June 8, 2017

Dear Dr. Olds:

I write in response to the June 6, 2017 announcement that the Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO) is terminating the Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (DDIG) program. The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) has already heard from a number of our members who are concerned by this decision.

It is widely thought that these small grants have provided critical support to graduate students, offering a valuable launch pad for many research careers. We appreciate the growing administrative burden associated with this popular program. The increased interest in the DDIG program may be a result of the decreased funding rates in the core programs and the growing challenge for supporting student-initiated research projects. Indeed, the increased workload on National Science Foundation program staff seems to be one indication of the importance of the DDIG program.

AIBS respectfully requests that BIO reconsider the decision to terminate this important program. One solution to the administrative burden could be to limit the number of proposals that any single institution can submit, thereby asking the community to play an important role in alleviating the demands on the program officers. This idea has virtues and risks, of course, and developing a fair system that recognizes disparities among institutions in the size of faculties would require thought and discussion with the community. AIBS would welcome an opportunity to meet with you to explore whether modifications to this program or a new program might be developed to provide graduate students the support they need to initiate an independent research program.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this matter.

Sincerely,

Robert Gropp, Ph.D.
Co-Executive Director

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