In early October, BIO released a Dear Colleague Letter (and associated FAQs) announcing that all its divisions including IOS will move to a “no deadlines” review process when new solicitations are released mid-year in 2018. Since then we have received many questions about the process from panelists, by email and by phone that were not covered in the FAQs released with the DCL. We expect that many of you reading the blog have the same questions, so we’re addressing them here.
Q: I understand that the move to no deadlines will start when the new solicitations are released, can we submit to the PAPPG in the meantime?
A: No. Submission to an IOS core program is through a solicitation only. Submissions to the PAPPG NSF 17-1, other than supplements, workshops, EAGERs and RAPIDs will be returned without review.
Q:Why is there so much time between the release of the DCL and the new solicitations?
A: We rushed the announcement so that PIs in IOS and DEB would not be preparing preproposals needlessly. Additionally, we are currently reviewing the invited full proposals that arrived in August 2017, which will be funded with fiscal year 2018 funds. The core programs will not have sufficient funds for core proposal competitions until the next fiscal year which begins in October 2018. We felt that it would be unfair to have researchers submitting in January when there are not funds available and they could have that additional time to get data and hone a future submission.
Q: The DCL is vague – when will the solicitation come out and how soon will we be able to submit to it?
A: We are working on finalizing the scientific focus and submission details of the IOS solicitation and harmonizing the solicitations across BIO. You should read the entire solicitation before you submit, as the details may change what you choose to do.
We don’t know exactly when the solicitations will be released but are working towards a summer release. As soon as the solicitation is active, you will be able to submit to it. Sign up for NSF updates to get announcements of new DCLs and solicitations in BIO and across NSF directly in your email or RSS feed (visit the “News” section of the NSF website and select “Get News Updates by Email or by RSS”).
Q: Without core programs to submit to, how else can I get funding?
A: There are other opportunities in IOS, across BIO and NSF that are ongoing. The new EDGE solicitation was just released and has a deadline of February 1, 2018. Ongoing IOS programs, such as PGRP, and NSF-wide programs, like CAREER and REU sites, will also continue to receive proposals. Look for additional information about Understanding the Rules of Life, one of NSF’s 10 Big Ideas for future investment.
Q: When is the best time to submit? When are the panels going to be?
A: The best time to submit is when your proposal is well-developed and ready. We expect that each researcher/research team will take the time to prepare the most competitive proposal they can and submit when it is fully ready. The no deadlines review system brings with it a lot of flexibility in how panels can be formed. There are no limits on how many panels a program can have in a year or how many proposals must be in hand to have a panel. We expect that this may allow for more focused panels and more cross-program panels. Write the best proposal you can and we will work to get it the best review that we can.
Q: Are there limits on how many proposals a researcher can submit?
A: We are working on those details now – stay tuned. You may wish to sign up for NSF alerts to get announcements of new solicitations and DCLs in your email or RSS feed. See above for details.
Q: How long will it take from the time we submit until we hear about a decision?
A: We will still be using written ad hoc and panel review to advise the program directors in their decision making, so we expect that most researchers will continue to receive a decision within six months as before. The experience of the Plant Genome Research Program that has been piloting no deadline submission in IOS is that 90 percent of the decisions are out in less than six months.
Q: What will happen to proposals that come in at the end of the fiscal year? Can they be funded?
A: Review of proposals is not tied to the timing of the fiscal year. Proposals that come in late in the fiscal year can be reviewed and funded in the next fiscal year. For example, it is November now and the 2018 fiscal year just started in October (federal fiscal years run October 1 to the following September 30). We are currently reviewing the last invited full proposals from the preliminary proposal system that were submitted in August 2017, the previous fiscal year. These invited full proposals will be funded in the coming months with the money available for the 2018 fiscal year.
Q: Won’t the program run out of money later in the year, so we’ll need to submit at the beginning of the fiscal year?
A: As we did a little over 5 years ago when we ran two rounds of review per year, we can budget the money to be spent across the year. Additionally, as we described above, proposals can be held for review and/or funding across fiscal years. So, there is no need to tie your submission to the fiscal year, just submit when your proposal is at its best!
As always, if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact a program director.