Created by on 09/19/2011

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) was among the first organizations to meet with the new Assistant Director for the Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO) at the National Science Foundation (NSF). John C. Wingfield, PhD, who began his appointment September 6th, met with FASEB President-Elect Judith S. Bond, PhD, to outline his priorities for the directorate, learn about FASEB’s advocacy efforts, and discuss a recently revised proposal review policy that will be implemented within select divisions of NSF BIO.

An environmental endocrinologist at the University of California Davis, Dr. Wingfield also served as the Division Director of IOS from September 2010 until his current appointment. Some of his highest priorities for NSF BIO include improving public outreach to adult non-scientists, developing workshops to introduce new technologies to scientists from different disciplines, and broadening participation of underrepresented minorities in NSF programs.
Because of the growing number of research proposals submitted by investigators, NSF BIO’s Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) and Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) hope to reduce the increasing burden on reviewers by instituting an annual funding cycle in place of the current biannual system. The new policy requires grant applicants to submit a pre-proposal in January for initial review, and only investigators with the best pre-proposals will be invited to submit full proposals to the program in August. In addition, each investigator will be allowed to submit no more than two pre-proposals per year.

NSF believes the updated policy will benefit investigators whose initial proposals are rejected by providing them the necessary time to work with their program officers, thoroughly consider review comments, and thoughtfully revise their proposals before resubmitting an application. “With resources declining and the numbers of submitted proposals rising, we have designed our new annual funding system to reduce the burden of proposal reviews on the research community and to extend the time between proposal submissions in order to enable principal investigators to incorporate reviewers’ suggestions and the panel summary into their proposals,” Dr. Wingfield explained. “The overall number of proposals funded per year is expected to remain the same as in recent years,” he noted. Recognizing that a level of concern and confusion regarding the changes exists within the scientific community, Dr. Wingfield urged investigators with questions to contact the division program officers who are prepared to offer assistance. This month, DEB and IOS are also offering webinars to explain the purpose and details of the new policy, and archived webcasts of both sessions will be made available on the division websites. BIO plans to monitor outcomes of the new application process, and the policy may be revised in future funding cycles if necessary.