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

MCB Guidelines

MCB provides support for conferences and workshops in emerging areas in the molecular and cellular biosciences. MCB is particularly interested in supporting meetings that emphasize predictive, quantitative, and theory-driven research on topics prioritized by the MCB clusters and that intersect with other scientific disciplines within and outside of biology. Typically, MCB-supported meetings enable knowledge sharing between diverse scientists from a variety of research fields. Guidance on applying for conference and workshop funding is provided below.

Proposal preparation and submission

  • Contact a cognizant Program Director before preparing a full conference or workshop proposal. An email query summarizing the scientific and educational goals, scope and budget of the meeting is appropriate.
  • Applicants must follow instructions for preparing conference and workshop proposals as detailed in Chapter II.E.7 of the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG). In addition, proposals must adhere to the MCB guidelines noted here.
  • Applicants are required to have a policy or code-of-conduct that clarifies the expectations of behavior to foster a harassment-free environment, the method for recording and resolving complaints, and a plan for disseminating this information (Chapter XI.A.1.g).
  • Proposals should be submitted 6-12 months in advance of the scheduled meeting. MCB will rarely consider a meeting proposal that is submitted less than 6 months ahead of the event.
  • Only one proposal per meeting should be submitted to the NSF. If funding is sought from more than one NSF program, the additional programs should be listed on the cover page.

Meeting topics

MCB encourages conference and workshop proposals on innovative, interdisciplinary research that advances molecular and cellular biosciences. Meetings 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 MCB. Meetings that include sessions related to human health or disease will rarely be supported (in such cases, please contact a cognizant Program Director before submitting a proposal).

Budget guidelines

  • Most conferences and workshops are supported for only one year at a time, although support for multiyear meetings may be considered in rare instances.
  • For conferences where partial support is sought from NSF, funding typically ranges from $5,000 to $20,000. For workshops where full support is sought from NSF, funding typically ranges from $50,000 to $100,000. Meetings on topics of special interest to MCB, both for intellectual merit and broader impact, or new meetings are prioritized for high levels of support.
  • MCB supports broadening participation to include early-career investigators or members of under-represented groups in science. Funds can be used to defray costs for registration, room and board, or travel, and each line item in the budget should be clearly explained in the budget justification.
  • Relevant budget categories:
    • Attendees whose primary purpose at the meeting is to learn and receive training are considered as participants or trainees. Costs of participants and trainees should be included in the “Participant Support Costs” category (Lines F.1-4 in the NSF budget form). For specific information about this budget section, please review Chapter II.C.2.g.v.
    • Speakers and trainers generally are not considered participants. Hence, their costs should be included in other appropriate categories, e.g., “Other Direct Costs: Other” (Line G.6). For specific information on this budget section, please review Chapter
    • Indirect costs do not apply to the “Participant Support Costs” category, but they do apply to all other categories at the organization’s federally negotiated rate. Absent this rate, the organization may request a de minimis rate of 10% without providing supporting documentation or may elect not to charge indirect costs (a brief statement on indirect costs should be included in the budget justification.) For specific information, please review Chapter II.C.2.g.viii.
  • Supported participants should be members of the U.S. scientific community (e.g., individuals working in U.S. institutions). If NSF funds are to support scientists from foreign institutions, the request should be discussed beforehand with a Program Director.
  • In most cases, MCB does not provide support for the 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 meeting budget (e.g., expected expenses, divided into a few general categories, and expected funding, with sources and requested amounts.)
  • For conferences involving in-person events in late Spring or Summer of 2021, applicants should include a contingency plan for switching to a virtual event in case the COVID-19 pandemic necessitates changes in the mode of delivery of the conference content. The proposal should include information on how the requested funds will be used to ensure broad participation and dissemination of the scientific content in a virtual format, with special attention given to individuals in early career stages as well as groups not typically well-represented in STEM fields. MCB will not request that extra funds be returned if the conference format changes from in-person to virtual, but instead will request those funds be used to support inclusion and dissemination activities.

Proposal review

In most cases, conference and workshop proposals are reviewed internally, using 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 the novelty and growth of the field or unique contributions that will be made to the field. For recurring meetings, a past program and results of prior support should be provided and should 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 development of multidisciplinary projects and collaborations.

What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity?

Highest priority proposals will meet the following criteria, which should be addressed in the text.

  • The proposal describes effective methods to encourage participation of early-career investigators, students and members of underrepresented groups, especially those who are new to the field. Such methods can include targeted announcements and advertising. For recurring meetings, past attendance records must reflect participant diversity.
  • The meeting has diverse organizers and speakers, including at least a representative sample of women and individuals from groups underrepresented in science, on the program.
  • The methods for selecting participants to fund are appropriate, transparent and well-described.
  • The proposals integrate research and education or provide unique educational opportunities.
  • The data management plan conforms to NSF policy on dissemination and sharing of research results.

Acknowledgement and reporting

  • Support from NSF and MCB should be acknowledged on the meeting website, in the program, and in the specific travel awards made using grant funds. The grant number (MCB-XXXXXX) must be included in such citations.
  • As is the case for other NSF 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 such 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:

  • a. Name
    b. Position (graduate student, postdoctoral fellow, etc.)
    c. Institution
    d. Amount of NSF funds received

For detailed information, please read the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide, Chapter II.E.7“Conference Proposals”.

An excerpt from the guide lists the required elements of a conference or workshop proposal (below). Note that these instructions deviate from the standard proposal preparation instructions in the PAPPG.

  • Collaborators & Other Affiliations Information (Chapter II.C.1.e) (for conference proposals in excess of $50,000)
  • Cover Sheet (Chapter II.C.2.a)
  • Project Summary (one page), including a statement of objectives (Chapter II.C.2.b)
  • Project Description (not to exceed 15 pages) that includes:

    a. A statement of the need for such a gathering and a list of topics;
    b. Separate statements on the intellectual merit and broader impacts of the proposed activity;
    c. A listing of recent meetings on the same subject, including dates and locations;
    d. The names of the chairperson and members of organizing committees and their organizational affiliations;
    e. Information on the location and probable date(s) of the meeting and the method of announcement or invitation;
    f. 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;
    g. 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);
    h. A description of plans to identify resources for childcare and other types of family care at the conference site to allow individuals with family care responsibilities to attend.
    i. Results from Prior NSF Support (up to five pages): If any PI or co-PI identified on the proposal has received prior NSF support including

        • an award with an end date in the past five years; or
        • any current funding, including no cost extensions,

information on the award is required for each PI and co-PI, regardless of whether or not the support is directly related to the proposal.

  • Proposal Budget and Budget Justification: A budget, and budget justification for the conference that is prepared in accordance with Chapter II.C.2.g.
  • Current and Pending Support: The support requested or available from other Federal agencies and other sources (Chapter. II.C.2.h).
  • Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources: Support from other sources should be described in this section (without financial information) (Chapter II.C.2.i).
  • Data Management Plan: Plans for management and sharing of any data products resulting from the activity (Chapter II.C.2.j).