Washington Update

NSF BIO Shares Updates on ‘No Deadline’ Policy Metrics

By: Naomi Charalambakis
Tuesday, May 21, 2024
The National Science Foundation (NSF) Biological Sciences (BIO) Advisory Committee convened on May 8–9 to discuss a range of science policy topics pertinent to NSF’s BIO Directorate. One discussion item focused on updated data about the impact of BIO’s “no deadline” policy on proposal submissions and funding rates. 

In 2018, NSF BIO implemented a new policy that eliminated specified deadlines for funding opportunities, opting to accept applications on a rolling basis throughout the year instead. In addition to improving flexibility for investigators, this “no deadline” policy aimed to alleviate agency staff workload that was reviewing an exorbitant number of proposals at the time.  

To ensure this programmatic shift does not negatively impact the demographics of BIO applicants or the quality of peer review, the directorate collects and regularly reviews data across a series of metrics. Overall, while the adoption of a "no deadline" policy in 2018 resulted in an expected reduction in total proposal submissions, the award funding rate remained consistent at approximately 20 percent. Importantly, the new policy has not had a negative impact on the diversity of BIO's applicant pool in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, or career stage. For example, the largest cohort of investigators (approximately 40 percent) submitting proposals to the directorate continues to be mid-career investigators who completed their degrees within the past 11 to 20 years.

NSF BIO is committed to diversifying the pool of prospective applicants to ensure equal funding opportunities for all investigators from all backgrounds and institutional sizes. Improving representation of women, early-stage investigators, and historically excluded groups, such as Black or African American and American Indian or Alaska Native investigators, remains a key priority.