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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Air and Radiation and Office of Research and Development
National Center for Environmental Research

CLOSED - FOR REFERENCES PURPOSES ONLY

Particulate Matter (PM) Supersites Integrated Data Analysis Project

Opening Date: August 4, 2000
Closing Date: January 17, 2001

1.0 Summary
2.0 Key Dates
3.0 PM Supersites Program Description 
4.0 Eligibility Requirements
5.0 Instructions for Submitting an Application 

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1.0 SUMMARY

This request for applications (RFA) solicits proposals to support development of a single PM Supersites "Integrated Data Analysis Project" (IDAP) designed to facilitate and execute broad-scale (e.g., national and regional) analyses which merge PM Supersites data with other relevant data sets.

Applications which respond to this solicitation will be accepted from (1) single research institutions and (2) consortia which include more than one research institution. Each application must propose to develop an IDAP which can interface with the PM Supersites monitoring components awarded in response to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) previous PM Supersites solicitation (see references provided in Section 3.1). The IDAP is to be implemented through a single cooperative assistance agreement which will have a duration of up to five years. Total funding for this solicitation is anticipated to be approximately $900 thousand. Applications may be submitted by domestic not-for-profit research institutions such as universities, research institutes, and state or local government research entities. 

2.0 KEY DATES

The deadline for receipt of applications that respond to this solicitation is January 17, 2001. So as to avoid compromising the evaluation process, EPA requests that all potential applicants refrain from approaching any individuals with requests to serve on advisory boards or steering committees for the IDAP until after the award of this cooperative assistance agreement has been announced. 

EPA anticipates that negotiations between the potential awardee and the EPA Project Officer for this assistance agreement will occur in March/April 2001; the principal investigator must be available during this time-frame.

3.0 PM SUPERSITES PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

3.1 BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The "PM Supersites" is an ambient monitoring research program that will provide information of value to the atmospheric sciences and human health and exposure research communities. 

Based on an extensive review of the scientific criteria and standards for PM, on July 18, 1997, the EPA Administrator published revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for PM and added standards for PM2.5. In taking this action, the Administration recognized the scientific uncertainty associated with effects, exposure, concentrations, and source-receptor relationships, as well as management alternatives for PM2.5. These revised standards, and the associated scientific findings and uncertainties, stimulated national concern about exposure to, and health effects from, PM. This concern resulted in Executive and Congressional direction and funding to EPA. In its direction, Congress called for a broad spectrum of research by parties within and outside EPA based on recommendations prepared by the National Research Council (NRC) and funds appropriated by Congress for EPA. The success of much of the intended research depends on the availability of air pollution samples and data obtained through ambient air quality monitoring. 

Congress also emphasized that the Agency is to be guided by the National Research Council's Committee on Research Priorities for Airborne Particulate Matter and the Committee's recommendations contained in the March 1998 report, Research Priorities for Airborne Particulate Matter: I. Immediate Priorities and a Long-Range Research Portfolio. Electronic copies of this and the second report in the subject series, released in August 1999, Research Priorities for Airborne Particulate Matter: II. Evaluating Research Progress and Updating the Portfolio, can be obtained from http://www.nap.edu

To plan and prioritize activities, EPA developed a PM Supersites Conceptual Plan (U.S. EPA, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards and Office of Research and Development). The PM Supersites Conceptual Plan benefitted from scientific discussions during a public PM Measurements Research Workshop held in Chapel Hill, N.C. on July 22 and 23, 1998, which was attended by about 200 members of the atmospheric, exposure, and health effects research communities. To commence the PM Supersites Program, EPA selected two initial sites, Atlanta, GA, and Fresno, CA. These sites, henceforth referred to as Phase I Supersites, were non-competitively selected by virtue of (1) ongoing and planned research activities (objectives for which very closely align with those of the PM Supersites Program), and (2) distinctly different airsheds (e.g., atmospheric chemistry, sources, etc.) represented. Seven additional sites, henceforth referred to as Phase II Supersites, are supported through competitively selected cooperative agreements awarded in January 2000. 




3.2 PURPOSE

Each Phase II recipient developed, as part of the pre-award application competition, a project-specific, hypothesis-based data analysis plan, details of which were incorporated into each Supersite application. These hypotheses can be categorized according to the three general program objectives defined in the PM Supersites Conceptual Plan:

(1) Characterize particulate matter: to obtain atmospheric measurements to characterize PM, its constituents, precursors, co-pollutants, atmospheric transport, and source categories that affect the PM in any region. This information is essential for understanding source-receptor relationships and the factors that affect PM at a given site (e.g., meteorology, sources, transport distances). This information is also essential for improving the scientific foundation for atmospheric models that investigate exposure and risk management questions. 

(2) Support health effects and exposure research: to obtain atmospheric measurements to address the research questions and scientific uncertainties about PM source-receptor-exposure- effects relationships. Examples of these questions include, "What is the relationship between sources, ambient PM concentrations, human exposures, and health effects such as respiratory tract disease and mortality?" and "What is the biological basis for these relationships?" 

(3) Conduct methods testing: to obtain atmospheric measurements that will compare and evaluate different methods of characterizing PM (e.g., emerging sampling methods, routine monitoring techniques, and Federal Reference Methods). Testing new and emerging measurement methods ultimately may advance the scientific community's ability to investigate exposure and effects questions significantly.

The "Integrated Data Analysis Project" (IDAP) developed under this RFA is intended to augment Phase I and II project-specific data analyses. More specifically, the principal goal of the PM Supersites IDAP is to address each of the three program objectives, as described above, from a broader (i.e., national, regional) perspective that requires synthesis of data beyond that collected by any individual Supersite. The IDAP can also develop and test hypotheses that were not in the Phase I and II plans, especially where those hypotheses must be addressed by information beyond that developed as part of any individual Supersite. As with the Phase I and II programs, it is not the intent of the IDAP to support efforts focused principally on combining and analyzing human health or exposure databases with those derived from Supersites. 

Key Supersite data will be submitted by each Phase I and II recipient to the North American Research Strategy for Tropospheric Ozone (NARSTO) Permanent Data Archive (PDA). This archive, as well as data provided directly from individual Phase I and II principal investigators, will constitute the primary databases from which the Phase III IDAP recipient acquires data for analyses. Applicants are strongly encouraged to include, in their proposed data analysis schemes, plans for incorporating data from other sources (e.g., the Federal Reference Method (FRM) and Chemical Speciation Networks and other relevant aerometric measurement programs, such as, the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP), CASTNet (Clean Air Status and Trends Network), Photochemical Assessment Monitoring System (PAMS), regional air quality programs, etc.).

Some IDAP assessment activities may require, in addition to Supersites data, the use of Phase I and II assessment results. To encourage the greatest possible success of the overall Supersites Program, EPA will facilitate technical communications and promote a cooperative atmosphere among the Phase I and II and IDAP technical teams. Various combinations of Phase I and II and IDAP technical teams, as well as EPA technical staff, may choose to work collaboratively on various assessments of mutual interest. While Phase I and II recipients will retain primary responsibility for site-specific data analyses, the successful Phase III IDAP applicant is expected to become substantially familiar with each relevant Phase I and II recipient's data analysis plans, and identify additional assessments that may serve to further the overall program objectives. However, it is not intended that the IDAP duplicate, oversee, or take the place of data interpretation, documentation and publication of the individual Supersite operators. EPA expects that each applicant will address the following scientific elements in formulating a proposal for a PM Supersites Integrated Data Analysis Project.

1. Testable hypotheses derived from the program objectives cited above.

2. A protocol that addresses the identification and accessing of relevant data sets for integration. The use of ancillary data (e.g. use of meteorological data, data from other sites, satellite imagery, etc.) is encouraged.

3. Specific techniques for data integration, specific approaches for spatial and temporal data set analysis and visualization, anticipated development of tools to facilitate analysis and outputs. 

In essence, each IDAP applicant must describe specific data integration, analyses, interpretation, visualization, and communication activities which are consistent with, and supportive of, the above-referenced PM Supersites program objectives. Information pertaining to the PM Supersites Program, as well as individual Supersite Projects, is available at http://www.epa.gov/ttn/amtic/supersites.html. Critical data needs and additional supporting information to address each hypothesis should be identified.

4.0 ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS

Academic and not-for-profit institutions located in the U.S., and state or local governments, are eligible under all existing authorizations. Profit-making firms are not eligible to receive

cooperative agreements from EPA under this program. Applications will be accepted (1) from single research institutions and (2) from consortia that include more than one research institution.

Federal agencies, national laboratories funded by Federal agencies (Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, FFRDCs), and Federal employees are not eligible to submit applications to this program and may not serve in a principal leadership role on this award. 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 principal investigator, but may not direct projects on behalf of the applicant organization or principal investigator. The principal investigator's institution may provide funds through its cooperative assistance agreement from EPA to a 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 employees may not receive salaries or in other ways augment their agency's appropriations through cooperative agreements with this program. However, the nature of the cooperative assistance agreement mechanism, which will be used to support the PM Supersites IDAP, explicitly contemplates collaboration between scientists in EPA laboratories and centers and the applicant's institution or consortium. EPA scientists will be willing to consult and collaborate with the IDAP awardee in conducting ongoing or planned IDAP research. However, discussions regarding EPA collaboration will not take place until the final negotiation phase of the cooperative agreement. 

5.0 INSTRUCTIONS FOR SUBMITTING AN APPLICATION

This section contains a set of explicit instructions on how applicants should apply for the cooperative agreement described in this solicitation. 




5.1. Sorting Codes

In order to facilitate proper assignment and review of applications, each is assigned a sorting code. The sorting code for this solicitation is 2001-STAR-A1.


  • It is the responsibility of the applicant to correctly identify the proper Sorting Code. Failure to do so could result in an inappropriate peer review assignment.


The Sorting Code must be placed at the top of the abstract (as shown in the abstract format), in Box 10 of Standard Form 424 (as described below in the section on SF424), and in the address on the package that is sent to EPA (see section 5.3 below on How to Apply). 

5.2. The Application

The initial application is made through the submission of the materials described below. 

It is essential that the application contain all the information requested and be submitted in the formats described. If an application is considered for award (i.e., after external peer review and internal review), additional forms and other information will be requested by the EPA Project Officer, whose name and contact information are provided at Section 5.9 of this solicitation. 

The original, signature copy of the application should not be stapled or bound in any way. Other copies should be stapled or bound with clips. 

The Application contains the following: 

A. Standard Form 424: The applicant must complete Standard Form 424. This form will act as a cover sheet for the application and should be its first page. Instructions for completion of the SF424 are included with the form. The form must contain the original signature of an authorized representative of the applying institution. Please note that both the Principal Investigator and an administrative contact should be identified in Section 5 of the SF424. 

B. Key Contacts: The applicant must complete the Key Contacts Form as the second page of the submitted application. 

C. Abstract: The abstract is a very important document. Prior to attending the peer review panel meetings, some of the panelists may read only the abstract. Therefore, it is critical that the abstract accurately describe the research being proposed and convey all the essential elements of the research. The abstract, limited to one page, should include the following information, as indicated in the example format provided. Examples of abstracts for current assistance agreements may be found on the NCER web site under "Research Results."

1. Research Category and Sorting Code: Enter the full name of the solicitation to which your application is submitted and use the correct code that corresponds to the appropriate RFA topic.

2. Title: Use the exact title as it appears in the rest of the application. The title of the application must be brief, yet represent the major thrust of the project. Because the title will be used by those not familiar with the project, avoid highly technical words or phraseology. Do not use phrases such as "research on." 

3. Investigators: Start with the Principal Investigator. Also list the names and affiliations of each major co-investigator who will significantly contribute to the project. 

4. Institution: List the name and city/state of each participating university or other applicant institution, in the same order as the list of investigators. 

5. Project Period: Provide the proposed project beginning and ending dates. 

6. Project Cost: Provide the total request to EPA for the entire project period. 

7. Project Summary: This should summarize: (a) the objectives of the study (including any hypotheses that will be tested), (b) the experimental approach to be used (which should give an accurate description of the project as described in the proposal), and (c) the expected results of the project and how it addresses the research needs identified in the solicitation. 

8. Supplemental Keywords: A list of suggested keywords is provided for your use. Do not duplicate terms already used in the text of the abstract. Providing a complete set of keywords is very important.

D. Project Description: This description must not exceed fifteen (15) consecutively numbered (center bottom), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins. 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. This section should also include any background or introductory information that would help explain the objectives of the study.

2. Approach: Outline the methods, approaches, and techniques that you intend to employ in meeting the objective stated above (five to 10 pages recommended). 

3. Expected Results or Benefits: Describe the results you expect to achieve during the project, the benefits of success as they relate to the topic under which the proposal was submitted, and the potential recipients of these benefits. This section should also discuss the utility of the research proposed for addressing the objectives described in the solicitation (one to two pages recommended). 

4. General Project Information: Discuss other information relevant to the potential success of the project. This should include facilities, personnel, project schedules, proposed management, interactions with other institutions, etc. (one to two pages recommended). 

5. Important Attachments: Appendices and/or other information may be included but must remain within the 15-page limit. References cited are in addition to the 15 pages.

The following sections are in addition to the 15-page Project Description. 

E. Resumes: The resumes of all principal investigators and important co-workers should be presented. Resumes must not exceed two consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins for each individual. 

F. Current and Pending Support: The applicant must identify any current and pending financial resources that are intended to support research related to that included in the proposal or which would consume the time of principal investigators. This should be done by completing the appropriate form (NCER FORM 5) for each investigator and other senior personnel involved in the proposal. 

G. Budget: The applicant must present a detailed, itemized budget for the entire project. This budget must be in the format provided in the example and not exceed two consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages with 1-inch margins. Please note that institutional cost sharing is not required and, therefore, does not have to be included in the budget table. However, if you intend to cost-share, a brief statement concerning cost sharing can be added to the budget justification, which should include the estimated dollar amounts in the appropriate categories in the budget table. If a sub-contract is included in the application, provide a separate budget for the sub-contract in the same format. Include the total amount for the sub-contract under "Contracts" in the master budget. 

H. Budget Justification: This section should describe the basis for calculating the personnel, fringe benefits, travel, equipment, supplies, contractual support, and other costs identified in the itemized budget and explain the basis for their calculation (special attention should be given to explaining the travel, equipment, and other categories). This should also include an explanation of how the indirect costs were calculated. This justification should not exceed two consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins. 

I. Quality Assurance Statement: For any project involving data collection or processing, conducting surveys, environmental measurements, and/or modeling, or the development of environmental technology (whether hardware-based or via new techniques) for pollution control and waste treatment, provide a statement on quality processes that will be used to assure that results of the research satisfy the intended project objectives. For awards that involve environmentally related measurements or data generation, a quality system that complies with the requirements of ANSI/ASQC E4, "Specifications and Guidelines for Quality Systems for Environmental Data Collection and Environmental Technology Programs," must be in place. The Quality Assurance Statement should not exceed two consecutively numbered, 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins. This is in addition to the 15 pages permitted for the Project Description. This Statement should, for each item listed below, present the required information, reference the relevant portion of the project description containing the information, or provide a justification as to why the item does not apply to the proposed research. 

1. Discuss the activities to be performed or hypothesis to be tested and criteria for determining acceptable data quality. (Note: Such criteria may be expressed in terms of precision, accuracy, representativeness, completeness, and comparability. These criteria must also be applied to determine the acceptability of existing or secondary data to be used in the project.) 

2. Describe the study design, including sample type and location requirements, any statistical analyses that were used to estimate the types and numbers of samples required for physical samples, or equivalent information for studies using survey and interview techniques. 

3. Describe the procedures for the handling and custody of samples, including sample collection, identification, preservation, transportation, and storage. 

4. Describe the procedures that will be used in the calibration and performance evaluation of the sampling and analytical methods and equipment to be used during the project. 

5. Discuss the procedures for data reduction and reporting, including a description of statistical analyses to be used and of any computer models to be designed or utilized with associated verification and validation techniques. 

6. Describe the quantitative and/or qualitative procedures that will be used to evaluate the success of the project, including any plans for peer or other reviews of the study design or analytical methods prior to data collection.

ANSI/ASQC E4, "Specifications and Guidelines for Quality Systems for Environmental Data Collection and Environmental Technology Programs," is available for purchase from the American Society for Quality, phone 1-800-248-1946, item T55. Only in exceptional circumstances should it be necessary to consult this document. There are EPA requirements documents (R-series) and guidance documents (G-series) available for potential applicants which address in detail how to comply with ANSI/ASQC E4. These may be found on the Internet at http://www.epa.gov/quality1/qa_docs.html. Two EPA documents, R-5, "EPA Requirements for Quality Assurance Project Plans," and G-4, "Guidance for the Data Quality Objectives Process," are particularly pertinent to this RFA's QA requirements. 

J. Postcard: The Applicant must include with the application a self-addressed, stamped 3x5-inch post card. This will be used to acknowledge receipt of the application and to transmit other important information to the applicant. If the applicant does not receive an acknowledgment within 60 days of the submission deadline, contact the project official listed under "Contacts" in this solicitation.

5.3. How to Apply

The original and ten (10) copies of the fully developed application (11 in all) and one (1) additional copy of the abstract, must be received by NCER no later than 4:00 P.M. Eastern Time on the closing date, January 17, 2001.

The application and abstract must be prepared in accordance with these instructions. Informal, incomplete, or unsigned proposals will not be considered. The original, signature copy of the application should not be stapled or bound in any way. The required number of copies of the application should be secured with paper or binder clips. 

Completed applications should be sent via regular mail to: 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Peer Review Division (8703R)
Sorting Code: 2001-STAR-A1
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20460

For express mail-delivered applications, the following address must be used: 

U. S. Environmental Protection Agency 
Peer Review Division (8703R)
Sorting Code: 2001-STAR-A1
Room B-10105
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004 

Phone: (202) 564-6939 (for express mail applications) 

Courier- or personally-delivered applications must be brought to the Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004. The courier must come to the EPA Visitors Lobby (see map), tell the security guard that he/she has a delivery for the EPA mail room. The courier will be required to sign a visitor's log, and will be directed to the EPA mail room. The mail room is open 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. weekdays, exclusive of Federal holidays. If the applicant requires a receipt for the delivery, you will need to provide a form which the mail room personnel will sign. 

5.4. Guidelines, Limitations, and Additional Requirements

Projects which contain sub-contracts constituting more than 40% of the total direct cost of the assistance agreement for each year in which the subcontract is awarded will be subject to special review. Additional justification for extensive use of such sub-contracts must be provided in which the need is discussed in relation to the accomplishment of the specific objectives of the research project.

5.5. Review and Selection Criteria

All assistance agreement applications are reviewed by an appropriate technical peer review panel. This review is designed to evaluate each proposal according to its scientific merit. In general, each review group is composed of non-EPA scientists, engineers, social scientists, and/or economists who are experts in their respective disciplines and are proficient in the technical subjects they are reviewing. Reviewers use the following criteria to help them in their evaluations: 

  • The originality and creativity of the proposed research, the appropriateness and adequacy of the research methods proposed, and the appropriateness and adequacy of the Quality Assurance Narrative Statement. Is the research approach practical and technically defensible, and can the project be performed within the proposed time period? Will the research contribute to scientific knowledge in the topic area of the solicitation? Is the proposal well-prepared with supportive information that is self-explanatory and understandable? 

  •  
  • 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 contribute a significant time commitment to the project? 

  •  
  • 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? 

  •  
  • The responsiveness of the proposal to the research needs identified for the topic area. Does the proposal adequately address the objectives specified for this topic area? 

  •  
  • Although budget information is not used by the reviewers as the basis for their evaluation of 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.
Applications that receive scores of excellent and very good from the peer reviewers are subjected to a programmatic review within EPA. Scientists from ORD Laboratories and EPA Program and Regional Offices review these applications in relation to program priorities. Recommendations are then made to the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS) Director who will make the funding decision. The cooperative assistance agreement will be selected on the basis of technical merit, relevancy to the research priorities outlined, and budget. 

Customarily, applicants are notified about award decisions within 6 months of the application deadline. A summary statement of the scientific review by the peer panel will be provided to each applicant with the award or declination letter. 
Applications selected for funding will require additional certifications, possibly a revised budget, responses to any comments or suggestions offered by the peer reviewers, and an electronic version of the revised project abstract. The EPA Project Officer will contact the Principal Investigator to obtain these materials. 

5.6. Proprietary Information

By submitting an application in response to this solicitation, the applicant grants EPA permission to share the application with technical reviewers both within and outside the Agency. Applications containing proprietary or other types of confidential information will be returned to the applicant without review. 

5.7. Funding Mechanism

The funding mechanism for the award issued under this solicitation will consist of a cooperative assistance agreement with EPA. All award decisions are subject to the availability of funds. In accordance with Public Law 95-224, 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 of the Agency. In issuing a cooperative assistance agreement, EPA anticipates that there will be substantial EPA involvement in the design, implementation, or conduct of the research, and will likewise monitor research progress through frequent contact and quarterly reports provided by the recipient.

5.8. Expectations and Responsibilities of the Assistance Recipient

Meetings. Each applicant should include in the budget funds for two meetings each year with EPA to discuss research progress and develop plans to coordinate activities. For planning purposes, assume that each meeting will be held in Research Triangle Park, N.C., will require the attendance of principal investigator(s) and co-principal investigator(s) from the IDAP recipient, and each Supersite. Each meeting will be up to three days in length, exclusive of travel time.

Approval of Changes. Prior written approval is required from EPA if there is to be a significant change in the research that deviates markedly from the application. Examples of these changes are contained in 40 C.F.R. 30.25. 

Reports. The recipient will agree to provide to the EPA Project Officer quarterly progress reports with associated summaries for posting on the appropriate EPA web site, and a final report with an executive summary for web posting. The recipient will be required to provide copies of any peer reviewed journal article(s) resulting from the research during the project period and should continue to notify the EPA Project Officer of any papers that are published after termination of the assistance agreement which were based on research supported thereby. EPA intends to post references to all publications resulting from the assistance agreement on the appropriate EPA web site. 

5.9. Contacts

Additional general information on the assistance agreement program, forms used for applications, etc., may be obtained by exploring http://www.epa.gov/ncerqa. Information not available on the Internet may be obtained by contacting: 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
National Center for Environmental Research (8703R) 
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20460 

Phone: 1-800-490-9194 

Specific technical questions should be directed to either of the following EPA contact persons:

Richard Scheffe, Program Manager
919-541-4650
scheffe.rich@epa.gov

Michael Jones, Project Officer 
919-541-0528
jones.mike@epa.gov

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