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Understanding the Rules of Life: Emergent Networks  (URoL:EN) NSF Wide Programs

Name Email Phone Room
Betsy  von Holle (703) 292-4974   
Zhilan  J. Feng (703) 292-7523   
Jeremy  Guinn (703) 292-8193   
Grace  M. Hwang (703) 292-4271   
Hector  Munoz-Avila (703) 292-4481   
Dena  M. Smith-Nufio (703) 292-7431   
Trisha  Van Zandt (703) 292-7437   


Solicitation  22-532

Important Information for Proposers

A revised version of the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 22-1), is effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after October 4, 2021. Please be advised that, depending on the specified due date, the guidelines contained in NSF 22-1 may apply to proposals submitted in response to this funding opportunity.




In 2016, the National Science Foundation (NSF) unveiled a set of "Big Ideas," 10 bold, long-term research and process ideas that identify areas for future investment at the frontiers of science and engineering (see The Big Ideas represent unique opportunities to position our Nation at the cutting edge of global science and engineering by bringing together diverse disciplinary perspectives to support convergence research. As such, when responding to this solicitation, even though proposals must be submitted to the Division of Emerging Frontiers in the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO/EF), once received, the proposals will be managed by a cross-disciplinary team of NSF Program Directors.

The Understanding the Rules of Life: Predicting Phenotype "Big Idea" is based on developing a predictive understanding of how key properties of living systems emerge from interactions of factors such as genomes, phenotypes, and evolving environments. Ideally, the predictive capability of the Rules of Life explored by projects supported by the program will enable us to address some of the greatest challenges we currently face in understanding the living world.  This Understanding the Rules of Life: Emergent Networks (URoL:EN) solicitation is a cross-directorate program of NSF that aims to develop a predictive understanding of how key properties of living systems emerge from interactions of factors such as genomes, phenotypes, and environments and how emerging networks of organismal, natural, social, and/or  human-engineered systems respond to or influence evolving environments.  Successful projects of the URoL:EN program are expected to use convergent approaches that explore emergent network properties of living systems across various levels of organizational scale and, ultimately, to contribute to understanding the rules of life through new theories and reliable predictions about the impact of specific environmental changes on behaviors of complex living systems, or engineerable interventions and technologies based on a rule of life to address associated outcomes for societal benefit. Projects that advance all of the different fields of science represented in the project and that represent different NSF Directorates are strongly encouraged. 

Using such convergent approaches, proposals must:  

  1. Identify a rule(s) of life around which the proposed research is oriented or to which the research is applied. 
  2. Include a compelling convergent research plan with deep integration across disciplines. 
  3. Involve a basic, or fundamental, research approach to investigate a new understanding of emergent networks of interactions between organisms and Earth, human, natural, and/or human-engineered systems in evolving environments.

The convergent scope of URoL:EN projects also provides unique STEM education and outreach possibilities to train the next generation of scientists in a diversity of approaches and to engage society more generally. Hence, the URoL:EN program encourages research projects that integrate training and outreach activities in their research plan, provide convergent training opportunities for researchers and students, develop novel teaching modules, and broaden participation of under-represented groups in science.

The URoL:EN Program will support projects with a total budget of up to $3,000,000 and an award duration of up to 5 years.


What Has Been Funded (Recent Awards Made Through This Program, with Abstracts)

Map of Recent Awards Made Through This Program