NSF Genealogy of Life (GoLife) – 2015 call for proposals

NSF has once again issued its RFP for the Genealogy of Life (GoLife) program. Full proposal deadline is March 25, 2015.

Program Synopsis (from NSF website): 

Comprehensive understanding of life and how and why it changes over time depends on knowledge of the phylogeny (evolutionary relationships) of living and extinct organisms. The goals of the Genealogy of Life (GoLife) program are to resolve the phylogenetic history of all life’s diverse forms and to integrate this genealogical architecture with underlying organismal and environmental data.

The ultimate vision of this program is an open access, comprehensive Genealogy of Life that will provide the comparative framework necessary for testing questions in systematics, evolutionary biology, ecology, and other fields. Strategic integration of this genealogy of life with data layers from genomic, phenotypic, spatial, ecological and temporal data will produce an extensive synthesis of biodiversity and evolutionary sciences. The resulting knowledge infrastructure will enable synthetic research on biological dynamics throughout the history of life on Earth, within current ecosystems, and for predictive modeling of the future evolution of life.

Projects submitted to this program should emphasize increased efficiency in contributing to a complete Genealogy of Life and strategic integration of various types of organismal and environmental data with phylogenies.

This program also seeks to broadly train next generation, integrative phylogenetic biologists, creating the human resource infrastructure and workforce needed to tackle emerging research questions in comparative biology. Projects should train students for diverse careers by exposing them to the multidisciplinary areas of research within the proposal.

Detailed Program Description (from NSF website):

The Genealogy of Life program has four main goals: 1) Taxonomic completeness — containing all described species of a given clade, including those lineages that are extinct, 2) Data completeness —including diverse underlying data layers (e.g., digitized images, specimen collection information, environmental and habitat data, geographic and stratigraphic distributions, genomic and phenomic data, developmental data and ontologies), 3) Dynamic and open structure — allowing the automatic incorporation of new data and taxa, and mechanisms for accessibility to the broad scientific and non-scientific communities, and 4) Training of the next generation of phylogenetic biologists –– integrative training in diverse fields across comparative evolutionary biology. Successful projects will describe how research and training activities will achieve these four overarching goals.

All successful proposals will have the goal of massively increasing the taxonomic and character data space that contributes to making our understanding of life’s genealogy as thorough as possible. When preparing a GoLife proposal, proposers are required to justify the need for phylogenetic analysis on their chosen taxonomic group of study and their approach to advancing data inclusiveness. Taxonomic completeness, as described above in Goal 1, will likely be group-dependent. For example, work on clades that include a rich fossil record should include the fossil taxa in the proposed research. Completeness for other clades will likely be defined differently.

Proposals should focus on poorly sampled clades or data layers within the Genealogy of Life where new data will have a profound impact on new understanding of the pattern of life’s evolution. In accordance with Goal 2 above, justification of data layers to be added is expected to be strategic and to enable future hypothesis-based research. Chosen data layers are likely to be clade-specific. For example, some vertebrate, invertebrate and plant clades will enable approaches that add substantial phenotypic, geochronological, environmental, spatial, and other types of data layers; some prokaryotic clades will enable approaches that add metabolic pathway, genomic and environmental data layers. GoLife proposals should outline the specific types of novel, hypothesis-driven research that would be enabled by the specific phylogenetic and data layer choices that are proposed.

For this year’s solicitation, along with the generation of new phylogenetic data and phylogenetic analyses, GoLife research projects must integrate at least two different data types. Proposals that do not integrate at least two data layers will be returned without review.

Examples of data layers (not an exhaustive list) that could be integrated in GoLife proposals include:

  • a) Genomic/Phylogenomic sequence data
  • b) Genotype-phenotype linkage and mapping
  • c) Morphological data
  • d) Fossil data
  • e) Geochronological data
  • f) Developmental data
  • g) Ontologies
  • h) Geospatial data
  • i) Environmental data
  • j) Digitized voucher specimens
  • k) Encyclopedia of Life webpages
  • l) Behavioral data
  • m) Physiological data
  • n) Metabolic pathways

Length and size of award will depend upon the number and size of the data sets to be added to the Genealogy of Life. Priority will be given to those proposals that provide: 1) the most substantial increase in volume of tree space added, and/or 2) the most significant increase in annotated organismal and environmental data layers. The phylogenetic scope of a GoLife proposal should vastly exceed that of a typical Phylogenetic Systematics core program proposal. Given advances in the field, the size and scope of GoLife proposals should also vastly exceed that of AToL projects.

GoLife projects should leverage existing infrastructure when possible, to avoid redundancy in tools available for comparative biology. Examples of existing infrastructure that GoLife projects could build upon, or access digital data from, include iDigBio, Genbank, Open Tree of Life, etc.

Projects that largely repeat or replicate existing work will not be funded. Additional examples of projects that will not be considered by this program include: 1) projects that only use a single data type (e.g. genomic/phylogenomic or morphological), 2) projects that consist of species surveys, inventories, or descriptions (e.g., Biodiversity: Discovery and Analysis projects), 3) projects that are focused on revisionary systematics (e.g. Advancing Revisionary and Taxonomy and Systematics projects), 4) projects that aim to test a particular hypothesis related to the evolution of a particular group (e.g., Phylogenetic Systematics projects), and 5) projects that are solely focused on the development of new methods or technologies without the generation of substantial amounts of new phylogenetic data. Research proposals that do not focus on poorly sampled clades or data layers within the Genealogy of Life should be submitted to other relevant NSF programs.

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