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Biological Research Collections

Program Solicitation



July 19 2002



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Program Title: Biological Research Collections

Synopsis of Program: The Biological Research Collections Program provides support for biological collection enhancement, computerization of specimen-related data, research to develop better methods for specimen curation and collection management, and activities such as symposia and workshops to investigate support and management of biological collections. Biological collections supported include those housing natural history specimens, frozen tissues, and other physical samples such as DNA libraries and digital images. Such collections provide the materials necessary for research in a broad area of biological sciences.

Cognizant Program Officer(s):

Applicable Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number(s):




A. Proposal Preparation Instructions

B. Budgetary Information

C. Deadline/Target Dates

D. FastLane Requirements





    1. Proposal Preparation Instructions
    2. Budgetary Information
    3. Deadline/Target Dates
    4. FastLane Requirements
    1. NSF Proposal Review Process
    2. Review Protocol and Associated Customer Service Standard
    1. Notification of the Award
    2. Award Conditions
    3. Reporting Requirements


Collections of biological specimens are necessary for many types of research in biological sciences, including one of the most essential activities, the identification of species. The Biological Research Collections Program (BRC) is the principal source of federal support for enhancement of these collections. Of particular importance is the contribution that BRC provides in meeting needs for improvements in infrastructure and computerization of large and disparate datasets. Typically, collections are housed at institutions with programs in systematics and other biodiversity-related research. These institutions have collections that have been built over many years and contain thousands or even millions of specimens. Natural history collections contain records of life on earth that are unique and irreplaceable, including specimens of extinct species and temporal information on changes in the ranges of native and introduced species.

In addition to the natural history collections, recent advances in biological sciences have created new kinds of research materials that are collected or created by researchers, deposited at a public site, and distributed to the research community. Examples would include genome samples such as arrayed BAC (Bacterial Artificial Chromosome) libraries or a collection of DNAs from endangered species linked to "Voucher" specimens. The BRC will support improvement of these new types of collections as well.

Our planet is rapidly being modified by human development, and natural history collections are an enormously valuable source of biological information. The Biological Research Collections Program is a critical component in the rapidly expanding research activities related to biodiversity in particular, and to biological sciences in general.


The Biological Research Collections Program provides support for biological collection enhancement, computerization of specimen-related data, research to develop better methods for specimen curation and collection management, and activities such as symposia and workshops to discuss management of biological collections and other subjects designed to improve service to the research community. Biological collections supported include those housing natural history specimens, frozen tissues, and other physical samples such as digital images and DNA samples (e.g., BAC libraries). Such collections provide the materials necessary for a substantial amount of research on biodiversity, including that on evolutionary relationships, ecosystem functioning, and biological conservation.

"Voucher" collections, such as those maintained by some academic departments, field stations, and marine laboratories are also eligible if it is shown that use of the collections justify the investment and curatorial support is adequate. BRC supported projects include those that deal directly with specimens of organisms, parts of organisms, or direct artifacts of organisms (e.g., recorded sounds, fossilized footprints). Also eligible are organism-based collections that maintain associated specimens and data documenting the environmental context of the primary organism (e.g. soil and water samples, temperature and precipitation records, specimen-based geographic information).  Collection portions of organisms must be properly vouchered.

Types of Support

The Biological Research Collections Program provides support for collection enhancement which may include improvements in storage units or the incorporation of specimens from other institutions, collection computerization projects that digitally capture specimen-related data or improve the usefulness of the collection (e.g., by georeferencing data), research on methods to improve curation of specimens or management of collections, and scientific conferences, symposia, and workshops that investigate the management and broader impacts of collections and associated data.

Most awards are for enhancement of the infrastructure of a research collection such as the purchase of new specimen cases and installation costs, curatorial supplies, technical assistance during the project, or for computerization. BRC does not provide support to defray ordinary operating expenses, or for the purchase of specimens, or for creating/establishing a new collection, or support related to the improvement of libraries or archives.

Information To Be Provided

1. Taxonomic breadth. Proposals must clearly specify the taxonomic groups housed in the collections for which support is being sought and provide estimates of the numbers of specimens or lots, numbers of species, and information on the geographic areas, oceanographic regions, or stratigraphic horizons from which specimens were collected.

2. Value of the collection for scientific research and resource management. Indicators of value, in addition to taxonomic breadth, include measures of use by the scientific community such as numbers of specimen loans, visitors to the collection, data requests, and publications based on the specimens in the collection, the number of type specimens, age of the collection, and presence of extinct or rare species. Internet accessibility to collection data, and growth and use of the collection over at least the last five years should be described.

3. Urgency. Urgent needs for support should be clearly identified. Long-term protection of specimens and data are the primary concerns of the BRC Program. Of particular importance to the program is the ability to meet special needs that arise from rapid expansion or unique opportunities. Common sources of such needs are biotic surveys of endangered habitats that produce large numbers of specimens, opportunities to salvage a collection that otherwise would be lost, and the creation of new types of collections (such as frozen tissues) that accompany other areas of growth in science (such as genomics).

4. Education and outreach. Biological collections contribute to our understanding and appreciation of the diversity of life, and serve many functions in addition to providing materials essential to biological research. They provide resources for the training of biologists working on extant and fossil taxa, as well as materials for classroom displays, museum exhibits and other outreach programs for the general public. Contributions of the collections to education and outreach activities should be clearly identified in the proposal.


Proposals are accepted from U.S. institutions, including colleges and universities that maintain research collections, natural history museums including herbaria, and other collections administered by independent organizations or by state, county, or local governments; non-federal and non-profit research organizations that maintain collections; and botanical gardens, zoological parks, and aquaria that maintain research collections that document biological diversity (see Grant Proposal Guide, Chapter I. Section C). The size of an institution is not a factor in determining eligibility.


Proposals submitted to the BRC Program typically are for projects that range from one to three years. The maximum that may be requested in a proposal is $500,000. Numbers of awards and average award size/duration are subject to the availability of funds. Also, please see the NSF website for the Biological Research Collection program at for a current listings of awards and examples of the range and scope of projects supported.


A. Proposal Preparation Instructions

Full Proposal:

Proposals submitted in response to this program announcement/solicitation should be prepared and submitted in accordance with the general guidelines contained in the NSF Grant Proposal Guide (GPG). The complete text of the GPG is available electronically on the NSF Web Site at: Paper copies of the GPG may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone (301) 947-2722 or by e-mail from

Special requirements for BRC projects include evidence of the collection's importance to research or biological conservation on a regional, national, or international scale, long-term commitment by the home institution to the collection in terms of staffing and operational support, and information related to the management of the collection. All proposals must demonstrate an institutional commitment to adequate staffing and operating support that will result in long-term maintenance of the specimens, collections and associated data. Support from BRC will not be provided to defray ordinary operating expenses. The proposal should state how the value of the collection will be enhanced by support from the BRC Program and how future contributions will be made in advancing the biological sciences.

A management plan must be included within the project description of the proposal. The plan must delineate the tasks and responsibilities, and outline a timetable for completion of the project. Letters of support from appropriate institutional representatives are encouraged. For support related to the acquisition of orphaned collections, documentation of ownership must be provided. Proposals related to development of electronic databases must describe the hardware and software to be used, the data model and elements of the database, mechanisms for quality control of data entry, capacity for expansion, internet accessibility, and plans for permanent maintenance of the database. All data entered during a BRC-funded project must be made available over the internet during the course of the project (exceptions may include sensitive data such as localities for endangered species). Plans for maintenance of the database, quality assurance for species identifications, and testing the accuracy of data entry, statements on georeferencing protocols, and a searchable database or metadata format should be included in the description.

All proposals must include a description of the institution's policies related to collections (including those concerning loans, accessions, deaccessions, and collecting permits) and information on protocols and user fees that govern acquisitions, loans, or access to specimens. Such documentation and letters of support may be included in the FastLane section on Supplementary Documentation.

Projects involving the installation of major storage systems or other major pieces of equipment must provide a timetable for installation, floor plans, floor loading analyses, and bids from at least two vendors for the items requested from NSF. The information can be provided in the FastLane Supplementary Documentation. Reasons for choosing a particular vendor should be described in the Budget Justification.

Proposers are reminded to identify the program solicitation number (NSF-02-117) in the program announcement/solicitation block on the proposal Cover Sheet. Compliance with this requirement is critical to determining the relevant proposal processing guidelines. Failure to submit this information may delay processing.

B. Budgetary Information

Cost sharing is not required in proposals submitted under this Program Solicitation.

Other Budgetary Limitations: Maximum budget that can be requested from NSF is $500,000 per award.

C. Deadline/Target Dates

Proposals must be submitted by the following date(s):

Full Proposals:
July 19 2002

D. FastLane Requirements

Proposers are required to prepare and submit all proposals for this Program Solicitation through the FastLane system. Detailed instructions for proposal preparation and submission via FastLane are available at: For FastLane user support, call the FastLane Help Desk at 1-800-673-6188 or e-mail The FastLane Help Desk answers general technical questions related to the use of the FastLane system. Specific questions related to this Program Solicitation should be referred to the NSF program staff contact(s) listed in Section VIII of this announcement/solicitation.

Submission of Electronically Signed Cover Sheets. The Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) must electronically sign the proposal Cover Sheet to submit the required proposal certifications (see Chapter II, Section C of the Grant Proposal Guide for a listing of the certifications). The AOR must provide the required electronic certifications within five working days following the electronic submission of the proposal. Proposers are no longer required to provide a paper copy of the signed Proposal Cover Sheet to NSF. Further instructions regarding this process are available on the FastLane website at:


A. NSF Proposal Review Process

Reviews of proposals submitted to NSF are solicited from peers with expertise in the substantive area of the proposed research or education project. These reviewers are selected by Program Officers charged with the oversight of the review process. NSF invites the proposer to suggest, at the time of submission, the names of appropriate or inappropriate reviewers. Care is taken to ensure that reviewers have no conflicts with the proposer. Special efforts are made to recruit reviewers from non-academic institutions, minority-serving institutions, or adjacent disciplines to that principally addressed in the proposal.

The two merit review criteria are listed below. The criteria include considerations that help define them. These considerations are suggestions and not all will apply to any given proposal. While proposers must address both merit review criteria, reviewers will be asked to address only those considerations that are relevant to the proposal being considered and for which he/she is qualified to make judgements.

NSF staff will give careful consideration to the following in making funding decisions:

A summary rating and accompanying narrative will be completed and submitted by each reviewer. In all cases, reviews are treated as confidential documents. Verbatim copies of reviews, excluding the identities of reviewers, are sent to the Principal Investigator/Project Director by the Program Director. In addition, the proposer will receive an explanation of the decision to award or decline funding.

B. Review Protocol and Associated Customer Service Standard

All proposals are carefully reviewed by at least three other persons outside NSF who are experts in the particular field represented by the proposal. Proposals submitted in response to this announcement/solicitation will be reviewed by Ad Hoc and Panel review. Site visits may be conducted if necessary.

Reviewers will be asked to formulate a recommendation to either support or decline each proposal. The Program Officer assigned to manage the proposal's review will consider the advice of reviewers and will formulate a recommendation.

NSF is striving to be able to tell applicants whether their proposals have been declined or recommended for funding within six months. The time interval begins on the closing date of an announcement/solicitation or the date of proposal receipt (whichever is later). The interval ends when the Division Director accepts the Program Officer's recommendation.

In all cases, after programmatic approval has been obtained, the proposals recommended for funding will be forwarded to the Division of Grants and Agreements for review of business, financial, and policy implications and the processing and issuance of a grant or other agreement. Proposers are cautioned that only a Grants and Agreements Officer may make commitments, obligations or awards on behalf of NSF or authorize the expenditure of funds. No commitment on the part of NSF should be inferred from technical or budgetary discussions with a NSF Program Officer. A Principal Investigator or organization that makes financial or personnel commitments in the absence of a grant or cooperative agreement signed by the NSF Grants and Agreements Officer does so at one's own risk.


A. Notification of the Award

Notification of the award is made to the submitting organization by a Grants Officer in the Division of Grants and Agreements. Organizations whose proposals are declined will be advised as promptly as possible by the cognizant NSF Program Division administering the program. Verbatim copies of reviews, not including the identity of the reviewer, will be provided automatically to the Principal Investigator. (See section VI.A. for additional information on the review process.)

B. Award Conditions

An NSF award consists of: (1) the award letter, which includes any special provisions applicable to the award and any numbered amendments thereto; (2) the budget, which indicates the amounts, by categories of expense, on which NSF has based its support (or otherwise communicates any specific approvals or disapprovals of proposed expenditures); (3) the proposal referenced in the award letter; (4) the applicable award conditions, such as Grant General Conditions (NSF-GC-1)* or Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP) Terms and Conditions;* and (5) any announcement or other NSF issuance that may be incorporated by reference in the award letter. Cooperative agreement awards also are administered in accordance with NSF Cooperative Agreement Terms and Conditions (CA-1). Electronic mail notification is the preferred way to transmit NSF awards to organizations that have electronic mail capabilities and have requested such notification from the Division of Grants and Agreements.

*These documents may be accessed electronically on NSF's Web site at Paper copies may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone (301) 947-2722 or by e-mail from

More comprehensive information on NSF Award Conditions is contained in the NSF Grant Policy Manual (GPM) Chapter II, available electronically on the NSF Web site at The GPM is also for sale through the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office (GPO), Washington, DC 20402. The telephone number at GPO for subscription information is (202) 512-1800. The GPM may be ordered through the GPO Web site at

C. Reporting Requirements

For all multi-year grants (including both standard and continuing grants), the PI must submit an annual project report to the cognizant Program Officer at least 90 days before the end of the current budget period.

Within 90 days after the expiration of an award, the PI also is required to submit a final project report. Approximately 30 days before expiration, NSF will send a notice to remind the PI of the requirement to file the final project report. Failure to provide final technical reports delays NSF review and processing of pending proposals for that PI. PIs should examine the formats of the required reports in advance to assure availability of required data.

NSF has implemented an electronic project reporting system, available through FastLane. This system permits electronic submission and updating of project reports, including information on project participants (individual and organizational), activities and findings, publications, and other specific products and contributions. PIs will not be required to re-enter information previously provided, either with a proposal or in earlier updates using the electronic system.


General inquiries regarding  Biological Research Collections  should be made to:For questions related to the use of FastLane, contact:


The NSF Guide to Programs is a compilation of funding for research and education in science, mathematics, and engineering. The NSF Guide to Programs is available electronically at General descriptions of NSF programs, research areas, and eligibility information for proposal submission are provided in each chapter.

Many NSF programs offer announcements or solicitations concerning specific proposal requirements. To obtain additional information about these requirements, contact the appropriate NSF program offices. Any changes in NSF's fiscal year programs occurring after press time for the Guide to Programs will be announced in the NSF E-Bulletin, which is updated daily on the NSF web site at, and in individual program announcements/solicitations. Subscribers can also sign up for NSF's Custom News Service ( to be notified of new funding opportunities that become available.

Programs at NSF related to BRC include Biotic Surveys & Inventories, Living Stock Collections, Systematic Biology, and Biological Databases and Informatics. The Biotic Surveys & Inventories (BS&I) Program in the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) supports basic collecting and identification activities that are designed to discover and document the species-level diversity of all forms of life on earth. BS&I requires that specimens and other biological samples collected be deposited at institutions with natural history collections and be available for scientific research. The Living Stock Collections Program supports repositories of research organisms, genetic stocks, and seeds as well as cell lines, and DNA clones that are associated with the whole organisms in the collection. The Systematic Biology Program supports research focused on understanding the phylogenetic relationships among organisms and the evolutionary patterns of genomic, morphological, ecological, and other characteristics of organisms. Much of the material for this research is housed in institutional collections. The Biological Databases and Informatics Program supports new approaches to the management of biological knowledge that render the collection, maintenance, dissemination and query of information of greater utility to the scientific community. Co-funding opportunities exist with these and other programs within the Foundation.


The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds research and education in most fields of science and engineering. Awardees are wholly responsible for conducting their project activities and preparing the results for publication. Thus, the Foundation does not assume responsibility for such findings or their interpretation.

NSF welcomes proposals from all qualified scientists, engineers and educators. The Foundation strongly encourages women, minorities and persons with disabilities to compete fully in its programs. In accordance with Federal statutes, regulations and NSF policies, no person on grounds of race, color, age, sex, national origin or disability shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving financial assistance from NSF (unless otherwise specified in the eligibility requirements for a particular program).

Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities (FASED) provide funding for special assistance or equipment to enable persons with disabilities (investigators and other staff, including student research assistants) to work on NSF-supported projects. See the program announcement/solicitation for further information.

The National Science Foundation has Telephonic Device for the Deaf (TDD) and Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) capabilities that enable individuals with hearing impairments to communicate with the Foundation about NSF programs, employment or general information. TDD may be accessed at (703) 292-5090, FIRS at 1-800-877-8339.

The National Science Foundation is committed to making all of the information we publish easy to understand. If you have a suggestion about how to improve the clarity of this document or other NSF-published materials, please contact us at


The information requested on proposal forms and project reports is solicited under the authority of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended. The information on proposal forms will be used in connection with the selection of qualified proposals; project reports submitted by awardees will be used for program evaluation and reporting within the Executive Branch and to Congress. The information requested may be disclosed to qualified reviewers and staff assistants as part of the proposal review process; to applicant institutions/grantees to provide or obtain data regarding the proposal review process, award decisions, or the administration of awards; to government contractors, experts, volunteers and researchers and educators as necessary to complete assigned work; to other government agencies needing information as part of the review process or in order to coordinate programs; and to another Federal agency, court or party in a court or Federal administrative proceeding if the government is a party. Information about Principal Investigators may be added to the Reviewer file and used to select potential candidates to serve as peer reviewers or advisory committee members. See Systems of Records, NSF-50, "Principal Investigator/Proposal File and Associated Records," 63 Federal Register 267 (January 5, 1998), and NSF-51, "Reviewer/Proposal File and Associated Records," 63 Federal Register 268 (January 5, 1998). Submission of the information is voluntary. Failure to provide full and complete information, however, may reduce the possibility of receiving an award.

Pursuant to 5 CFR 1320.5(b), an agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to an information collection unless it displays a valid OMB control number. The OMB control number for this collection is 3145-0058. Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 120 hours per response, including the time for reviewing instructions. Send comments regarding this burden estimate and any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden, to: Suzanne Plimpton, Reports Clearance Officer, Division of Administrative Services, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA 22230, or to Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of OMB, Attention: Desk Officer for National Science Foundation (3145-0058), 725 17th Street, N.W. Room 10235, Washington, D.C. 20503.

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