IOS Virtual Office Hours August 2020 Edition: Enabling Discovery through Genomic Tools (EDGE)

Here is the slide set for the VOH.

The Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) held a Virtual Office Hour on August 20th, 2020 focused on the Enabling Discovery through Genomic Tools (EDGE; NSF 20-532) program.

The EDGE program has two tracks: the Functional Genomic Tools (FGT) track and the Complex Multigenic Traits (CMT) track. The FGT track focuses on the development and dissemination of tools for testing gene function in organisms that lack such tools. The CMT track focuses on hypothesis-driven research to connect genomes to complex phenomes in diverse organisms within the environmental, social, developmental, or genomic context in which they function.

Many excellent questions were asked in the following general areas:

  • In the EDGE program, is there a preference for developing tools for novel organisms and building communities to use these tools/organisms, or is it better to develop tools for existing model organisms where there is a community of researchers who would benefit from these tools?
    The EDGE program welcomes diversity in ideas, approaches, and communities.  The FGT track prioritizes “…tools, approaches, and infrastructure that will have significant catalytic effects to enable large numbers of investigators in organismal biology to overcome bottlenecks in directly testing gene function.” As stated in the solicitation, “The EDGE program does not provide support for development or refinement of tools for already existing model organisms such as Mus, Caenorhabditis, Arabidopsis, Drosophila, yeast, etc., or crop models such as maize, rice, wheat, tomato, soybean, etc., unless the tool developed in this organism will be used to generalize the approach or biological principle to other organisms.”  The solicitation also states, “The EDGE program does not support research on the promise that a research community will form around an organism once functional genomic tools become available as a result of investment by this program.”
  • Is it possible to submit a project that spans both the FGT and the CMT tracks in the EDGE program?  If not, how might one decide between these tracks?
    It is feasible for projects to combine tool development with tests of hypotheses about complex multigenic traits. The particular mix of these two emphases depends on the project; however, it is important to select the track most appropriately aligned with the primary focus of the project.  Whereas tool development may be included in the CMT track, testing of hypotheses, beyond proof-of-concept of the tool, should not be included in proposals submitted to the FGT track.
  • With respect to the FGT track, what balance is needed between tool development, community development, and the use of the developed tools to generate new results?
    The principal emphasis of the FGT track is on tool development with rapid dissemination of the tools to the broader community, in order to have a catalytic effect on functional genomics in communities in which lack of appropriate tools has been an impediment for causal genotype-to-phenotype studies. As stated in the solicitation, proposals submitted to the FGT track “benefit from an existing community of researchers using the target organism.”  EDGE proposals submitted to the FGT track should include experimentation to develop and test the tools. 
  • How does the FGT track differ from a Research Coordination Network?
    The FGT track is focused on the development and validation of tools, whereas RCN proposals are expected to focus on “the means by which investigators can share information and ideas, coordinate ongoing or planned research activities, foster synthesis and new collaborations, develop community standards, and in other ways advance science and education through communication and sharing of ideas.“
  • In the FGT track, how much can be budgeted for instrumentation or equipment development?
    This depends on the project, and it is not stipulated a priori by the EDGE solicitation. If there are uncertainties about budgeting, investigators are encouraged to consult with their university as well as with a member of the EDGE Working Group.  
  • With respect to the CMT track, how is a complex multigenic trait defined?
    Complex traits are those that are clearly polygenic in nature, vary quantitatively, and do not have a simple genetic control. These include many behavioral, neurological, physiological, morphological, and developmental traits.
  • For the CMT track, is it feasible to use existing tools or is it necessary to develop new tools?
    This depends on the specifics of the project. If tools exist and are available, it is preferable and efficient to leverage available resources rather than to “reinvent the wheel.”

If you have additional questions or specific research questions, please contact the EDGE working group  

Join us at our next IOS Office Hour that will be held on Thursday, September 17th, 2020 at 1 pm EDT, when IOS program directors will be available to answer questions and pass on information to investigators interested in IOS. In September, we will discuss the new Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology (PRFB; NSF 20-602).  Please encourage senior graduate students to participate in this upcoming Virtual Office Hour. Students can also email directly and request to be added to our email list for this and any Virtual Office Hour.