Attached Announcement

James T. Callahan jcallaha at NSF.GOV
Tue Dec 2 09:10:44 CST 1997

We post this to Taxacom to assure the widest possible distribution.

James T. Callahan
Program Director
Biological Research Collections

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To: jcallaha
Subject: Special REU Supplements
Date: Tue, 02 Dec 97 09:05:28 EST
From: "James T. Callahan" <jcallaha at>

National Science Foundation

Date:   November 1, 1997
Subject:        Special Emphasis REU Supplements in Biodiversity Informatics
To:     Current Awardees
From:   Programs in Biological Databases, Research Collections, Field Stations and Marine
        Laboratories, Biotic Surveys and Inventories, Systematic Biology, and Database and
        Expert Systems

The brochure Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF 96-102, available on the Web at describes how NSF awardees can provide research experiences for undergraduates by incorporating these students into their ongoing research projects.

This memo announces a new class of REU activities that differs from the standard REU supplement program in several ways. This trial REU activity focuses on interdisciplinary research opportunities that bring together undergraduate students in biology with students in computer science or software engineering collaboratively to address projects in the area of biodiversity informatics. This special REU supplement opportunity also differs from the standard supplements in size; they are larger, and targeted for workgroups of four students. These supplements may also include up to $5,000 in additional funds, per student, for software and hardware technology for project support. Up to ten REU supplements in biodiversity informatics will be awarded in FY 98. Programs in the Directorates for Biological Sciences and for Computer and Information Science and Engineering and the US Geological Survey Biological Resources Division will jointly support this activity.

The prime objective of this trial activity is to engage undergraduates in active research designed to provide a high-quality educational experience and make them aware of biodiversity informatics research and infrastructure development as a possible career area. The supplements should: (1) expose technology students to challenging informatics problems within organismal biology, (2) impart a level of awareness and understanding among the biology students for modern approaches in computer science and software engineering, and (3) ultimately enhance the quality of knowledge management within biodiversity disciplines. We are particularly interested in reaching Principal Investigators who have not previously engaged students from computational and information engineering backgrounds in their research.

A key feature of these special REU supplements in biodiversity informatics is the objective of funding minimally four (and maximally five) students on each supplement for collaborative work. In that way a critical mass of students from both biology and computer science disciplines would exist to promote synergy from group interactions, such as regular team discussion or brainstorming meetings, and biology-computer science crosstalk on project conceptualization, design, and implementation.

The ideal supplement structure would be a team consisting of two computer science/software engineering majors and two biology majors. Students may work on the same or different problems within the same award, but we strongly emphasize the need for regular group interaction. Concurrent or near-concurrent hiring of all of the students (to create a workgroup environment during the duration of the activity) is a requirement.

We are particularly interested in requests that would address project areas such as: efficient new techniques for museum specimen data entry; interactive, real-time network mapping of species distributions based on linked specimen database records; enhanced use of Geographic Information System and Remote Sensing technologies in biodiversity studies; development of techniques and prototypes for full electronic publication of monographic and other taxonomic research results; methodologies for collaborative maintenance of community authority files such as standard vocabularies, nomenclators, or taxonomic dictionaries; and systems that utilize the Internet for workgroup architectures such as remote annotation and update of specimen or taxon records. PIs are encouraged, however, to consider other informatics themes as well.

Review Criteria for Special Emphasis REU Supplements in Biodiversity Informatics

1.  Requests with undergraduate teams representing biology and computer science disciplines equally will be favored.
2.  Requests that include biographical sketches of potential student participants will be rated higher, as evidence of project organization and forethought.
3.  Research topics should be technologically innovative within the context of the organism(s) or biological themes being studied in the parent award. The project(s) should integrate intellectual contributions to the biological research with technology development, for example tool development  addressing a particular component of the biological research domain. Routine technical tasks such as Web page construction or data entry would not constitute such integration, although they would not be excluded activities if a minor part of the work. Proposals that engage students in pure biology activities (e.g., mainstream systematic biology or collections research) or in pure technology development activities will not be ranked highly.
4.  Individual students may work on aspects of the same problem or on different problems within each supplement, but proposals that describe procedures to promote a highly interactive workgroup, in ways such as concurrent hiring and participation of students, regular team meetings, regular PI-student and student-student interactions, and report presentation sessions, will be ranked more highly.
5.  Requests that propose activities addressing biodiversity informatics standards and community organizations attempting to implement them, such as the Association for Systematics Collections Reference Model and Standards for Biological Collections data (URL,, the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (, or the National Biological Information Infrastructure (, will be favored over projects that propose independent, idiosyncratic technical solutions to community informatics issues.
6.  Requests that include a brief discussion of prior, active undergraduate student training or mentoring in the context of research projects, whether supported by REU supplements or otherwise, will be ranked more highly.

In order to facilitate the timely review of your request, please comply with the following:

1.  All REU supplement requests in biodiversity informatics must be received by the relevant Program by February 1, 1998. Submit one copy only. Keep the project(s) description to a maximum of four pages; additional pages would include the budget (form NSF 1030, and counter signed by your sponsored research office and following REU supplement rules) and budget justification, and brief biographical sketches of the students if identified. In order to expedite NSF processing, please be certain to include the original NSF award number in your letter.
2.  Only one REU supplement request per parent award will be considered each year by the sponsoring Program, either a standard REU supplement request or this special emphasis request.
3.  Make clear in your request letter that this is a REU supplement request, not a standard grant submission. The intent of the activity is to help students participate fully in a research enterprise. Hence, the request should emphasize expected student accomplishments, benefits to the parent project, and student qualifications. Results from any previous REU supplement should be described (the most recent one, and as part of the four pages maximum).
4.  Note in the guidelines for standard REU supplements (pages 4 and 5 of NSF 96-102) that "normally funds will be available for up to two students, but exceptions will be considered for training additional students who are members of underrepresented groups" and "total costs are expected to be typically up to $5,000 per student"; for summer projects for example, "at least $1,000 per month, with academic year stipends comparable on a pro rata basis." For these special emphasis supplements we are expanding the budget guidelines to allow for four (maximally five) students with total costs of $5,000 each, with an additional allowance of up to $5,000 per student for special purpose hardware and software needed for the project.

Indirect costs are not allowed on REU supplements, but an administrative allowance limited to 25% of student stipends is permitted. Stipend amounts must be entered on line F of the standard budget page, form NSF 1030 (see Grant Proposal Guide, NSF 98-2).

Address your request to:

        Relevant Program (for example, Systematic Biology)
        Division of __________, Room ___
        National Science Foundation
        4201 Wilson Boulevard
        Arlington, VA 22230

If you have any questions, please contact the relevant NSF Program (check program officer listings through the NSF homepage at

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