News Release 18-085

NSF announces new awards for Understanding the Rules of Life

New projects address genetic, environmental causality in biological systems and processes

Kenyan baboons will be at the center of research studying mammalian gut microbiomes.

Kenyan baboons will be at the center of research studying mammalian gut microbiomes.


September 21, 2018

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced 29 awards in support of Understanding the Rules of Life, one of the agency's "10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments." The awards, totaling $15 million, demonstrate NSF's commitment to address some of the greatest challenges in understanding the living world, in all of its complex levels of organization, from the molecular scale through to the biosphere.

"These awards get to the heart of fundamental questions about biological processes that span multiple levels of organization," said Joanne Tornow, acting assistant director for NSF's Directorate for Biological Sciences. "We expect the science coming out of these awards to reveal new 'rules of life' that will contribute to a predictive understanding of living systems."

To better identify the "rules" for how life functions, researchers will develop better and newer research tools and infrastructure and establish a collaborative culture to train the next generation of researchers in cross-disciplinary scientific inquiry. NSF expects this research to establish certain "rules of life" that will enable forecasting or prediction of changes in biological systems.

Twenty of the newly awarded projects are funded through NSF's Early-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) program and represent exploratory work in its early stages on untested but potentially transformative research ideas or approaches.

The other nine awards, funded through NSF's program for Research Advanced by Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (RAISE), are bold, interdisciplinary projects whose scientific advances lie mostly outside the scope of a single discipline and appear to promise transformational advances.

As part of this same award solicitation, NSF also funded eight Understanding the Rules of Life-related workshops in 2018 aimed at complementing research in this field.

This year's Understanding the Rules of Life EAGER and RAISE awards are as follows:

About NSF's Big Ideas

NSF's Big Ideas identify areas for future investment. With its broad portfolio of investments, NSF is uniquely suited to advance this set of cutting-edge research agendas and processes that will require collaborations with industry, private foundations, other agencies, science academies and societies, and universities and the education sector. The Big Ideas represent unique opportunities to position our nation at the cutting-edge of global science and engineering leadership and to invest in basic research and processes that advance the United States' prosperity, security, health and well-being. More information is available on NSF's Big Ideas website.

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Ivy F. Kupec, NSF, (703) 292-8796, email: ikupec@nsf.gov

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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