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Directorate for Biological Sciences
Emerging Frontiers – Bio's Virtual Division

The Emerging Frontiers (EF) Virtual Division was proposed in fiscal year (FY) 2003 to serve as an incubator for 21st Century Biology. EF supports evolving multidisciplinary research opportunities and networking activities that arise from advances in disciplinary research. By encouraging synergy between disciplines, EF provides a mechanism by which new initiatives will be fostered—and subsequently integrated—into core programs.

Frontiers in Integrative Biological Research (FIBR)

Invites new ideas for integrative research on major biological questions from a multidisciplinary point of view. Relevant scientific questions will be those recognized both as major challenges in biology and as beyond the scope of traditional single investigator or small team approaches. For more information, see program solicitation NSF 03-581.

Research Coordination Networks (RCN)

Seeks to encourage and foster communications and collaborations among scientists with common goals and interests. RCN provides support for groups of investigators to communicate and coordinate their research efforts across disciplinary, organizational, institutional, and geographical boundaries. Networks are formed around a focal theme and can involve a broad research question, group of organisms, or particular technologies or approaches. For more information, see program announcement NSF 00-56.

Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE)

Emphasizes research on the dynamics that occur within biological systems and between these systems and the physical environment via five topical areas: (1) Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH); (2) Coupled Biogeochemical Cycles (CBC); (3) Genome-Enabled Environmental Science and Engineering (GEN-EN); (4) Instrumentation Development for Environmental Activities (IDEA); and (5) Materials Use: Science, Engineering, & Society (MUSES). Further information—including results of previous competitions—is available at In addition to the five topical areas listed here, the BE portfolio in BIO includes the following three competitions:

  1. Assembling the Tree of Life (AToL)—Supports multidisciplinary teams that conduct innovative and integrative projects to resolve phylogenetic relationships among significant groups of organisms and develop innovative data acquisition and analysis in phylogenetics and phyloinformatics, with the ultimate goal of reconstructing a framework phylogeny for all species on Earth. For more information, see program announcement NSF 03-536.
  2. Ecology of Infectious Diseases (EID)—A joint NSF-National Institutes of Health initiative that seeks to understand the ecological and biological mechanisms that govern relationships between human-induced environmental changes and the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases.
  3. Microbial Genome Sequencing Program—A joint NSF-U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative that invites research proposals to support high-throughput sequencing of the genomes of microorganisms, including viruses, bacteria, archaea, fungi, oomycetes, protists, and agriculturally important nematodes (program announcement in progress).

Nanoscale Science & Engineering

Research is focused on studying the structure and regulation of macromolecular machines and macromolecular complexes that are capable of self-replication and self-assembly. Further information, including results of previous competitions, is available at

Information Technology Research (ITR)

Broadly invites innovative fundamental research proposals that address the challenges that face IT or seek advances at the frontiers of science and engineering through the creative and innovative use and further development of IT. The ITR Program is interested in fostering visionary work that could lead to major advances in the future, new and unanticipated technologies, revolutionary applications, or new ways to perform important activities. Examples of BIO-relevant areas include algorithms for designing, managing, and linking primary biological databases; development of new tools for microbial genomics; development of innovative database structures (both hardware and software) that support distributed storage of very dense files of genetic sequence and genomic data; and development of real-time information networks linking researchers worldwide engaged in Tree of Life research. Further information, including results of previous competitions, is available at

Mathematical Sciences

Supports interdisciplinary research involving mathematics, science, and engineering and focuses on mathematical and statistical challenges posed by large data sets, managing and modeling uncertainty, and modeling complex nonlinear systems.

Human Social Dynamics

Focuses on research in behavior, cognition, development, and neuroscience. For more information, see program announcement NSF 03-552.

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