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Information for MCB PIs when preparing Proposals for Conferences and Workshops (Meetings)

MCB Guidelines
Proposals for Supporting Conferences and Workshops

MCB provides support for conferences and workshops in emerging areas in the molecular and cellular biosciences. MCB particularly is interested in supporting conference and workshops on the predictive, quantitative, and theory-driven research topics that are at the intersection of biology with other disciplines. Typically, MCB-supported conferences and workshops bring together diverse researchers from different fields. The following information is intended to provide guidance for applying for conference and workshop funding. For more information, please contact a cognizant program director.

Proposal submission

  • Instructions for preparing proposals for supporting conference and workshop, as found in Chapter II.D.8 of the Grant Proposal Guide (see attached, also available on the NSF website,, must be followed. In addition, proposals must adhere to the MCB guidelines.
  • Proposals for conferences, symposia, and workshops should be submitted 6-12 months in advance of the scheduled date. The Division will rarely consider a conference and workshop proposal that is submitted less than 6 months from the date of the proposed event.
  • For any particular conference or workshop, submit only one proposal to NSF. If you think the proposal should be seen by more than one NSF division or directorate, list the additional units on the cover page.

Appropriateness of the conference or workshop topics
MCB encourages conference and workshop proposals in emerging and interdisciplinary areas of molecular and cellular biosciences. Conferences and workshops with disease-related goals, including the etiology, diagnosis or treatment of physical or mental disease, abnormality, or malfunction in human beings or animals, will not be supported by the Division. Conferences or workshops that include sessions related to human diseases or health only rarely will be supported. If a conference or workshop will include sessions related to human diseases or health, please contact a program director in the area of the conference or workshop before submitting a proposal.

Support levels, eligible costs, and budget guidelines

  • Most conferences and workshops are supported for only one year at a time, although support for multiyear conferences or workshops may be considered in rare instances.
  • For most meetings, the level of support is in the range of $7,000 to $12,000. However, for meetings that are being organized for the first time and for workshops on topics of special interest to the Division, the level of support can be higher. Before submitting a proposal, we encourage you to contact a Program Director to discuss the scope and budget.
  • MCB provides support aimed at broadening participation of researchers who are young, early-career, or members of groups under-represented in life science. With only rare exceptions, all requested funds should be used for participant support, and should, therefore, appear on the budget in Box F, "Participant Support Costs." Such support can be used to defray costs for registration, room and board, or travel, and the nature of the support should be clearly articulated in the budget justification.
  • Supported participants should be members of the U.S. scientific community (e.g., individuals working in U.S. institutions). If funds are to be used to support scientists from foreign institutions, the request should be discussed beforehand with a Program Director.
  • MCB does not provide support for general costs of large meetings (e.g., society conferences) or for ongoing meeting series.
  • Note that federal funds must not be used to pay for alcoholic beverages or for entertainment.
  • The budget justification should include information on the total conference or workshop budget (e.g., expected expenses, divided into a few general categories, and expected funding, with sources and requested amounts.)

Review of conference and workshop proposals
In most cases, conference and workshop proposals are reviewed internally, using the NSF merit review criteria as follows.

What is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity?
Highest priority proposals will meet one or more of the following criteria, which should be addressed in the text.

  • The topic is relevant to the scientific areas supported by MCB.
  • The meeting emphasizes novelty and growth of the field or unique contributions that will be made to the field. For recurring meetings, examples of a past program and results of prior support should be provided and show evidence of significant impact.
  • The meeting promotes predictive, quantitative research that integrates theory, modeling and experimentation.
  • The meeting is interdisciplinary, bringing together scientists from different disciplines, or facilitating the development of multidisciplinary projects and collaborations.

What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity?
Highest priority proposals will meet the following criteria.

  • Proposal describes effective methods for encouraging participation of early-career investigators, students and members of underrepresented groups, especially those who are new to the field or are from laboratories that are new to the field.. Such methods include appropriate announcements and advertising. For recurring meetings, past attendance records must reflect appropriate diversity in participants.
  • Methods for selecting participants to fund are transparent, well-described and appropriate.
  • Proposals integrate research and education or provide unique educational opportunities.
  • Participation in the meeting is open to all, as opposed to by invitation.
  • The meeting organizers and speakers are diverse in terms of stage of career, gender, type of institution and geographical region.
  • Data management plan conforms to the NSF policy on dissemination and sharing of research results.

Acknowledging and reporting conference and workshop support

  • The support from NSF and MCB should be acknowledged on the conference web site, in the conference or workshop program, as well as in the specific travel awards provided using the grant funds. The grant number (MCB-XXXXXX) must be included in such citations.
  • As for other awards, PIs of conference or workshop awards must submit a final report within 90 days of expiration of the award. NSF sets the duration of all conference and workshop awards at 12 months.
  • In addition to the information requested on the FastLane template for the final progress report, MCB also requires that the report include the following information for each recipient of NSF funding:
    • 1. Name
      2. Position (graduate student, postdoctoral fellow, etc.)
      3. Name of the head of the laboratory in which the recipient works
      4. Dollar amount of funding received from this award

Grant Proposal Guide
Chapter II

8. Proposals for Conferences, Symposia and Workshops

NSF supports conferences, symposia and workshops in special areas of science and engineering that bring experts together to discuss recent research or education findings or to expose other researchers or students to new research and education techniques. NSF encourages the convening in the US of major international conferences, symposia and workshops. Conferences will be supported only if equivalent results cannot be obtained at regular meetings of professional societies. Although requests for support of conferences, symposia and workshops ordinarily originate with educational institutions or scientific and engineering societies, they also may come from other groups. Shared support by several Federal agencies, States or private organizations is encouraged. Because proceedings of such conferences normally should be published in professional journals, requests for support may include publication costs. Proposals for conferences, symposia and workshops should generally be made at least a year in advance of the scheduled date. Conferences or meetings, including the facilities in which they are held, funded in whole or in part with NSF funds, must be accessible to participants with disabilities.

A conference, symposium or workshop proposal38 (that complies with the page and font size instructions in GPG Chapter II.B ) must contain the elements identified below. Note the proposal preparation instructions for these types of proposals deviate from the standard proposal preparation instructions contained in this Guide.

  • Cover Sheet;
  • A statement of the objectives of the project (summarized in one page or less);
  • A statement of the need for such a gathering and a list of topics;
  • A listing of recent meetings on the same subject, including dates and locations;
  • The names of the chairperson and members of organizing committees and their organizational affiliations;
  • Information on the location and probable date(s) of the meeting and the method of announcement or invitation;
  • A statement of how the meeting will be organized and conducted, how the results of the meeting will be disseminated and how the meeting will contribute to the enhancement and improvement of scientific, engineering and/or educational activities;
  • A plan for recruitment of and support for speakers and other attendees, that includes participation of groups underrepresented in science and engineering (e.g., underrepresented minorities, women, and persons with disabilities);
  • An estimated total budget for the conference, together with an itemized statement of the amount of support requested from NSF (the NSF budget may include participant support for transportation (when appropriate), per diem costs, stipends, publication and other conference-related costs. (Note: participant support costs must be excluded from the indirect cost base.) See GPG Chapter II.C.2g(v);
  • The support requested or available from other Federal agencies and other sources. ( GPG Chapter II.C.2.h should be consulted to prepare this portion of the proposal); and
  • Plans for management and sharing of any data products resulting from the activity ( GPG Chapter II.C.2.j should be consulted to prepare this portion of the proposal); and
  • For additional coverage on allowability of costs associated with meetings and conferences, proposers should consult AAG Chapter V.C.5.