Upcoming Changes to Proposal Review by IOS Core Programs

What is changing?

frog goodbye
IOS says Goodbye to preliminary proposals…

Starting in 2018, IOS will no longer use the two-step preliminary proposal followed by invited full proposal submission process for its core programs. Instead IOS will release a new core programs solicitation in the latter half of 2018 that calls for full proposal submission without any deadlines for awards in fiscal year 2019 (Frequent readers may recall that the Federal fiscal year starts on 1 October, so FY19 is 1 October, 2018 – 30 September, 2019).

As noted in the  Dear Colleague Letter  (and associated FAQs ) announcing this change, the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) will implement a “no-deadline”, full-proposal mechanism for receiving and reviewing proposals submitted to core programs in all 4 divisions, the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB), the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS), the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB), and to the programs in the Research Resources Cluster of the Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI). This change will allow BIO to encourage interdisciplinary research that crosses biological scales and bridges current divisional boundaries.

For those who may not be familiar with the no-deadline system, under a “no-deadline” review system, a proposal can be submitted on any day, at any time.  Investigators are then free to submit a proposal when it is as well-developed and competitive as possible, and when it is convenient for them. Submitting proposals at any time allows investigators to have more time to prepare proposals, build collaborations, to think more creatively without the pressure of a deadline, and it supports better work-life balance by removing deadline pressure.

IOS continuously strives to improve its merit review practices. The Abt evaluation of the preliminary proposal process suggested that the use of preliminary proposals had met many of our goals, but it had also created some unintended consequences. The report also indicated that having a single deadline per year was a significant community concern. When we instituted the preliminary proposal process, it was only one of several merit review pilots going on across NSF.  At the same time, the Directorate for Geosciences piloted a no-deadlines review process which you may have read about in Science. During 2017, while IOS was waiting for the evaluation report on the preliminary proposal system, the Plant Genome Research Program in IOS piloted a no-deadlines solicitation ( see NSF 16-614 and our earlier posts here and here ). In both cases, the communities reacted positively to the opportunity to submit any time.  Eliminating deadlines increased proposal quality while decreasing the number of submitted proposals. Proposal submissions were spread more evenly over the course of the year which reduced the burden on institutions and the reviewers. Thus, the no-deadline mechanism of proposal review seems to meet many of the goals we had with the preliminary proposal review system without some of the unintended consequences.

What about proposals already submitted over the summer?

CAREER proposals already submitted to the July 2017 CAREER deadline and those invited full proposals submitted to the August 2017 IOS deadline will be reviewed this fall and funded using Fiscal Year 2018 funds. (FY 2018 starts 1 October, 2017 and ends 30 September, 2018).  PBI proposals submitted this September will be reviewed in early 2018 and funded later that year. In late 2017, IOS will also release a new solicitation for the EDGE program with its own deadline in calendar year 2018. The Plant Genome Research Program will continue to accept proposals at any time. The entire division will continue to fund RCNs, EAGERS, RAPIDs, workshops and supplements. Contact a Program Director if you have questions about any of these opportunities.

What if I have more questions?

More information can be found in the Dear Colleague Letter , associated FAQs , and upcoming webinars and outreach events. Program officers are standing by for questions about this current round of review. If you have comments or questions about the change to no-deadlines please direct them to BIOnodeadline@nsf.gov