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UK BBSRC-US NSF/BIO Lead Agency Pilot Opportunity

Call status: Closed
Next application deadline: 1 June 2015


The US National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Research Councils UK (RCUK) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Research Cooperation. The MoU provides an overarching framework to encourage collaboration between US and UK research communities and sets out the principles by which jointly supported activities might be developed. The MoU provides for a lead agency arrangement whereby proposal applications may be submitted to either NSF (via FastLane) or one of the UK Research Councils (via Je-S).

The NSF Directorate for Biological Sciences (NSF/BIO) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) are pleased to announce a pilot program for the NSF/BIO – BBSRC lead agency arrangements under the NSF/RCUK Research Cooperation MoU. The pilot program allows for reciprocal acceptance of peer review through unsolicited mechanisms and its goal is to help reduce some of the current barriers to working internationally.


The pilot will allow US and UK researchers to submit a single collaborative proposal that will undergo a single peer review process. The pilot will operate for Autumn 2014 and Autumn 2015 submissions and proposals will be accepted for UK-US collaborative projects in the areas of intersection between NSF/BIO and BBSRC (responsive mode only) as set out below:

  • BBSRC Strategic Research Priorities, Responsive Mode
    Data Driven Bioscience
    Systems Approaches to the Biosciences
    Synthetic Biology (September 2015 submissions only)
  • NSF/BIO Solicitations
    Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Solicitation NSF 13-510
    Division of Biological Infrastructure Solicitation NSF 12-567

The intersection areas include systems biology, computational biology, bioinformatics and synthetic biology (Autumn 2015 only).

Proposals are expected to adhere to the remit, funding limits and grant duration for BBSRC responsive mode and NSF/BIO program(s) from which funding is sought. Guidelines for the preparation, submission, peer review, and award of NSF/BIO-BBSRC Collaborative Proposals can be found in the downloads section.

If a proposal is recommended for funding, the US organisation(s) will be supported by NSF/BIO and the UK organisation(s) will be supported by BBSRC.

How to apply

There is a 2-stage application process (see timeline below).

  1. Intention to submit (closed to applications)
    • Prior to submission of a full proposal, proposers (this is equivalent to full application, applicant in BBSRC terms) will need to discuss within their research team where they feel the largest proportion of research lies and agree on a proposed lead agency (either NSF/BIO or BBSRC). The proposer should contact the relevant staff member at the proposed lead agency to discuss the project. The staff member will then confirm that they will act as the lead agency (and subsequently inform other participating agency) or will consult with the other lead agency to identify a new lead funding agency prior to returning a decision to the proposer (generally within ten working days)
    • Proposers will then be required to submit to the lead agency a PDF Intention to Submit (ITS) of no more than 2 pages (A4/letter) that sets out:
      • a brief description of the proposed collaborative research project
      • the names, institutions and qualifications of the applicants and project partners
      • an estimate of the funding to be requested from NSF/BIO and BBSRC (a detailed budget is not required at this time)
    • If BBSRC is the prospective lead agency applicants should e-mail their intention to submit to If NSF is the prospective lead agency applicants should e-mail
    • The ITS will be shared with the non-lead agency to check for eligibility (namely whether the proposed research fits within the participating agencies' portfolio, the scope of the pilot and whether the proposed researchers and institutions meet the agencies' funding eligibility requirements). The ITS will also be used to gauge proposal pressure by program and assist programs with budget planning
    • Following consultation between NSF/BIO and BBSRC the lead agency will provide feedback (generally within 10 working days) to the applicant on whether or not the proposed submission can proceed
  2. Full proposal
    • Upon confirmation from the lead agency that the proposed collaborative research is appropriate for the UK-BBSRC-US NSF/BIO Lead Agency Pilot Opportunity, researchers may submit a full research proposal to the lead agency via the appropriate mechanism
    • If BBSRC is the lead agency, proposers must comply with the proposal preparation requirements outlined in the BBSRC Grants Guide and proposals should be submitted via the Research Councils Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system using the BBSRC's Responsive Mode Research Grants scheme. UK proposers should follow the directions set out in the document 'BBSRC guidance notes for the BBSRC-NSF-BIO Lead Agency Pilot Application Procedures'
    • If NSF is the lead agency, proposers must comply with the proposal preparation requirements outlined in NSF's Grant Proposal Guide and submit the proposal through NSF's Fast Lane system or to the appropriate standing programme within BIO. If approved for funding by NSF, UK proposers will be required to submit a copy of the application to BBSRC via Je-S
    • The proposal should include a description of the full proposed research program and research team and describe the total resources for the joint project (that is, the funds requested from both NSF/BIO and BBSRC). However, the budget forms submitted to the lead agency should only indicate the amount requested from that agency. A copy of the proposed requested budget of the non-lead agency should be included as part of the full proposal
    • The proposal should indicate the proposal is to be considered under the lead agency arrangements by prefacing the title with 'Bilateral BBSRC NSF/BIO'

How to submit a full proposal to BBSRC

  • Read BBSRC's 'Guidance notes for the BBSRC-NSF-BIO lead agency pilot application procedures' (see downloads).
  • Read the 'NSF/BIO-BBSRC Lead Agency Management Plan' (see downloads).
  • Complete an online application through Je-S (see external links).


  • The standard eligibility criteria apply for BBSRC applicants.
  • US partners should contact the NSF-BIO Directorate for details of their eligibility criteria.

Peer review

NSF/BIO-BBSRC collaborative proposals will be reviewed alongside all other standard proposals received in the same funding cycle and will not undergo a separate or special review process. Proposals will be reviewed in accordance with lead agency's review criteria.

For further information about NSF-BIO Directorate visit the NSF website (see external links).

Timeline for submissions to BBSRC

Deadline for Intention to Submit (closed) 30 May 2014, 4pm 1 June 2015, 4pm
Deadline for full proposal 24 September 2014, 4pm September 2015 TBC
Proposal assessed by BBSRC February 2015 TBC February 2016 TBC
Applicants notified of outcome March 2015 TBC March 2016 TBC