[Bioc-devel] Fwd: [SIAM-LS] New NSF funding opportunity: Rules of Life (RoL): Forecasting and Emergence in Living Systems

Sean Davis seandavi at gmail.com
Tue Jan 2 17:45:59 CET 2018

This new NSF funding opportunity might interest a few folks on this list.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Subject: [SIAM-LS] New NSF funding opportunity: Rules of Life (RoL):
Forecasting and Emergence in Living Systems

Dear Colleagues:

NSF seeks to highlight the importance of research that forecasts the
direction and dynamics of change in living systems. The robustness and
reproducibility of processes associated with the emergence of complex
properties in biological systems suggests the existence of underlying
general principles ("rules") across the spectrum of biological phenomena.
Identification and application of these fundamental rules would be of high
value to both the scientific community and the Nation. This Dear Colleague
Letter (DCL) describes an initial opportunity to identify areas where such
rules may exist, to catalyze approaches toward their discovery, and to
focus efforts on using these rules for prediction and design of useful
biological systems. Activities supported via this DCL include Conferences,
EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGERs), and Research
Advanced by Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (RAISE) grants to
create opportunities for enabling predictive capabili


The development of new research tools has revolutionized our ability both
to investigate and manipulate the genome and to measure multiple aspects of
the environment. The current challenge in biological systems is to
assimilate new information into causal, predictive relationships. For
example, we are on the cusp of solving one of the greatest challenges in
understanding the living world -- namely, predicting how the set of
observable characteristics (phenotype) arises from the genetic makeup of
the individual in concert with environmental factors acting at diverse
spatial and temporal scales.

The approach to this challenge resonates with NSF's emphasis on convergent
research, one of the ten Big Ideas for future investment that the Director
announced in May 2016, which emphasizes deep integration across disciplines
inspired by powerful scientific questions or pressing societal needs. NSF
is interested in submission of proposals to jump-start community thinking
about research that considers both genomic and environmental inputs, at all
spatial and temporal scales, to identify steps along the critical path to
de novo prediction of complex biological systems in a variety of organisms.
These steps will take advantage of the increasing conjunction between the
biological sciences and research in the computer and information sciences,
engineering, geosciences, mathematical and physical sciences, and social,
behavioral, and economic sciences. These investments should have the
potential to transform our understanding of living systems and benefit the
public through addressi
 ng societal issues.


Proposals funded via this DCL will help refine emerging research areas
under the Rules of Life, one of the NSF's ten Big Ideas. In Rules of Life,
"rules" are the general principles or theoretical constructs that explain
and predict the characteristics of living systems. NSF seeks to identify
rules for phenomena that cross spatial or organizational levels (from the
molecular and sub-cellular to organisms, populations, communities, clades,
and biomes) and/or temporal scales (e.g., from macromolecular folding to
development to evolutionary processes across all of life).

Research activities under Rules of Life should lead to new and predictive
understanding of how higher-order structures and functions result from the
interactions of heterogeneous biological components with the environments
in which they are found, and the associated evolutionary changes. These
activities should bring together diverse teams of scientists to create
novel framings and solutions for research problems. Currently, we are
unable to predict the outcomes of many biological processes in spite of the
fact that organisms occupy only a small portion of the potential phenotypic
landscape. Although we have accumulated massive amounts of genomic and
environmental data, we cannot synthesize a cell from its fundamental
building blocks. Similarly, we do not understand the basic rules that
underlie the emergence of multicellular structures, the regulation of
circadian and seasonal rhythms, or how to re-engineer sustainable and
resilient biological systems at any scale. Further,
 there are open scientific questions about the role of social interactions
and experiences in reshaping the genome through genetic and epigenetic
changes. One long-term outcome of the Rules of Life effort will be a set of
comprehensive genome/environment-to-phenome theories with predictive
capability. These theories could, for example, enable us to design
phenotypes to respond to environmental challenges or lead to new
technologies and industries.

We seek to define the key challenges and research imperatives to understand
the organizational principles and rules of living systems, encouraging
projects that include diverse disciplinary perspectives in addition to the
biological sciences, including but not limited to those from: computer and
information sciences, engineering, geosciences, mathematical and physical
sciences, and social and behavioral sciences. Projects may address linkages
between genomic and phenotypic diversity to encompass biological and
environmental processes spanning the genome to ecosystem across multiple
scales of space and time.

NSF is seeking catalytic activities, such as:

* Conferences that engage the research and research infrastructure
communities in identifying and developing potential new areas of research
and technology development. This could include tools for manipulation of
biological systems, communities or ecosystems; research and infrastructure
for collection, management, and analysis of heterogeneous, noisy data; and
engagement of methods of machine learning and artificial intelligence as
they pertain to biological systems.

* EAGER projects to develop and test new concepts as per above.

* RAISE projects that engage multidisciplinary teams in innovative
approaches to examine rules of life as per above.

Opportunities for participation by graduate students and postdoctoral
fellows in conference, EAGER, and RAISE proposals are encouraged.
Additionally, proposals are encouraged that include efforts to broaden
participation and, as appropriate, education and outreach, regarding Rules
of Life.

To be considered, each conference or EAGER proposal must explicitly address
all four points below:

1. Propose strategies to discover, elucidate, or apply a fundamental rule
that, when more fully understood, could be used to predict a specific
complex aspect of biological systems; 2. Target a specific emergent
property, which by definition spans biological scales (spatial and/or
temporal scales; levels of biological organization); 3. Generate tools or
theory and results that will be broadly generalizable beyond the system
under investigation; and 4. Be a project that crosses Divisional boundaries
in the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO), i.e., a project that
requires review by two or more of the four Divisions in BIO (Biological
Infrastructure, Environmental Biology, Integrative Organismal Systems,
Molecular and Cellular Biosciences). A project may involve other
Directorates (e.g., GEO, CISE, MPS, etc.) but for consideration as a
conference (workshop) or EAGER, it must still involve two or more Divisions
in BIO. These proposals will be reviewed by Divisional and Dir
 ectorate Program Directors as appropriate to the intellectual foci of the

To be considered for a RAISE award, projects must address the first three
criteria listed above for EAGER and Conference requests, but they are
required to include only one BIO Division (although they may include more).
In addition, RAISE proposals must address the fifth point below:

5. Would not normally be funded by only the BIO Directorate; proposed
research must also cross the disciplinary boundary represented by at least
one of these directorates: Computer and Information Science and Engineering
(CISE); Education and Human Resources (EHR); Engineering (ENG); Geosciences
(GEO); Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS); and Social, Behavioral,
and Economic Sciences (SBE).


Each proposal submitted in response to this DCL should be grounded in a
compelling research challenge. The proposal should address the current
state of the research challenge and describe an integrated strategy for
addressing the challenge. Proposals submitted in response to this DCL
should be prepared and submitted in accordance with the guidelines
contained in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (
https://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=pappg ) and the
instructions provided below.

* RoL: FELS EAGERs: For a project to be considered for EAGER funding
through this opportunity, a 2-page prospectus of the proposed research must
be submitted to the RoL: FELS mailbox (RoLBIO at nsf.gov) by February 20,
2018. The 2-page summary must be a PDF file that clearly lays out the idea
of the EAGER and illustrates how the project would address the 4
eligibility criteria. Based on those summaries, EAGER proposals will be
invited; full proposals must be received by May 15, 2018. EAGER proposals
submitted in response to this DCL must be submitted to the most relevant
program within the BIO Directorate and include the prefix 'RoL: FELS' in
front of the title. RoL: FELS EAGER proposals should follow normal PAPPG

Any RoL: FELS EAGER received without discussion with, and subsequently
followed by an written invitation from, a Program Director will be returned
without review.

* RoL: FELS conference: These awards will provide up to one year of support
for projects that do not exceed $100,000. PIs are encouraged to contact any
relevant Program Director in a participating Directorate about suitability
of the proposed conference prior to submission. RoL: FELS conference
proposals may be submitted to any relevant program in a participating
Directorate, but must include the prefix 'RoL:FELS' in front of the title.
The deadline for submission of these proposals is June 1, 2018. received.
RoL:FELS conference proposals should follow normal PAPPG guidance.

* RoL: FELS RAISE: For a project to be considered for RAISE funding through
this opportunity, a 2-page prospectus of the proposed research must be
submitted to the RoL: FELS mailbox (RoLBIO at nsf.gov) by February 20, 2018.
The 2-page summary must be a PAPPG-compliant PDF file and clearly lay out
the idea of the RAISE and illustrate how the project would address the 4
criteria noted above. In addition, RAISE submissions must clearly explain
the interdisciplinary nature of the project and indicate the relevant NSF
directorate(s) in addition to BIO that would need to be involved in
considering the merits of the project. Invited RAISE proposals must follow
the guidelines contained in the PAPPG. Directorates participating with BIO
include CISE, EHR, ENG, GEO, MPS, and SBE.


* February 20, 2018:  RoL: FELS EAGER 2-page prospectus
* February 20, 2018:  RoL: FELS RAISE 2-page prospectus
* June 1, 2018:  RoL: FELS conference proposal


Inquiries about the Dear Colleague Letter and questions about submission of
EAGER and RAISE proposals should be directed to RoLBIO at nsf.gov.


James L. Olds, Assistant Director, BIO
Jim Kurose, Assistant Director, CISE
William Lewis, Assistant Director (Acting), EHR Dawn M. Tilbury, Assistant
Director, ENG William E. Easterling, Assistant Director, GEO James S.
Ulvestad, Assistant Director (Acting), MPS Fay Lomax Cook, Assistant
Director, SBE


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