Did you miss it? March 2022 Virtual Office Hours Recap: Research Experiences for Teachers Sites in Biological Sciences (BIORETS) 

The slides are available here.  

The Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) held a Virtual Office Hour on March 17, 2022 on the Research Experiences for Teachers Sites in Biological Sciences (BIORETS, NSF 21-584). Program officers active in this opportunity attended to discuss the funding opportunity and answer questions.   

BIORETS supports biological research experiences for middle school teachers, high school teachers and/or community college faculty. BIORETS projects may be based in a single discipline, or they may offer interdisciplinary experiences. A goal for BIORETS projects is to leverage the participants’ research experiences for curriculum development and ultimately enrich their classroom teaching practices to the benefit of their students. 

Some questions that were posed to attending program officers included: 

Is an external evaluator required, or could an internal person serve in this capacity? The evaluator needs to be external to the project – that is, not a PI/co-PI/Senior Personnel with a vested interest in the outcome of the proposed project.  However, the evaluator could be from a different department or college at the same institution, and still meet the standard of independence.  The quality of the proposed evaluation plan and the evaluator’s ability to implement that plan are centrally important.  

Is it allowable to include support for a coordinator since BIORETS projects include coordinating many people and resources? The BIORETS program has certain requirements for the budget allocation to directly support teacher participants.  Other than that restriction, the ways that a project uses funds to support the program are only limited by NSF’s general rules for budgets and what can be considered reasonable costs to implement the project.   

Is it allowable to have some parts of a BIORETS project be virtual to accommodate schedules for participants? Must all activities take place in person? The research experiences for teachers can be conducted in a virtual environment. However, the depth, authenticity, and intellectual rigor of the research experience must be equivalent to the experiences possible in a shared physical environment. Some research topics and methodologies will lend themselves to virtual interactions more naturally, and some may be much harder to implement online. 

Is it allowable to use non-NSF federal programs already in place at an institution for recruitment or full implementation of a BIORETS project? It may make sense to leverage programs already in place at an institution – building on an existing foundation can aid sustainability of project efforts and improve local buy-in.  However, it should be clear from the proposal what new activities are being proposed, how the NSF-funded budget would be used to drive those activities, and what proposed project components depend on existing programs.  In general, proposing projects that have critical dependencies on outside programs (that may or may not persist) is unwise.  

For another opportunity to ask questions about the BIORETS program, join the Virtual Office Hour of the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) on June 8, 2022. 

Please join us on April 21st, 2022 for our next IOS Virtual Office Hour when we will talk about the Leading Culture Change Through Professional Societies of Biology (BIO-LEAPS) program (NSF 22-542).