US Readers: NSF Supplements in Biodiversity Informatics (Act Now)

Jim Beach jbeach at NBII.GOV
Fri Jan 16 11:44:16 CST 1998

To: U.S. Taxacom subscribers with active NSF awards:

This is a reminder of an excellent funding opportunity to bring computer
science and software engineering undergraduates into collections and
systematics research labs to work collaboratively with biology students on
projects in the area of biodiversity informatics.  Supplements can be
requested by any PI with an active award from the NSF Programs mentioned
below.  Deadline for the supplement request is February 1, for a maximum of
$50,000 (see the fine print).  For additional guidance, contact your NSF
Program Officer directly.

Please copy this to any colleagues who might be interested in this area for
undergraduate training.

The US Geological Survey/Biological Resources Division is a funding partner
in this NSF-USGS joint activity.


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

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

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



James H. Beach, Project Director
Electronic Natural History Museum
National Performance Review Reinvention Laboratory
Tel: (703) 319-1173, Fax (703) 648-4224
E-mail:  jbeach at

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