Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) regarding: “Cyberinfrastructure
for the Biological Sciences: Plant Science Cyberinfrastructure
Collaborative (PSCIC)” (NSF
The Division of Emerging Frontiers (EF) in the Directorate for
Biological Science (BIO) of the National Science Foundation recently
released a new solicitation: “Cyberinfrastructure for the
Biological Sciences: Plant Science Cyberinfrastructure Collaborative
Questions about this solicitation are answered below.
Q: Will the Collaborative fund new experimental research
and new data gathering?
A: No. The Collaborative is an infrastructure
project; a resource that enables investigators to
use data that already exist or are being generated world-wide to
pursue their research goals. Support for de novo data generation
must be sought from other funding sources.
Q: What are the grand challenge questions that the Collaborative
will focus on and how many such questions will it address?
A: A central goal of the Collaborative is to
enable the community to identify and answer these questions. Using
its cyberinfrastructure resources and synthesis activities such
as study groups, virtual interactive environments, etc. the Collaborative
will provide mechanisms for the community to continuously evaluate
opportunities for progress. This will be an ongoing process,
with new questions constantly arising as progress is made. There
is a priori no limit to the number of questions. Questions
at and across all scales and encompassing a wide variety
of disciplinary and interdisciplinary contexts are appropriate.
Q: How will the Collaborative interact with institutions
outside the US? Can funding be provided to foreign organizations?
A: Plant science, computer and information sciences,
and cyberinfrastructure are global enterprises and the Collaborative
is expected to operate in a fully global context. This includes
the formation of effective linkages with foreign partners and integration
with other resources around the world. Funds may be requested
to support US investigators and students involved in Collaborative
activities for work in an international setting and for
foreign investigators and students engaged in Collaborative projects
to work with the Collaborative in the US. However, foreign investigators should
secure support for their own activities at their home institutions
from their own funding sources.
Q: Must the principal investigator (PI) be a plant scientist?
A: There is no requirement that the PI be a plant
scientist. The solicitation lists the desired qualifications
of the PI (or Collaborative Director). These include broad
vision, ability to lead diverse teams, demonstrated leadership
in research and education, and proven managerial skills. Note
that it is not just the capabilities of the PI, but the ability
of the proposed Collaborative as a whole to advance plant science
that will be evaluated.
Q. Can institutions from various settings and levels,
such as those from EPSCoR states, participate?
A. Participation by a diversity of institutions
(including those in EPSCoR states) is welcome and strongly encouraged. The
solicitation limits institutional eligibility to U.S. academic
institutions and non-profit research organizations directly associated
with research or educational activities. It also states
that the Collaborative will actively engage a diverse range of
institutions. In keeping with this, interested institutions
at all levels and settings that meet the eligibility requirements
are encouraged to apply in whatever capacity they deem appropriate,
whether as lead institution, subawardee, or another participant
Q: Given the need for the Collaborative to involve individuals
and institutions throughout the U.S. and globally, are
separate letters of recommendation or commitment required from each
A: Short letters of commitment from collaborators
(individuals and institutions) who are key to the Collaborative
effort as stated in the proposal may be included in Section
I, Special Information and Supplementary Documentation. Letters
of recommendation should not be included. The difference is that
a letter of commitment documents a contribution (for example of
time, expertise, or other tangible contributions) to be made to
the project whereas a letter of recommendation provides only an
endorsement of the project. Applicants are encouraged to
consider what is needed to evaluate the credibility/feasibility
of important collaborations while avoiding overwhelming reviewers
with a large volume of extraneous letters. In this light,
providing a letter from every information resource (database) that
might be linked to the Collaborative would be excessive. Providing
a letter from those specific information resources whose material
contributions and/or active cooperation are required to meet the
explicit goals of the Collaborative is advisable.