Leading Culture Change Through Professional Societies of Biology (BIO-LEAPS)

Funding Agency:
National Science Foundation

The Leading Culture Change through Professional Societies of Biology (BIO-LEAPS) program aims to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the biological sciences broadly by leveraging the leadership, broad reach, and unique ability of professional societies to create culture change in the life sciences. The Directorate for Biological Sciences at the National Science Foundation (NSF BIO) recognizes that culture change in the biological sciences is an urgent priority because it is foundational to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the discipline. The culture of a scientific discipline — defined here as the shared values, norms, traditions, and practices — can be thought of as an emergent property that results from years of experiences and interactions among scientists, their institutions, their professional societies, and their networks. It is increasingly recognized that the perceptions and attitudes of that culture can be quite variable for different individuals and are often negative for individuals historically excluded from the sciences (e.g., based on gender, gender identity, disability status, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, the intersections of these, and others). Therefore, this program is designed to foster the necessary culture change within biology to move towards an equitable and inclusive culture that supports a diverse community of biologists that more fully reflects the demographic composition of the US population.

Professional societies are uniquely positioned to help facilitate culture change in their disciplines through: publishing journals, fostering scientific discussion and debate, broad membership (including membership from academia, government agencies, and private businesses), hosting large scientific meetings that can serve as networking and professional development opportunities for people at many professional levels, and electing leaders that greatly influence views and norms within a discipline. Recognizing that culture change in biology will require broad, sustained, and innovative approaches for meaningful and lasting changes to occur, society leaders will need to enable and support the establishment and definition of new norms and practices in biology and to encourage engagement with experts in diversity, equity, and inclusion-related organizational change.

NSF BIO will support awards that leverage the work of professional societies towards facilitating necessary culture change in the biological sciences to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at scale — In other words, at the broad and deep scales that are required to address this systemic issue. Examples of evidence-based work that will be supported through this program include (but are not limited to): (1) creating transparent norms and practices that engender and support a sense of belonging and identity for diverse scientists from all backgrounds and demographics; (2) mitigating the systemic factors that result in inequities in the biological sciences, such as the perception of who a "scientist" is, and any factors that discourage diverse participation in biology; (3) assessing the state of norms and practices in professional societies and/or the other components and institutions within their disciplines; and, (4) planning, implementing, and assessing society-sponsored activities to change culture — such as safe conference best practices, strategies to mitigate implicit bias in hiring/promotion for society leadership positions, diversification of editorial boards, etc.

Deadline: July 3, 2023

Agency Website

Areas of Interest

The BIO-LEAPS program recognizes that disciplines and professional societies may be at different points in the process of assessing and addressing their culture. Therefore, this solicitation offers three tracks appropriate for various stages of project development. Proposers are not required or expected to pursue these in a specific order, and there is no requirement that one track be completed prior to any other. Proposers should assess the three tracks described below to determine which one best fits their current needs. Description of the three BIO-LEAPS tracks:

  1. The Evaluation Track is for projects focused on assessment and research of the values, norms, priorities, and practices associated with the culture of the discipline or sub-discipline (e.g., demographics and/or climate--including power-dynamics, procedural justice, norms, and behavioral expectations). Proposals submitted to this track can include evidence-based assessment and research activities (e.g., applied social science research focused on equity or cultural change in biology), as long as these activities are associated with measuring and assessing culture change through professional societies, and they have the potential for broad impact. Examples of activities supported by this track include the creation of new tools for measuring climate or other approaches for evaluation and assessment of culture, as well as dissemination. Assessment and evaluation tools must include evidence of their effectiveness in measuring the intended factors. PIs may request up to $500,000 for up to 2 years of support for this track. Formative assessments of activity in this track need to be reported in annual reports. Submissions to this track should begin with "EVALUATION:" in the title.
  2. The Design Track is for projects to develop an evidence-based plan to address broad-scale culture change within a discipline or sub-discipline. Proposals submitted to this track can include activities such as gathering the appropriate partners for a larger network of participants and/or developing resources to build the necessary infrastructure to submit a larger proposal. Proposals should explicitly describe why the funded activities are necessary and how the funded activities will be used to create a future initiative, be it a grant proposal (e.g., a future BIO-LEAPS proposal or a proposal to another solicitation) or other activity. PIs may request up to $500,000 for up to 2 years of support for this track. Formative assessments of activity in this track need to be reported in annual reports. Submissions to this track should begin with "DESIGN:" in the title.
  3. The Implementation Track is for projects to implement evidence-based cultural change strategies that leverage the influence of biological professional societies. These projects are expected to have a broad scope for cultural change across one or more (sub-)disciplines. Significant impacts will likely differ, depending on the systemic inequity issue(s) addressed, the culture-change goals identified, and the proposed intervention(s). Information on the numbers and percentages of individuals or organizations reached and the degree of change that is expected from those who participate should be articulated in the proposal to explain the scope of reach. For example, proposals by professional societies to alter the format/content/approach of all their regional and national conferences to include activities meant to change the practices, norms, and values of biology or its sub-disciplines as a whole could have significant reach if the societies have a large and broad enough membership and conference attendance. PIs may request up to $2,000,000 for 4-5 years of support for this track. Formative assessments of activities in this track need to be reported in annual reports. Submissions to this track should begin with "IMPLEMENTATION:" in the title.

Eligibility Requirements

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

  • Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) - Two- and four-year IHEs (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members. Special Instructions for International Branch Campuses of US IHEs: If the proposal includes funding to be provided to an international branch campus of a US institution of higher education (including through use of subawards and consultant arrangements), the proposer must explain the benefit(s) to the project of performance at the international branch campus, and justify why the project activities cannot be performed at the US campus.
  • Non-profit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research labs, professional societies and similar organizations in the U.S. associated with educational or research activities.

The PI will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the award. Additional members may be designated as co-Principal Investigators if developing and operating the BIO-LEAPS award would involve shared responsibility and well-justified close collaboration. Other members of the leadership team or collaborators are considered non-co-PI Senior Personnel.

Amount Description

In each year, NSF expects to make approximately:

  • Three to four Evaluation awards; up to $500,000 for up to two years
  • Three to four Design awards; up to $500,000 for up to two years
  • Five to six Implementation awards; up to $2,000,000 for four to five years

Funding Type





Environmental & Life Sciences

External Deadline

July 3, 2023