February Virtual Office Hours Recap

IOS-Virtual-Office-Hours-slides-February- 2020

The Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) held a Virtual Office Hour on February 20, 2020 focused on Enabling Discovery through Genomic Tools (EDGE) Program Solicitation NSF 20-532, which has recently been updated.
EDGE is a Biological Sciences Directorate-wide opportunity with the following specifications:

  1. There are no target deadlines for submission of EDGE proposals.
  2. The solicitation has two tracks, a Functional Genomic Tools track and a Complex Multigenic Traits track.
  3. The Functional Genomic Tools track emphasizes the development of genomic tools for organisms that currently lack them. Examples include:
    • The development of mutant libraries and/or high-quality reference genomes;
    • Generalizable high-throughput phenotyping methods;
    • Innovative approaches for manipulating individual genes or multiple genes simultaneously;
    • Innovative approaches to test gene function in targeted, single cells in organisms; and
    • Innovative approaches for establishing function of single or networks of genes.
  4. The Complex Multigenic Traits track emphasizes hypothesis-driven research on topics such as:
    • Systems-level analysis of the gene regulatory networks underlying complex traits;
    • Innovative analytical approaches to linking genes and complex traits;
    • Elucidation of the causal connections across levels of biological organization that underlie complex multigenic traits; and
    • Elucidation of multi-genome/epigenome interactions with the environment, with the goal of predicting complex organismal phenotypes across contexts.

Attendees had several questions about this opportunity; some common themes were:

  • For EDGE, are major agricultural crops (maize, soybean, rice, etc.) considered to be model organisms? Would research on these crops be appropriate for submission to the EDGE program?
    Many crop plants are genome-enabled and would be considered model systems. The Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP) may be more appropriate for proposals focusing on crops systems. Contact the Program Directors in EDGE and/or PGRP with your specific questions.
  • What does “genomically-enabled” mean for EDGE proposals? Just because there is a reference genome, for example, doesn’t mean that useful genomic manipulation methods (e.g. viral gene delivery) have already been developed.
    Any species that does not currently have particular genetic tools or resources available that could drive research in new directions are eligible for consideration for EDGE proposals.
  • Do you support the establishment of genetic engineering techniques in Peromyscus, bats, Naked mole rats, and cotton rats, respectively?
    This question is similar to the previous question, and the answer is the same. Any species that does not currently have particular genetic tools or resources available that could drive research in new directions are eligible for consideration for EDGE proposals.
  • Is a ‘hybrid’ approach across the two tracks advisable, i.e. while applying to the Functional Genomic Tools track addressing an exemplary, yet specific, hypothesis within one of the aims to illustrate the impact of functional enablement for the organism?
    The two tracks have different emphases, and there is no problem with having “tool development” proposals that contain experiments testing hypotheses, or with having “hypothesis-driven” proposals that contain some degree of tool development. The track selection should be based on the overall emphasis of the proposal (is it more about tools or about hypothesis-testing?). If in doubt about which track is more appropriate, please seek the advice of a Program Director.
  • If an EDGE proposal is collaborative, across several US institutions and a non-US institution, is a Project Manager required/good idea?NSF does not require local project managers; it is up to the team to decide whether a project manager is the best course of action for complex, collaborative proposals. However, a clear and effective management plan should be included in a proposal for a complex, collaborative project.
  • Does the NSF have any ongoing partnerships with non-US institutions that could contribute to an EDGE proposal? The EDGE program, like many other IOS programs, accepts NSF-BSF proposals (collaborative proposals between US and Israeli researchers), as detailed in the EDGE solicitation.  However, there are currently no foreign funding agencies that are specifically co-sponsoring collaborations with foreign partners in the EDGE program.

We also made a brief announcement regarding the IMAGINE 2020 Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 20-044), “Organisms in a Dynamic Environment”, which supports research that addresses how organism-environment interactions determine the emergence of complex traits. This topic will be discussed in greater depth at our next Virtual Office Hour, to be held on Thursday, March 19th, 2020 at 1 pm EDT. We will also focus on the NSF 20-045 Dear Colleague Letter “Plant Synthetic Biology”.