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Title: Date


The Computational Biology Activities in the Biological Sciences -- Dear Colleague Letter August 31, 1999

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION 4201 Wilson Boulevard Arlington, Virginia 22230 August 31, 1999

Office of the Assistant Director Biological Sciences Dear Colleague: The Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) at the National Science Foundation seeks to strengthen the role of computational biology within our broad base of programs. We believe the best way to encourage future growth of those research areas, that were stimulated by the Computational Biology Activities (CBA) program, is to now mainstream that research into all biology programs. This letter outlines the specific steps we are taking to achieve this goal. There will no longer be a single CBA solicitation. Researchers who plan to submit proposals to the former CBA program announcement (NSF 98-7) are now encouraged to submit proposals to the BIO Divisions most closely related to their field of study. Please visit our web site ( for deadlines and target dates within the BIO Divisions. The plans of the BIO Divisions concerning computational biology related proposals are outlined below. 1. The Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI) has embodied the resource/infrastructural component of CBA in its revised Biological Databases and Informatics program announcement (see NSF 99-91 at The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) supports computational biology in all of its regular programs and special competitions. DEB supports research that uses computational tools or approaches to answer fundamental questions in ecology and evolutionary biology. Also, research that includes the development of models, algorithms or statistical approaches to help answer questions in ecology, ecosystem science, population biology, and systematics is supported. Recent illustrative examples of topics of computational interest include phylogenetic and phylogeographic models and methods; spatial and temporal scaling in ecological analyses; and databasing and networking of


taxonomic and ecological information. Investigators are encouraged to contact DEB program officers to discuss the applicability of their proposals. 3. In the Division of Integrative Biology and Neuroscience (IBN), computational biology is an integral feature of several core programs. Computational techniques are used for studying physiological, behavioral and developmental biology problems and, in neuroscience, biological studies shed insight on computational problems. Computational and modeling approaches are used in IBN to: understand structural and functional adaptations of organisms and their body parts; determine and compare morphometric changes during development; and study the biomechanics of stretch and mechanoreceptors and the biophysics of excitable membranes, etc. Additionally, computational insights can be generated from discoveries about the biology itself. The brain is, in part, a living computational organ, and the Computational Neuroscience Program has always supported research that incorporates advanced mathematical theories and computational tools. These examples suggest the breadth of computational activity in IBN, and program officers should be contacted about the relevance of a particular proposal for a particular area. In the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) computational approaches are playing an increasingly important role. Computational approaches have emerged in formulating and testing physical and mathematical models of the structure and function of complex molecules, macromolecular complexes, and cellular processes. Also, the methodology is used in modeling and simulation of the regulation and relationships of cellular and metabolic processes, in genome data analysis, and in various other applications in genetics and functional genomics. Since the application of computational approaches is not equally well developed in all areas of the Molecular and Cellular Biosciences division, MCB will pay special attention to the review and disposition of proposals with substantial computational components. You can consult MCB program officers to discuss the applicability of your research in divisional program areas.


Since 1992, CBA has nurtured the growth and development of computational biology. In recent years CBA has observed, through proposals received, that computational biology is an integral component of all biological subdisciplines. We now stand at the gateway to a new age in biology. The success of this new age will depend upon how well we cultivate the interface of computer science and technology with the science of biology. Along with the revolution in the biological sciences has come the equally dramatic explosion in computer and information science and technology. Working together, these disciplines will ultimately give us the tools to increase our understanding of biological processes at higher orders of complexity, from the behavior of atoms and molecules to cells to organisms to whole ecosystems. Sincerely,

Mary E. Clutter

Assistant Director The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds research and education in most fields of science and engineering. Grantees are wholly responsible for conducting their project activities and preparing the results for publication. Thus, the Foundation does not assume responsibility for such findings or their interpretation. NSF welcomes proposals from all qualified scientists, engineers, and educators. The Foundation strongly encourages women, minorities, and persons with disabilities to compete fully in its programs. In accordance with federal statutes, regulations, and NSF policies, no person on grounds of race, color, age, sex, national origin, or disability shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving financial assistance from NSF (unless otherwise specified in the eligibility requirements for a particular program). Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities (FASED) provide funding for special assistance or equipment to enable persons with disabilities (investigators and other staff, including student research assistants) to work on NSF-supported projects. See the program announcement or contact the program coordinator at (703) 306-1636. The National Science Foundation has Telephonic Device for the Deaf (TDD) and Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) capabilities that enable individuals with hearing impairments to communicate with the Foundation regarding NSF programs, employment, or general information. TDD may be accessed at (703) 306-0090 or through FIRS on 1-800-877-8339. PRIVACY ACT AND PUBLIC BURDEN STATEMENTS The information requested on proposal forms and project reports is solicited under the authority of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended. The information on proposal forms will be used in connection with the selection of qualified proposals; project reports submitted by awardees will be used for program evaluation and reporting within the Executive Branch and to Congress. The information requested may be disclosed to qualified reviewers and staff assistants as part of the review process; to applicant institutions/grantees to provide or obtain data regarding the proposal review process, award decisions, or the administration of awards; to government contractors, experts, volunteers and researchers and educators as necessary to complete assigned work; to other government agencies needing information as part of the review process or in order to coordinate programs; and to another Federal agency, court or party in a court or Federal administrative proceeding if the government is a party. Information about Principal Investigators may be added to the Reviewer file and used to select potential candidates to serve as peer reviewers or advisory committee members. See Systems of Records, NSF-50, "Principal Investigator/Proposal File and Associated Records," 63 Federal Register 267 (January 5, 1998),

and NSF-51, "Reviewer/Proposal File and Associated Records," 63 Federal Register 268 (January 5, 1998). Submission of the information is voluntary. Failure to provide full and complete information, however, may reduce the possibility of receiving an award. Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 120 hours per response, including the time for reviewing instructions. Send comments regarding this burden estimate and any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden, to: Suzanne H. Plimpton, Reports Clearance Officer; Division of Administrative Services; National Science Foundation; Arlington, VA 22230. YEAR 2000 REMINDER In accordance with Important Notice No. 120 dated June 27, 1997, Subject: Year 2000 Computer Problem, NSF awardees are reminded of their responsibility to take appropriate actions to ensure that the NSF activity being supported is not adversely affected by the Year 2000 problem. Potentially affected items include: computer systems, databases, and equipment. The National Science Foundation should be notified if an awardee concludes that the Year 2000 will have a significant impact on its ability to carry out an NSF funded activity. Information concerning Year 2000 activities can be found on the NSF web site at ( The National Science Foundation is committed to making all of the information we publish easy to understand. If you have a suggestion about how to improve the clarity of this document or other NSF-published materials, please contact us at ( CFDA No. 47.074, Biological Sciences OMB No. 3145-0058 NSF 99-162