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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

An Interdisciplinary Approach To Examining The Links Between Social Stressors, Biodiversity And Human Health

This is the initial announcement of this funding opportunity.

Funding Opportunity Number: EPA-G2007-STAR-F1

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 66.509

Solicitation Opening Date: December 15, 2006
Solicitation Closing Date: April 19, 2007, 4:00 pm Eastern Time

Eligibility Contact: Tom Barnwell (barnwell.thomas@epa.gov); phone: 202-343-9862
Electronic Submissions: Thomas O'Farrell (o'farrell.thomas@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8085
Technical Contact: Montira Pongsiri, PhD, MPH (pongsiri.montira@epa.gov); phone: 202-343-9640

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 proposing to use interdisciplinary approaches to study the relationship between anthropogenic stressors (within ecosystems), changes in host and/or vector biodiversity, and infectious disease transmission.  Research will focus on understanding the environmental and social factors that contribute to biodiversity change, the population dynamics of animal reservoirs and vectors of disease, biological mechanisms that influence disease transmission to humans, and the processes by which infectious diseases emerge and spread.  Research on the links between anthropogenic stressors, biodiversity and infectious disease can have an important impact on our view of biodiversity, the services provided by natural ecosystems, and how we manage these resources to protect human health and the environment. 

Award Information:
Anticipated Type of Award: Grant or Cooperative Agreement
Estimated Number of Awards: 3 awards
Anticipated Funding Amount: $2,250,000 pending the availability of funds
Potential Funding per Award: Up to a total of $750,000, including direct and indirect costs, with a maximum duration of 3 years
Institutional 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: Tom Barnwell (barnwell.thomas@epa.gov); phone: 202-343-9862
Electronic Submissions: Thomas O'Farrell (o'farrell.thomas@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8085
Technical Contact: Montira Pongsiri, PhD, MPH (pongsiri.montira@epa.gov); phone: 202-343-9640

I. FUNDING OPPORTUNITY DESCRIPTION

A. Introduction
The mission of the National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Research and Development is to support high-quality research by the nation’s leading scientists that will improve the scientific basis for decisions on national environmental issues and help EPA achieve its goals.

Changes in biodiversity can affect the transmission of infectious disease to humans, particularly vector-borne diseases such as malaria and Lyme disease.  Under EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment, the agency has a mandate to use Integrated Pest Management under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to manage pests of public health importance by means that pose the least possible hazard to people and the environment.  With this RFA, EPA proposes to characterize the social and environmental drivers of infectious disease transmission; specifically, how changes in host or vector biodiversity arising from anthropogenic causes affect infectious-disease transmission.  Root causes of disease emergence and spread need to be explored to assist in prevention and mitigation, and characterizing the environmental factors that contribute to human infectious diseases can lead to environmentally-based approaches that can reduce their burden.

The purpose of this Request for Applications (RFA) is to support interdisciplinary research to develop approaches for quantifying and predicting the relationships between anthropogenic stressors, changes in biodiversity, and the transmission of infectious diseases to humans.

Definitions
For the purposes of this research solicitation, the following definitions are applicable:

  • Biodiversity:  the variety of life on Earth and the natural patterns it forms, often understood in terms of the wide variety of plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms, including genetic variation within species and ecosystem variety. Note: the genetic diversity of pathogens is not considered part of the research interest of this RFA.
  • Emerging disease:  a new disease, a new presentation of a previously recognized disease, or an existing disease that shows up in a new geographic area or a different form (e.g., drug-resistant malaria). 
  • Valuation:  assigning a value, often in monetary terms, to biodiversity with regard to its role in reducing environmental or human health risks or providing services that benefit humans. 
  • Vector-borne disease:  a disease associated with a pathogen commonly transmitted to humans through vectors (any animal that transmits the pathogen or plays an essential role in the pathogen’s life cycle).
  • Zoonotic disease:  a disease that can be transmitted from animals to people or, more specifically, a human disease associated with a pathogen that normally exists in animals but can infect humans.
  • Ecosystem services: the direct and indirect benefits that human beings derive from ecosystems.

B. Background
Humans have always depended on the services provided by ecosystems to maintain their well-being (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005a, aka MA).  These services include provisioning services, such as food, water, timber and fiber; regulating services, such as the regulation of climate, floods, disease, wastes and water quality; cultural services, such as recreation; and supporting services, such as soil formation, photosynthesis, and nutrient cycling.  Conserving biodiversity, including genetic, species, and ecosystem diversity, is a primary means of sustaining ecosystem services, especially in response to changing conditions (Loreau 2001; MA 2005a).  However, the rate of biodiversity loss is accelerating worldwide, despite decades of conservation efforts and the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992 (MA 2005a).  Over the past 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems to an unprecedented degree (MA 2005a).  Estimated rates of species extinction are as much as a thousand times higher than the average in the fossil record (Pimm et al.1995), and overall trends in the populations of wild vertebrate species living in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine environments have shown a decline of around 30% between 1970 and 2003 (Living Planet Report 2006).  The primary causes of losses in biodiversity are habitat alteration, overexploitation, biotic exchange due to invasive species (Wilson 1991); also, anthropogenic climate change is likely to have a major impact on global biodiversity (Parmesan and Yohe 2003).

At the same time, new infectious diseases appear to be emerging at an increasing rate (Wilcox & Gubler 2005; WHO 2005).  These include new diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), as well as reemerging diseases that have expanded in geographic range, such as West Nile virus (Fauci 2005, 2006).  A common factor in the emergence of infectious diseases is that they appear to be triggered by anthropogenic changes to the environment (MA 2005b; Patz et al. 2004).

There is scientific evidence to support a relationship between changes in biodiversity and increased transmission of infectious diseases to humans.  Changes in biodiversity related to infectious disease transmission to humans include changes in host and vector species density, abundance, composition, and distribution; loss of genetic variation; and habitat alteration and fragmentation.

The loss or extinction of large predators due to hunting and land-use change can increase the population of a particular vector or host.  This can result in an increased transmission of infectious disease to humans (Allan et al. 2003; Dobson et al. 2006).  It also has been shown that the loss of specialist predators can affect the health of animal populations, as diseased individuals can survive longer and increase the potential for transmission (Packer et al. 2003).  On the other hand, when nonnative species are introduced into a system, they can alter ecosystems, impact biodiversity, and introduce new pathogens.

With much of their life cycles occurring outside the human host, water-borne and vector-borne pathogens are particularly sensitive to environmental conditions.  For example, eutrophication and overfishing can contribute to an abundance of intermediate snail hosts of schistosomiasis (Picquet 1996; Madsen et al. 2001).  Other studies suggest that species and habitat diversity can reduce the transmission rates of vector-borne disease.  The rates of infection of ticks by the pathogen associated with Lyme disease increases as host biodiversity declines (LoGuidice et al. 2003).  Increased richness of non-passerine birds, which are less competent reservoir hosts than passerines, was associated with decreased West Nile virus infection in mosquitoes and a decreased number of human cases (Ezenwa et al. 2006).  And the human biting rates of the most efficient malaria-transmitting mosquitoes in the Peruvian Amazon were significantly higher in deforested sites compared to sites with less habitat alteration, independent of population density (Vittor 2006).

While these studies give some indication that changes in biodiversity affect the rate of infectious disease transmission to humans, more research is needed if environmental decision-makers are to be able to incorporate biodiversity change as a factor in assessing risks to human health.  In response to these needs, EPA is seeking to sponsor interdisciplinary research to better understand the qualitative and quantitative relationships between anthropogenic stressors, changes in disease host and/or vector biodiversity and infectious disease transmission to humans, in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.  This involves the characterization of the environmental and social factors that contribute to biodiversity change, the population dynamics of animal reservoirs and vectors of disease, biological mechanisms that influence disease transmission to humans, and the processes by which infectious diseases emerge and spread.  EPA uses Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to manage pests of public health importance, such as mosquito vectors of disease.  Characterizing the environmental and social factors contributing to disease transmission can lead to environmental, nonchemical approaches that not only contribute to conservation but also reduce disease incidence.  A similar strategy of disease alleviation is being used by the World Health Organization (WHO) based on analyses of how environmental risks impact human disease (Pruss-Ustun and Corvalan 2006).  With the recognition that environment “is a platform for good health,” mitigation and prevention strategies with multiple social benefits can be promoted.

In summary, there are several important research questions that illustrate the type of research needed to understand the relationships between anthropogenic stressors, changes in biodiversity and infectious disease transmission to humans.

  • How do vector populations respond to different environmental conditions and varying degrees of species richness, abundance, and composition?  How are disease vectors regulated in nature?
  • Is there a nonlinear response to biodiversity decline that causes rapid impairment of ecosystem functions and posing risks to human health?
  • How does predator loss or reintroduction alter the risk of disease transmission from animals to humans?
  • What are the anthropogenic or social stressors that impact biodiversity in ways that adversely affect human health? 
  • What are the behavioral responses to disease risk and changes in biodiversity that could help perpetuate or mitigate adverse effects to humans?
  • In what situations does biodiversity loss increase risks to human health?  In what situations might biodiversity loss decrease risks to human health?

It is hoped that conducting this research will provide environmental decision-makers with tools necessary to make informed decisions regarding the real and potential impact of changes in biodiversity on human health, the role played by anthropogenic stressors in this relationship, and effective approaches for mitigating, and perhaps preventing, adverse impacts.

The specific Strategic Goal, Objective and Sub-objective from EPA’s Strategic Plan that relate to this solicitation are:

Goal 4: Healthy Communities and Ecosystems, Objective 4.5: Enhance Science and Research, Sub-objective 4.5.2: Conduct Relevant Research

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

C. Authority and Regulations
The authority for this RFA and resulting awards is contained in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, Section 20, 7 U.S.C. 136r, the Safe Drinking Water Act, Section 1442, 42 U.S.C. 300j-1,  the Clean Water Act, Section 104, 33 U.S.C., and the Clean Air Act, Section 103, 42 U.S.C. 7403.

Integrated pest management (IPM) is a decision-making process that uses current and comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment to manage pest damage in agricultural and nonagricultural settings by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard, to people, property, and the environment.  EPA provides information on pesticide and non-pesticide controls to the public, as well as to state and local agencies which manage outbreaks of infectious diseases.  Mosquito vectors can transmit infectious diseases such as West Nile virus.  EPA encourages nonchemical mosquito prevention efforts; where nonchemical control is not feasible, EPA educates users on the proper use of insecticides. 

Projects under this RFA will characterize the social and environmental drivers of infectious disease transmission; specifically, how changes in host or vector biodiversity from anthropogenic causes affect infectious-disease transmission.  This knowledge can lead to the design of environmentally-based (nonchemical) strategies to reduce infectious-disease incidence.  For example, sound land use practices can be part of IPM strategies under the authority of FIFRA section 20(a) to minimize the use of pesticides as a control method of vector-borne infectious diseases and result in less pollution to land, air and water.  Projects under this RFA can produce tools that can be used to test the feasibility of new IPM strategies to control pests of public health importance. 

Research on changes in biodiversity that are linked to the incidence of water-borne infectious diseases is covered under the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.  "Pollution" is defined as the man-made or man-induced alteration of the chemical, physical, biological, and radiological integrity of water.  Water-borne pathogens that are proposed for study must comply with this definition.

For research with an international aspect, the above statutes are supplemented, as appropriate, by the National Environmental Policy Act, Section 102 (2)(F).

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 activit(ies) that is related to an environmental, behavioral, or health-related objective.

EPA is issuing this RFA to encourage novel and interdisciplinary approaches to test hypotheses examining the linkages between biodiversity, human health, and the anthropogenic stressors that contribute to these relationships.  This research will require an interdisciplinary approach, involving the integration of data on ecosystems, human health, and social stressors and focusing on systems where biodiversity is hypothesized to be an important driver or trigger of risks to human health.  This RFA is designed to attract investigative teams that include a range of biomedical and non-biomedical disciplines, including but not limited to ecology, epidemiology, entomology, population biology, Earth sciences, health sciences, infectious diseases, veterinary medicine, geography, statistics, social sciences, economics, land-use planning and public policy.  For example:

  • Ecologists and population biologists can help characterize the environmental and ecological determinants affecting animal hosts and vector populations;
  • Earth scientists can play an important role in understanding data on animal reservoirs, host abundance and density, and habitat change, including the use of real-time Earth observations to fill data gaps;
  • Epidemiologists can contribute knowledge on human mechanisms of disease transmission;
  • Social scientists can identify human behaviors that affect biodiversity and health and provide insights into causal relationships between biodiversity and health, as well as strategies promoting human behaviors to protect the environment and human health;
  • Economists can help identify the types of data that are needed for valuation studies of biodiversity as it relates to infectious disease; and
  • Statisticians and modelers can aggregate relevant environmental, health, and social data into models that can predict disease occurrence.

The intent of this RFA is to sponsor research to characterize the relationships between anthropogenic stressors (within ecosystems), changes in disease host and/or vector biodiversity, and infectious disease transmission to humans, in both terrestrial and aquatic environments.  Accordingly, applications in response to this RFA must:

  • Focus on infectious diseases in which changes in biodiversity are hypothesized to be an important driver or trigger of risk of infectious disease;
  • Scientifically characterize the mechanisms underlying the relationship between biodiversity change and infectious disease transmission;
  • Take an interdisciplinary approach to conducting research, integrating data on ecosystems, human health, and anthropogenic stressors by incorporating tools and/or methods from the ecological, health and social sciences (Note: Interdisciplinary teams are considered important to the success of this type of research, and applicants are encouraged, but not required, to collaborate with others across disciplines in their proposed research);
  • Describe how research results can be used by decision-makers to protect human health and the environment.

Changes in biodiversity related to infectious disease transmission include changes in host and vector density, abundance, composition, and distribution; loss of genetic variation; and habitat alteration and fragmentation.  The genetic diversity of pathogens is not considered part of the biodiversity research interest of this RFA.  Environmental and social stressors that can influence host and vector biodiversity include but are not limited to chemical pollution, habitat loss, deforestation, urbanization, invasion of nonnative species, and agricultural land-use practices.

Applicants should also consider the following in developing their proposals: 

  • Proposed research may involve the collection of new data, reanalysis of existing data, or a combination of both.
  • Field study sites may be in or outside of the U.S. However, only Principal Investigators based at institutions located in the United States are eligible to receive awards (see Section III.A., Eligibility Information).
  • Proposals that include field research and data collection outside the United States should describe how the research results translate to similar situations in the United States.
  • The focus of the RFA is on infectious diseases, but candidate diseases have not been predetermined by EPA.
  • Biological data on host and vector species from the molecular to the population level may be collected or analyzed.
  • Research may, but is not required to, encompass different spatial and temporal scales.  All proposals should discuss the generalizability of research results to other spatial scales.
  • The development of tools and/or approaches (e.g. mathematical models) to quantify biodiversity-disease relationships and to predict infectious-disease occurrence in humans as it relates to biodiversity is encouraged. 

Expected Outputs
Reports, presentations and publications in peer-reviewed journal publications are expected out of each research project.  EPA also expects that projects will produce knowledge that scientifically characterizes the mechanisms by which biodiversity is linked to human health.  Additional expected outputs may include:

  • Improved understanding of the mechanisms that link biodiversity change and risks of infectious disease;
  • Development of tools that integrate data for improved understanding of relationships between biodiversity and human health;
  • Development of tools that can help forecast risks to biodiversity that directly impact human health;
  • Identification of the anthropogenic or social factors that affect biodiversity loss.

Expected Project Outcomes

  • Use of monitoring and predictive tools that can reduce the incidence of human infectious diseases.
  • Use of monitoring and predictive tools that can test the feasibility of new integrated pest management (IPM) strategies to control disease-carrying pests (vectors).
  • Information that can be used to value the health benefits of conserving biodiversity.
  • Mapping of results and production of conservation and health databases to improve monitoring and assessment.
  • Improved strategies and communication that can encourage changes in human behavior to help reduce biodiversity loss and to decrease exposure to disease risks.
  • Improved analysis of land-use planning that considers environmental and human health impacts.
  • Improved coordination and information exchange between environmental decision makers and public-health practitioners in protecting biodiversity and human health.

Individual projects are not expected to lead to all of the above expected outcomes.

E. References
Allan, B.F., Keesing, F. and R.S. Ostfeld. 2003.  Effects of habitat fragmentation on Lyme disease risk. Conservation Biology 17:267-72.

Araujo, M.B. and C. Rahbek. 2006. How does climate change affect biodiversity? Science 313: 1396-7.

Convention on Biological Diversity. UNEP. Aug 25, 2006 http://www.biodiv.org/convention/convention.shtml exit EPA

Dobson, A., Cattadori, I., Holt, R.D., Ostfeld, R.S., Keesing, F., Krichbaum, K., Rohr, J.R.,  Perkins, S.E. and P.J. Hudson. 2006. Sacred cows and sympathetic squirrels: the importance of biological diversity to human health. PLoS Medicine 3: 714-718.

Ezenwa, V. O., Godsey, M.S., King, R.J. and S. C. Guptill. 2006.  Avian diversity and West Nile virus: testing associations between biodiversity and infectious disease risk. Proc R. Soc. B 273: 109-117.

Fauci, Anthony. Opening Plenary Lecture at the Duke Global Health Symposium. “Global Health and Emerging Infectious: Challenges for the 21st Century.“ Durham. 17 Apr. 2006.

Fauci, A. 2006. Emerging and reemerging infectious diseases: the perpetual challenge. Academic Medicine 80(12): 1079-1085.

Kovats, R.S., Campbell-Lendrum, D.H., McMichael, A.J., Woodward, A., and J.S. Cox. 2001. Early effects of climate change: do they include changes in vector-borne disease? Philos Trans R Soc Long B Biol Sci 356(1411): 1057-68.

Living Planet Report. World Wildlife Fund International, 2006.

LoGuidice, K., Ostfeld, R.S., Schmidt, K.A. and F. Keesing. 2003. The ecology of infectious disease: effects of host diversity and community composition on Lyme disease risk. PNAS 100 (2): 567-571.

Loreau, M., Naeem, S., Inchausti, P., Bengtsson, J., Grime, J.P., Hector, A., Hooper, D.U.,  Huston, M.A., Raffaelli, D., Schmid, B.,Tilman, D. and D.A. Wardle. 2001. Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning: current knowledge and future challenges. Science 294: 804-8.

Madsen, H., Bloch, P., Phiri, H., Kristensen, T.K. and P. Furu. 2001. Bulinus nyassanus is an intermediate host for Schistosoma haematobium in Lake Malawi. Annals of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology 95: 353-60. 

Millenium Ecosystem Assessment. 2005a. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Synthesis.  Washington, DC: Island Press.

Millenium Ecosystem Assessment.  2005b. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Current State and Trends. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Packer, M. J., Holt, R.D., Hudson, P.J., Lafferty, K.D. and A. P. Dobson. 2003.  Keeping the herds healthy and alert: Implications of predator control for infectious disease. Ecology Letters 6: 797–802.

Parmesan, C. and G. Yohe.  2003.  A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems.  Nature 421:37-42

Patz, J.A., Daszak, P., Tabor, G.M., Aguirre, A.A.,  Pearl, M., Epstein, J., Wolfe, N.D., Kilpatrick, A.M., Foufopoulos, J., Molyneux, D., Bradley, D.J. and Members of the Working Group on Land Use Change and Disease Emergence. 2004. Unhealthy landscapes: policy recommendations on land use change and infectious disease emergence. Environmental Health Perspectives 112: 1092-8.

Patz, J.A. and W.K. Reisen. 2001. Immunology, climate change and vector-borne diseases. Trends Immunol 22: 171-2.

Pimm, S. L., Russell, G.J., Gittleman, J.L. and T. M. Brooks.  1995.  The future of biodiversity.  Science 269: 347-350

Picquet, M., Ernould, J.C., Vercruysse, J., Southgate, V.R., Mbaye, A., Sambou, B., Niang, M., and D. Rollinson. 1996. The epidemiology of human schistosomiasis in the Senegal River Basin. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 90: 340-346.

Pruss-Ustun, A. and C. Corvalan. 2006. Preventing Disease Through Healthy Environments. Geneva: World Health Organization.

Vittor, A.Y., Gilman, R.H., Tielsch, R., Glass, G., Shields, T., Sanchez Lozano, W.,  Pinedo-Cancino, V., and J.A. Patz. 2006. The effect of deforestation on the human-biting rate of Anopheles darlingi, the primary vector of falciparum malaria in the Peruvian Amazon. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 74:3-11.

Wilcox, B. A. and D. J. Gubler.  2005.  Disease ecology and the global emergence of zoonotic pathogens.  Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine 10:263-272.

Wilson, E. O. 1991. The Diversity of Life.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

World Health Organization. 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Health Synthesis. Geneva: World Health Organization.

F. Special Requirements
Agency policy prevents EPA technical staff and managers from providing individual applicants information that may create an unfair competitive advantage.  Consequently, EPA employees will not review, comment, advise, provide technical assistance to applicants preparing applications in response to EPA RFAs, endorse an application or discuss in any manner how the Agency will apply the published evaluation criteria for this competition. 

Groups of two or more eligible applicants may choose to form a consortium and submit a single application for this assistance agreement.  The application must identify which organization will be the recipient of the assistance agreement and which organizations(s) will be subawardees of the recipient.

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, 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 $2.25 million will be awarded under this announcement, depending on the availability of funds and quality of applications received.  The EPA anticipates funding approximately 3 grants or cooperative agreements under this RFA.  Requests for amounts in excess of a total of $750,000, including direct and indirect costs, will not be considered.  The total project period requested in an application submitted for this RFA may not exceed 3 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, consistent with Agency policy and without further competition, to make additional awards under this RFA if additional funding becomes available.  Any additional selections for awards will be made no later than four months after the original selection decisions.

EPA may fund 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 will fund 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 should 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.  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 Agency’s 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 Tom Barnwell (barnwell.thomas@epa.gov) in NCER, phone 202-343-9862.

B. Cost-Sharing
Institutional cost-sharing is not required.  However, proposed budgets should reflect maximal sharing of in-kind resources and funding among research partners.

C. Other
Applications must address all of the following items or they will not be considered for award:

  • Focus on infectious diseases in which changes in biodiversity are hypothesized to be an important driver or trigger of risk of infectious disease;
  • Scientifically characterize the mechanisms underlying the relationship between biodiversity change and infectious disease transmission;
  • Take an interdisciplinary approach to conducting research, integrating data on ecosystems, human health, and anthropogenic stressors by incorporating tools and/or methods from the ecological, health and social sciences (Note: Interdisciplinary teams are considered important to the success of this type of research, and applicants are encouraged, but not required, to collaborate with others across disciplines in their proposed research);
  • Describe how research results can be used by decision-makers to protect human health and the environment.

Projects under this RFA will characterize the social and environmental drivers of infectious disease transmission; specifically, how changes in host or vector biodiversity from anthropogenic causes affect infectious-disease transmission to humans.  The genetic diversity of pathogens is not considered part of the biodiversity research interest of this RFA.  Applications focusing on changes in biodiversity defined as changes in the genetic diversity of pathogens will be deemed ineligible for funding consideration.

This solicitation will only fund proposals that take an interdisciplinary approach to characterize relationships between anthropogenic stressors, changes in biodiversity, and the transmission of infectious diseases to humans.  Proposals must be clear about the roles of each disciplinary contribution to the successful completion of the study.

Field study sites may be located in or outside of the U.S., as long as the Principal Investigator is based at an institution that meets the eligibility requirements described above in Section III.A.

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.

In addition, to be eligible for funding consideration, a project’s focus must consist of activities within the statutory terms of EPA’s 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.  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.  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”).  Note: With the exception of the Budget 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 Principal Investigator 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.  It is essential that the application 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,” applies to most EPA programs and assistance agreements, unless the program or assistance agreement supports tribal, training/fellowships (other than Wastewater and Small Water Systems Operator training programs), and research and development (with some exceptions).  The SF424 refers to this Executive Order requirement.  National research programs are generally exempt from review unless the proposals (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.  To determine whether their state participates in this process, and how to comply, applicants should consult http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/grants/spoc.html.

  2. Key Contacts

    The applicant must complete the "Key Contacts" form as the second page of the application: a Key Contacts continuation page 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 co-investigators). Please make certain that all contact information is accurate.

  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: List the Principal Investigator, then the names and affiliations of each co-investigator who will significantly contribute to the project. 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 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. Describe the policy, planning and/or decision-making that the research is intended to inform. 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 (one to two pages recommended).
      2. Approach/Activities: Outline the research design, methods, and techniques that you intend to use in meeting the objectives stated above (five to ten pages recommended).
      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 public's ability to protect the environment and human health. A clear, concise description will help NCER and peer reviewers understand the merits of the research (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 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 (one to two pages recommended).
      5. Appendices may be included but must remain within the 15-page limit.

    2. Quality Assurance Statement (1 to 3 pages in addition to the 15-page research plan)

      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.

      Address each 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.

      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 person's functions, experience, and authority within the research organization. Describe the organization's 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.)

          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).
          1. 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.
          2. 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.
          3. 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. 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.
          2. 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.
        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 method's 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. Page allowances for the following section(s) are in addition to those allowed for the Research Plan and Quality Assurance Statement.

    4. References: References cited are in addition to the 15-page Research Plan limit.

  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." If a subaward, such as a subagreement with an educational institution, is greater than $25,000 and 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.

    2. Budget Justification [2 pages in addition to the Section 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 greater than $25,000 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 greater than $25,000 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 supported research.

  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 success of the proposal are considered letters of support. Letters of support, and letters of intent that exceed one brief paragraph, 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.

    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:

      An Interdisciplinary Approach To Examining The Links Between Social Stressors, Biodiversity And Human Health, EPA-G2007-STAR-F1

    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 application 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.gov. 

Solicitation Closing Date: April 19, 2007, 4:00 pm Eastern Time for paper applications; 4:00 pm Eastern Time for electronic submissions

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.

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.

Any contracts for services or products funded with EPA financial assistance must be awarded under the competitive procurement procedures of 40 CFR Part 30 and/or Part 31. Moreover, naming a specific contractor in the application does not relieve the applicant of its obligations to comply with competitive procurement requirements. Also, the regulations contain limitations on consultant compensation.

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: EPA-G2007-STAR-E1
    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: EPA-G2007-STAR-E1
    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.

    1. Preparing for Submission. The appropriate electronic application package available through the http://www.grants.gov site must be used for electronic submissions. Note: With the exception of the Budget form (available at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms), all necessary forms are included in the electronic application package. In order to view the application package, download the PureEdge viewer (click on “Apply for Grants”, then see “Apply Step 1”). The application package may be quickly accessed from https://apply.grants.gov/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.

      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 Principal Investigator and the Administrative Contact. This email will be sent from receipt.application@epa.gov; email 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 Principal Investigator’s 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 contained in Section IV.B.4. through IV.B.9.a of this solicitation. 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 Abstract (IV.B.4.).

      Once the application package has been completed, the “Submit” button should be enabled. If the “Submit” button is not active, please contact 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.

    4. Transfer of Files. 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 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 this acknowledgement using “Print Screen.” If you experience submission problems, reboot the computer – turning the power off may be necessary – and re-attempt the submission. If submission problems continue, contact Grants.gov for assistance (Telephone: 1-800-518-4726).

    5. Transmission Difficulties. If transmission difficulties that result in a late transmission, no transmission, or rejection of the transmitted application are experienced, follow the guidance below. NCER may decide to review the application if it is clearly demonstrated that these transmission difficulties were due solely as a result of problems associated with the transfer to Grants.gov. 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  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 5:00pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date, send an e-mail documenting the problem and include the Grants.gov “case number”.
      2. Unsuccessful transfer of application package: If a successful transfer of the application cannot be accomplished due to electronic submission issues, send an e-mail before 5:00pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date. Document the problem, include the Grants.gov “case number,” and attach the entire application.
      3. Grants.gov rejection of application: If a notification is received from Grants.gov stating that the application has been rejected for reasons other than late submittal, immediately send an email which includes any materials provided by Grants.gov with the entire application attached.

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 application’s 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 application’s 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 Principal Investigator's (PI) "Past Performance and Reporting History."  The applicant must provide the EPA Project Officer with information on the proposed Lead PI's past performance and reporting history under prior Federal agency assistance agreements 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 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 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 PI's past performance (under Federal agency assistance agreements 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 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 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.      
  3. The applicant’s organizational experience.

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, available funds, and the Congressionally-mandated Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCOR) (see http://www.epa.gov/ncer/other/).  Applicants selected for funding will be required to provide additional information listed below under “Award Notices.” The application will then be forwarded to EPA’s grants administration office for award in accordance with the EPA’s procedures.

VI. AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION

A. Award Notices
Customarily, applicants are notified about evaluation decisions within six months of the application 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 Principal Investigators to obtain these materials.  Before or after an award, applicants may be required to provide additional quality assurance documentation.

Nonprofit applicants recommended for funding will be subject to a preaward administrative capability review consistent with sections 8.b, 8.c, and 9.d of EPA Order 5700.8, EPA Policy on Assessing Capabilities of Non-Profit Applicants for Managing Assistance Awards (http://www.epa.gov/ogd/grants/regulations.htm).

The official notification of an award will be made by the Agency’s Grants Administration 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 recipient 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 and/or pregnant women, please refer to Subparts B & D of 40 C.F.R. 26. No work involving human subjects, including recruiting, may be initiated before the EPA has received a copy of the applicant’s Institutional Review Board’s (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/informationguidelines. 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 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 NCER’s 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: EPA’s 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.

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: Tom Barnwell (barnwell.thomas@epa.gov); phone: 202-343-9862
Electronic Submissions: Thomas O'Farrell (o'farrell.thomas@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8085
Technical Contact: Montira Pongsiri, PhD, MPH (pongsiri.montira@epa.gov); phone: 202-343-9640

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