Working Groups

We are pleased to say that NESCent has been granted a one-year no cost extension from NSF. This represents an opportunity to complete work that is in progress and to bring closure to NESCent activities. To capitalize on this opportunity, we are announcing a call for proposals from Working Groups that have completed four meetings, but that would make productive use of a fifth meeting to explore and develop additional ideas that arose from your Working Group. If your group falls into this category, we invite you to submit a proposal for a fifth meeting of your Working Group.

Eligibility: You are eligible to apply if you will have completed four working group meetings by Sept 2014, and have submitted your progress reports and updated our database with the products of your working group.

Deadline: 15 Aug 2014

Application content: The proposal should be an extension of your original proposal rather than a repetition of it, and should include a new project or direction that your Working Group wishes to explore based on what you've already accomplished. In the proposal itself you should briefly summarize your original proposal and what you have accomplished as a Working Group. Then you should provide a description of what you believe you will accomplish with a fifth meeting. The proposal should be 5 pages maximum, including citations. We encourage brief, succinct proposals; documents less than 5 pages in length are welcome. The general format and layout of the proposal is the same as it was for your original proposal. For instructions for writing and submitting the proposal see the proposal guidelines below.

More info: What is a working group?

Working Groups involve small groups of scientists (10-12 participants) collaborating intensively on the analysis or synthesis of data, models or both, to address a major question in evolutionary science.  The working groups will typically meet 3-4 times over two years, with each meeting lasting 3-5 days. Working Group applications will be evaluated on the extent to which they

  • address an important and outstanding evolutionary question,
  • are "risky" endeavors but with a reasonable chance of success,
  • reflect NESCent’s scientific mission to advance research that addresses fundamental questions in evolutionary science by integrating 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.),
  • are not be readily supported by other funding mechanisms or opportunities,
  • 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 project,
  • incorporate diverse group of scientists that go beyond existing collaborations and include multiple disciplines, emerging scientists including graduate students, and international linkages,
  • generate products that typically fall into (but are not restricted to) three broad categories:
    • Synthetic papers and reviews,
    • Databases allowing others to build on your foundation,
    • Software or mathematical tools that solve a major analytical problem.

NESCent will not support collection of new data or field research, but encourages the mining of public and private databases.  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.

Examples of recently supported working groups can be found on NESCent’s supported project page.

Meetings should focus on synthetic scientific or educational research in evolutionary science. Meetings will be held at NESCent in Durham, North Carolina. Support includes travel, lodging and per diem. No salary support is provided, and no overhead is allowed. Awardees do not receive an actual budget; NESCent will handle the budgetary needs for all meeting expenses (hotel, airfare, meals, break food, shuttles, taxis, parking, etc.). Specific guidelines will be provided with award information.  Working groups may request additional funding up to $9600 in support of their activities. However, PIs may only request no more than $2,500 at a time. Examples might include funds for data entry, publication costs or travel by PIs to related meetings. Requests should include the proposed amount, use of funds and justification for how this will enable or enhance the group's goals.

Graduate Fellowships attached to Working Groups

The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center is now including graduate training in its portfolio; Graduate Fellows may be attached to Working Groups (or Sabbatical Scholars or Postdoctoral Fellows). Graduate Fellowships are one semester; the research should be in line with the goals of the Working Group and may include integrating datasets, developing databases, performing analyses, programming and software development, etc.  Support will not be provided to collect or generate new data.  Ultimately we expect the graduate student to lead and author aspects of the research.  For further details see our graduate fellowship webpage. Interested graduate students should consult with the Working Group leader(s) before submitting an application through our online proposal system.  In the proposal, applicants should make explicit how the fellowship will interface with the work of the Working Group.

Before You Apply

Applicants may contact Allen Rodrigo, Director of NESCent or Susan Alberts, Associate Director of Science and Synthesis, for feedback on project ideas.  For more information about educational programs at NESCent, please contact Brian Wiegmann, Associate Director for Education and Outreach.  You may find the following sources of information useful with respect to NESCent’s policies: Working Group Best Practices, Reporting Requirements, Travel Guidelines, and the Data and Software Policy

Proposal Guidelines

Proposals for working groups are short, not to exceed 5 single-spaced (12-pt type) pages (not CVs or references).

Proposals should be organized as follows:

  • Title (80 characters max)
  • Short Title (25 characters max)
  • Name and contact information for Project Leader, and any Co-Leaders
  • 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 in evolutionary science being addressed and a concise review of the concept and the literature to place the project in context.
  • Proposed Activities – This should include a clear statement of specific data (include citations or urls) and analytical tools that will be required for the project.  You must demonstrate that, if you propose to construct a database, you can obtain the relevant data from existing literature. Letters of support are required from the proprietor of datasets, analytical tools, or software not publically available or not owned by the applicant. The proposal should also include a clear statement on how synthesis will occur. 
  • Participating Fields and Partial List of Proposed Participants-NESCent encourages groups that go beyond existing collaborations and that include multiple disciplines, emerging scientists including graduate students, and international linkages.  Named individuals should be committed to participating in the project if funded. Not all participants need to be specified in advance; if unspecified, the type of expertise needed should be indicated. For each participant please include explicit information about career stage, discipline, institution, and institutional location. A supplementary table (not included in the 5 page limit) may be appended for this purpose.
  • Rationale for NESCent support - Why can this activity be most effectively conducted through NESCent? Demonstrate that this group of scientists has not met previously. Typically, proposals that have been selected for support by NESCent are those that explicitly capitalize on NESCent's in-house community, its linkages locally, nationally, and internationally, and the IT and logistic resources that are available.
  • Collaborations with other NESCent Activities – We greatly encourage synergy between sabbatical scholars, short-term visitors, working groups, catalysis groups, and postdoctoral fellows.  If you plan for such collaboration please provide specifics.
  • Anticipated IT Needs - Briefly describe any needs for IT support that are important to the success of the proposed project. Please indicate whether long-term maintenance of a public database will be expected. Also, briefly describe your plans to make resulting data and software available; including any conditions that might limit your ability to make these available.
  • Proposed Timetable - include Start Date month and year, number of meetings, and length of each meeting
  • Outcomes - Proposals should include a clear statement about the expected outcomes of the meeting.  
  •  Short CV of Project Leaders (2 pages for each). Do not include talks, society memberships, or papers in preparation.

Proposal Submission

Proposals will be accepted in digital format only as a 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 CVs. Proposals are submitted electronically. Please login first if you have already created a profile. For technical support, write to

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.