The National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) has released a new solicitation to establish a Synthesis Center for Understanding Organismal Resilience, supported by the BIO Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS). This new Center aims to support research to “advance our ability to explain and predict organismal resiliency and plasticity in response to complex and dynamic environmental circumstances encountered over a lifespan.” The Synthesis Center intends to utilize principles of open science, team science, data sharing, and inclusive collaborations among researchers to allow for innovative analysis of biological and other relevant data on organismal resilience and plasticity. The Center should ultimately contribute to a stronger understanding of how organisms maintain or recover their functions amid changing conditions, and “provide translational insights and identify practical solutions to grand challenges in organismal biology and society.”
The Synthesis Center must involve data and approaches from multiple sub-disciplines in biology, while providing access to the necessary resources to integrate and analyze data from several sources and levels of biological inquiry to create new understanding of organismal resilience. The Synthesis Center should specifically leverage diverse research teams to incorporate multidisciplinary perspectives and expertise to evaluate a broad range of biological data relevant to resilience and plasticity. Notably, Synthesis Centers will not support the creation of new data, but instead will facilitate synthesis of existing data. The Synthesis Center should also have strong capacities for workforce development, including by training and engaging new generations of researchers from different types of institutions. Proposers should specifically seek to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion of individuals and institutions historically underrepresented in science and research, including by involving a PI, co-PIs, or other research staff from such groups. NSF particularly encourages proposals from EPSCoR jurisdictions.
The solicitation identifies several specific objectives, including that the Synthesis Center must:
- “Promote synthesis research across individual organismal systems, biological subdisciplines, and targets of inquiry to build a deeper understanding of organismal resilience and plasticity in response to factors that directly or indirectly affect organismal performance and/or fitness.
- Develop or provide the necessary resources to enable data management and integration; advance open science strategies that increase data access, sharing, and reuse.
- Enhance access to existing infrastructure, e.g., computing power; foster collaboration and team science; and promote standards and best practices in the community for synthesis research.
- Build an effective and evidence-based training enterprise for the next generation of scientists.
- Integrate efforts to broaden participation across demographic, geographic, institutional, and disciplinary lines in all activities.”
The Synthesis Center for Understanding Organismal Resilience is similar in structure to NSF BIO’s previous solicitations for the Synthesis Center for Molecular and Cellular Sciences (SCMCS) and the Center for Advancement and Synthesis of Open Environmental Data and Sciences, which was awarded in July 2022.
Eligibility Information: U.S. institutions of higher education and other non-profit organizations including research laboratories and professional societies may submit a proposal. While there is no limit on the number of proposals an organization may submit, an individual may only be designated as PI or co-PI on one preliminary proposal and one full proposal.
Key Dates and Deadlines: Preliminary proposals are required and must be submitted by January 12, 2024. Full proposals must be submitted by July 15, 2024. NSF will host three informational webinars between March and November 2023, with details to be posted on the program page.
Award Information: NSF will award one Synthesis Center of $20 million as a cooperative agreement with an initial five-year term and the possibility of a five-year renewal.
Sources and additional information:
• The full solicitation is available at https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2023/nsf23564/nsf23564.pdf.
• The Synthesis Center program page is available at https://beta.nsf.gov/funding/opportunities/synthesis-center-understanding-organismal.
- Previous NSF BIO Synthesis Center solicitations: o The program page for the Synthesis Center for Molecular and Cellular Sciences (SCMCS) is available at https://beta.nsf.gov/funding/opportunities/synthesis-center-molecular-cellular-sciences-scmcs.
- The program page for the Center for Advancement and Synthesis of Open Environmental Data and Sciences is available at https://beta.nsf.gov/funding/opportunities/center-advancement-synthesis-open-environmental; and the announcement of the award is available at https://beta.nsf.gov/news/new-nsf-center-will-advance-broaden-catalyze.