch the “consider turning your competitors into collaborators” bit? That’s not advice you hear every day, and it may be easier said than done. But it may be the best approach if you consider what other people would do and discover someone’s already making headway in your chosen area of research. Or if that’s not appealing, follow the last bullet, and make your own place–be innovative and original, and stake your claim.

Finally, whether you choose to collaborate or innovate or both, put the book of quotations back on the shelf, or at least save the Gandhi quotes for the first draft of your response to reviewers on an unfunded submission (you know the one I’m talking about–that visceral, heated response that makes you feel better but never makes it anywhere near your resubmission).

Here are two Gandhi quotes to get you started:

When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it–always.


It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.

But should you despair of ever succeeding, recall this one:

Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.


On March 26th, NSF announced changes to its long-standing Course Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) program. Among the changes is a new name that more accurately reflects the direction the program has taken in recent years. It’s no surprise that the new name - Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (TUES) – is intended to “emphasize the special interest in projects that have the potential to transform undergraduate STEM education.”

TUES has new review criteria designed to encourage applicants to propose projects that involve the development of “exemplary material, processes, or models that enhance student learning and can be adapted easily by other sites” and projects that “involve a significant effort to facilitate adaptation at other sites.”

Approximate due dates, award amounts, and descriptions of Type 1 (Exploratory) and Type 2 (Expansion) projects are essentially unchanged from the most recent CCLI announcement, but the new program name and review criteria were likely posted just in time to prompt some program design changes by groups preparing for the Type 1 submission dates in late May.

New program page: Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (TUES)

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