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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Research and Development
National Center for Environmental Research
Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program

CLOSED - FOR REFERENCES PURPOSES ONLY

Forecasting Ecosystem Services from Wetland Condition Analyses

This is the initial announcement of this funding opportunity.

Funding Opportunity Number: EPA-G2008-STAR-L1

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 66.509

Solicitation Opening Date: August 1, 2008
Solicitation Closing Date: November 3, 2008, 4:00 pm Eastern Time

Eligibility Contact: William Stelz (stelz.william@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8039
Electronic Submissions: Thomas O'Farrell (O'Farrell.Thomas@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8085
Technical Contact: Anne Sergeant (sergeant.anne@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8105

Table of Contents:
SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS
Synopsis of Program
Award Information
Eligibility Information
Application Materials
Agency Contacts
I. FUNDING OPPORTUNITY DESCRIPTION
A. Introduction
B. Background
C. Authority and Regulations
D. Specific Areas of Interest/Expected Outputs and Outcomes
E. References
F. Special Requirements
II. AWARD INFORMATION
III. ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION
A. Eligible Applicants
B. Cost Sharing
C. Other
IV. APPLICATION AND SUBMISSION INFORMATION
A. Internet Address to Request Application Package
B. Content and Form of Application Submission
C. Submission Dates and Times
D. Funding Restrictions
E. Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements
V. APPLICATION REVIEW INFORMATION
A. Peer Review
B. Programmatic Review
C. Funding Decisions
VI. AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION
A. Award Notices
B. Disputes
C. Administrative and National Policy Requirements
VII. AGENCY CONTACTS

Access Standard STAR Forms (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/)
View research awarded under previous solicitations (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/archive/grants/)

SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS

Synopsis of Program:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is seeking applications to develop relationships between wetland ecological condition indicators and ecosystem services delivery. There is a great need to extract maximum value from current efforts to conduct wetland condition surveys and to consider the full range of benefits derived from ecosystem services. (Services provided by ecosystems to humans include provisioning [e.g., providing water food, fuel, fiber]; support [soil fertility, nutrient cycling, pollination]; regulation [climate moderation, flood control]; cultural [economic, spiritual, and recreational benefits]; and preservation [biodiversity, renewable resources].) Methods to demonstrate how data on wetland condition can be used to quantify the services provided by wetlands are vital if state and tribal wetland managers are to ensure continued benefit from those services.

Award Information:
Anticipated Type of Award: Grant or cooperative agreement
Estimated Number of Awards: Approximately two awards
Anticipated Funding Amount: Approximately $950,000 total for all awards
Potential Funding per Award: Up to a total of $475,000 including direct and indirect costs, with a maximum duration of 3 years
Cost-sharing is not required. Proposals with budgets exceeding the total award limits will not be considered.

Eligibility Information:
Public nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes public institutions of higher education and hospitals) and private nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes private institutions of higher education and hospitals) located in the U.S., state and local governments, Federally Recognized Indian Tribal Governments, and U.S. territories or possessions are eligible to apply. See full announcement for more details.

Application Materials:
You may submit either a paper application or an electronic application (but not both) for this announcement. The necessary forms for submitting a STAR application will be found on the National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) web site, http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/. To apply electronically, you must use the application package available at Grants.gov (see Submission Instructions for Electronic Applications in Section IV). If your organization is not currently registered with Grants.gov, you need to allow approximately one week to complete the registration process to apply electronically. This registration, and electronic submission of your application, must be performed by an authorized representative of your organization.

Agency Contacts:
Eligibility Contact: William Stelz (stelz.william@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8039
Electronic Submissions: Thomas O'Farrell (O'Farrell.Thomas@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8085
Technical Contact: Anne Sergeant (sergeant.anne@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8105

I. FUNDING OPPORTUNITY DESCRIPTION

A. Introduction
This solicitation seeks applications for research that will develop and refine creative approaches for demonstrating whether and how the growing body of data and information on wetland condition can be related to the provisioning of wetland ecosystem services. Research under this proposal should utilize appropriate, existing data for which information on data quality is available (i.e., use data sources like EMAP, federal agencies, state and local governments, NGOs). Research should focus on, but need not be limited to, (1) the use of condition indicators and related data to quantify wetland ecosystem services delivery, and (2) the application and development of innovative statistical and geographic analyses and interpretation for use with the types of data that are generated by wetland condition surveys. These approaches to analysis and interpretation should, at minimum, (1) account for the provisioning of ecosystem services at multiple spatial scales (e.g., watershed, state, ecoregion, nation), (2) quantify the relative importance of stressors (e.g., agriculture, hydrologic alteration, development, climate change) impacting wetland ecosystem services, and (3) be amenable to informing a specific type or program of environmental decision-making.

B. Background
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment produced a compelling synthesis of the global value of wetland ecosystem services and their relationships to human well-being (MEA, 2005). Wetlands deliver a wide range of ecosystem services (e.g., fish and fiber production, water supply support, water purification, climate regulation, flood regulation, coastal protection, recreational opportunities, and tourism) that contribute to human well-being. Although the most recent National Wetlands Inventory Status and Trends report (Dahl, 2005) described a net gain in total wetland acreage between 1998 and 2004, significant losses still occurred in specific wetland types (e.g., 61% of freshwater wetland losses were due to urban and rural development). Costanza et al. (1997) estimated the average global value of wetland ecosystem services in US 1994 dollars to be almost $15K ha-1 yr-1higher than any other ecosystem except marine coastal systems. This strongly suggests that future environmental decision-making processes weigh the value of ecosystem services as an important contribution to human well-being. As human population continues to increase, especially in coastal environments, wetlands worldwide are projected to suffer continued loss and degradation, thus reducing the capacity of wetlands to provide valued ecosystem services that contribute to human well-being. These effects are further intensified when scenarios for impacts associated with climate change are taken into consideration. Thus, the concurrent demand for ecosystem services will only increase.

Wetlands are valued because many of their ecological functions have proven useful to humans. Mitsch and Gosselink (1993) state that The reasons that wetlands are often legally protected have to do with their value to society, not with the abstruse ecological processes that occur in wetlands Perceived values arise out of the functional ecological processes but are also determined by human perceptions, the location of a particular wetland, the human population pressures on it, and the extent of the resource. This is reflected in the fact that wetlands were identified as a priority for protection, restoration, and improvement by the President on Earth Day 2004 (CEQ 2006). This new national initiative went beyond the no net loss policy with a goal to restore or create, protect, and improve at least 3 million acres of wetlands by 2009 (CEQ 2006). EPA recognizes the array of benefits provided by wetlands to the economic, ecological, and cultural heritage of all Americans, as well as the need to support State and Tribal efforts to maintain water quality and protect wetlands. Therefore, EPA is implementing a research effort to (1) document the range and quantity of ecosystem services provided by wetlands and (2) determine how the relative abundance of functional types of wetlands, their distribution and position in the landscape, and their ecological condition alters the provisioning of services.

In the next decade, States and Tribes will need to develop major policy decisions to address trade-offs among current and future uses of wetland resources. Particularly important trade-offs involve those between:

  • coastal land use and human safety during floods or storm surges;
  • agricultural production and safe water supplies;
  • land use and biologically diverse terrestrial ecosystems;
  • water use and biologically diverse and productive aquatic ecosystems;
  • current water use for irrigation and future agricultural production (MEA, 2005)

Such decisions must also consider the full range of benefits and values to human well-being provided by different wetland ecosystem services. Carpenter et al. (2006) identified many uncertainties and research needs evoked by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. These include characterizing ecosystem services, linking ecosystem condition and function to services and human well-being, predicting the effects of changes in ecosystem services on human well-being, and improving the identification, quantification, and communication of uncertainty of data related to ecosystem services.

Ecological monitoring, modeling, and mapping have been mainstays of ecological science, both within the Agency and for the discipline as a whole. In addition, Section 305(b) of the Clean Water Act requires the States and Tribes to report biennially on the quality of our Nations water resources. This report, known as the National Water Quality Inventory, provides an assessment of condition and an analysis of the relative magnitude of impact that can be attributed to different stressors and their sources. The Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) supports and enhances this reporting by developing tools for detecting both spatial and temporal trends. The program emphasizes the development and testing of indicators of ecological condition and of new monitoring designs for major classes of natural resources, including wetlands, for use by States and Tribes. The research has been conducted through series of studies in the form of assessments of ecological condition.

The requirement that all waters of the U.S. be assessed has been historically ignored for wetlands, even though they are included in the definition of waters of the U.S. However, prospects for comprehensive monitoring of wetlands are high as evidenced by plans for a national assessment of wetland condition in 2011 (Scozzafava et al. 2007). Technically, the development of wetland monitoring and assessment has made significant progress over the last five years. For instance, Wardrop et al. (2007) credit the development of (1) hydrogeomorphic classification and assessment (Brinson 1993), (2) biological assessment methods (e.g., Karr and Chu 1999, Lopez and Fennessy 2002), (3) the definition of reference condition (Brinson and Rheinhardt 1996, Rheinhardt et al. 1997, 1999); and (4) design protocols for obtaining a representative sample of aquatic resources (e.g., Larsen et al. 1994, Stevens and Olsen 1999, 2000). Recent publications demonstrate the capacity for conducting surveys of wetlands condition at the watershed scale (see, for instance, Kentula (2007) and materials available on the EPA Biological Assessment of Wetlands Workgroup web page at http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/bawwg).

The challenge moving forward is to provide the technical support needed by States and Tribes to determine how to employ the growing experience in conducting surveys of wetland condition to the emerging need to include the value of ecosystem services in the process of environmental decision-making. This challenge also includes quantifying observed wetland condition data and linking them to ecosystems and their contribution to human well-being. State or Tribal water resource managers might consider, for instance:

  • the pollution-prevention or mitigation services (e.g., chemical pollutant removal, sediment removal) provided by wetland ecosystems vs. the cost of providing them through built infrastructure;
  • the amount of fish or fiber produced per unit area in areas well-protected by wetlands vs. that of poorly protected or unprotected areas (i.e., document wetlands pollution prevention benefits);
  • the linear extent of coastline protected from storm surge by coastal vegetation (erosion control);
  • the economic value of recreational opportunities provided by a specific area (wetland provision or protection of fishable/swimmable water);
  • or construction costs avoided by the presence of wetlands that slow and absorb floodwaters (flow mitigation or flood control).

The specific Strategic Goal and Objective from the EPAs Strategic Plan that relate to this solicitation are: Goal 4: Healthy Communities and Ecosystems, Objective 4.4: Enhance Science and Research.

The EPAs Strategic Plan can be found at http://www.epa.gov/ocfo/plan/2006/entire_report.pdf (PDF) (184 pp, 11.56 MB)

C. Authority and Regulations
The authority for this RFA and resulting awards is contained in the Clean Water Act, Section 104, 33 U.S.C.

Applicable regulations include: 40 CFR Part 30 (Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Agreements with Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals, and Other Non-Profit Organizations), 40 CFR Part 31 (Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements to State and Local Governments) and 40 CFR Part 40 (Research and Demonstration Grants). Applicable OMB Circulars include: OMB Circular A-21 (Cost Principles for Educational Institutions) relocated to 2 CFR Part 220, OMB Circular A-87 (Cost Principles for State, Local and Indian Tribal Governments) relocated to 2 CFR Part 225, OMB Circular A-102 (Grants and Cooperative Agreements With State and Local Governments), OMB Circular A-110 (Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Other Agreements with Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals and Other Non-Profit Organizations) relocated to 2 CFR Part 215, and OMB Circular A-122, (Cost Principles for Non-Profit Organizations) relocated to 2 CFR Part 230.

D. Specific Research Areas of Interest/Expected Outputs and Outcomes
Note to applicant: The term output means an environmental activity or effort, and associated work products, related to a specific environmental goal(s), (e.g., testing a new methodology), that will be produced or developed over a period of time under the agreement. The term outcome means the result, effect, or consequence that will occur from the above activity(ies) that is related to an environmental, behavioral, or health-related objective.

This RFA solicits applications that must address one or more of the following key questions:

  1. How can wetland ecological condition indicators and related data be used to quantify wetland ecosystem services delivery?
  2. What approaches to statistical and geographic analysis and interpretation can be used with the types of data generated by surveys of wetland condition to account for ecosystem services provision in a geographic area (e.g., watershed, state, region, nation)?
  3. What approaches to statistical and geographic analysis and interpretation can be used to quantify the relative importance of stressors (e.g., agriculture, hydrologic alteration, development, climate change) impacting wetlands and the services they provide?

Several outputs will be developed from the research supported from this solicitation. Expected outputs include reports, presentations, and peer-reviewed journal articles that develop useful and practicable indicators for assessing wetland ecosystem services delivery and that present creative and innovative applications of statistical and geographic analysis and interpretation to provide new information on wetland ecosystem services wetland condition surveys. The outputs will inform and advance important outcomes including improved state and tribal wetland management and decision-making capacity, especially in terms of documenting and providing ecosystem services. They will also help state and tribal wetland managers evaluate the effectiveness of wetland restoration and mitigation strategies.

E. References
Brinson, M. M. 1993. A Hydrogeomorphic Classification for Wetlands. Technical Report WRP-DE-4, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS.

Brinson, M. M., and R. Reinhardt. 1996. The role of reference wetlands in functional assessment and mitigation. Ecological Applications 6:69-76.

Carpenter, S. R., R. DeFries, T. Dietz, H. A. Mooney, S. Polasky, W. V. Reid, and R. J. Scholes. 2006. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: Research Needs. Science 314:257-258.

Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). 2006. Conserving America’s Wetlands 2006:Two Years of Progress Implementing the President’s Goal.

Costanza, R., R. D’Arge, R. de Groot, S. Farber, M. Grasso, B. Hannon, K. Limburg, S. Naeem, R. V. O’Neill, J. Paruelo, R. G. Raskin, P. Sutton, and M. van den Belt. 1997. The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature 387:253-260.

Dahl, T. E. 2005. Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Conterminous United States 1998 to 2004. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC.:116.

Karr, J. R., and E. W. Chu. 1999. Restoring Life in Running Waters: Better Biological Monitoring. Island Press, Washington, D.C.

Kentula, M.E. 2007. Monitoring Wetlands at the Watershed Scale. Wetlands 27:411-560

Larsen, D. P., K. W. Thornton, N. S. Urquhart, and S. G. Paulsen. 1994. The role of sample surveys for monitoring the condition of the Nation's lakes. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 32:101-134.

Lopez, R. D., and M. S. Fennessy. 2002. Testing the floristic quality assessment index as an indicator of wetland condition. Ecological Applications 12:487-497.

Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA). 2000. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Wetlands and Water Synthesis. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC.:68.

Mitsch, W. J., and J. G. Gosselink. 1993. Wetlands. 2nd edition. John Wiley, New York, NY.

Rheinhardt, R. D., M. M. Brinson, and P. M. Farley. 1997. Applying wetland reference data to functional assessment, mitigation, and restoration. Wetlands 17:195-215.

Scozzafava, M. E., T. E. Dahl, C. Faulkner, and M. Price. 2007. Assessing status, trends, and condition of wetlands in the United States. National Wetlands Newsletter 29:24-28. See also http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/survey/

Stevens, D. L., Jr., and A. R. Olsen. 1999. Spatially restricted surveys over time for aquatic resources. Journal of Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental Statistics 4:415-428.

Stevens, D. L., Jr., and A. R. Olsen. 2000. Spatially restricted random sampling designs for design-based and model-based estimation. Pages 609-616 in Accuracy 2000: Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on Spatial Accuracy Assessment in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. Delft University Press, The Netherlands.

Wardrop, D. H., M. E. Kentula, D. L. Stevens, Jr., S. F. Jensen, and R. P. Brooks. 2007. Assessment of wetland condition: an example from the Upper Juniata Watershed in Pennsylvania, USA. Wetlands 27:416-430.

F. Special Requirements
Agency policy prevents EPA technical staff and managers from providing individual applicants with information that may create an unfair competitive advantage. Consequently, EPA employees will not review, comment, advise, and/or provide technical assistance to applicants preparing applications in response to EPA RFAs, nor will they endorse an application or discuss in any manner how the Agency will apply the published evaluation criteria for this competition.

Multiple Investigator applications may be submitted as: (1) a single Lead Principal Investigator (PI) application with Co-PI(s) or (2) a Multiple PI application (with a single Contact PI). If you choose to submit a Multiple PI application, you must follow the specific instructions provided in Sections IV. and V. of this RFA. For further information, please see the EPA Implementation Plan for Policy on Multiple Principal Investigators (http://rbm.nih.gov/toolkit.htm).

The application must include a plan (see Data Plan in section IV.B.5.c.) to make available to the public all data generated from observations, analyses, or model development (primary data) and any secondary (or existing) data used under an agreement awarded from this RFA. The data must be available in a format and with documentation such that they may be used by others in the scientific community.

These awards may involve the collection of Geospatial Information, which includes information that identifies the geographic location and characteristics of natural or constructed features or boundaries on the Earth or applications, tools, and hardware associated with the generation, maintenance, or distribution of such information. This information may be derived from, among other things, a Geographic Positioning System (GPS), remote sensing, mapping, charting, and surveying technologies, or statistical data.

II. AWARD INFORMATION

It is anticipated that a total of approximately $950,000 will be awarded under this announcement, depending on the availability of funds and quality of applications received. The EPA anticipates funding approximately two awards under this RFA. Requests for amounts in excess of a total of $475,000, including direct and indirect costs, will not be considered. The total project period requested in an application submitted for this RFA may not exceed three years. The EPA reserves the right to reject all applications and make no awards, or make fewer awards than anticipated, under this RFA. The EPA reserves the right to make additional awards under this announcement, consistent with Agency policy, if additional funding becomes available after the original selections are made. Any additional selections for awards will be made no later than four months after the original selection decisions.

EPA may award both grants and cooperative agreements under this announcement.

Under a grant, EPA scientists and engineers are not permitted to be substantially involved in the execution of the research. However, EPA encourages interaction between its own laboratory scientists and grant Principal Investigators after the award of an EPA grant for the sole purpose of exchanging information in research areas of common interest that may add value to their respective research activities. This interaction must be incidental to achieving the goals of the research under a grant. Interaction that is “incidental” does not involve resource commitments.

Where appropriate, based on consideration of the nature of the proposed project relative to the EPA’s intramural research program and available resources, the EPA may award cooperative agreements under this announcement. When addressing a research question/problem of common interest, collaborations between scientists and the institution’s principal investigators are permitted under a cooperative agreement. These collaborations may include data and information exchange, providing technical input to experimental design and theoretical development, coordinating extramural research with in-house activities, the refinement of valuation endpoints, and joint authorship of journal articles on these activities. Proposals may not identify EPA cooperators or interactions; specific interactions between EPA’s investigators and those of the prospective recipient for cooperative agreements will be negotiated at the time of award.

III. ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION

A. Eligible Applicants
Public nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes public institutions of higher education and hospitals) and private nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes private institutions of higher education and hospitals) located in the U.S., state and local governments, Federally Recognized Indian Tribal Governments, and U.S. territories or possessions are eligible to apply. Profit-making firms are not eligible to receive assistance agreements from the EPA under this program.

Eligible nonprofit organizations include any organizations that meet the definition of nonprofit in OMB Circular A-122, located at 2 CFR Part 230. However, nonprofit organizations described in Section 501(c) (4) of the Internal Revenue Code that lobby are not eligible to apply.

National laboratories funded by Federal Agencies (Federally-Funded Research and Development Centers, FFRDCs) may not apply. FFRDC employees may cooperate or collaborate with eligible applicants within the limits imposed by applicable legislation and regulations. They may participate in planning, conducting, and analyzing the research directed by the applicant, but may not direct projects on behalf of the applicant organization. The institution, organization, or governance receiving the award may provide funds through its assistance agreement from the EPA to an FFRDC for research personnel, supplies, equipment, and other expenses directly related to the research. However, salaries for permanent FFRDC employees may not be provided through this mechanism.

Federal Agencies may not apply. Federal employees are not eligible to serve in a principal leadership role on an assistance agreement, and may not receive salaries or augment their Agencys appropriations in other ways through awards made under this program.

The applicant institution may enter into an agreement with a Federal Agency to purchase or utilize unique supplies or services unavailable in the private sector. Examples are purchase of satellite data, census data tapes, chemical reference standards, analyses, or use of instrumentation or other facilities not available elsewhere. A written justification for federal involvement must be included in the application. In addition, an appropriate form of assurance that documents the commitment, such as a letter of intent from the Federal Agency involved, should be included.

Potential applicants who are uncertain of their eligibility should contact William Stelz (stelz.william@epa.gov) in NCER, phone (202) 343-9802.

B. Cost-Sharing
Institutional cost-sharing is not required.

C. Other
Applications must substantially comply with the application submission instructions and requirements set forth in Section IV of this announcement or they will be rejected. In addition, where a page limitation is expressed in Section IV with respect to parts of the application, pages in excess of the page limit will not be reviewed. Applications must be received by the EPA, or Grants.gov, on or before the solicitation closing date and time in Section IV of this announcement or they will be returned to the sender without further consideration. Also, applications exceeding the funding limits or project period term described herein will be returned without review. Further, applications that fail to demonstrate a public purpose of support or stimulation (e.g., by proposing research which primarily benefits a Federal program or provides a service for a Federal agency) will not be funded.

This RFA solicits applications that must address one or more of the following key questions:

  1. How can wetland ecological condition indicators and related data be used to quantify wetland ecosystem services delivery?
  2. What approaches to statistical and geographic analysis and interpretation can be used with the types of data generated by surveys of wetland condition to account for ecosystem services provision in a geographic area (e.g., watershed, state, region, nation)?
  3. What approaches to statistical and geographic analysis and interpretation can be used to quantify the relative importance of stressors (e.g., agriculture, hydrologic alteration, development, climate change) impacting wetlands and the services they provide?

In addition, to be eligible for funding consideration, a projects focus must consist of activities within the statutory terms of EPAs financial assistance authorities; specifically, the statute(s) listed in I.C. above. Generally, a project must address the causes, effects, extent, prevention, reduction, and elimination of air pollution, water pollution, solid/hazardous waste pollution, toxic substances control, or pesticide control depending on which statute(s) is listed in I.C. above. These activities should relate to the gathering or transferring of information or advancing the state of knowledge. Proposals should emphasize this learning concept, as opposed to fixing an environmental problem via a well-established method. Proposals relating to other topics which are sometimes included within the term environment such as recreation, conservation, restoration, protection of wildlife habitats, etc., must describe the relationship of these topics to the statutorily required purpose of pollution prevention and/or control.

Applications deemed ineligible for funding consideration will be notified within fifteen calendar days of the ineligibility determination.

IV. APPLICATION AND SUBMISSION INFORMATION

You may submit either a paper application or an electronic application (but not both) for this announcement. Instructions for both types of submission follow in Section E. If not otherwise marked, instructions apply to both types of submissions.

A. Internet Address to Request Application Package
For paper applications, forms and instructions can be found on the NCER web site: http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/.

For electronic applications, use the application package available at Grants.gov (see “Submission Instructions for Electronic Applications” in Section E). Note: With the exception of the budget form and the current and pending support form (available at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms), all necessary forms are included in the electronic application package.

For both paper and electronic applications, an email will be sent by NCER to the Lead/Contact PI and the Administrative Contact (see below) to acknowledge receipt of the application and transmit other important information. The email will be sent from receipt.application@epa.gov; emails to this address will not be accepted. If you do not receive an email acknowledgment within 30 days of the submission closing date, immediately inform the Eligibility Contact shown in this solicitation. Failure to do so may result in your application not being reviewed. See “Submission Instructions for Electronic Applications” for additional information regarding acknowledgment of receipt of electronically submitted applications. Please note: Due to often-lengthy delays in delivery, it is especially important that you monitor NCER’s confirmation of receipt of your application when using regular mail.

B. Content and Form of Application Submission
The application is made by submitting the materials described below. Applications must contain all information requested and be submitted in the formats described.

  1. Standard Form 424
    The applicant must complete Standard Form 424. This form will be the first page(s) of the application. Instructions for completion of the SF424 are included with the form. (However, note that EPA requires that the entire requested dollar amount appear on the 424, not simply the proposed first year expenses.) The form must contain the original (or electronic) signature of an authorized representative of the applying institution.

    Applicants are required to provide a Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number when applying for federal grants or cooperative agreements. Organizations may receive a DUNS number by calling 1-866-705-5711 or by visiting the web site at http://www.dnb.com exit EPA.

    Executive Order 12372, Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs, does not apply to the Office of Research and Development's research and training programs unless EPA has determined that the activities that will be carried out under the applicants' proposal (a) require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), or (b) do not require an EIS but will be newly initiated at a particular site and require unusual measures to limit the possibility of adverse exposure or hazard to the general public, or (c) have a unique geographic focus and are directly relevant to the governmental responsibilities of a State or local government within that geographic area.

    If EPA determines that Executive Order 12372 applies to an applicant's proposal, the applicant must follow the procedures in 40 CFR Part 29. The applicant must notify their state's single point of contact (SPOC). To determine whether their state participates in this process, and how to comply, applicants should consult http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/grants/spoc.html. If an applicant is in a State that does not have a SPOC, or the State has not selected research and development grants for intergovernmental review, the applicant must notify directly affected State, area wide, regional and local entities of its proposal.

    EPA will notify the successful applicant(s) if Executive Order 12372 applies to its proposal prior to award.

  2. Key Contacts
    The applicant must complete the Key Contacts form as the second page of the application. An Additional Key Contacts form is also available at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms. The Key Contacts form should also be completed for major sub-agreements (i.e., primary investigators). Please make certain that all contact information is accurate.

    For Multiple PI applications: The Additional Key Contacts form must be completed (see Section I.F. for further information). Note: The Contact PI must be affiliated with the institution submitting the application. EPA will direct all communications related to scientific, technical, and budgetary aspects of the project to the Contact PI; however, any information regarding an application will be shared with any PI upon request. The Contact PI is to be listed on the Key Contact Form as the Project Manager/Principal Investigator (the term Project Manager is used on the Grants.gov form, the term Principal Investigator is used on the form located on NCERs web site). For additional PIs, complete the Major Co-Investigator fields and identify PI status next to the name (e.g., Name: John Smith, Principal Investigator).

  3. Table of Contents
    Provide a list of the major subdivisions of the application indicating the page number on which each section begins.
  4. Abstract (1 page)
    The abstract is a very important document in the review process. Therefore, it is critical that the abstract accurately describes the research being proposed and conveys all the essential elements of the research. Also, the abstracts of applications that receive funding will be posted on the NCER web site.

    The abstract should include the information described below (a-h). Examples of abstracts for current grants may be found on the NCER web site.

    1. Funding Opportunity Title and Number for this proposal.
    2. Project Title: Use the exact title of your project as it appears in the application. The title must be brief yet represent the major thrust of the project. Because the title will be used by those not familiar with the project, strike a balance between highly technical words and phrases and more commonly understood terminology. Do not use general phrases such as research on.
    3. Investigators: For applications with multiple investigators, state whether this is a single Lead PI (with co-PIs) or Multiple PI application (see Section I.F.). For Lead PI applications, list the Lead PI, then the name(s) of each co-PI who will significantly contribute to the project. For Multiple PI applications, list the Contact PI, then the name(s) of each additional PI. Provide a web site URL or an email contact address for additional information.
    4. Institution: In the same order as the list of investigators, list the name, city and state of each participating university or other applicant institution. The institution applying for assistance must be clearly identified.
    5. Project Period and Location: Show the proposed project beginning and ending dates and the geographical location(s) where the work will be conducted.
    6. Project Cost: Show the total dollars requested from the EPA (include direct and indirect costs for all years).
    7. Project Summary: Provide three subsections addressing: (1) the objectives of the study (including any hypotheses that will be tested), (2) the experimental approach to be used (a description of the proposed project), and (3) the expected results of the project and how it addresses the research needs identified in the solicitation, including the estimated improvement in risk assessment or risk management that will result from successful completion of the proposed work.
    8. Supplemental Keywords: Without duplicating terms already used in the text of the abstract, list keywords to assist database searchers in finding your research. A list of suggested keywords may be found at: http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms.
  5. Research Plan, Quality Assurance Statement, Data Plan and References
    1. Research Plan (15 pages)
      Applications should focus on a limited number of research objectives that adequately and clearly demonstrate that they meet the RFA requirements. Explicitly state the main hypotheses that you will investigate, the data you will create or use, the analytical tools you will use to investigate these hypotheses or analyze these data, and the results you expect to achieve. Research methods must be clearly stated so that reviewers can evaluate the appropriateness of your approach and the tools you intend to use. A statement such as: we will evaluate the data using the usual statistical methods is not specific enough for peer reviewers.

      This description must not exceed fifteen (15) consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced, standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins. While these guidelines establish the minimum type size requirements, applicants are advised that readability is of paramount importance and should take precedence in selection of an appropriate font for use in the proposal.

      The description must provide the following information:

      1. Objectives: List the objectives of the proposed research and the hypotheses being tested during the project, and briefly state why the intended research is important and how it fulfills the requirements of the solicitation. This section should also include any background or introductory information that would help explain the objectives of the study. If this application is to expand upon research supported by an existing or former assistance agreement awarded under the STAR program, indicate the number of the agreement and provide a brief report of progress and results achieved under it.
      2. Approach/Activities: Outline the research design, methods, and techniques that you intend to use in meeting the objectives stated above.
      3. Expected Results, Benefits, Outputs, and Outcomes: Describe the results you expect to achieve during the project (outputs) and the potential benefits of the results (outcomes). This section should also discuss how the research results will lead to solutions to environmental problems and improve the publics ability to protect the environment and human health. A clear, concise description will help NCER and peer reviewers understand the merits of the research.
      4. General Project Information: Discuss other information relevant to the potential success of the project. This should include facilities, personnel expertise/experience, project schedules, proposed management, interactions with other institutions, etc. Applications for multi-investigator projects must identify project management and the functions of each investigator in each team and describe plans to communicate and share data.
      5. Appendices may be included but must remain within the 15-page limit.
    2. Quality Assurance Statement (3 pages)
      For projects involving environmental data collection or processing, conducting surveys, modeling, method development, or the development of environmental technology (whether hardware-based or via new techniques), provide a Quality Assurance Statement (QAS) regarding the plans for processes that will be used to ensure that the products of the research satisfy the intended project objectives. Follow the guidelines provided below to ensure that the QAS describes a system that complies with ANSI/ASQC E4, Specifications and Guidelines for Quality Systems for Environmental Data Collection and Environmental Technology Programs. Do not exceed three consecutively numbered, 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced, standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins.

      NOTE: If selected for award, applicants will be expected to provide additional quality assurance documentation.

      Address each applicable section below by including the required information, referencing the specific location of the information in the Research Plan, or explaining why the section does not apply to the proposed research. (Not all will apply.)

      1. Identify the individual who will be responsible for the quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) aspects of the research along with a brief description of this persons functions, experience, and authority within the research organization. Describe the organizations general approach for conducting quality research. (QA is a system of management activities to ensure that a process or item is of the type and quality needed for the project. QC is a system of activities that measures the attributes and performance of a process or item against the standards defined in the project documentation to verify that they meet those stated requirements.)
      2. Discuss project objectives, including quality objectives, any hypotheses to be tested, and the quantitative and/or qualitative procedures that will be used to evaluate the success of the project. Include any plans for peer or other reviews of the study design or analytical methods.
      3. Address each of the following project elements as applicable:
        1. Collection of new/primary data:
          (Note: In this case the word sample is intended to mean any finite part of a statistical population whose properties are studied to gain information about the whole. If certain attributes listed below do not apply to the type of samples to be used in your research, simply explain why those attributes are not applicable.)
          1. Discuss the plan for sample collection and analysis. As applicable, include sample type(s), frequency, locations, sample sizes, sampling procedures, and the criteria for determining acceptable data quality (e.g., precision, accuracy, representativeness, completeness, comparability, or data quality objectives).
          2. Describe the procedures for the handling and custody of samples including sample collection, identification, preservation, transportation, and storage, and how the accuracy of test measurements will be verified.
          3. Describe or reference each analytical method to be used, any QA or QC checks or procedures with the associated acceptance criteria, and any procedures that will be used in the calibration and performance evaluation of the analytical instrumentation.
          4. Discuss the procedures for overall data reduction, analysis, and reporting. Include a description of all statistical methods to make inferences and conclusions, acceptable error rates and/or power, and any statistical software to be used.
        2. Use of existing/secondary data (i.e., data previously collected for other purposes or from other sources):
          1. Identify the types of secondary data needed to satisfy the project objectives. Specify requirements relating to the type of data, the age of data, geographical representation, temporal representation, and technological representation, as applicable.
          2. Specify the source(s) of the secondary data and discuss the rationale for selection.
          3. Establish a plan to identify the sources of the secondary data in all deliverables/products.
          4. Specify quality requirements and discuss the appropriateness for their intended use. Accuracy, precision, representativeness, completeness, and comparability need to be addressed, if applicable.
          5. Describe the procedures for determining the quality of the secondary data.
          6. Describe the plan for data management/integrity.
        3. Method development:
          (Note: The data collected for use in method development or evaluation should be described in the QAS as per the guidance in section 3A and/or 3B above.)

          Describe the scope and application of the method, any tests (and measurements) to be conducted to support the method development, the type of instrumentation that will be used and any required instrument conditions (e.g., calibration frequency), planned QC checks and associated criteria (e.g., spikes, replicates, blanks), and tests to verify the methods performance.

        4. Development or refinement of models:
          (Note: The data collected for use in the development or refinement of models should be described in the QAS as per the guidance in section 3A and/or 3B above.)
          1. Discuss the scope and purpose of the model, key assumptions to be made during development/refinement, requirements for code development, and how the model will be documented.
          2. Discuss verification techniques to ensure the source code implements the model correctly.
          3. Discuss validation techniques to determine that the model (assumptions and algorithms) captures the essential phenomena with adequate fidelity.
          4. Discuss plans for long-term maintenance of the model and associated data.
        5. Development or operation of environmental technology:
          (Note: The data collected for use in the development or evaluation of the technology should be described in the QAS as per the guidance in section 3A and/or 3B above.)
          1. Describe the overall purpose and anticipated impact of the technology.
          2. Describe the technical and quality specifications of each technology component or process that is to be designed, fabricated, constructed, and/or operated.
          3. Discuss the procedure to be used for documenting and controlling design changes.
          4. Discuss the procedure to be used for documenting the acceptability of processes and components, and discuss how the technology will be benchmarked and its effectiveness determined.
          5. Discuss the documentation requirements for operating instructions/guides for maintenance and use of the system(s) and/or process(s).
        6. Conducting surveys:
          (Note: The data to be collected in the survey and any supporting data should be described in the QAS as per the guidance in section 3A and/or 3B above.)

          Discuss the justification for the size of the proposed sample for both the overall project and all subsamples for specific treatments or tests. Identify and explain the rational for the proposed statistical techniques (e.g., evaluation of statistical power).

      4. Discuss data management activities (e.g., record-keeping procedures, data-handling procedures, and the approach used for data storage and retrieval on electronic media). Include any required computer hardware and software and address any specific performance requirements for the hardware/software configuration used.
    3. Data Plan (2 pages)
      Provide a plan to make all data resulting from an agreement under this RFA available in a format and with documentation/metadata such that they may be used by others in the scientific community. This includes both primary and secondary or existing data, i.e., from observations, analyses, or model development collected or used under the agreement. Applicants who plan to develop or enhance databases containing proprietary or restricted information must provide, within the two pages, a strategy to make the data widely available, while protecting privacy or property rights.
    4. References: References cited are in addition to other page limits (e.g. research plan, quality assurance statement, data plan)
  6. Budget and Budget Justification
    1. Budget
      Prepare a budget table using the guidance and form found at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/, and select All required forms. Note: For electronic submissions, the budget table should be attached to the Project Narrative Attachment Form electronic file [see Section E.2.c.(4)]. If a subaward, such as a subagreement with an educational institution is included in the application, provide a separate budget and budget justification for the subaward. Include the total amount for the subaward under Other in the master budget. Any project containing subawards or subcontracts that constitute more than 40% of the total direct cost of the application will be subject to special review. Additional justification for use of these must be provided, discussing the need for the subaward/subcontract to accomplish the objectives of the research project.

      Please note that institutional cost-sharing is not required. However, if cost-sharing is proposed, a brief statement concerning cost-sharing should be added to the budget justification, and estimated dollar amounts must be included in the appropriate categories in the budget table.

      Please note that when formulating budgets for proposals/applications, applicants must not include management fees or similar charges in excess of the direct costs and indirect costs at the rate approved by the applicants cognizant audit agency, or at the rate provided for by the terms of the agreement negotiated with EPA. The term "management fees or similar charges" refers to expenses added to the direct costs in order to accumulate and reserve funds for ongoing business expenses, unforeseen liabilities, or for other similar costs that are not allowable under EPA assistance agreements. Management fees or similar charges may not be used to improve or expand the project funded under this agreement, except to the extent authorized as a direct cost of carrying out the scope of work.

    2. Budget Justification [2 pages in addition to the Section IV.B.5. page limitations, not including additions under Nos. (6) and (7) below to support contracts and subawards]
      Describe the basis for calculating the personnel, fringe benefits, travel, equipment, supplies, contractual support, and other costs identified in the itemized budget. The budget justification should not exceed two consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced, standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins.

      Budget information should be supported at the level of detail described below:

      1. Personnel: List all staff positions by title. Give annual salary, percentage of time assigned to the project, and total cost for the budget period.
      2. Fringe Benefits: Identify the percentage used and the basis for its computation.
      3. Travel: Specify the estimated number of trips, locations, and other costs for each type of travel. Explain the need for any travel, paying particular attention to travel outside the United States. Include travel funds for annual STAR program progress reviews (estimate for two days in Washington, D.C.) and a final workshop to report on results.
      4. Equipment: Identify all tangible, non-expendable personal property to be purchased that has an estimated cost of $5,000 or more per unit and a useful life of more than one year. (Personal property items with a unit cost of less than $5,000 are considered supplies.)
      5. Supplies: Supplies means tangible property other than equipment. Identify categories of supplies to be procured (e.g., laboratory supplies or office supplies). Specifically identify computers to be purchased or upgraded.
      6. Contractual: Identify each proposed contract for services/analyses or consultants and specify its purpose and estimated cost. Contracts must have a separate itemized budget and budget justification, not to exceed one additional page each, included as part of the application.
      7. Other: List each item in sufficient detail for the EPA to determine the reasonableness of its cost relative to the research to be undertaken. Note that subawards, such as those with other universities for members of the research team, are included in this category. Subawards must have a separate itemized budget and budget justification, not to exceed one additional page each, included as part of the application.
      8. Indirect Costs: If indirect costs are included in the budget, indicate the approved rate and base with an explanation of how the indirect costs were calculated.
  7. Resumes
    Provide resumes for each investigator and important co-worker. The resume for each individual must not exceed two consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced, standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins.
  8. Current and Pending Support
    Complete a current and pending support form (provided at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms) for each investigator and important co-worker. Include all current and pending research regardless of source.
  9. Guidelines, Limitations, and Additional Requirements
    1. Letters of Intent/Letters of Support
      Letters of intent to provide resources for the proposed research or to document intended interactions are limited to one brief paragraph committing the availability of a resource (e.g., use of a person's time or equipment) or intended interaction (e.g., sharing of data, as-needed consultation) that is described in the Research Plan. Letters of intent are to be included as an addition to the budget justification documents.

      All letters that do not commit a resource vital to the success of the proposal are considered letters of support. Letters of support, and letters of intent that exceed one brief paragraph (excluding letterhead and salutations), are considered part of the Research Plan and are included in the 15-page Research Plan limit.

      Note: Letters of intent or support must be part of the application; letters submitted separately will not be accepted. Any transactions between the successful applicant and parties providing letters of support or intent financed with EPA grant funds are subject to the funding restrictions described in Section IV. D.

    2. Funding Opportunity Number(s) (FON): At various places in the application, applicants are asked to identify the FON.
      The Funding Opportunity Number for this RFA is:
      Forecasting Ecosystem Services from Wetland Condition Analyses, EPA-G2008-STAR-L1
    3. Confidentiality
      By submitting an application in response to this solicitation, the applicant grants the EPA permission to make limited disclosures of the application to technical reviewers both within and outside the Agency for the express purpose of assisting the Agency with evaluating the application. Information from a pending or unsuccessful application will be kept confidential to the fullest extent allowed under law; information from a successful application may be publicly disclosed to the extent permitted by law.

      In accordance with 40 CFR 2.203, applicants may claim all or a portion of the application as confidential business information (for example, hypotheses or methodologies contained in the research narrative that the applicant wishes to protect from possible public disclosure). EPA will evaluate confidentiality claims in accordance with 40 CFR Part 2. Applicants must clearly mark applications or portions of applications they claim as confidential. If no claim of confidentiality is made, the EPA is not required to make an inquiry to the applicant as otherwise required by 40 CFR 2.204(c) (2) prior to disclosure.

C. Submission Dates and Times
For paper copy submissions, the original and two (2) copies of the complete application (3 in all, see E. below) must be received by NCER no later than 4:00 pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date. Electronic applications must be transferred to Grants.gov no later than 4:00 pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date. Applications received after the closing date and time will be returned to the sender without further consideration.

It should be noted that this schedule may be changed without prior notification because of factors not anticipated at the time of announcement. In the case of a change in the solicitation closing date, a new date will be posted on the NCER web site (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/) and a modification posted on www.grants.govexit EPA.

Solicitation Closing Date: November 3, 2008, 4:00 pm Eastern Time for paper applications, 4:00 pm Eastern Time for electronic submissions.

NOTE: Customarily, applicants are notified about evaluation decisions within six months of the solicitation closing date. Awards are generally made 9-12 months after the solicitation closing date.

D. Funding Restrictions
The funding mechanism for all awards issued under STAR solicitations will consist of assistance agreements from the EPA. All award decisions are subject to the availability of funds. In accordance with the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act, 31 U.S.C. 6301 et seq., the primary purpose of an assistance agreement is to accomplish a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by federal statute, rather than acquisition for the direct benefit or use of the Agency. In issuing a grant, the EPA anticipates that there will be no substantial EPA involvement in the design, implementation, or conduct of the research. However, the EPA will monitor research progress through annual reports provided by grantees and other contacts, including site visits, with the Principal Investigator(s).

If you wish to submit applications for more than one STAR funding opportunity you must ensure that the research proposed in each application is significantly different from any other that has been submitted to the EPA or from any other financial assistance you are currently receiving from the EPA or other federal government agency.

Collaborative applications involving more than one institution must be submitted as a single administrative package from one of the institutions involved.

EPA awards funds to one eligible applicant as the recipient even if other eligible applicants are named as partners or co-applicants or members of a coalition or consortium. The recipient is accountable to EPA for the proper expenditure of funds.

Funding may be used to provide subgrants or subawards of financial assistance, which includes using subawards or subgrants to fund partnerships, provided the recipient complies with applicable requirements for subawards or subgrants including those contained in 40 CFR Parts 30 or 31, as appropriate. Applicants must compete contracts for services and products, including consultant contracts, and conduct cost and price analyses to the extent required by the procurement provisions of the regulations at 40 CFR Parts 30 or 31, as appropriate. The regulations also contain limitations on consultant compensation. Applicants are not required to identify subawardees/subgrantees and/or contractors (including consultants) in their proposal/application. However, if they do, the fact that an applicant selected for award has named a specific subawardee/subgrantee, contractor, or consultant in the proposal/application EPA selects for funding does not relieve the applicant of its obligations to comply with subaward/subgrant and/or competitive procurement requirements as appropriate. Please note that applicants may not award sole source contracts to consulting, engineering or other firms assisting applicants with the proposal based solely on the firm's role in preparing the proposal/application.

Successful applicants cannot use subgrants or subawards to avoid requirements in EPA grant regulations for competitive procurement by using these instruments to acquire commercial services or products from for-profit organizations to carry out its assistance agreement. The nature of the transaction between the recipient and the subawardee or subgrantee must be consistent with the standards for distinguishing between vendor transactions and subrecipient assistance under Subpart B Section .210 of OMB Circular A-133 , and the definitions of subaward at 40 CFR 30.2(ff) or subgrant at 40 CFR 31.3, as applicable. EPA will not be a party to these transactions. Applicants acquiring commercial goods or services must comply with the competitive procurement standards in 40 CFR Part 30 or 40 CFR Part 31.36 and cannot use a subaward/subgrant as the funding mechanism.

Section V of the announcement describes the evaluation criteria and evaluation process that will be used by EPA to make selections under this announcement. During this evaluation, except for those criteria that relate to the applicant's own qualifications, past performance, and reporting history, the review panel will consider, if appropriate and relevant, the qualifications, expertise, and experience of:

  1. an applicant's named subawardees/subgrantees identified in the proposal/application if the applicant demonstrates in the proposal/application that if it receives an award that the subaward/subgrant will be properly awarded consistent with the applicable regulations in 40 CFR Parts 30 or 31. For example, applicants must not use subawards/subgrants to obtain commercial services or products from for profit firms or individual consultants.
  2. an applicant's named contractor(s), including consultants, identified in the proposal/application if the applicant demonstrates in its proposal/application that the contractor(s) was selected in compliance with the competitive procurement standards in 40 CFR Part 30 or 40 CFR 31.36 as appropriate. For example, an applicant must demonstrate that it selected the contractor(s) competitively or that a proper non-competitive sole-source award consistent with the regulations will be made to the contractor(s), that efforts were made to provide small and disadvantaged businesses with opportunities to compete, and that some form of cost or price analysis was conducted. EPA may not accept sole source justifications for contracts for services or products that are otherwise readily available in the commercial marketplace.

EPA will not consider the qualifications, experience, and expertise of named subawardees/subgrantees and/or named contractor(s) during the proposal/application evaluation process unless the applicant complies with these requirements.

Each proposed project must be able to be completed within the project period and with the initial award of funds. Applicants should request the entire amount of money needed to complete the project. Recipients should not anticipate additional funding beyond the initial award of funds for a specific project.

E. Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements
You may submit either a paper application or an electronic application (but not both) under this announcement.

  1. Submission Instructions for Paper Applications

    Three (3) copies of the application must be submitted: 1) an original, signed copy; 2) a single-sided copy on plain white paper for scanning (please label this copy); and 3) another photocopy for administrative purposes. Do not permanently bind or staple any of these copies; please use either binder or paper clips to secure them.

    Because of security concerns, paper applications cannot be personally delivered. They must be sent through regular mail, express mail, or a major courier.

    The following address must be used for regular mail:

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    Peer Review Division (8725F)
    Funding Opportunity Number: (applicant: place the appropriate number here)
    1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC 20460

    The following address must be used for express mail and couriers:

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    Peer Review Division (8725F)
    Funding Opportunity Number: (applicant: place the appropriate number here)
    1025 F Street, NW (Room 3500)
    Washington, DC 20004
    Phone: (202) 233-0686
  2. Submission Instructions for Electronic Applications

    Please read this entire section before attempting an electronic submission through Grants.gov.
    Note: Submission instructions are updated on an as-needed basis. Please provide your AOR with a copy of the following instructions to avoid submission delays that may occur from the use of outdated instructions.

    1. Preparing for Submission. The appropriate electronic application package available through the http://www.grants.gov site must be used for electronic submissions. To begin the application process, go to http://www.grants.gov and click on the Apply for Grants tab on the left side of the page. Then click on Apply Step 1: Download a Grant Application Package to download the compatible Adobe viewer and obtain the application package. (Note: The PureEdge viewer is not needed to submit an application to this funding opportunity.) For more information on Adobe Reader please go to http://www.grants.gov/help/help.jsp.

      Note: Grants.gov is aware of a corruption issue when Adobe Reader application packages are saved in different versions of Adobe Reader. It is recommended that applicants uninstall earlier versions of Adobe Reader, then install the version available and compatible through Grants.gov.

      The application package may be quickly accessed from https://apply07.grants.gov/apply/forms_apps_idx.html using the appropriate FON. Be sure to download the electronic application package for the appropriate FON. Please register for announcement change notification emails. Note: With the exception of the budget form and the current and spending support form (available at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms), all necessary forms are included in the electronic application package.

      The electronic submission of your application package must be made by an official representative of your institution who is registered with Grants.gov and authorized to sign for Federal assistance. For more information, go to http://www.grants.gov and click on Get Registered. Note that the registration process may take a week or longer to complete. If your organization is not currently registered with Grants.gov, please encourage your office to designate an Authorized Organization Representative (AOR) and begin the registration process as soon as possible. Most submission problems can be avoided by communicating with the AOR well before the solicitation closing date and allowing sufficient time for following the guidance provided below.

    2. Acknowledgement of Receipt. The complete application must be transferred to Grants.gov no later than 4:00 pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date (see Submission Dates and Times). Grants.gov provides acknowledgements of application receipt that include an on-screen notification of successful initial transfer as well as an e-mail notification of successful transfer from Grants.gov to EPA. While it is advisable to retain copies of these Grants.gov acknowledgements to document submission, the only official documentation that the application has been received by NCER is the e-mail acknowledgement sent by NCER to the Lead/Contact PI and the Administrative Contact. This email will be sent from receipt.application@epa.gov; emails to this address will not be accepted. If an email acknowledgment from NCER (not support@grants.gov) has not been received within 30 days of the solicitation closing date, immediately inform the Eligibility Contact shown in this solicitation. Failure to do so may result in your application not being reviewed.
    3. Application Package Preparation. The application package consists of 1 though 4 below.
      1. On the initial electronic Grant Application Package page, complete the Application Filing Name field by entering the Lead/Contact PIs name, starting with the last name. Note: Applicants do not need to complete the Competition ID field.
      2. Application for Federal Assistance (SF 424): Complete the form.
      3. EPA Key Contacts Form 5700-54: Complete the form. If additional pages are needed, see (4) below.
      4. Project Narrative Attachment Form (click on Add Mandatory Project Narrative): Attach a single electronic file labeled Application that contains the items described in Section IV.B.3. through IV.B.9.a (Table of Contents, Abstract, Research Plan, Quality Assurance Statement, Data Plan, References, Budget and Budget Justification, Resumes, Current and Pending Support, and Letters of Intent/Support) of this solicitation. In order to maintain format integrity, this file must be submitted in Adobe Acrobat PDF. Please review the PDF file for conversion errors prior to including it in the electronic application package; requests to rectify conversion errors will not be accepted if made after the solicitation closing date and time. If Key Contacts Continuation pages (see http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms) are needed, place them before the Table of Contents (IV.B.3.).

      Once the application package has been completed, the Submit button should be enabled. If the Submit button is not active, please call Grants.gov for assistance (Telephone: 1-800-518-4726). Investigators should save the completed application package with two different file names before providing it to the AOR to avoid having to re-create the package should submission problems be experienced or a revised application needs to be submitted. Note: Revised applications must be submitted before the solicitation closing date and time.

    4. Submitting the application. The application package must be transferred to Grants.gov by an AOR. The AOR should close all other software before attempting to submit the application package. Click the submit button of the application package. Your Internet browser will launch and a sign-in page will appear. Note: Minor problems are not uncommon with transfers to Grants.gov. It is essential to allow sufficient time to follow all trouble-shooting instructions, including contacting Grants.gov, before 4:00 pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date.

      A successful transfer will end with an on-screen acknowledgement. For documentation purposes, print or screen capture this acknowledgement. If a submission problem occurs, reboot the computer turning the power off may be necessary and re-attempt the submission. If submission problems continue, call Grants.gov for assistance (Telephone: 1-800-518-4726).

      Note: Grants.gov issues a case number upon a request for assistance.

    5. Transmission Difficulties. If transmission difficulties that result in a late transmission, no transmission, or rejection of the transmitted application are experienced, and following the above instructions do not resolve the problem so that the application is submitted to Grants.Gov by the deadline date and time, follow the guidance below. NCER may decide to review the application if it is clearly demonstrated that transmission difficulties were due solely as a result of problems associated with the transfer to Grants.gov and documentation that these instructions were followed is provided. The decision regarding acceptance of the application for review will be made by NCER management and provided to the applicant within ten working days of the request. All e-mails, as described below, are to be sent to O'Farrell.Thomas@epa.gov with the FON in the subject line.
      1. Late transfer due to electronic submission problems: Should electronic submission problems result in the application being transferred to Grants.gov after 4:00 pm but before 5:00 pm EST on the solicitation closing date, send an e-mail before 5:00 pm EST on the deadline date. The email must document the problem and include the Grants.gov case number.
      2. Unsuccessful transfer of the application package: If a successful transfer of the application cannot be accomplished even with assistance from Grants.gov due to electronic submission issues, send an email before 5:00 pm EST on the solicitation closing date. The email must document the problem, include the Grants.gov case number, and attach the entire application.
      3. Grants.gov rejection of the application package: If a notification is received from Grants.gov stating that the application has been rejected for reasons other than late submittal, promptly send an email that includes any materials provided by Grants.gov and attach the entire application.

V. APPLICATION REVIEW INFORMATION

A. Peer Review
All eligible grant applications are reviewed by an appropriate external technical peer review panel comprised of individual experts using the criteria below. This review is designed to evaluate each application according to its scientific merit. Each peer review panel includes non-EPA scientists, engineers, social scientists, and/or economists who are accomplished in their respective disciplines and proficient in the technical subjects they are reviewing. Reviewers are asked to individually assign a score of excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor to each application. EPA translates the average of these individual scores into the final panel review score.

Individual external peer review panel members consider an applications merit based on the criteria below. Criteria 1-5 are listed in descending order of importance:

  1. Research Proposal (criteria 1a through 1f are essentially equal):
    1. The originality and creativity of the proposed research, the appropriateness and adequacy of the proposed research methods, and the Quality Assurance Statement.
    2. Is the research approach practical and technically defensible, and can the project be performed within the proposed time period?
    3. Will the research contribute to scientific knowledge in the topic area?
    4. What are the projected benefits of the proposed activity to society, such as improving the environment or human health?
    5. Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding?
    6. Is the proposal well prepared with supportive information that is self-explanatory or understandable?

  2. Investigators: The qualifications of the Principal Investigator(s) and other key personnel, including research training, demonstrated knowledge of pertinent literature, experience, and publication records. Will all key personnel make a significant time commitment to the project?
  3. Responsiveness: The responsiveness of the proposal to the research needs identified for the research area. Does the proposal adequately address the objectives and special considerations specified by the RFA?
  4. Facilities and equipment: The availability and/or adequacy of the facilities and equipment proposed for the project. Are there any deficiencies that may interfere with the successful completion of the research?
  5. Budget: Although budget information does not reflect on the applications scientific merit, the reviewers are asked to provide their view on the appropriateness and/or adequacy of the proposed budget and its implications for the potential success of the proposed research. Input on requested equipment is of particular interest.

B. Programmatic Review
Applications receiving scores of excellent or very good as a result of the peer review process will then undergo an internal programmatic review, as described below, conducted by technical experts from the EPA, including individuals from the Office of Research and Development (ORD) and program and regional offices involved with the science or engineering proposed. All other applications are automatically declined.

After the peer review, those applicants who received scores of excellent or very good as a result of the peer review process will be asked to provide additional information for the programmatic review pertaining to the proposed Lead PIs (in the case of Multiple-PI applications, the Contact PIs) "Past Performance and Reporting History." The applicant must provide the EPA Project Officer with information on the proposed Lead/Contact PI's past performance and reporting history under prior Federal agency assistance agreements (assistance agreements include grants and cooperative agreements but not contracts) in terms of: (i) the level of success in performing each agreement, and (ii) how progress towards achieving the results intended under each agreement was reported. This information is required only for the proposed Lead/Contact PI's performance under Federal assistance agreements initiated within the last three years that were similar in size and scope to the proposed project.

The specific information required for each agreement is shown below, and must be provided within two weeks of EPA's request. A maximum of three pages will be permitted for the response; excess pages will not be reviewed. Note: If no prior past performance information and/or reporting history exists, you will be asked to so state.

  1. Name of Granting Agency.
  2. Grant/Cooperative agreement number.
  3. Grant/Cooperative agreement title.
  4. Brief description of the grant/cooperative agreement.
  5. A description of how the agreement is similar in size and scope to the proposed project and whether or not it was successfully performed; if not successfully performed, provide an explanation.
  6. Information relating to the proposed Lead/Contact PI's past performance in reporting on progress towards achieving the expected results (outputs/outcomes) under the agreement. Include the history of submitting timely progress/final technical reports, describe how progress towards achieving the expected results was reported/documented, and if such progress was not being made, provide an explanation of whether, and how, this was reported.
  7. Total (all years) grant/cooperative agreement dollar value.
  8. Project period.
  9. Technical contact (project officer), telephone number, and E-mail address (if available).

The purpose of the programmatic review is to assure an integrated research portfolio for the Agency and help determine which applications to recommend for award. In conducting the programmatic review, the EPA will consider information provided by the applicant and may consider information from other sources, including prior and current grantors and agency files.

The internal programmatic review panel will assess:

  1. The relevance of the proposed science to EPA research priorities.
  2. The proposed Lead/Contact PI's past performance [under Federal agency assistance agreements (assistance agreements include grants and cooperative agreements but not contracts) initiated within the last three years that were similar in size and scope to the proposed project] in two areas: First, in successfully performing these prior Federal assistance projects, including whether there is a satisfactory explanation for any lack of success. Second, in reporting progress towards achieving results under these agreements, including the proposed Lead/Contact PI's history of submitting timely progress/final technical reports that adequately describe the progress toward achieving the expected results (outputs/outcomes) under the agreements. Any explanation of why progress towards achieving the results was not made will also be considered. Applicants whose proposed Lead PI/Contact PI has no relevant past performance and/or reporting history, or for whom this information is not available, will be evaluated neither favorably nor unfavorably on these elements.

C. Funding Decisions
Final funding decisions are made by the NCER Director based on the results of the peer review and internal programmatic review. In addition, in making the final funding decisions, the NCER Director may also consider program balance and available funds. Applicants selected for funding will be required to provide additional information listed below under Award Notices. The application will then be forwarded to EPAs Grants and Interagency Agreement Management Division for award in accordance with the EPAs procedures.

VI. AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION

A. Award Notices
Customarily, applicants are notified about evaluation decisions within six months of the solicitation closing date. A summary statement of the scientific review by the peer panel will be provided to each applicant with an award or declination letter.

Applicants to be recommended for funding will be required to submit additional certifications and an electronic version of the revised project abstract. They may also be asked to provide responses to comments or suggestions offered by the peer reviewers, a revised budget, and/or to resubmit their proposal. EPA Project Officers will contact the Lead PI/Contact PI to obtain these materials. Before or after an award, applicants may be required to provide additional quality assurance documentation.

Non-profit applicants that are recommended for funding under this announcement are subject to pre-award administrative capability reviews consistent with Section 8b., 8c. and 9d. of EPA Order 5700.8 - Policy on Assessing Capabilities of Non-Profit Applicants for Managing Assistance Awards (http://www.epa.gov/ogd/grants/award/5700_8.pdf (9 pp, 31 K)). In addition, non-profit applicants that qualify for funding may, depending on the size of the award, be required to fill out and submit to the Grants Management Office the Administrative Capabilities Form with supporting documents contained in Appendix A of EPA Order 5700.8.

The official notification of an award will be made by the Agencys Grants and Interagency Agreement Management Division. Applicants are cautioned that only a grants officer is authorized to bind the Government to the expenditure of funds; preliminary selection by the NCER Director in the Office of Research and Development does not guarantee an award will be made.

B. Disputes
Disputes related to this assistance agreement competition will be resolved in accordance with the dispute resolution procedures set forth in 70 FR 3629, 3630 (January 26, 2005) which can be found at http://www.epa.gov/ogd/competition/resolution.htm. Questions regarding disputes may be referred to the Eligibility Contact identified below.

C. Administrative and National Policy Requirements
Expectations and responsibilities of NCER grantees and cooperative agreement holders are summarized in this section, although the terms grant and grantee are used. See http://www.epa.gov/ncer/guidance for the full terms and conditions associated with an award, including which activities require prior approval from the EPA.

  1. Meetings: Principal Investigators will be expected to budget for, and participate in, All-Investigators Meetings (also known as progress reviews) approximately once per year with EPA scientists and other grantees to report on research activities and discuss issues of mutual interest.
  2. Approval of Changes after Award: Prior written approval is required from the EPA if there will be a significant change from the work described in the application. Examples of these changes are contained in 40 C.F.R. 30.25. Note: prior written approval is also required from the EPA for incurring costs more than 90 calendar days prior to award.
  3. Human Subjects: A grant applicant must agree to meet all EPA requirements for studies using human subjects prior to implementing any work with these subjects. These requirements are given in 40 C.F.R. § 26. For observational studies involving children or pregnant women or nursing mothers please refer to Subparts B & D of 40 C.F.R. § 26. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regulations at 45 CFR § 46.101(e) have long required "... compliance with pertinent Federal laws or regulations which provide additional protection for human subjects." EPAs regulation 40 C.F.R. Part 26 is such a pertinent Federal regulation. Therefore, the applicant's Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval must state that the applicant's study meets the EPA's regulations at 40 CFR § 26. No work involving human subjects, including recruiting, may be initiated before the EPA has received a copy of the applicants IRB approval of the project and the EPA has also provided approval. Where human subjects are involved in the research, the recipient must provide evidence of subsequent IRB reviews, including amendments or minor changes of protocol, as part of annual reports.
  4. Animal Welfare: A grant recipient must agree to comply with the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 (P.L. 89-544), as amended, 7 U.S.C. 2131-2156. The recipient must also agree to abide by the "U.S. Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals used in Testing, Research, and Training" (50 Federal Register 20864-20865. May 20, 1985).
  5. Data Access and Information Release: After award, all data (including primary and secondary or existing data) must be made available to the NCER Project Officer without restriction and be accompanied by comprehensive metadata documentation adequate for specialists and non-specialists alike to be able to understand how and where the data were obtained and to evaluate the quality of the data. If requested, the data products and their metadata must be provided to the NCER Project Officer in a standard exchange format no later than the due date of the grant's final report or the publication of the data product's associated results, whichever comes first.

    Congress, through OMB, has instructed each federal agency to implement Information Quality Guidelines designed to "provide policy and procedural guidance...for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information, including statistical information, disseminated by Federal agencies." The EPA's implementation may be found at http://epa.gov/quality/exmural.html#genreqts. These procedures may apply to data generated by grant recipients if those data are disseminated as described in the Guidelines.

    The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-110 located at 2 CFR Part 215 has been revised to provide public access to research data through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) under some circumstances. Data that are (1) first produced in a project that is supported in whole or in part with federal funds and (2) cited publicly and officially by a federal agency in support of an action that has the force and effect of law (i.e., a regulation) may be accessed through FOIA. If such data are requested by the public, the EPA must ask for it, and the grantee must submit it, in accordance with A-110 and the EPA regulations at 40 C.F.R. 30.36.

  6. Reporting: A grant recipient must agree to provide annual progress reports, with associated summaries, and a final report with an executive summary. The summaries will be posted on NCERs website.

    A grant recipient must agree to provide copies of any peer reviewed journal article(s) resulting from the research during the project period. In addition, the recipient should notify the EPA Project Officer of any papers published after completion of the grant that were based on research supported by the grant. NCER posts references to all publications resulting from a grant on the NCER web site.

  7. Acknowledgement of EPA Support: EPAs full or partial support must be acknowledged in journal articles, oral or poster presentations, news releases, interviews with reporters and other communications. Any documents developed under this agreement that are intended for distribution to the public or inclusion in a scientific, technical, or other journal shall include the following statement:
    This publication [article] was developed under STAR Research Assistance Agreement No. __________ awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It has not been formally reviewed by the EPA. The views expressed in this document are solely those of [name of recipient] and the EPA does not endorse any products or commercial services mentioned in this publication.

    A graphic that may be converted to a slide or used in other ways, such as on a poster, is located at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/guidance/star_images.html. EPA expects recipients to use this graphic in oral and poster presentations.

  8. Exchange Network: EPA, states, territories, and tribes are working together to develop the National Environmental Information Exchange Network, a secure, Internet- and standards-based way to support electronic data reporting, sharing, and integration of both regulatory and non-regulatory environmental data. States, tribes and territories exchanging data with each other or with EPA, should make the Exchange Network and the Agency's connection to it, the Central Data Exchange (CDX), the standard way they exchange data and should phase out any legacy methods they have been using. More information on the Exchange Network is available at www.exchangenetwork.net exit EPA.

VII. AGENCY CONTACTS

Further information, if needed, may be obtained from the EPA officials indicated below. Information regarding this RFA obtained from sources other than these Agency Contacts may not be accurate. Email inquiries are preferred.

Eligibility Contact: William Stelz (stelz.william@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8039
Electronic Submissions: Thomas O'Farrell (O'Farrell.Thomas@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8085
Technical Contact: Anne Sergeant (sergeant.anne@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8105

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