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Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO)

Amanita fungiThe Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) promotes and advances scientific progress in biology, largely through grants to colleges, universities, and other institutions, especially in those areas where the National Science Foundation (NSF) has major responsibility. NSF is the Nation’s principal supporter of fundamental academic research on plant biology, environmental biology, and biodiversity. It provides support for research to advance understanding of the underlying principles and mechanisms governing life. Research ranges from the study of the structure and dynamics of biological molecules, such as proteins and nucleic acids, to studies of cells, organs, and organisms and to studies of populations and ecosystems. NSF encompasses processes that are internal to an organism and those that are external and includes temporal frameworks ranging from measurements in real time through individual life spans to the full scope of evolutionary time.

In addition to the research and infrastructure support mentioned in this chapter, the Directorate for Biological Sciences takes an active role in numerous crosscutting programs and activities. Support is provided for active research participation grants for high school students: Research Assistantships for Minority High School Students (see; for undergraduates: Research Experiences for Undergraduates (see and Undergraduate Mentoring in Environmental Biology (see NSF 03-585); and for faculty from K-12: Research Experiences for Teachers (see NSF 02-090), and from predominantly undergraduate institutions: Research Opportunity Awards (see

Funds are also provided for the early development of academic faculty as both educators and researchers through programs such as Faculty Early Career Development (see, research conferences, symposia, workshops, and—in selected areas—doctoral dissertation improvement grants (see

Funds are available through the ADVANCE program to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers, thereby contributing to the development of a more diverse science and engineering workforce (see NSF 02-121 for more information).

Information on many of the programs listed here is available on the NSF Crosscutting Programs home page, Information is also available by referring to the alphabetical listing of programs on the BIO Directorate Programs and Deadlines Web site,; or visit the BIO Directorate home page,

Eligibility Requirements for BIO Proposals

The most frequent recipients of support for basic scientific research in the biological sciences are academic institutions and nonprofit research organizations. In special circumstances, grants are awarded to other types of institutions and to individuals. In these cases, preliminary inquiry should be made to the appropriate program officer before a proposal is submitted. Support may be provided for projects involving a single scientist or a number of scientists. Awards are made for projects confined to a single disciplinary area and for those that cross or merge disciplinary interests.

Multiple Principal Investigator [PI] Proposals

Increasingly, many important research problems in science can be addressed best by a team of investigators, each bringing different perspectives to the activity. A team approach may result in the application of novel techniques to biological questions or a more comprehensive treatment of scientific problems, and may also provide innovative opportunities for the training of students.

The NSF Directorate for Biological Sciences encourages proposals from three or more investigators—who may come from more than one academic institution—for collaborative studies focused on a single problem. Such proposals will be evaluated through BIO's core programs, in addition to proposals from individual investigators, as part of the programs' portfolio of activities. Investigators interested in submitting a multi-PI proposal may contact the appropriate BIO program for further advice and guidance.

Submission of Proposals to the BIO Directorate

All proposals directed to NSF must be submitted through NSF's FastLane system. For details about this policy, see the latest NSF Grant Proposal Guide (see for latest version). General information about FastLane is available at

Incoming proposals are assigned to program officers within the BIO Directorate for merit review and recommendation. Research with disease-related goals, including work on the etiology, diagnosis, or treatment of physical or mental disease, abnormality, or malfunction in human beings or animals, is normally not supported. Animal models of such conditions or the development and testing of drugs or other procedures for their treatment also are not eligible for support.

Research proposals to the BIO Directorate (not including proposals for conferences or workshops) cannot be duplicates of proposals to any other Federal agency for simultaneous consideration. The only exceptions to this rule are (1) when the proposers and program managers at relevant Federal agencies have previously agreed to joint review and possibly joint funding of the proposal and (2) proposals from PIs who are beginning investigators (individuals who have not been a PI or co-PI on a federally funded award with the exception of a doctoral dissertation, a postdoctoral fellowship, or research planning grants). For proposers who qualify under the latter, the box for "Beginning Investigator" must be checked on the proposal cover sheet.

Deadlines and Target Dates

In most cases the BIO Directorate has established deadlines and target dates for the submission of proposals. To confirm a date, refer to the electronic NSF E-Bulletin,; or visit the BIO Directorate home page,; or contact the appropriate program director. The earliest possible effective date for an award is approximately 6 months after the target or deadline date. Unless there is a program solicitation stating otherwise, proposals must conform to all format requirements in the NSF Grant Proposal Guide (see for latest version), with special attention paid to page limitations, font size, and appendix materials. Some programs or specific competitions have program announcements/solicitations that provide more details about the activities described in this guide.

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