NSF Announces Major Changes to Grant Solicitation Process

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will no longer require pre-proposals for certain biology research programs. Instead, the Directorate for Biological Sciences is implementing a no deadline, full-proposal review process for four of its five divisions.

The new process starts in January 2018, but does not include the Division of Emerging Frontiers, which runs the MacroSystems Biology and Early NEON Science program and the Origin of Life program. All other biology research programs will be impacted. Consequently, the Division of Environmental Biology and the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems will discontinue their preliminary proposal mechanisms.

According to the agency, “By accepting proposals at any time, investigators will have greater opportunities to prepare their proposals, build strong collaborations, and think more creatively, thereby resulting in more complex, interdisciplinary projects that have the potential to dramatically advance biological science. We anticipate that the elimination of deadlines will reduce the burden on institutions and the community by expanding the submission period over the course of the year, in contrast to the previous fixed yearly deadlines.”

The next several months will be a period of transition, during which some grant solicitations will continue under the old guidelines. For instance, the deadline for the Molecular and Cellular Biosciences solicitation is still 20 November 2017 for fiscal year 2018 grants. The new, no deadline solicitation for that program will be available in the summer of 2018 and proposals can be submitted at any time.

Learn more at https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2018/nsf18011/nsf18011.jsp.

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Weather Business Titan Nominated to Head NOAA

President Trump selected Barry Myers to serve as the Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere in the Commerce Department, a position that leads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Myers is the CEO of AccuWeather and has an educational and professional background in business. This is a significant departure from past practice. During NOAA’s 47 year existence, eight of the ten former agency leaders were scientists.

The press release from the White House about the nomination said that Myers “is one the world’s leading authorities on the use of weather information. He has given remarks at the World Meteorological Organization, World Federation of Scientists, American Meteorological Society (AMS), and many other organizations.”

The top ranking Democrat on the Senate committee that will consider Myers’ nomination has already criticized Trump’s pick. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) accused Myers of wanting to “feather their own nest” by privatizing the National Weather Service, which is part of NOAA. In 2005, AccuWeather pursued legislation with then Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) that would have prohibited federal meteorologists from providing services that competed with private companies.

Myers told reporters back in January that NOAA has a chance to “unleash” private-sector activity.

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Climate Change Skeptic Nominated to Lead White House Environmental Council

Kathleen Harnett White has been nominated to chair the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). She is director of a conservative think tank and a former chair and member of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Harnett White has been a vocal defender of fossil fuels and has questioned the science underlying climate change on numerous occasions. Among her beliefs on the matter are that “carbon dioxide has none of the characteristics of a pollutant that could harm human health” and that we don’t know the extent that humans are contributing to climate change, but “it’s not likely to be very much.”

CEQ is part of the White House and coordinates environmental efforts across the federal government. The head of CEQ is a position that is subject to Senate confirmation.

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Short Takes

  • Representative Bill Foster (D-IL) has introduced legislation to address the distribution of funding from the National Science Foundation across states. The Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, better known as EPSCoR, provides roughly $500 million a year in research funding to scientists in states and territories who receive relatively little federal funding. H.R. 3763 would change the formula for program eligibility to a per-capita basis. Currently, a state can qualify for EPSCoR funding if it receives no more than 0.75 percent of NSF’s overall annual research budget.

  • The Government Accountability Office will take up Senator Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) request to investigate potential violations of scientific integrity policies by the Trump Administration. The agency plans to begin the review in early 2018 “when staff will become available.”

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Become an Advocate for Science: Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center

Quick, free, easy, effective, impactful! Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center.

The Legislative Action Center is a one-stop shop for learning about and influencing science policy. Through the website, users can contact elected officials and sign-up to interact with lawmakers.

The website offers tools and resources to inform researchers about recent policy developments. The site also announces opportunities to serve on federal advisory boards and to comment on federal regulations.

This new tool is made possible through contributions from the Society for the Study of Evolution, Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, and the Botanical Society of America.

AIBS and our partner organizations invite scientists and science educators to become policy advocates today. Simply go to policy.aibs.org to get started.

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