Funding Opportunity: NSF Releases Solicitation for Biology Integration Institutes

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) released the second solicitation for its Biology Integration Institutes (BII) as part of its continued effort to facilitate a “unification of biology.” BII will support research collaborations across disciplines, both within and beyond biology, that address an overarching biological theme and will fund awards of up to $12.5 million over five years with the opportunity for a five-year extension.

The BII effort is linked to the broader “Reintegrating Biology” initiative launched in 2018 with the goal of integrating biological disciplines to address larger, more complex biological research questions that fall beyond the scope of BIO’s core programs.  The new BII has eliminated the Design track that supported “workshops, development of partnerships, exploratory analyses, engagement of stakeholders” and focuses solely on the Implementation track.

Proposed institutes should identify a theme to guide proposals based on “critical, cross-cutting biological questions that are larger in scope than typical proposals to BIO Core Programs.” While the goal of the program is to integrate the biological disciplines, any scientific field may be included to address the theme of the proposal.  Proposals should also highlight approaches to how students learn biology, how diverse participation can be expanded, and how the discipline can be advanced.  Additionally, the solicitation encourages proposers to give thought to “strategies that leverage rapid advances in cyberinfrastructure and other technologies to bridge and integrate across subdisciplines and make resources accessible, re-usable, and adaptable for unanticipated purposes.”

The solicitation identifies, and further explains, several “Hallmarks of Successful Proposals”:

  1. “The proposed research plan must tackle critical, cross-cutting biological questions that are larger in scope than typical proposals to BIO Core Programs.
  2. The institute must have outcomes that are greater than the sum of its parts.
  3. The proposed research plan should include a range of objectives and research approaches that are clearly integrated under a coordinated vision.
  4. Investigative teams should be optimally configured.
  5. Investigative teams should be diverse.
  6. The management plan should promote the synthetic nature of the project.
  7. The proposal must include a robust, integrated education and training component.
  8. The proposal should attempt to leverage prior NSF investments in biological research, training, and cyberinfrastructure resources, as appropriate.
  9. Broadening participation must be inherent to the project as well as in the institute leadership.
  10. Outreach activities should include a clear assessment plan.
  11. Public access and timely release of project outputs should be clear and routine.
  12. International collaborations, if included, must be fully justified.”

Total Funding and Award Size: Up to $15 million is available in FY 2021 for approximately 4-6 Cooperative Agreements.  Cooperative Agreements will be for five years with no more than $12.5 million over the initial five-year period.  There is a possibility for the Cooperative Agreement to be extended another five years, subject to evaluation and funding availability.

Due Dates: Full proposals are due by January 13, 2021 by 5:00 PM submitter’s local time. Letter of Intent is no longer required.

Eligibility: Eligible applicants under this opportunity include institutes of higher education, non-profits, and research labs.  There is no limit on the number of proposals per organization; however, individuals may only be designated as PI or Co-PI, on one proposal. Additionally, proposals that involve multiple organizations must identify a lead organization and a single proposal describing the entire project must be submitted by that organization with a budget form submitted for each subawardee.

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