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June 6, 2017
With this Dear Colleague Letter, the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) is notifying members of the research communities served by the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) and the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) to changes to the Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (DDIG) Program.
Following a process of internal review and discussion regarding available resources, both the DEB and IOS Divisions will no longer accept DDIG proposals. This difficult decision was necessitated because of increasing workload and changes in Division priorities. This change is consistent with decisions made by other programs in BIO, which have not participated in the DDIG competition for more than a decade. This decision does not affect DDIGs that are already awarded.
We recognize that the independent research that was encouraged by the DDIGs has been an important aspect of training the next generation of scientists; we hope that this culture will continue. BIO continues to support graduate student participation in PI-led research across the entire spectrum of topics supported by its programs. Proposals for conferences are encouraged to include support for graduate and postdoctoral trainee travel and attendance. Further, NSF continues to support graduate research through the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) and the NSF Research Traineeship Program (NRT).
If you have any questions pertaining to graduate student support under existing awards or future grant proposals, please contact the cognizant program director in the relevant Division.
James L. Olds
Directorate for Biological Sciences
More info about the reason for the shut-down is here:
The Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (DDIG) program in the Division of Environmental Biology has come to an end. This decision was difficult, but the NSF and BIO’s programs are facing many challenges and this is the best course of action at this time.
The first DDIG solicitation was issued nearly 50 years ago and was intended to provide supplemental funds for graduate students doing field work (a largely unfunded area at the time especially when it came to field work off campus). As the needs of graduate students evolved, DDIGs expanded to help cover additional costs such as dissemination of results and expanded research expenditures.
The funds were intended to widen the existing body of dissertation research and act as a capstone to enhance the students’ work. Over time, DDIGs became a prestigious addition to any CV, with many more students submitting proposals. Eventually, the number of DDIG awards mirrored the number of full proposal awards.
*Proposals from core programs only
In the table above, you’ll see the number of DDIG proposals reviewed in the past two years compared to the number of full research proposals reviewed. In the recent past, full proposal awards and DDIG awards are similar in number. What those DDIG numbers also represent are four review panels comprised of nearly eighty panelists whose recruitment, travel, and reimbursement were coordinated by NSF staff. The cost and effort of staging a DDIG panel and processing the decisions are virtually identical to the cost and effort of a standard grant panel. Yes, DDIGs are small budget awards; they are generally less than $20,000, but DDIGs still demand all the same oversight, management, and approval processes as standard grants.
Many of our Program Officers were themselves recipients of DDIG awards and looked forward to reading the innovative and high-risk research ideas being generated by fearless students. DDIGs have catalyzed a culture of independence and risk taking among graduate students within the sciences funded by DEB; we sincerely hope that graduate training programs will strive to find ways to sustain that culture.
The decision by DEB (and IOS) to end the DDIG solicitation was difficult but in the face of high workload it was a necessary course of action. The NSF will continue supporting graduate research through the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) and the NSF Research Traineeship Program (NRT). If you have any additional questions after reading the Dear Colleague Letter and FAQ, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.