NSF Understanding the Rules of Life: Emergent Networks (URoL:EN) Predicting Transformation of Living Systems in Evolving Environments

Sponsor Deadline: 

May 10, 2021


National Science Foundation

UI Contact: 

NSF  Understanding the Rules of Life: Emergent Networks (URoL:EN) Predicting Transformation of Living Systems in Evolving Environments
NSF 21-560   https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2021/nsf21560/nsf21560.htm?WT.mc_id=USNSF_25&WT.mc_ev=click

The Understanding the Rules of Life: Predicting Phenotype "Big Idea" is based on developing a predictive understanding of how key properties of living systems emerge from interactions of factors such as genomes, phenotypes, and evolving environments. This activity has launched a series of new research programs designed to elucidate "minimal rules" (building a synthetic cell), "rules of complexity" (epigenetics), and "rules of interaction" (microbiome).
This Understanding the Rules of Life: Emergent Networks (URoL:EN) solicitation adds to those previous foundational activities to now understand "rules of emergence" for networks of living systems and their environments. Emergent networks describe the interactions among organismal, environmental, social, and human-engineered systems that are complex and often unexpected given the behaviors of these systems when observed in isolation. The behavior of emergent networks of living systems depend on, but are not wholly predicted by, chemical and physical principles and unit-level biological properties (molecule/cell/organism/population), as well as communication and information flows among nodes in the network. Networks of living systems are reciprocally coupled with natural, built, and social environments in ways that are complex and difficult to predict.

Successful projects of the URoL:EN program are expected to use convergent approaches that explore emergent network properties of living systems across various levels of organizational scale and, ultimately, contribute to understanding the rules of life through new theories and reliable predictions about the impact of specific environmental changes on behaviors of complex living systems, or engineerable interventions and technologies based on a rule of life to address associated outcomes for societal benefit. 
The convergent scope of URoL:EN projects also provides unique STEM education and outreach possibilities to train the next generation of scientists in a diversity of approaches and to engage society more generally. Hence, the URoL:EN program encourages research projects that integrate training and outreach activities in their research plan, provide convergent training opportunities for researchers and students, develop novel teaching modules, and broaden participation of under-represented groups in science.