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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

Clean Air Research Centers

This is the initial announcement of this funding opportunity.

Funding Opportunity Number: EPA-RC2009-STAR-C1

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 66.509

Solicitation Opening Date: June 10, 2009
Solicitation Closing Date: November 16, 2009 - extended to November 18, 2009: 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time

Eligibility Contact: William Stelz (stelz.william@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8039
Electronic Submissions: Ron Josephson (josephson.ron@epa.gov); phone: 703-308-0442
Technical Contact: Stacey Katz (katz.stacey@epa.gov); phone: 202-343-9855
Gail Robarge (robarge.gail@epa.gov); phone: 202-343-9857

Special Announcement
  • Note to all prospective applicants requiring multiple Current and Pending Support Form pages:
    Due to a limitation in Adobe Acrobat's forms functionality, additional pages cannot be directly inserted into the original PDF form and preserve the form data on the subsequent pages. Multiple page form submissions can be created in Acrobat 8 and later using the "PDF Package" option in the "Create PDF from Multiple Files" function. If you have an earlier version of Adobe Standard or Professional, applicants will need to convert each PDF page of the form to an EPS (Encapsulated Post Script) file before creating the PDF for submission.   The following steps will allow applicants with earlier versions of Adobe Standard or Professional to create a PDF package:
    1. Populate the first page of the PDF, and save it as a EPS (Encapsulated Post Script) file.
    2. Reopen the form, and populate it with the data for page 2. Save this page as a different EPS file.  Repeat for as many pages as necessary.
    3. Use Acrobat Distiller to convert the EPS files back to PDF.
    4. Open Acrobat Professional, and combine the individual pages into a combined PDF file.

 

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. Submission Process
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/)

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 for Clean Air Research Centers. EPA is interested in supporting research on the health effects of exposure to particulate matter (PM), ozone, and other air pollutants, both singly and in multipollutant atmospheres. Priority research areas include: explaining regional and temporal differences in air pollution risk; determining the origins and transformations of multipollutant atmospheres and their constituents; defining exposure/concentration-response relationships; assessing susceptibility; understanding PM effects in a multipollutant context; and developing greater understanding of PM and ozone health effects. EPA is seeking proposals for integrated, multidisciplinary research centers that will advance understanding air pollution and human health effects.

Award Information:
Anticipated Type of Award: Grant
Estimated Number of Awards: Approximately 4 awards
Anticipated Funding Amount: Approximately $32,000,000 total for all awards
Potential Funding per Award: Up to a total of $8,000,000, including direct and indirect costs, with a maximum duration of 5 years. Cost-sharing is not required. Proposals with budgets exceeding the total award limits will not be considered.

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

Application Materials:
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/. Electronic submission of your application, must be performed by an authorized representative of your organization.

Applicants must submit the full application in PDF format via electronic mail to 2009-AIR-CENTERS-APPS@epa.gov with the funding opportunity number (FON) in the subject line.

If you do not have the technical capability to utilize the electronic mail submission process for this solicitation, call 1-800-490-9194 or send a webmail message to (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/contact_us.html) at least 15 calendar days before the submission deadline to assure timely receipt of alternate submission instructions.  In your message provide the funding opportunity number and title of the program, specify that you are requesting alternate submission instructions, and provide a telephone number, fax number, and an email address, if available.  Alternate instructions will be e-mailed whenever possible.  Any applications submitted through alternate submission methods must comply with all the provisions of this RFA, including Section IV, and be submitted by the solicitation closing date and time identified above.

Agency Contacts:
Eligibility Contact: William Stelz (stelz.william@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8039
Electronic Submissions: Ron Josephson (josephson.ron@epa.gov); phone: 703-308-0442
Technical Contact: Stacey Katz (katz.stacey@epa.gov); phone: 202-343-9855
Gail Robarge (robarge.gail@epa.gov); phone: 202-343-9857

I. FUNDING OPPORTUNITY DESCRIPTION

A. Introduction
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Research and Development (ORD), National Center for Environmental Research (NCER), in cooperation with the EPA Clean Air Research Program, announces an extramural funding competition seeking applications for Clean Air Research Centers. EPA is interested in supporting research on the health effects of exposure to particulate matter (PM), ozone, and other air pollutants, both singly and in multipollutant atmospheres. Priority research areas include: explaining regional and temporal differences in air pollution risk; determining the origins and transformations of multipollutant atmospheres and their constituents; defining exposure/concentration-response relationships; assessing susceptibility; understanding PM effects in a multipollutant context; and developing greater understanding of PM and ozone health effects. EPA is seeking proposals for integrated, multidisciplinary research centers that will advance understanding of air pollution and human health effects.

B. Background
Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA has the responsibility for setting air quality standards to protect the publics health and welfare with an adequate margin of safety. For several common air pollutants, EPA establishes National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). One of the major air pollutants of concern, particulate matter (PM), represents a broad class of chemically and physically diverse substances. For the purpose of this solicitation, PM includes thoracic coarse particles (PM10-2.5), fine particles (PM2.5) and ultrafine particles (PM0.1)1 and can be described by size, source, formation mechanism, and chemical composition.  EPAs last review of the PM NAAQS was completed in 2006. These standards include both 24-hour and annual standards for PM2.5 as well as a 24-hour standard for PM10 to provide protection of both public health and welfare. Ground-level ozone is also regulated by NAAQS; in 2008, EPA reviewed and revised the primary and secondary 8-hour ozone standards. Other pollutants regulated through the NAAQS program include NO2, SO2, carbon monoxide and lead2.

Toxic air pollutants, also known as hazardous air pollutants or air toxics, are those pollutants that are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects, such as reproductive effects or birth defects, or adverse environmental effects. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to regulate emissions of toxic air pollutants from a published list of industrial sources referred to as "source categories." EPA has developed standards for many sources of air toxics, and continues to evaluate air toxics exposures in the United States3.

Origin of the Research Centers Program

Following the promulgation of 1997 NAAQS for fine particles, Congress augmented the Presidents recommended EPA budget in 1998 to address uncertainties in the evidence of PM health effects. Epidemiological studies were reporting associations between concentrations of ambient PM and adverse health outcomes including cardiopulmonary illness and premature mortality. Part of the expanded air research program included a directive to EPA to establish as many as five university-based PM research centers. In addition, EPA was directed to provide support to the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council to develop priorities for a comprehensive PM research program and review of research progress over the next five years. The recommendations in the NRC Committees first report, Research Priorities for Airborne Particulate Matter, I: Immediate Priorities and a Long-Range Research Portfolio (National Research Council, 1998), were used as a major source of guidance for the original PM Centers Request for Applications (RFA)4. Prospective Centers were asked to propose an integrated research program on the health effects of PM, addressing a set of research needs in the areas of exposure, dosimetry, toxicology and epidemiology.

Reducing Scientific Uncertainties in Assessment of PM Health Effects

Grants for five Centers were awarded in 19995, and the program was reviewed in 2002 by EPAs Science Advisory Board. The SAB panel concluded that the PM Centers program was succeeding at its mid-way point and it ought to be continued with another competitive RFA (U.S. EPA Science Advisory Board 2002). The emphasis of the first PM Centers was to improve scientific understanding and reduce scientific uncertainty in the association between PM exposure and adverse health effects. The Centers made substantial progress in this area and the highest priority questions for PM shifted from whether PM could be responsible for such adverse health effects to what sources and attributes of PM (e.g., size fraction, chemical components, etc.) were primarily responsible for different health outcomes.

Linking Health Effects to PM Sources and Components

Following the issuance of the 2004 NRC report, Research Priorities for Airborne Particulate Matter, IV: Continuing Research Progress (National Research Council, 2004a), EPA held a second competition for the PM Research Centers program. As emphasized in the final NRC report, this RFA asked respondents to address the central theme of linking health effects to PM sources and components, and to focus on the research priorities of susceptibility, biological mechanisms, exposure-response relationships, and source linkages. From that RFA, the five current centers were funded for five years, 200520106.

In the fall of 2008, EPA requested a second review of the PM Research Centers program by the EPAs Science Advisory Board. The SAB praised the successes of the PM Research Centers in reducing scientific uncertainty in atmospheric particle composition, transformation, exposure and health impacts (U.S. EPA Science Advisory Board 2009). Additionally, the panel recommended that future research centers balance a continued focus on PM and other single pollutant research with new efforts to address mixtures of air pollutants. This single pollutant research, the panel emphasized, should also be conducted in a multipollutant context.

Continuing Single Pollutant Research

Across the U.S., states and localities are struggling to deal with air pollution that exceeds allowable levels for PM and ozone. These two pollutants account for the majority of adverse heath effects due to air pollution (Bell et al. 2006, Brook et al. 2004, Jerrett et al. 2009, Pope et al. 2009, U.S. Office of Management and Budget 2009). EPAs research program must continue to focus on understanding the linkages between sources of these pollutants, transformations in the atmosphere, actual human exposures, and resulting health impacts. While much progress has been made in recent years in linking PM components and sources to adverse health effects (Delfino et al. 2008, Lund et al. 2006, Maynard et al. 2007, McConnell et al. 2006, Peltier et al. 2008, and Peters et al. 2004), many research gaps remain. Research on PM10-2.5 and PM0.1 has increased; but evidence is limited or conflicting for connecting short-term exposures to PM in these size fractions with mortality and cardiovascular and respiratory morbidity (U.S. EPA 2008). Also, studies on long-term exposure to ultrafine and coarse PM will be challenging to do, but are of great importance for understanding cumulative health risks over time. Health outcomes such as central nervous system, reproductive and developmental effects have not been well-studied for any size fractions. In addition, research gaps related to ozone include short-term exposure and cardiovascular outcomes, effects of long-term exposure, and mortality risks. Linking health effects of PM and ozone to sources involves better understanding of primary emissions and secondary products formed in the atmosphere.

Moving Toward Multipollutant Air Research

In recent years, air pollution scientists and policy makers have recognized the potential benefits of adopting a multipollutant approach to evaluating health impacts of air pollution and management of air quality (National Research Council, 2004b). These include more realistic estimates of health risk that capture interactions among multiple pollutants and the potential for more cost effective approaches to controlling emissions. There are many elements that support moving toward a multipollutant framework for research and air quality management (Sheffe et al. 2007). These include the multipollutant nature of: 1) sources of emissions (e.g. utilities emit NOx, SO2, PM2.5); 2) controls of emissions (e.g. reduced hydrocarbon emissions from mobile sources affects PM, ozone and air toxics); 3) atmospheric processes (e.g. NOx is a precursor to both ozone and some PM2.5); 4) receptors (e.g. humans breathe in a mixture of ozone, PM, and other pollutants); and 5) effects (e.g. ozone and PM both contribute to respiratory disease).

The approach of evaluating air pollutants one-by-one does not fully capture the influence other pollutants may have on health outcomes. A single pollutant approach fails to address unmeasured or infrequently measured pollutants that could have significant health effects. There can be important health consequences from exposure to the air pollution mixture as a whole (Brook et al. 2009). For example, health effects from synergisms between ozone and other pollutants have been demonstrated in experiments involving humans and animals (Mauderly and Samet 2009). In considering how to reduce health risks, the total health burden of air pollution might be more effectively addressed if many pollutants were considered together by common sources, reactivity, and biological impact, rather than one-at-a-time (Brook et al. 2009).

The NRC concluded that air quality management would be more effective if it moves from the current pollutant-by-pollutant management approach to a more integrated multipollutant strategy (NRC 2004b). Developing a multipollutant air quality management approach has multiple dimensions, including: 1) achievement of single pollutant goals recognizing multipollutant sources and atmosphere; 2) achievement of single pollutant goals recognizing co-benefits for other pollutants; 3) combinations of strategies to efficiently address multiple air quality goals; and 4) strategies to address multipollutant risks, recognizing synergies and tradeoffs in controls, air quality, and effects (Scheffe et al. 2007). However, developing multipollutant management approaches based on evaluation of multipollutant health risks is limited by the available scientific evidence on multipollutant effects on exposure and health.

Support for a multipollutant research strategy comes from the recognition that research should address the variety of ways that individual pollutants interact within a complex atmosphere and how multipollutant atmospheres may differentially impact human health effects compared to a pollutant-by-pollutant approach. The many ways that research may inform new, integrated policy approaches reflects the importance of multipollutant research.

Consideration of Social Determinants of Health

Along with the complexities of understanding the impacts of multipollutant atmospheres, is the need to understand other factors which may be affecting health outcomes. Great advances in understanding human biology and its interaction with behavior and social factors have been made in recent decades (Link and Phelan 1995, Williams 2005). Researchers have demonstrated that living in a disadvantaged neighborhood is associated with an increased incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD), even after controlling for measures of socio-economic status, e.g., personal income, education, and occupation and after adjustment for CHD risk factors including smoking, hypertension, and body mass index (Diez-Roux et al. 2001). In addition, as increasing emphasis is placed on linking health effects to air pollution sources such as traffic, research is needed to understand the role of other factors (e.g., noise, stress) in potentially affecting health outcomes.

This RFA includes a description (below) of the research needs which the Clean Air Research Center applicants will address. These needs are necessarily broad, reflecting the cross-disciplinary aspects required to characterize and understand the complex connections linking single- and multipollutant exposures with human health effects.

The specific Strategic Goal and Objective from the EPAs Strategic Plan that relates to this solicitation are:

Goal 1: Clean Air and Global Climate Change, Objective 1.6: Enhance Science and Research

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

1 Thoracic coarse particles (PM10-2.5), are between 2.5 and 10 microns in diameter; fine particles(PM2.5), are 2.5 microns in diameter and smaller; and ultrafine particles(PM0.1) are smaller than 0.1 microns.

2 For NAAQS information, see http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/

3 For air toxics information, see http://www.epa.gov/air/toxicair/

C. Authority and Regulations
The authority for this RFA and resulting awards is contained in the Clean Air Act, Section 103, 42 U.S.C. 7403.

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

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

D. Specific Research Areas of Interest/Expected Outputs and Outcomes
Research Centers

This RFA is a new competition for Clean Air Research Centers. It is open to both new Center applicants and previously-funded PM Research Centers.

The most successful applicants will take an integrated approach to their study designs. In promoting integrated multidisciplinary research, EPA is seeking applications that demonstrate the team has worked together to conceive the design of the program, to ensure each project reflects the input of different disciplines and the influence of one on another, and that the Center as a whole reflects the collective thinking of a multidisciplinary team. An application assembled from a group of representatives of several different disciplines does not guarantee that the proposed program will be integrated. In other words, it is not sufficient to have a collection of experts from different disciplines applying their individual perspectives on their own Center projects in isolation. EPA recognizes that operating with a high degree of tight scientific integration is difficult, but this is a high priority. Applicants are required: to demonstrate how the various projects contained within their proposals are integrated; to encourage participation of investigators with the recognized expertise and qualifications; and to employ cutting edge approaches. This Clean Air Research Centers funding presents the opportunity for investigators from different disciplines to work together on larger problems than could be addressed in a single grant proposal. An example of such integration might include atmospheric, health, and social scientists working together to better understand the kinds of health effects associated with exposure to multipollutant atmospheres and how these effects might vary over time and space and may also be influenced by other factors such as neighborhood stressors, demographics, etc.

EPA has made a concerted effort in recent years to foster collaboration and integrated research among health, exposure and air quality/atmospheric science disciplines. It has been a recurring theme in many recent EPA RFAs related to air pollution and is central to this RFA. Successfully integrated research will still reflect distinct research perspectives. Center applications are therefore likely to have significantly different orientations, depending on whether the overall Center design is conceived from the perspective of air quality/atmospheric science or health. EPA welcomes these different perspectives and expects that this variety of approaches is the most effective way to advance scientific understanding on how air pollution affects public health.

Applications should demonstrate strong knowledge of existing air pollution published research by providing clear explanations of how the proposal would contribute scientific advances beyond what has already been achieved to provide new insights, new approaches called for by the current state of science, or additional evidence needed to confirm or refute uncertain findings.

Multipollutant Context for Research Questions

Air pollutants originate from direct emissions from a multitude of sources as well as through atmospheric transformations of emission precursors. Consequently, air masses typically contain many pollutants present in differing amounts depending on the types of sources impacting an area and atmospheric conditions. The shift in focus to a multipollutant research program acknowledges that real-world exposures involve complex mixtures of a wide variety of air contaminants in several physical-chemical classes.

This RFA is a call for research that acknowledges the presence of several significant air pollutants in the exposures under study. For purposes of this RFA, multipollutant refers to a discrete set of pollutants that present significant risk to human health. Thus, research is sought that will provide a better understanding of the risks of multipollutant atmospheres that, in addition to PM, could include ozone, NO2, SO2, CO, and priority air toxics.

Any air toxics proposed for study should occur frequently with ambient PM, should be prevalent in sources of PM, such as traffic, wood or coal combustion, and should be pollutants which are expected to help explain observed PM health effects. PM itself is inherently multipollutant and consideration should be given to its size fractions and components. Applicants should provide a rationale for the set of atmospheric pollutants they choose to study.

Studies that take a multipollutant approach may be performed using either simulated or real-world atmospheres. They would likely involve estimating exposures, characterizing the interactions between and among pollutants, and understanding the health effects of a mix of air pollutants, which are either emitted directly or produced indirectly (i.e., via atmospheric processes) from various mobile, area, or point sources. In addition, other factors that may affect health outcomes such as stress and other social factors should be considered. The following examples are meant to be illustrative only. A multipollutant research project might study the health effects of near-road exposures with a focus on measuring exposure and characterizing interactions between various PM size fractions and specified air toxics. Another example might be a study that examines the impact of fresh emissions from a single source or source type (mobile, area, or point source) in urban areas that are also impacted by air masses containing aged emissions from various combustion sources (e.g., vehicles, electric generating units, etc.). A third example might be a health study of exposure to wood smoke in a valley or low-lying area subject to air inversions or other conditions that cause pollutants from wood smoke to become concentrated near the ground surface.

Applicants are expected to address at least two of the research questions 1-6 listed below. Proposals should focus on those questions in which the applicant has demonstrated expertise rather than extending beyond core strengths simply to address many topics. Applicants are encouraged to include arrangements bringing together investigators from other departments and/or institutions, provided they can demonstrate effective integration in planning research and approaches for maintaining integration throughout the implementation of research.

Research Questions

1. What are explanations for regional and temporal differences in air pollution risk?

Time-series and cohort studies of short-term and long-term exposure to PM2.5 and PM10-2.5 have reported associations with health risk that vary regionally in the U.S. This observation was highlighted by the largest U.S.-based multicity study, the Medicare Air Pollution Study (MCAPS), which reported regional heterogeneity (i.e., the largest excess risks occurred in the Northeast [1.08%]) and seasonal variation (i.e., the largest excess risks occurred during the winter season [1.49%]) in PM2.5 risk estimates (Dominici et al. 2006).

This RFA seeks applications that assess factors that vary regionally and/or temporally and that may contribute to regional heterogeneity in the observed air pollution risk. Examples of such factors include: (a) the origin (sources and secondary formation) and composition of air pollution; (b) meteorology, atmospheric processes, and topography; (c) disease incidence and mortality and (d) population characteristics (e.g., genetics, demographics, housing characteristics and other social determinants of health). Greater understanding of the reasons for observed differences in health risks could lead to insights regarding the relative importance of pollutant emission sources; the components of the air pollution mixture; transport and transformation processes of atmospheric pollutants; the effects of social factors; and the interactions between pollutants and resulting health responses.

New approaches and/or applications of existing or refined tools are required to provide higher spatio-temporal frequencies of atmospheric data on the composition and behavior of multipollutant atmospheres and their constituents to better connect them to human health. New approaches or applications may also be needed to characterize and understand how these connections might be similar or different on scales from neighborhood to urban, state, and regional. EPA encourages epidemiological studies comparing regional risks considering population characteristics and other social factors, and using novel or improved methods for addressing air pollution composition, sources, and exposure estimates. Additionally, toxicological or other approaches could be used to compare the toxicity of particles from diverse geographical locations during different seasons.

2. What are the origins (i.e., sources and secondary formation) of specific constituents of multipollutant atmospheres known or expected to be relevant to human health effects and how are those multipollutant atmospheres and constituents transported and transformed over time and space?

Understanding the origin of specific constituents of multipollutant atmospheres involves not only the source or emissions of these pollutants, but also the secondary products formed during atmospheric transport and transformation. Linking constituents to health effects may require information about constituents at a finer spatial resolution over time scales other than annual or daily averages. Because the multipollutant constituents vary in composition, concentration, (and for PM, size-fraction) and change over time, they can influence human health effects in different ways. This introduces variation and uncertainty in connecting multipollutant constituents with health effects.

To characterize this variation and reduce uncertainty in understanding the relationship between exposure to multipollutant atmospheres and health effects, more specific, sensitive, frequent, and spatially diverse measurements and numerical models are needed. However, such measurements and models must be linked to observed health effects in innovative ways. In addition, there is also a need to characterize the physical and chemical behavior and health effects of the multipollutant atmosphere as a whole, even as its constituents change over time and space. Also of keen interest is understanding how interactions among the specific constituents enhance or diminish particular health effects.

The complexity of this new research area requires collaboration among atmospheric, air quality, exposure and health scientists to design studies that are thoughtfully integrated and test the most relevant and important hypotheses about effects from multipollutant atmospheres and their components.

3. What subpopulations are at increased risk of adverse health outcomes from exposure to PM (components, size fractions) and/or air pollutant mixtures, and why are they susceptible?

Understanding who is more susceptible to the adverse health effects of exposure to PM (or air pollution more broadly) is important for the design of programs to reduce public health risks. Susceptibility refers to the biological characteristics of an individual, which can include life stage, genetics, and pre-existing disease. Vulnerability refers to non-biological variables (such as socioeconomic status or cultural practices) associated with an individual that can result in a health effect.

Research is needed to improve understanding of who is susceptible and why, including whether exposure to PM/air pollutants results in: 1) susceptibility to more rapid disease progression of an existing illness, 2) greater likelihood of adverse effects from other environmental exposures (e.g., more susceptible to allergens because of air pollution exposure), or 3) adverse impacts on individuals who are vulnerable due to other factors. Also of interest is whether early life exposures affect susceptibility to other health effects later in life. Studies of susceptibility are strongest when supported by evidence of biological mechanisms. Understanding why a group is susceptible provides insights into the biological activity of the air pollutant.

To address the questions of susceptibility, proposals may employ any number of approaches including in vitro, animal, controlled human exposure, panel studies, small clinical studies, and epidemiologic studies. Also encouraged are novel applications of appropriate animal models, including naturally susceptible, disease-induced, and genetically or pharmacologically manipulated models.

4. What are the shapes of the exposure/concentration-response relationships for PM and/or ozone and specific health outcomes? What are the lowest PM or ozone concentrations that are associated with adverse health effects?

Understanding concentration-response relationships is important to characterize the public health impact of exposure to PM and/or ozone. Ozone and PM pollution remain exceedingly difficult to control in many areas of the country after more than 30 years of active research and management.

Determining the shapes of the concentration-response relationships of ozone, PM2.5, and PM10-2.5 is important for interpreting the relevance of the high-concentration exposures used in toxicological studies to the lower-concentration ambient exposures encountered by humans in daily life, and for understanding any differences in effects from human exposures at different ambient concentrations. Uncertainty exists about concentration-response functions and various health outcomes. Response functions for pollutant exposures in susceptible and vulnerable groups have not been well characterized for PM or ozone. Further studies are needed to fully characterize the low end of concentration-response functions, including the presence or absence of thresholds, for a variety of PM or ozone health effects.

To best characterize the concentration-response functions for ozone and PM at ambient levels, this research question calls for epidemiological, human clinical, or toxicological studies informed by air quality and atmospheric science.

5. How can the health effects of PM (its components/size fractions and sources) be better understood in a multipollutant context? How would findings on single pollutants be compared to findings of single pollutants studied in the context of a multipollutant atmosphere?

In any specific exposure context (for example, neighborhoods near a busy road or communities located downwind of a major urban industrial corridor) a population is simultaneously exposed to particles, gases, and hazardous air pollutants that separately and together have an effect on health status. In addition, the components in any particular atmosphere can interact with each other and be transformed by a number of local and regional factors.

This is a call for research that acknowledges the presence of several significant air pollutants in the exposures under study. Research is sought that will provide a better understanding of the risks of PM (its components/size fractions and sources) in multipollutant atmospheres that are reasonably expected to present significant risks to human health. Any air toxics proposed for study should be ones which frequently occur together with ambient PM, are prevalent in sources of PM like traffic or other combustion, and should be pollutants which may be expected to help explain observed health effects of air pollution. Studies should be tightly integrated among health, exposure, and air quality/atmospheric science, and applicants should provide a rationale for the set of atmospheric pollutants they choose to study.

6. How can effects linked with exposure to either PM or ozone be better understood? What are the biologic mechanisms underlying observed health effects?

This question addresses the need to develop an improved understanding of the health effects of PM and ozone. Research has found greater rates of PM-associated mortality and hospitalization in persons with pre-existing cardiovascular or pulmonary disease, but it is not yet clear whether and how exposure to PM and/or ozone contributes to the exacerbation and acceleration of disease Additionally, while there is considerable evidence for cardiovascular and pulmonary health outcomes associated with PM, much less is known about whether PM exposure plays a role in other effects. Recent epidemiological studies have linked ozone exposure to premature mortality, yet more supporting evidence is needed.

Research is needed to determine whether and how exposure to PM and/or ozone leads to worsening of disease in persons with pre-existing cardiovascular or pulmonary disease. Additionally, more evidence is needed to understand the role of exposure to PM and/or ozone in occurrence of less well studied health effects, such as neurological, reproductive or developmental effects. For PM, the weight of evidence for certain health outcomes varies for PM2.5, PM10-2.5, and PM0.1 as well as for components, and possible interactions with copollutant gases. Underlying biological mechanisms are important in contributing to the weight of evidence and are still not understood for many of these health outcomes and attributes of PM individually or in combination. For ozone, the effects on the respiratory system have been researched fairly extensively, but the weight of evidence for other health endpoints and outcomes associated with ozone exposure is limited.

To address the questions of PM and ozone health effects that are not well understood, proposals may employ any number of approaches including in vitro, animal, controlled human exposure, panel, small clinical and epidemiologic studies. Also encouraged are novel application of appropriate animal models, including naturally susceptible, disease-induced, and genetically or pharmacologically manipulated models.

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.

The expected outputs from this research will be scientific data and information on the human health effects of exposures to air pollutants. These outputs are expected to include articles in peer-reviewed journals, websites, periodic reports, and presentations at scientific conferences. The desired outcomes of this effort include: increased understanding of how multiple influences, including sources, atmospheric transport and transformation, exposure concentrations, and social and other factors affect health outcomes from exposure to air pollution. Additionally, the use of this information will reduce the uncertainty in health risk assessments of air pollutants and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of state/local air quality management strategies.

E. References
Bell, M.L., R.D. Peng, and F. Dominici. The exposure-response curve for ozone and risk of mortality and the adequacy of current ozone regulations, Environmental Health Perspectives 114: 532-536 (2006).

Brook, J.R., K.L. Demerjian, G. Hidy, L.T. Molina, W.T. Pennel, and R. Scheffe. New Directions: Results-Oriented Multi-Pollutant Air Quality Management, Atmospheric Environment (2009). doi: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2008.12.041

Brook, R.D, B. Franklin, W. Cascio, Y. Hong, G. Howard, M. Lipsett, R. Luepker, M. Mittleman, J. Samet, S.C. Smith, and I. Tager. Air Pollution and Cardiovascular Disease: A Statement for Healthcare Professionals from the Expert Panel on Population and Prevention Science of the American Heart Association. Circulation 109:2655-2671 (2004).

Delfino, J.R., N. Staimer, T. Tjoa, A. Polidori, M. Arhami, D.L. Gillen, M.T. Kleinman, N.D. Vaziri, J. Longhurst, F. Zaldivar, and C. Sioutas. Circulating Biomarkers of Inflammation, Antioxidant Activity, and Platelet Activation are Associated with Primary Combustion Aerosols in Subjects with Coronary Artery Disease. Environmental Health Perspectives 116:898-906 (2008).

Diez Roux, A.V., S. Stein Merkin, D. Arnett, L. Chambless, M. Massing, J. Nieto, P. Sorlie, M. Szklo, H.A. Tyroler, and R.L. Watson. Neighborhood of Residence and Incidence of Coronary Heart Disease. The New England Journal of Medicine 345(2):99-106 (2001).

Dominici, F., M.L. Bell, L. Pham, A. McDermott, S.L. Zeger, and J.M. Samet. Fine Particulate Air Pollution and Hospital Admission for Cardiovascular and Respiratory Diseases. Journal of the American Medical Association 295(10): 1127-34 (2006).

Jerrett, M.J., R.T. Burnett, C.A. Pope III, K. Ito, G. Thurston, D. Krewski, Y. Shi, E. Calle, and M. Thun. Long-Term Ozone Exposure and Mortality, New England Journal of Medicine 360:1085-1095 (2009).

Link, B.G. and J. Phelan. Social Conditions as Fundamental Causes of Disease. Journal of Health and Social Behavior (Extra Issue): 80-94 (1995).

Lund, A.K., T.L. Knuckles, C.O. Akata, R. Shohet, J.D. McDonald, A. Gigliotti, J.C. Seagrave, and M. J. Campen. Gasoline Exhaust Emissions Induce Vascular Remodeling Pathways Involved in Atherosclerosis. Toxicological Sciences 95:485-494 (2007).

Mauderly, J.L. and J.M. Samet. Is There Evidence for Synergy Among Air Pollutants in Causing Health Effects? Environmental Health Perspectives 117(1):1-6, (2009). doi: 10.1289/ehp.11654

Maynard, D., B.A. Coull, A. Gyparis, and J. Schwartz. Moratlity Risk ASsocaiated with Short-Term Exposure to Traffic Particles and Sulfates. Environmental Health Perspectives 115:751-755 (2007).

McConnell, R., K. Berhane, L. Yao, M. Jerrett, F. Lurmann, F. Gilliland, N. Kunzli, J. Gauderman, E. Avol, D. Thomas, and J. Peters. Traffic, Susceptibility, and Childhood Asthma. Environmental Health Perspectives 114: 766- 772 (2006).

National Research Council, Committee on Research Priorities for Airborne Particulate Matter. Research Priorities for Airborne Particulate Matter: I. Immediate Priorities and a Long-Range Research Portfolio. National Academies Press, 1998. Available at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=6131 exit EPA

National Research Council, Committee on Research Priorities for Airborne Particulate Matter. Research Priorities for Airborne Particulate Matter: IV. Continuing Research Progress. National Academies Press, 2004a. Available at: http://books.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=10957 exit EPA

National Research Council, Committee on Air Quality Management in the United States. Air Quality Management in the United States. National Academies Press, 2004b. Available at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=10728 exit EPA

Peltier, R.E. S.I. Hsu, R. Lall and M. Lippmann. Residual Oil Combustion: a Major Source of Airborne Nickel in New York City. Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology 1-10 (2008).

Peters, A., S. von Klot, M. Heier, I. Trentinaglia, A. Hrmann, H.E. Wichmann, and H. Lwel. Exposure to traffic and the onset of myocardial infarction. New England Journal of Medicine 351: 1721-1730 (2004).

Pope,C.A., III, M. Ezzati, and D.W. Dockery. Fine-Particulate Air Pollution and Life Expectancy in the United States, New England Journal of Medicine 360: 376-386 (2009). Available at: http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/abstract/360/4/376 exit EPA

Scheffe, R., B. Hubbell, T. Fox, V. Rao, and W. Pennell. The Rationale for a Multipollutant, Multimedia Air Quality Management Framework. EM (Air & Waste Management Association) May: 14-20, (2007).

U.S. EPA. Integrated Science Assessment for Particulate Matter (External Review Draft). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-08/139, (2008). Available at http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=201805

U.S. EPA Science Advisory Board. Interim Review of the Particulate Matter (PM) Research Centers of the U.S. EPA: An EPA Science Advisory Board Report. A Review by the PM Research Centers Interim Review Panel of the Executive Committee of the U.S. EPA Science Advisory Board. Washington, D.C., EPA-SAB-EC-02-008 (2002). Available at: http://www.epa.gov/sab/pdf/ec02008.pdf (38 pp, 239 K)

U.S. EPA Science Advisory Board. Particulate Matter Research Centers Program Advisory Report: An SAB Advisory Report. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, (2009). Available at: http://yosemite.epa.gov/sab/sabproduct.nsf/701AB851CC215D3A8525753D005C25E4/$File/EPA-SAB-09-010-unsigned.pdf (36 pp, 557 K)

U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, 2008 Report to Congress on Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations and Unfunded Mandates on State, Local and Tribal Entities: 1-159 (2009). Available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/inforeg_regpol_reports_congress/

Williams, D.R. Patterns and Causes of Disparities in Health. In Policy Challenges in Modern Health Care, eds, D. Mechanic, L.B. Rogut, D.C. Colby, J.R. Knickman. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. 115-134 (2005).

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

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

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.

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

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

Each application must address the following (for content and form of application submission and page limitations, see Section IV.B):

1. Center Description (5 page limit): Applications must describe the overall goals, objectives, and approach for the Center, including how the Center will pursue a multidisciplinary and thematic approach to the problems to be investigated.

2. Project Descriptions (15 page limit for each project description): Applications must describe one or more projects that address at least two of the research questions described above in Section D. Each of the specific individual research projects should be completely described according to the instructions in Section IV below. Individual project descriptions must explain how the project fits into the overall Center program and relates to other projects in the proposal.

3. Administrative Core Unit (15 page limit): Each Center shall have an Administrative Core Unit which provides overall oversight, coordination and integration of the Centers activities. As part of the Administrative Core description, applications must provide a Center Integration Plan describing how the program will be integrated internally. Center proposals should take a multidisciplinary approach. The Centers Integration Plan, at minimum, should indicate how programmatic and funding decisions will be made; how project objectives will be successfully achieved in a timely manner; how investigators from different disciplines within the Center will communicate on a regular basis about the development and progress of Center projects; how progress toward achieving the expected results (outputs and outcomes) will be monitored and measured; who will set priorities, and who will be responsible for implementing the integration plan, assuring compliance with the plan, and evaluating its effectiveness in achieving integration within the Center.

The Center proposal should also address how the Center will disseminate research findings and other information. Publishing research results in scientific journals is essential, however, it is not sufficient. Plans for Center websites and other means of communicating results should be described.

Additional responsibilities of the Administrative Core include (as described below under After Grant Award): coordination and integration among Centers, organization of Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) meetings and development of responses to SAC recommendations. The SAC will be responsible for providing objective, independent, technical advice to the Center to ensure scientific quality and progress.

4. If appropriate and desired, a Center may elect to have one or more Facility Support Cores that provide a technique, service, or instrumentation that will enhance ongoing research efforts across the Centers specific projects. Examples of such facilities are analytical chemistry laboratories, statistics centers, laboratory animal facilities, etc. The application must provide a compelling rationale for why such a core is needed and how it will be used by multiple projects within the proposed center (15 page limit per Core).

5. In conducting its research, the Center must demonstrate a willingness to use, as appropriate, existing or future air quality databases, especially relating to PM, as they become available. In addition, the Centers are encouraged to seek out and participate collaboratively with ongoing/planned intensive air quality monitoring efforts.

After Grant Award

1. Integration Among Centers - According to EPAs 2002 Science Advisory Board in its review of the PM Centers program, There is a clear need for and benefit from increased inter-Center interaction...The Centers program should stimulate and facilitate collaboration within and between the five Centers, with the goal of harmonizing designs, methods of measurement, and analysis... Experience with the PM centers underscored the notion that integration among the Centers enhanced scientific understanding and research productivity. Integration among Centers requires significant commitment, time and effort.

Within three months of the award, the Clean Air Research Centers will form a Coordination Committee that will consult monthly to exchange ideas, research needs, protocols, and other information. The group will identify research areas that would benefit from harmonization, joint workshops, sharing of data, samples, expertise or technologies. EPA anticipates that the Coordination Committee will discuss and act on some areas of shared interest, and that subcommittees will be formed as needed to address more specialized topics. EPA scientists will participate in joint working groups as appropriate. To support these activities, Centers will participate in annual Centers meetings to review research progress and in workshops on specific research topics. The Administrative Core must allocate sufficient funding to: 1) host one joint Centers workshop; 2) host one and participate in four annual Centers meetings (6-10 Center attendees per meeting) to review research progress; 3) participate in six workshops over the five year project period (approximately 3 Center attendees per workshop); and 4) support approximately $50,000 annually in comparative or collaborative studies.

2. Communications - Centers are expected to develop and maintain Center web sites, communicate key findings at annual scientific conferences, and participate in annual EPA investigators meetings. The Centers will each produce annual progress reports and a final report at the end of the grant period. Throughout the five year period, project summaries and final results will be provided in a format compatible with broader efforts to compile and synthesize the large amounts of information on air pollutants. In addition, the Centers are expected to cooperate in the production of an integrated, interim report of progress midway through the grant cycle and a final report of findings at the conclusion of the grant.

3. Administrative Contact - Each Center will identify an individual to be the main point of administrative contact with the EPA Project Officers. This person will be responsible for ensuring that information on human subjects, animal welfare, Center publications, press releases, progress reports, quality assurance, Science Advisory Committees and other documentation is provided to the Project Officer in a timely fashion.

4. Science Advisory Committees - After award, each Center must establish a SAC. The SAC membership will typically consist of nine to twelve peers selected from the academic, private and public sectors and an EPA representative(s). The function of the SAC is to assist in evaluating the (1) merit, value and contribution of existing and future research projects, and (2) relevance and importance of the individual research elements to accomplishing the overall goals of the Center. Within 90 days of the award, the Principal Investigator must submit a list of nominees for the SAC to the Project Officer. Potential SAC members must NOT be contacted, identified, or queried prior to receipt of the award.

Each Center will hold a meeting with its SAC annually. Upon receiving the written recommendations from the SAC, the Center director shall submit a formal letter to EPA and the SAC chair with its response to the SAC comments and a plan for how the Center will implement improvements.

II. AWARD INFORMATION

It is anticipated that a total of approximately $32,000,000 will be awarded under this announcement, depending on the availability of funds and quality of applications received. The EPA anticipates funding approximately 4 awards under this RFA. Requests for amounts in excess of a total of $8,000,000, including direct and indirect costs, will not be considered. The total project period requested in an application submitted for this RFA may not exceed 5 years. The EPA reserves the right to reject all applications and make no awards, or make fewer awards than anticipated, under this RFA. The EPA reserves the right to make additional awards under this announcement, consistent with Agency policy, if additional funding becomes available after the original selections are made. Any additional selections for awards will be made no later than six months after the original selection decisions.

In appropriate circumstances, EPA reserves the right to partially fund applications by funding discrete portions or phases of proposed research. If EPA decides to partially fund an application, it will do so in a manner that does not prejudice any applicants or affect the basis upon which the proposal/application, or portion thereof, was evaluated and selected for award, and therefore maintains the integrity of the competition and selection process.

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

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

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

III. ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C. Other
Applications must substantially comply with the application submission instructions and requirements set forth in Section IV of this announcement or they will be rejected. In addition, where a page limitation is expressed in Section IV with respect to parts of the application, pages in excess of the page limit will not be reviewed. Applications must be submitted to US EPA (see Section IV.E. Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements for further information) 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.

Applicants are required: to demonstrate how the various projects contained within their proposals are integrated; to encourage participation of investigators with the recognized expertise and qualifications; and to employ cutting edge approaches.

Applications must include one or more projects that address at least two of the research questions described above in Section I.D Specific Research Areas of Interest/Expected Outputs and Outcomes. Individual project descriptions must explain how the project fits into the overall Center program and relates to other projects in the proposal. Applications must also include a Center Description characterizing the overall goals, objectives, and approach for the Center, including how the Center will pursue a multidisciplinary and thematic approach to the problems to be investigated.

Each Center shall have an Administrative Core responsible for overall oversight, coordination and integration of the Centers activities. As part of the Administrative Core description, applications must provide a Center Integration Plan describing how the program will be integrated internally. The Administrative Core must allocate sufficient funding to: 1) host one joint Centers workshop; 2) participate in an annual Centers meeting to review research progress, hosted in turn by each of the Centers; 3) participate in six workshops over the five year period, and 4) support approximately $50,000 annually in comparative or collaborative studies.

If appropriate and desired, a Center may elect to have one or more Facility Support Cores that provide a technique, service, or instrumentation that will enhance ongoing research efforts across the Centers specific projects. Examples of such facilities are analytical chemistry laboratories, statistics centers, laboratory animal facilities, etc. The application must provide a compelling rationale for why such a core is needed and how it will be used by multiple projects within the proposed center.

In conducting its research, the Center must demonstrate a willingness to use, as appropriate, existing or future air quality databases, especially relating to PM, as they become available. In addition, the Centers are encouraged to seek out and participate collaboratively with ongoing/planned intensive air quality monitoring efforts.

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

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

IV. APPLICATION AND SUBMISSION INFORMATION

A. Submission Process
The full application must be submitted electronically via e-mail to 2009-AIR-CENTERS-APPS@epa.gov (or through any authorized alternate submission methods described below). All necessary forms are available at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms.

Applicants will receive an "auto-reply" from the Agency acknowledging receipt of the application.  Please do not respond to the message. If you do not receive an auto-reply message, please call or send an e-mail message to the Submissions Contact listed at the top of this solicitation. An official email will be sent by NCER to the Lead/Contact PI and the Administrative Contact (see below) to acknowledge receipt of the application and transmit other important information.  The email will be sent from receipt.application@epa.gov; emails to this address will not be accepted. If you do not receive an email acknowledgment within 30 days of the submission closing date, immediately inform the Eligibility Contact shown in this solicitation. Failure to do so may result in your application not being reviewed. See Section E. “Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements” for additional information regarding the application receipt acknowledgment.

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

Page Limitations

The following page limitations may not be exceeded:

Abstracts 1 page abstract for the Center as a whole; and, 1 page abstracts for each proposed project
Research Plan 5 pages for overall Center objectives, approach, and expected benefits
15 pages for each research project description
Research Cores 15 pages for the Administrative Core
15 pages for each additional Core
Budget Budget summary pages and project pages should include both annual budgets for each year, one through five, and cumulative totals for the entire five year period:
2 page summary for total Center budget
2 pages per project
2 pages per Administrative and other Cores
Budget Justification 2 pages per project
2 pages per Administrative and other Cores
Quality Management 5 pages
  1. Standard Form 424
    The applicant must complete Standard Form 424. 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 signature of an authorized representative of the applying organization.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Each research project 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.

      Each description must provide the following information:

      1. Objectives: List the objectives of the proposed research and the hypotheses being tested during the project, and briefly state why the intended research is important and how it fulfills the requirements of the solicitation. This section should also include any background or introductory information that would help explain the objectives of the study. If this application is to expand upon research supported by an existing or former assistance agreement awarded under the STAR program, indicate the number of the agreement and provide a brief report of progress and results achieved under it.
      2. Approach/Activities: Outline the research design, methods, and techniques that you intend to use in meeting the objectives stated above.
      3. Expected Results, Benefits, Outputs, and Outcomes: Describe the results you expect to achieve during the project (outputs) and the potential benefits of the results (outcomes). This section should also discuss how the research results will lead to solutions to environmental problems and improve the publics ability to protect the environment and human health. A clear, concise description will help NCER and peer reviewers understand the merits of the research.
      4. General Project Information: Discuss other information relevant to the potential success of the project. This should include facilities, personnel expertise/experience, project schedules, proposed management, interactions with other institutions, etc. Applications for multi-investigator projects must identify project management and the functions of each investigator in each team and describe plans to communicate and share data.
    2. Quality Management Plan (5 pages)
      For any project involving data collection or processing, conducting surveys, environmental measurements, modeling, or the development of environmental technology (whether hardware-based or via new techniques) for pollution control, the EPA requires a plan discussing processes that will be used to assure that results of the research satisfy the intended project objectives. The required plan is described below.

      A Quality Management Plan documents an organization's policy on implementing and assessing the effectiveness of its quality assurance and quality control operations applied to environmental programs. General QMP guidance can be found at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/guidance/guidanceqmps0607.pdf (2pp, 25 K)

      For more detailed EPA guidance, see EPA Requirements for Quality Management Plans (EPA QA/R-2) on the EPA website at http://www.epa.gov/quality/qs-docs/r2-final.pdf (30 pp, 87 K).

      The QMP provided with the application must contain the shown information below. EPAs Quality System will likely require an expanded version of this document following award.

      1. Summary - A discussion of the overall quality assurance and quality control needs of the Center and the objectives of the Centers Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) policy.
      2. Organization and Management - This section should include:
        1. Organization chart that identifies:
          • all of the components (research project or core activity) of the Center;
          • the Principal Investigator or overall manager for each component;
          • the person responsible for QA/QC activities for each component and how they report to the QA Manager and Center Director;
        2. Description of the specific responsibilities of the QA Manager and any other personnel with QA responsibilities;
        3. Description of any delegations of QA responsibility to sub-awardees or contractors (especially QC responsibilities); and
        4. Discussion of how the Center will maintain effective communications throughout the management structure.
      3. Quality System - This section should include brief discussions of:
        1. How the Centers research activities will be reviewed and evaluated to ensure quality;
        2. How staff will be trained, and who will be responsible for training;
        3. How data will be stored and made available to Center personnel and to the public; and
        4. How the Centers QA/QC procedures will be reviewed and evaluated, including how recommended changes will be implemented.
      4. Project or Component Specific - This section should discuss the QA and QC needs for the Centers components and should describe or reference any standard procedures (such as SOPs) that will be used to address these needs. (Individual project QA plans, expected after award as part of the Centers QA program, should include descriptions of how the data needs relate to the hypotheses being tested or the objectives.) This section should also address the following:
        1. How the sample size(s) will be selected and demonstrated to be sufficient to test the hypotheses or meet a specific objective;
        2. How the necessary performance criteria for measured data to test the hypotheses or meet the objective will be identified;
        3. How the quality of previously collected data will be determined appropriate for its stated use;
        4. How data will be managed (collected, backed-up, collated, transferred, and stored) to ensure that the quality is maintained and documented; and
        5. What data analysis methods will be used.
      5. Documentation and Records - Describe or reference the procedures the Center will use for identifying and maintaining QA and QC related documents and records.
    3. Data Plan (2 pages)
      Provide a plan to make all data resulting from an agreement under this RFA available in a format and with documentation/metadata such that they may be used by others in the scientific community. This includes both primary and secondary or existing data, i.e., from observations, analyses, or model development collected or used under the agreement. Applicants who plan to develop or enhance databases containing proprietary or restricted information must provide, within the two pages, a strategy to make the data widely available, while protecting privacy or property rights.
    4. References: References cited are in addition to other page limits (e.g. research plan, quality assurance statement, data plan)
  7. Administrative Core (15 pages)
    Each Center shall have an Administrative Core Unit which provides overall oversight, coordination and integration of the Centers activities. As part of the Administrative Core description, applications must provide a Center Integration Plan describing how the program will be integrated internally. Center proposals should take a multidisciplinary approach. The Centers Integration Plan, at minimum, should indicate how programmatic and funding decisions will be made; how project objectives will be successfully achieved in a timely manner; how investigators from different disciplines within the Center will communicate on a regular basis about the development and progress of Center projects; how progress toward achieving the expected results (outputs and outcomes) will be monitored and measured; who will set priorities, and who will be responsible for implementing the integration plan, assuring compliance with the plan, and evaluating its effectiveness in achieving integration within the Center.

    The Center proposal should also address how the Center will disseminate research findings and other information. Publishing research results in scientific journals is essential, however, it is not sufficient. Plans for Center websites and other means of communicating results should be described.

  8. Facility Support Core(s) (15 pages per core)
    If appropriate and desired, a Center may elect to have one or more Facility Support Cores that provide a technique, service, or instrumentation that will enhance ongoing research efforts across the Centers specific projects. Examples of such facilities are analytical chemistry laboratories, statistics centers, laboratory animal facilities, etc. The application must provide a compelling rationale for why such a core is needed and how it will be used by multiple projects within the proposed center.
  9. Budget and Budget Justification
    1. Budget
      Prepare a master budget table using SF-424A Budget Information for Non-Construction Programs (aka SF-424A), available at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/, for the total Centers budget. Only complete Section B-Budget Categories. Provide the object class budget category (a.-k.) amounts for budget years 1-4 under the Grant Program, Function or Activity heading. Each column reflects a separate budget year. For example, Column (1) reflects budget year 1. Provide a separate 424A with the total budget for years 1-4 in Column (1) and year 5 in Column (2). Column 5 of the second 424A will display the overall project total. Also provide separate SF-424As for each research project as well as for the administrative core and each facility support core.

      If a subaward, such as a subagreement with an educational institution is included in the application, provide a separate SF-424A and budget justification for the subaward. Include the total amount for the subaward under Other in the master SF-424A. Applicants may not use subagreements to transfer or delegate their responsibility for successful completion of their EPA assistance agreement. Therefore, EPA expects that subawards or subcontracts should not constitute more than 40% of the total direct cost of the total project budget. If a subaward/subcontract constitutes more than 40% of the total direct cost, additional justification may be required before award, 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.

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

    2. Budget Justification [2 pages per research project, facility core and the administrative core in addition to the Section IV.B.6 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 Centers meetings on research progress and six workshops on specific research topics over the course of the five year project period.
      4. Equipment: Identify all tangible, non-expendable personal property to be purchased that has an estimated cost of $5,000 or more per unit and a useful life of more than one year. (Personal property items with a unit cost of less than $5,000 are considered supplies.)
      5. Supplies: Supplies means tangible property other than equipment. Identify categories of supplies to be procured (e.g., laboratory supplies or office supplies). Specifically identify computers to be purchased or upgraded.
      6. Contractual: Identify each proposed contract for services/analyses or consultants and specify its purpose and estimated cost. Contracts must have a separate itemized budget and budget justification, not to exceed one additional page each, included as part of the application.
      7. Other: List each item in sufficient detail for the EPA to determine the reasonableness of its cost relative to the research to be undertaken. Note that subawards, such as those with other universities for members of the research team, are included in this category. Subawards must have a separate itemized budget and budget justification, not to exceed one additional page each, included as part of the application.
      8. Indirect Costs: If indirect costs are included in the budget, indicate the approved rate and base with an explanation of how the indirect costs were calculated.
  10. 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.
  11. Current and Pending Support
    Complete a current and pending support form (provided at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms) for each investigator and important co-worker. Include all current and pending research regardless of source.
  12. Guidelines, Limitations, and Additional Requirements
    1. Letters of Intent/Letters of Support
      Letters of intent to provide resources for the proposed research or to document intended interactions are limited to one brief paragraph committing the availability of a resource (e.g., use of a person's time or equipment) or intended interaction (e.g., sharing of data, as-needed consultation) that is described in the Research Plan. Letters of intent are to be included as an addition to the budget justification documents.

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

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

    2. Funding Opportunity Number(s) (FON)
      The Funding Opportunity Number for this RFA is:

      Clean Air Research Centers, EPA-RC2009-STAR-C1

    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 their application/proposal package as confidential business information. EPA will evaluate confidentiality claims in accordance with 40 CFR Part 2. Applicants must clearly mark applications/proposals or portions thereof that they claim as confidential. If no claim of confidentiality is made, EPA is not required to make the inquiry to the applicant otherwise required by 40 CFR 2.204(c)(2) prior to disclosure. However, competitive proposals/applications are considered confidential and protected from disclosure prior to the completion of the competitive selection process.

C. Submission Dates and Times
Applications must be submitted no later than 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date.  Applications submitted after the closing date and time will be returned to the sender without further consideration.

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

Solicitation Closing Date: November 16, 2009 - extended to November 18, 2009, 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time (applications must be submitted to EPA by this time, see Section IV.E “Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements” for further information).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

E. Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements
Please read this entire section before attempting an electronic submission.

If you do not have the technical capability to utilize the electronic mail submission process for this solicitation, call 1-800-490-9194 or send a webmail message to (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/contact_us.html) at least 15 calendar days before the submission deadline to assure timely receipt of alternate submission instructions. In your message provide the funding opportunity number and title of the program, specify that you are requesting alternate submission instructions, and provide a telephone number, fax number, and an email address, if available. Alternate instructions will be e-mailed whenever possible. Any applications submitted through alternate submission methods must comply with all the provisions of this RFA, including Section IV, and be submitted by the solicitation closing date and time identified above.

The applicant must submit the full application package, as described in Section IV.B, in PDF format via electronic mail to 2009-AIR-CENTERS-APPS@epa.gov with the funding opportunity number (FON) in the subject line.

  1. Preparing for Submission. All required forms can be found at: (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms).

    Note: The electronic submission of your application package must be made by an official representative of your organization who is authorized to sign for Federal assistance. Submission instructions are updated on an as-needed basis. Please provide your authorized representative with a copy of the following instructions to avoid submission delays that may occur from the use of outdated instructions.

  2. Acknowledgement of Receipt. The complete application must be submitted to 2009-AIR-CENTERS-APPS@epa.gov no later than 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date (see Submission Dates and Times). Applicants will receive an "auto-reply" from the Agency acknowledging receipt of the application. Please do not respond to the message. If you do not receive an auto-reply message, please call or send an e-mail message to the Submissions Contact listed at the top of this solicitation. The only official documentation that the application has been received by NCER is the e-mail acknowledgement sent by NCER to the Lead/Contact PI and the Administrative Contact. This email will be sent from receipt.application@epa.gov; emails to this address will not be accepted. If an email acknowledgment from NCER 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 a. though d. below.
    1. Application for Federal Assistance (SF 424): Complete the form except for the competition ID field.
    2. EPA Key Contacts Form 5700-54: Complete the form. If additional pages are needed, see (c) below.
    3. Attach a single electronic file labeled Application that contains the items described in Sections IV.B.3. through IV.B.12.a (Table of Contents, Abstract, Center Description, Research Plan, Quality Assurance Statement, Data Plan, References, Administrative Core, Facility Support Core(s), Budget and Budget Justification, Resumes, Current and Pending Support, and Letters of Intent/Support) of this solicitation. In order to maintain format integrity, this file must be submitted in Adobe Acrobat PDF. Please review the PDF file for conversion errors prior to including it in the electronic application package; requests to rectify conversion errors will not be accepted if made after the solicitation closing date and time. If Key Contacts Continuation pages (see http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms) are needed, place them before the Table of Contents (Section IV.B.3.).
  4. Submitting the application. The full application package must be e-mailed to 2009-AIR-CENTERS-APPS@epa.gov by an authorized representative of your organization.  Note: Minor problems are uncommon, but may still occur, with electronic mailing of files.
  5. E-mail Transmission Difficulties.

    Please note that if you choose to submit your materials via email, you are accepting all risks attendant to email submission including server delays and transmission difficulties. Email submissions exceeding 15MB will experience delays. For these size submissions, applicants should submit their application materials via hardcopy. Submissions above 70 MB will not be received by the Agency and should be submitted in hardcopy.

    Please do not send compressed files, particularly those with a .zip file extension. The Agencys e-mail server will delete these kinds of file attachments. If necessary, you may choose to divide your application into smaller pieces and e-mail smaller file attachments separately.

    If transmission difficulties that result in a late transmission, no transmission, or rejection of the transmitted application are experienced, send an email to Ron Josephson (Josephson.Ron@epa.gov) with the FON in the subject line within one day after the closing date.  The email should detail the transmission problems experienced and include any error messages.  The email should also include information demonstrating that you attempted to submit the application package by the due date in Section IV of the RFA.

    The Agency may decide to review the application if it is clearly demonstrated that transmission difficulties were due solely as a result of problems associated with EPA servers and documentation that these instructions were followed is provided. The decision regarding acceptance of the application for review will be made by the Agency and provided to the applicant within ten calendar days of the request.

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 peer review score.

Individual external peer reviewers consider an applications merit based on the criteria below. The first two criteria are of highest importance, and the remaining criteria are listed in descending order of importance:

  1. Overall Center
    Centers must include research projects with a conceptual theme focusing on two or more of the research questions outlined in the RFA. There must be evidence of the potential for a meaningful interdisciplinary collaboration between all of the components of the program (criteria a, b, and c are essentially equal).
    1. Interdisciplinary nature of the proposed research activities, integration of the projects around an overarching theme, and plans to effectively pursue interdisciplinary research objectives.
    2. Potential impact of the research in advancing the science on health effects of air pollution.
    3. Capacity of the projects to result in a greater contribution to the overall goals of the Center than if each were pursued independently.
  2. Research Proposal
    Reviewers will evaluate each proposed research project based on the criteria below (criteria a d are listed in descending order of importance).
    1. Research Project (criteria a.i through a.vi are essentially equal in importance):
      1. The originality and creativity of the proposed research, the appropriateness and adequacy of the proposed research methods, and the Quality Assurance Statement.
      2. Practical and technically defensible approach that can be performed within the proposed time period.
      3. Research contributes to scientific knowledge in the topic area.
      4. Projected benefits of the proposed activity to society, such as improving the environment or human health.
      5. The results are disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding.
      6. The proposal is 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. All key personnel must make a significant time commitment to the project.
    3. Responsiveness: The responsiveness of the proposal to the research needs identified for the research area. The proposal adequately addresses 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. Note any deficiencies that may interfere with the successful completion of the research.
  3. Administrative and Other Cores
    Scientific and organizational structure of the Center. Are the lines of authority and administrative structure designed for effective Center management? How does the administrative structure maximize the Center's capability to take advantage of research opportunities?

    Qualifications, responsibilities, and effectiveness of senior leaders. The Principal Investigator/Center Director should be an established research scientist with the ability to ensure quality control and the experience to administer effectively and integrate all components of the Center. Is the percent effort appropriate?

    Duties and percent efforts of administrative staff of the Center in terms of their qualifications and contributions to the specialized needs and conduct of the Center's research activities.

    Effectiveness of the Center's internal planning and quality management activities. Plan for tracking and monitoring progress toward achieving expected results (outputs and outcomes) and ensuring project objectives are successfully achieved in a timely manner. Who is involved and what mechanisms are used? Are these activities documented?

    Nature and quality of facility cores, if proposed. Technical merit, justification, cost effectiveness, qualifications of staff, utility to investigators, and arrangements for internal quality control, allocation of resources, priority of usage, and day-to-day management.

  4. Budget: Although budget information does not reflect on the applications scientific merit, the reviewers are asked to provide their view on the appropriateness and/or adequacy of the proposed budget and its implications for the potential success of the proposed research. Input on requested equipment is of particular interest.

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

After the peer review, those applicants who received scores of excellent or very good as a result of the peer review process will be asked to provide additional information for the programmatic review pertaining to the proposed Lead PIs (in the case of Multiple-PI applications, the Contact PIs) "Past Performance and Reporting History." The applicant must provide the EPA Project Officer with information on the proposed Lead/Contact PI's past performance and reporting history under prior Federal agency assistance agreements (assistance agreements include grants and cooperative agreements but not contracts) in terms of: (i) the level of success in managing and completing each agreement, and (ii) history of meeting the reporting requirements under those agreements.

This information is required only for the proposed Lead/Contact PI's performance under Federal assistance agreements initiated within the last three years that were similar in size and scope to the proposed project.

The specific information required for each agreement is shown below, and must be provided within three 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 managed and completed; if not successfully managed and completed, provide an explanation.
  6. Information relating to the proposed Lead/Contact PI's past performance in reporting on progress towards achieving the expected results (outputs/outcomes) under the agreement. Include the history of submitting timely progress/final technical reports, describe how progress towards achieving the expected results was reported/documented, and if such progress was not being made, provide an explanation of whether, and how, this was reported.
  7. Total (all years) grant/cooperative agreement dollar value.
  8. Project period.
  9. Technical contact (project officer), telephone number, and E-mail address (if available).

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

The internal programmatic review panel will assess:

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

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

VI. AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION

A. Award Notices
Customarily, applicants are notified about evaluation decisions within six months of the solicitation closing date. A Peer Review Results document summarizing the scientific review will be provided to each applicant with an award or declination letter.

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Meetings: Principal Investigators will be expected to budget for, and participate in, Air Research Centers meetings, involving 6-10 researchers from their Center. Centers meetings will be held approximately once per year with EPA scientists and other Centers to report on research activities and discuss issues of mutual interest. Additionally, each Center is expected to host one joint Centers workshop (approximately 3 researchers per Center) and to participate in six workshops hosted by the Centers.
  2. Approval of Changes after Award: Prior written approval is required from the EPA if there will be a significant change from the work described in the application. Examples of these changes are contained in 40 C.F.R. 30.25. Note: prior written approval is also required from the EPA for incurring costs more than 90 calendar days prior to award.
  3. Human Subjects: A grant applicant must agree to meet all EPA requirements for studies using human subjects prior to implementing any work with these subjects. These requirements are given in 40 CFR § 26. Studies involving intentional exposure of human subjects who are children or pregnant or nursing women are prohibited by Subpart B of 40 CFR § 26. For observational studies involving children or pregnant women and fetuses please refer to Subparts C & D of 40 CFR § 26. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regulations at 45 CFR § 46.101(e) have long required "... compliance with pertinent Federal laws or regulations which provide additional protection for human subjects." EPAs regulation 40 CFR § 26 is such a pertinent Federal regulation. Therefore, the applicant's Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval must state that the applicant's study meets the EPA's regulations at 40 CFR § 26. No work involving human subjects, including recruiting, may be initiated before the EPA has received a copy of the applicants IRB approval of the project and the EPA has also provided approval. Where human subjects are involved in the research, the recipient must provide evidence of subsequent IRB reviews, including amendments or minor changes of protocol, as part of annual reports.
  4. Animal Welfare: A grant recipient must agree to comply with the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 (P.L. 89-544), as amended, 7 U.S.C. 2131-2156. The recipient must also agree to abide by the "U.S. Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals used in Testing, Research, and Training" (50 Federal Register 20864-20865. May 20, 1985).
  5. Data Access and Information Release: After award, all data (including primary and secondary or existing data) must be made available to the NCER Project Officer without restriction and be accompanied by comprehensive metadata documentation adequate for specialists and non-specialists alike to be able to understand how and where the data were obtained and to evaluate the quality of the data. If requested, the data products and their metadata must be provided to the NCER Project Officer in a standard exchange format no later than the due date of the grant's final report or the publication of the data product's associated results, whichever comes first.

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

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

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

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

  7. Acknowledgement of EPA Support: EPAs full or partial support must be acknowledged in journal articles, oral or poster presentations, news releases, interviews with reporters and other communications. Any documents developed under this agreement that are intended for distribution to the public or inclusion in a scientific, technical, or other journal shall include the following statement:
    This publication [article] was made possible by EPA grant number _______. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the grantee and do not necessarily represent the official views of the EPA. Further, EPA does not endorse the purchase of any commercial products or services mentioned in the publication.

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

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

VII. AGENCY CONTACTS

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

Eligibility Contact: William Stelz (stelz.william@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8039
Electronic Submissions: Ron Josephson (josephson.ron@epa.gov); phone: 703-308-0442
Technical Contact: Stacey Katz (katz.stacey@epa.gov); phone: 202-343-9855
Gail Robarge (robarge.gail@epa.gov); phone: 202-343-9857

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