NESCent-EOL-BHL Research Sprint

We invite participants for an event that will pioneer the mining of the Encyclopedia of Life ( and the Biodiversity Heritage Library ( to address outstanding and novel questions about the ecology and evolution of biodiversity. We aim to identify questions and data for which biologists may lack informatics skills and resources to address or analyze successfully; and symmetrically, to guide informaticians to pressing ecological and evolutionary questions. We seek to make actual discoveries through joint activities and to test the “computability” of major biodiversity databases.

We invite proposals for synthetic research on any aspect of biological science that will leverage EOL and BHL resources.  Successful applicants will be matched with an informatician, in 2 person teams, and receive support to travel to and work on-site at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center for 4 days.

Applications for participation will be evaluated on the extent to which they

  • address an important and outstanding biological question,
  • are “risky” endeavors but with a reasonable chance of success,
  • reflect EOL’s mission to empower scientific research by providing comprehensive and trusted biodiversity data and/or NESCent’s scientific mission to advance research that addresses fundamental questions in evolutionary science. Both organizations promote the integration of methods, concepts, and data within and across disciplines (for more on the context and a classification of synthesis in evolutionary science please read Linking Big: The Continuing Promise of Evolutionary Synthesis),
  • provide evidence that sufficient data are available to tackle the question,
  • provide evidence that appropriate analytical tools are available or will be developed during the event,
  • generate products that typically fall into three broad categories (in order of importance):
    • Synthetic papers and reviews,
    • Software or mathematical tools that solve a major analytical problem.
    • New open data for Encyclopedia of Life allowing others to build on your foundation.

We will not support collection of original data or field research, but encourage the mining of public and private databases such as EOL and BHL.  NESCent is committed to making data, databases, software and other products that are developed as part of NESCent activities available to the broader scientific community. Applicants should review the Data And Software Policy for NESCent.

Proposals will be evaluated in terms of both the scientific value of the project and the qualifications of the applicant.  Visitors will receive support for travel to and from NESCent, lodging, and a per diem for meals not provided.

Before you Apply

All applicants are encouraged to contact Craig McClain, Assistant Director of Science of NESCent, or Cynthia Parr, Chief Scientist of Encyclopedia of Life, for feedback on project ideas. Proposals will be considered through November 15.  The event will likely take place February 3-7, 2014. Please review our Reporting RequirementsTravel Guidelines, and Data and Software Policy before applying.

Proposals Guidelines

Proposals are short and not to exceed 2 single-spaced (12-pt type) pages, plus a 2-page CV.   Proposals should be organized as follows:

  • Title (80 characters max)
  • Name and contact information
  • Project Summary (250 words max)
  • Public Summary (250 words max) – written for the public and visible on the NESCent web site
  • Introduction and Goals – A statement of the outstanding question being addressed and a concise review of the concept and the literature to place the project in context.
  • Proposed Activities – A clear statement of any specific data (include citations or urls) and analytical tools that will be required for the project.  The proposal should also include a clear statement on how synthesis will occur. Letters of support are required from the proprietor of datasets, analytical tools, or software not publically available or owned by the applicant or managed by EOL and BHL.
  • Rationale for support – Why can this activity be most effectively conducted at NESCent and with the Encyclopedia of Life or BHL.
  • Anticipated IT Needs – Briefly describe any needs for IT support that are important to the success of the proposed project. Please indicate whether development of software will be required. Also, briefly describe your plans to make resulting data and software available; including any conditions that might limit your ability to make these available. Please remember you need not possess the informatics skills to address the questions but do need to identify what skills are lacking.  You may propose an informatician to collaborate with.  Prior contact and letter of support with the informatician is encouraged.  If no teammate is suggested EOL/NESCent will work to identify proper support for you.
  • Anticipated Results – include a clear statement of anticipated papers, data and software products, and anticipated public release of data and products
  • Short CV of the applicant(s) (2 pages)
  • Proposal Submission

    Proposals will be accepted in digital format only as a single pdf file. Graphics should be embedded directly into the proposal document. Note that proposals should be submitted as a single pdf file including all of the components listed above, including the CV. Email your proposal to Craig McClain and Cynthia Parr, by November 15, 2013.

    Data, Software and Publication Policy

    The open availability of data, software source code, methods, and results is good scientific practice and a key ingredient of synthetic research. NESCent expects that all data and software created through NESCent-sponsored activities be made publicly available no later than one year after the conclusion of the NESCent award, or immediately upon publication of an associated article, whichever comes earlier. For more information please visit our Data, Software and Publication Policy.

    Funding for this opportunity is generously provided by the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.

    Avatar for Martin R. Kalfatovic

    Martin R. Kalfatovic is BHL Program Director and Associate Director, Digital Programs and Initiatives Division, Smithsonian Libraries and Archives. As the BHL Program Director, Mr. Kalfatovic functions as the executive director and manager of the international consortium of over 80 natural history, botanical garden, government, and university libraries engaged in the mass digitization of taxonomic literature. The position also serves as a key contact for government, NGO, and academic leaders at both the national and international level. Within his role at Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, Mr. Kalfatovic is responsible for the Libraries’ active Digital Library program. This program includes the creation of digital editions of library materials, online exhibitions, and new digital publications.