Ever since BIO moved to no deadlines for core solicitations, PIs continually ask the question “When is the best time for me to submit my proposal?” The short and simple answer is when the proposal is ready!
How do you know when that proposal is ready? We recommend that you have colleagues both in and outside of your immediate field read the proposal and ask them for as straightforward, and as brutal, comments as possible. It’s easier to hear constructive criticism and feedback from those we know, than from reviewers who are strangers to us. Strongly consider the feedback you receive from your colleagues, because if they identified an issue then most likely reviewers will as well!
Do not feel like you need to rush to get a proposal submitted before the end of the federal fiscal year (FYI- the federal fiscal year runs from 1 October to 30 September).
In terms of aiming to submit for quick review, fear not! Program Directors (PDs) are setting up panels as soon as enough proposals have been submitted to run a panel and our goal is always to get a proposal reviewed and a decision made by 6 months after submission. While, we won’t run a panel with a small number of proposals (so we don’t overburden both reviewers and NSF staff) we can review a proposal by using ad hoc reviewers only to keep time to decision as close to 6 months as possible. Unfortunately, we cannot tell you the exact date of the panels, but you can be assured that multiple panels are occurring within the federal fiscal year for each Core Program within BIO.
Finally, it is always a good idea to contact a Program Director managing the Core Program you intend to submit prior to a submission. This gives them the opportunity to say either “Yes, that area/idea/research plan fits with our Program!” or “Well, I think that might fit better over in Program ____.” The PDs will always help to try and find the right home for your proposal if it is appropriate for NSF funding consideration.
To look at a previous post on a similar question, check out this March 2019 blog post.