NSF Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections (ADBC)

Please see the full solicitation for complete information about the funding opportunity. Below is a summary assembled by the Research & Innovation Office (RIO).

Program Summary

This program seeks to enhance and expand the national resource of digital data documenting existing vouchered biological and paleontological collections and to advance scientific knowledge by improving access to digitized information (including images) residing in vouchered scientific collections across the United States. The information associated with various collections of organisms, such as geographic, paleogeographic and stratigraphic distribution, environmental habitat data, phenology, information about associated organisms, collector field notes, and tissues and molecular data extracted from the specimens, is a rich resource providing the baseline from which to further biodiversity research and provide critical information about existing gaps in our knowledge of life on earth. The national resource is structured at three levels: a central coordinating organization, a series of thematic networks based on an important research theme, and the physical collections. The national resource builds upon a sizable existing national investment in curation of the physical objects in scientific collections and contributes vitally to scientific research and technology interests in the United States. It will become an invaluable tool in understanding contemporary biological issues and challenges.

Proposals that address the goals of specimen digitization through innovative plans, strong collaborations among large and small institutions, and mechanisms to build upon existing digitization projects are strongly encouraged. Proposals that increase efficiency and numbers of specimens digitized will have a stronger priority for funding (e.g. by reducing the time and cost per specimen, or by developing new workflows). Current practices cannot achieve a goal of digitizing the existing collections within a ten year period and if this goal of the community strategic plan is to be achieved, there must be new approaches applied to the effort.

This solicitation focuses on proposals for Thematic Collections Networks (TCN) and proposals for Partners to Existing Networks (PEN) to link with existing TCNs.

Proposals for Thematic Collections Networks (TCNs): Thematic Collections Network (TCN) proposals will be submissions for two-to-four year awards to digitize existing specimens based on a particular research theme. This research theme may be a grand challenge for biodiversity, a part of a grand challenge, or another important research theme requiring information from existing collections. Please note that because there is a limit on the number of TCN proposals that may be submitted by CU Boulder, it is absolutely necessary to participate in this internal competition process if your proposal is a TCN proposal.

Proposals for Partners to Existing Networks (PENs): Proposals to partner with and further the efforts of ongoing NSF-funded TCNs are encouraged. The new partners must increase the number of specimens digitized in the ongoing project and fill gaps not addressed by the specimens in the existing TCN. Please note that because there is no limit on the number of PEN proposals that may be submitted by CU Boulder, it is not necessary to participate in this internal competition process if your proposal is a PEN proposal.


CU Internal Deadline: 11:59pm MST August 23, 2020

Sponsor Application Deadline: 5:00pm MT October 9, 2020

Internal Application Requirements (all in PDF format)

  • Project Summary (3 pages maximum): Please include the following: overview statement of the project, broader impacts of the proposed activity, intellectual merit of the proposed activity, how the project will integrate newly digitized collections data with established standards and existing databases, information gaps filled by project, assessment and evaluation plan, plan to sustain the network in the future, project management plans, and how training is integrated.
  • PI CV or Biosketch
  • Budget Overview (1 page maximum): A basic budget outlining project costs is sufficient; detailed OCG budgets are not required.

To access the online application, visit: https://cuboulderovcr.secure-platform.com/a/solicitations/6518/home


It is expected that TCN projects will be collaborative efforts among several institutions. Please refer to Chapter II.D.3 of the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) for guidance about the submission of collaborative proposals.

Federally-owned collections are excluded from this solicitation. Partnerships with federal agencies are encouraged.

Eligibility criteria also apply to all subawards, i.e., organizations ineligible to submit to this program may not receive subawards.

Limited Submission Guidelines

Only one Thematic Collections Networks (TCN) proposal may be submitted by any one organization as the lead organization. Organizations may be involved in more than one collaborative effort as a non-lead proposal.

An individual may appear as PI or co-PI on no more than one ADBC proposal submitted to any annual ADBC competition.

Award Information

Award Amount: The budget should reflect the scope of work proposed.

Award Duration (TCN proposals): Up to 4 years.