I3: Hints for a New PI Interested in Applying for NSF funding

Dear New PI,

Congratulations! You’ve gotten yourself a faculty position. This is a fantastic accomplishment and one you should be extremely proud of!

But now, you need to start thinking about ways to maintain support for your research laboratory. After a quick Google search for NSF funding opportunities, you might feel completely overwhelmed and not know where to start as someone new to the NSF world. 

No worries! We’re going to give you some helpful hints for someone new to NSF, with specific attention to the Directorate of Biological Sciences and IOS.

  1. Sign up to receive updates from NSF.  You can do that HERE. Make sure you select the options for Funding Opportunities and Updates, Due Date Reminders, and Events from the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO)!
  2. Set up to follow the blogs related to your research area! BIO Buzz Blog and the IOS Blog are excellent sources of information! You can sign up to follow them both and/or any of the blogs posted by other Divisions in BIO.
  3. Know what the PAPPG is! The PAPPG (which stands for Proposals & Award Policies & Procedures Guide) provides all the rules and regulations regarding how to prepare and submit proposals as well as the requirements for administration and monitoring of awards (the NSF Proposal Preparation and Submission Guidelines is Part I and the Award, Administration, and Monitoring of Grants and Cooperative Agreements is Part II). If you are new to NSF, start by reading the PAPPG introduction and Part I. You can find the PAPPG HERE.
  4. Learn some NSF 101s. NSF has posted resource materials to help individuals learn a little more about the required elements of NSF proposals, including the equal importance of intellectual merit and broader impacts. You can find these resources HERE.
  5. Take a peek into the NSF Merit Review process. Having knowledge of the review process at NSF will be invaluable as you think about proposal submissions. Information on the NSF merit review process can be found HERE. There is also a 6-minute video that NSF put together on the merit review process. Finally, NSF has created a short reviewer orientation video that is accessible to anyone! Take some time to watch “The Art and Science of Reviewing Proposal”.
  6. Write a 1-pager: Write a summary of your research area and the goals of your new laboratory. Even better, write the equivalent of a decent draft of what you see as the Project Summary page of your first grant submission (background, hypothesis, goals, specific aims, etc.). You can attach either or both documents in your email introduction to an NSF Program Director (PD).
  7. Identify your NSF fit: NSF is divided into eight Directorates that support fundamental science and engineering research and education, and use-inspired and translational research. Each Directorate is then subdivided into several different Divisions. Divisions can then be further subdivided into various programs or clusters that focus on even more specific research areas. Try to figure out which Directorate and Division and Program/Cluster your research best aligns with. A good place to start is HERE. And don’t worry if this is difficult for you to identify, because that’s where a Program Director can help you.
  8. Contact a Program Director (PD): Once you think you know the Directorate, Division and Program/Cluster that your research would align with, send a PD in that Program/Cluster an email and include the 1-pager you’ve created! We would recommend you first send one email to a specific PD or to a specific program/cluster email alias. You don’t need to send to five PDs at once to see if your research fits in their program/cluster. We will do that on our side!  Ultimately, we want to make sure you are guided to the proper Division and Program/Cluster so that your future submission will be appropriately reviewed.
  9. Write your NSF Biosketch: If you haven’t created an NSF Biosketch before, it’s a good idea to start that document now. Be sure to check out the NSF-approved formats for the biographical sketch that can be found HERE.

One final point to reiterate. Please, please, please, never hesitate to contact a Program Director! Our job is to help the PI community and we all accepted these positions to serve in that role.

So again, congratulations on your new faculty position! We are looking forward to receiving an email, or even a proposal submission, from you soon!