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CALL FOR PROPOSALS

External Project Grants - Now Accepting Proposals

The NSF-Simons National Institute for Theory and Mathematics in Biology requests proposals for pilot research projects concordant with its scientific mission based at institutional partners external to Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.

Background

Northwestern University and the University of Chicago have been awarded funds from the National Science Foundation and the Simons Foundation to establish the National Institute for Theory and Mathematics in Biology, or NITMB, based in downtown Chicago. The institute is the first of its kind in the U.S.
 

Together, the two universities aspire to create a nationwide collaborative research community that will generate new mathematics inspired by biology and new biological discoveries driven by the application of mathematics. Foundational advances at the NITMB will have broad biological impacts across the spectrum of the life sciences. Discoveries in biology will also motivate foundational advances in mathematics. The current NITMB research themes are Fidelity & Variation, Fitness & Optimization, Information Processing, Learning & Adaptation, Prediction & Anticipation.

Proposals

Proposals must only be submitted from faculty working at U.S. academic institutions. All investigators that will be funded by the External Pilot Project Grants must work at U.S. academic institutions. No more than two academic institutions can receive funds from a single Project Grant, although the research can involve investigators at more than two academic institutions if desired. Investigators may not be key personnel in more than one proposal. Northwestern and UChicago investigators may partner with external pilot projects but are ineligible to receive funds through this program.
 

Proposals may be submitted for funds for 24 months of support of no more than $150,000 (direct + indirect costs). Details about submission requirements are listed under “Procedures” below.
 

The research proposal must include the following:

  1. A statement defining the problem or phenomenon (mathematical or biological) that the research will address.

  2. A description of how the research will advance understanding of the biological phenomenon.

  3. A description of how the research will advance the development of new mathematics.

  4. A statement of which NITMB research themes are touched upon by the proposed research and why.

  5. A detailed description of the approaches that will be taken, methods used, anticipated outcomes, and contingency plans for all thrusts of the proposed research.

  6. A description of the participants in the research and how they will work together to achieve the project goals.

Proposals should be submitted online at
https://uchicago.infoready4.com/#competitionDetail/1930137
by Tuesday, April 2, 2024, at 11:59pm.

Proposals should directly address the Merit Review Criteria and conform to the funding policies detailed below. Investigators may not be key personnel in more than one proposal. Northwestern and UChicago investigators may partner with external pilot projects but are ineligible to receive funds through this program.
 

Merit Review Criteria:

  1. Advancement of the NITMB mission to create a nationwide collaborative research community that will generate new mathematics inspired by biology and new biological discoveries driven by the application of mathematics.

  2. Alignment with the research themes of the NITMB:

    • Fidelity & Variation

    • Fitness & Optimization

    • Information Processing

    • Learning & Adaptation

    • Prediction & Anticipation

  3. The extent to which the research will develop new mathematics.

  4. How well the research integrates theory and mathematics with biology, with investigators providing complementary expertise.

  5. Collaborations between theorists or mathematicians and experimentalists are preferred, but projects are not required to have an experimental component and may use pre-existing datasets.

  6. The quality of the mentoring plan for trainees.

Policies

  1. Funds can be used to support the stipend/salary/fringe of graduate and undergraduate RAs and postdoctoral scholars. Funds cannot be used to support faculty, research staff, or administrative staff. Funds cannot be used to purchase capital equipment. No more than $10,000 (direct costs) may be spent on experimental supplies and services. Funds cannot be used to purchase computer equipment or purchase/lease software. No more than $1,500 (total costs) in travel funds are allowed.

  2. The term of funding is 24 months, contingent upon adequate progress in the first 12 months. A progress report must be submitted to NITMB, which will determine if funding is continued for the final 12 months. Continuation will depend on the Merit Review Criteria evaluated above as well as progress made towards project goals, and the engagement of the project’s investigators in NITMB activities.

  3. No-Cost-Extensions are not permitted for the funding of the project. At the end of the 24-month funding period, a final written progress report is required from the investigators, documenting research progress, key findings, new mathematical results and their impact on biology, any grant applications made as a consequence of the project, and future directions. This report must also provide information (level of support, research tasks, and additional information requested by the NSF or Simons Foundation) about any trainees supported by the funds for the NITMB evaluation process. Any software, datasets, or models resulting from supported research must be made publically available, well-documented, and easily accessible when published as preprint or paper; such materials will be posted on the NITMB web page, Github, Datajoint, Dryad, etc. Each team must also produce a publicly accessible blog, social media post and/or video abstract for each publication resulting from the proposed research.

  4. The principal investigators are required to present their project research at an NITMB convening activity (e.g., a workshop or conference).

  5. If the project involves experiments on animals, all NSF protocols must be followed and appropriate forms must be submitted to the NITMB.

Procedures

  1. Timeline:

    • Release call for applications  Feb. 6, 2024

    • Application deadline April 2, 2024

    • Awards notification  June 1, 2024

    • Work start date  Sept. 1, 2024 (or 1-2 months thereafter)

  2. Proposals should include a 4-page research proposal, a one-page mentoring plan and DEI statement, a budget using the provided template, a budget justification, and biosketches in NIH or NSF format for all investigators. The proposal should address all the merit review criteria described below and list the names of the personnel to be supported (if known at the time of application). If supplies are requested, please include a short itemized budget in the justification.

  3. Pre-screening of applications will occur to ensure that they are complete and conform to eligibility requirements.

  4. Each application will be reviewed initially by at least two NITMB Research Committee members. A common rubric/scoring system will be used for all applications. The full committee will then meet to consider and rank the applications based on the merit criteria. The committee will include one member whose task is to ensure DEI best practices are carried out in the ranking process.

  5. The committee recommends applications to be funded to the Deputy Director for Research. Once approved, the awarded applicants will be notified.

  6. The awarded applicants must coordinate with their respective university administrations to execute the sub-contracts between the NITMB and their home institutions during the summer months, in order to have a Sept 1 start date.

  7. Funding recipients must otherwise contribute to NITMB training and/or programming efforts, such as attending NITMB workshops or conferences or participating in educational activities.

  8. Any changes in the project budget must be requested by the principal investigators for approval by the NITMB before changes are made.

  9. We anticipate making 4-6 awards per year, subject to the availability of funds.

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