Funding Opportunity: NSF and Simons Foundation Partner on Research Centers for Mathematics of Complex Biological Systems
The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently released a solicitation for three Research Centers for Mathematics of Complex Biological Systems (MathBioSys) that will be jointly funded by NSF and the Simons Foundation. The mission of the Simons Foundation is “to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences.” The MathBioSys centers will integrate mathematics, statistics, and biology to further understand emergent biological properties. In addition to conducting basic research on relevant topical areas, centers will also participate in workforce training and convening activities. A total of $30 million is available, with three centers expected to be funded at $2 million a year for five years.
The MathBioSys program is a new program that is part of NSF’s Ten Big Ideas for Future Investment. Applicants are highly encouraged to submit proposals for “developing predictive frameworks for understanding emergent properties or phenotypes,” consistent with the research goals of the Rules of Life Big Idea. NSF also intends for these centers to replace existing center-level investments in computational biology that are ending in FY 2017, including the National institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis at the University of Tennessee and the Mathematical Biosciences Institutes at the Ohio State University. The announcement of the MathBioSys centers also follows on the NSF workshop report Deciphering Genome to Phenome Relationships: Interdisciplinary Research at the Interface of the Biological and Mathematical Sciences, which recommended focused support for using mathematics to help understand emergent biological properties.
Research topics can include mathematical, statistical, and computational approaches to explore emergent multi-scale properties, such as at the molecular, cellular, and organismal system levels. NSF is especially interested in research to understand and predict the complex causal relationships that lead to these properties. NSF encourages forming new cross-disciplinary partnerships to help build capacity, though existing partnerships can also be utilized, especially for informing mathematical approaches with experimentation. The MathBioSys researcher personnel at the centers should be well balanced between those with mathematics and biological backgrounds. Centers are expected to contribute to cross-disciplinary workforce development by training postdoctoral research associates and/or students at the graduate or undergraduate level. Centers should engage in convening activities such as hosting or participating in visitor programs, workshops, and outreach. Annual meetings will be held at the Simons Foundation in New York City for Principal Investigators (PIs) and other lead researchers.
The MathBioSys program is sponsored by the Division of Mathematical Sciences (DMS) in the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) and both the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) and the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) in the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO). MathBioSys is BIO’s first new dedicated program under the Rules of Life Big Idea, however additional emphasis on research that aligns with the Rules of Life Big Idea is included in the fiscal year (FY) 2018 President’s budget request. DMS has been involved in the Harnessing the Data Revolution for 21st Century Science and Engineering Big Idea through the TRIPODS solicitation, which was released in September 2016, and the Dear Colleague Letter on Growing Convergence Research at NSF released in April 2017 that focused on convergent approaches for four of the other Big Ideas: Harnessing the Data Revolution for 21st Century Science and Engineering; Navigating the New Arctic; The Quantum Leap: Leading the Next Quantum Revolution; and Work at the Human-Technology Frontier: Shaping the Future.
Total Funding and Award Information: A total of $30 million is expected to be available for this jointly-funded program, with $15 million each from NSF and the Simons Foundation. Three center awards are anticipated, with each center funded at $2 million dollars a year for five years.
Due Dates: Letters of Intent are required and are due August 10, 2017. Full proposals are due September 29, 2017.
Eligibility: Academic institutions and non-academic non-profits are eligible to submit proposals. Senior personnel and PIs may be listed on no more than two proposals.
Sources and Additional Information:
- The NSF announcement for MathBioSys is available at https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505392.
- The Simons Foundation announcement is available at https://www.simonsfoundation.org/funding/funding-opportunities/mathematics-physical-sciences/nsf-simons-research-centers-for-mathematics-of-complex-biological-systems/.
- More information about the Ten Big Ideas for NSF Future Investment is available at https://www.nsf.gov/about/congress/reports/nsf_big_ideas.pdf.
- The Deciphering Genome to Phenome Relationships workshop report is available at https://www.nsf.gov/mps/dms/documents/Deciphering_Genome-to-Phenome_Relationships.pdf.
 NSF FY 2018 Budget Request to Congress: Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) - https://www.nsf.gov/about/budget/fy2018/pdf/19_fy2018.pdf
 Transdisciplinary Research in Principles of Data Science Phase I (TRIPODS) solicitation - https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2016/nsf16615/nsf16615.htm
 Dear Colleague Letter: Growing Convergence Research at NSF - https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2017/nsf17065/nsf17065.jsp