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Extramural Research

Funding Opportunities

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

National Center for Sustainable Water Infrastructure Modeling Research

This is the initial announcement of this funding opportunity.

Funding Opportunity Number: EPA-G2014-STAR-H1

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 66.509

Solicitation Opening Date: January 13, 2014
Solicitation Closing Date: March 10, 2014, 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time

Technical Contact: Michael Hiscock (hiscock.michael@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-0258
Eligibility Contact: Ron Josephson (josephson.ron@epa.gov); phone: 703-308-0442
Electronic Submissions: Todd Peterson (peterson.todd@epa.gov); phone: 703-308-7224

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

Access Standard STAR Forms (Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page)
View research awarded under previous solicitations (Funding Opportunities: Archive Page)

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 initial applications proposing the creation of a National Center for Sustainable Water Infrastructure Modeling Research (Center) that facilitates technology transfer of open source water infrastructure models and shares green infrastructure tools and research advancements with local communities and stakeholders.  EPA will review the initial applications based on the initial application review criteria in Section V and the submitters of the highest-ranked initial applications will be asked to submit full applications. Prior to submitting full applications, finalists will be invited to meet as a group with EPA’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory to learn more about EPA capabilities and plans for sustainable water infrastructure models.  To ensure equal access to information for all finalists, one meeting will be held at EPA in Cincinnati, OH on April 23, 2014.  There will be videoconferencing available for those who do not, or cannot, attend in person and a meeting summary will be provided to all finalists (see section V for further information). 

The objective of the award to be made under this solicitation is to establish a Center that coordinates the following three critical and integrated core components to the advancement of sustainable water models and model research:

  1. Novel Research that engages sustainable water infrastructure models, modelers, model users and stakeholders towards improving real time control of water systems, advancing water infrastructure software design, building the next generation of water modeling tools, and providing solutions to such difficult problems as climate change and extreme events, population growth, water security to detect and monitor contaminants, and environmental compliance;
  2. Community Support and Outreach that fosters and trains a growing global community of sustainable water infrastructure modelers, model users, and stakeholders; and
  3. Model and Code Development that maintains, supports and helps develop freely available software models of sustainable stormwater, wastewater, and water supply systems.

This solicitation provides the opportunity for the submission of applications for projects that may involve human subjects research.  Human subjects research supported by the EPA is governed by EPA Regulation 40 CFR Part 26 (Protection of Human Subjects).  This includes the Common Rule at subpart A and prohibitions and additional protections for pregnant women and fetuses, nursing women, and children at subparts B, C, and D.  Research meeting the regulatory definition of intentional exposure research found in subpart B is prohibited by that subpart in pregnant women, nursing women, and children.  Research meeting the regulatory definition of observational research found in subparts C and D is subject to the additional protections found in those subparts for pregnant women and fetuses (subpart C) and children (subpart D).  All full applications must include a Human Subjects Research Statement (HSRS, see Section V.B.), and if the project involves human subjects research, it will be subject to an additional level of review prior to funding decisions being made as described in Sections V.D and V.E of this solicitation.

Guidance and training for investigators conducting EPA-funded research involving human subjects may be obtained here:
Ethics, Regulations, and Policies
Human Subjects Research at the Environmental Protection Agency: Ethical Standards and Regulatory Requirements

Award Information:
Anticipated Type of Award: Cooperative Agreement
Estimated Number of Awards: 1 award
Anticipated Funding Amount: Approximately $4.0 million total. 
Potential Funding per Award: Up to a total of $4.0 million, including direct and indirect costs, with a maximum duration of five 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 United States, 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:
To submit your initial application under this solicitation, use the application package available at Grants.gov (for further submission information see Section IV.E. “Submission Instructions and other Submission Requirements”).  The necessary forms for submitting a STAR application will be found on the National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) web site, Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page. If your organization is not currently registered with Grants.gov, you need to allow approximately one month to complete the registration process. Please note that the registration process also requires that your organization have a DUNS number and a current registration with the System for Award Management (SAM) and the process of obtaining both could take a month or more.  Applicants must ensure that all registration requirements are met in order to apply for this opportunity through grants.gov and should ensure that all such requirements have been met well in advance of the submission deadline.  This registration, and electronic submission of your application, must be performed by an authorized representative of your organization.

If you do not have the technical capability to utilize the Grants.gov application submission process for this solicitation, send a webmail message 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 emailed whenever possible.  Any applications submitted through alternate submission methods must comply with all the provisions of this Request for Applications (RFA), including Section IV, and be received by the solicitation closing date identified above.

After the review of the initial applications, finalists will be provided information for the content, and deadline, for submission of the full application package.

Agency Contacts:
Technical Contact: Michael Hiscock (hiscock.michael@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-0258
Eligibility Contact: Ron Josephson (josephson.ron@epa.gov); phone: 703-308-0442
Electronic Submissions: Todd Peterson (peterson.todd@epa.gov); phone: 703-308-7224

I. FUNDING OPPORTUNITY DESCRIPTION

A. Introduction
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is seeking initial applications proposing the creation of a National Center for Sustainable Water Infrastructure Modeling Research (Center) that facilitates technology transfer of open source water infrastructure models and shares green infrastructure tools and research advancements with local communities and stakeholders.  To respond to this request for initial applications, applicants will submit: an SF 424 (application for federal assistance); Key Contacts form; SF 424A (budget information for non-construction programs); an abstract; a research plan (not to exceed eight pages); budget justification; and two-page resumes of investigators (see Section IV for further information).  EPA will review the initial applications based on the initial application review criteria in Section V and the submitters of the highest-ranked initial applications will be asked to submit full applications.

The objective of the award to be made under this solicitation is to establish a Center that coordinates the following three critical and integrated core components to the advancement of sustainable water models and model research:

  1. Novel Research that engages sustainable water infrastructure models, modelers, model users and stakeholders towards improving real time control of water systems, advancing water infrastructure software design, building the next generation of water modeling tools, and providing solutions to such difficult problems as climate change and extreme events, population growth, water security to detect and monitor contaminants, and environmental compliance;
  2. Community Support and Outreach that fosters and trains a growing global community of sustainable water infrastructure modelers, model users, and stakeholders; and
  3. Model and Code Development that maintains, supports and helps develop freely available software models of sustainable stormwater, wastewater, and water supply systems.

This solicitation provides the opportunity for the submission of applications for projects that may involve human subjects research.  Human subjects research supported by the EPA is governed by EPA Regulation 40 CFR Part 26 (Protection of Human Subjects).  This includes the Common Rule at subpart A and prohibitions and additional protections for pregnant women and fetuses, nursing women, and children at subparts B, C, and D.  Research meeting the regulatory definition of intentional exposure research found in subpart B is prohibited by that subpart in pregnant women, nursing women, and children.  Research meeting the regulatory definition of observational research found in subparts C and D is subject to the additional protections found in those subparts for pregnant women and fetuses (subpart C) and children (subpart D).  All full applications must include a Human Subjects Research Statement (HSRS, see Section V.B.), and if the project involves human subjects research, it will be subject to an additional level of review prior to funding decisions being made as described in Sections V.D and V.E of this solicitation.

Guidance and training for investigators conducting EPA-funded research involving human subjects may be obtained here:
Ethics, Regulations, and Policies
Human Subjects Research at the Environmental Protection Agency: Ethical Standards and Regulatory Requirements

B. Background
Sustainable water infrastructure models are used throughout the world for the planning, analysis, design, and research of stormwater, wastewater, and drinking water distribution management.  Sewer and storm water management models are used in designing and sizing drainage system components for flood control, evaluating the impact of inflow and infiltration on sanitary sewer overflows, generating non-point source pollutant loadings for waste load allocation studies, and evaluating the effectiveness of best management practices for reducing wet weather pollutant loadings (Nix, 1994).  Water distribution system models are used in capital improvement planning, studying disinfectant loss and by-product formation, evaluating alternative strategies for improving water quality, planning cost-effective programs of targeted pipe cleaning and replacement, and designing sampling programs (AWWA, 2012).

The EPA has a long history of developing free open source sustainable water infrastructure models for modeling runoff, storm and combined sewer flows and drinking water distribution systems (US. EPA, 2005; U.S. EPA, 2006).  Its two flagship models, Storm Water Management Model (SWMM) and EPANET, have been used in thousands of applications throughout the world and have been incorporated into several commercial software packages (e.g., Bentley Exit EPA Click for Disclaimer; Innovyze Exit EPA Click for Disclaimer).   

SWMM (U.S. EPA, 2010) is widely used for planning, analysis and design related to stormwater runoff, combined sewers, sanitary sewers, and other drainage systems in urban areas.  With the recent inclusion of hydrologic performance of specific types of green infrastructure low impact development controls (LID), the model can be used to consider both grey infrastructure approaches for managing stormwater (e.g., pipes, tunnels, high rate treatment), and the potentially more cost effective green infrastructure approaches for managing stormwater (e.g., rain gardens, permeable pavement, rain barrels).  EPANET (U.S. EPA, 2000) was developed to help water utilities maintain and improve the quality of water delivered to consumers through drinking water distribution systems.  EPANET can also be used to plan and improve a system's hydraulic performance. The model can assist with pipe, pump, and valve placement; sizing; energy minimization; fire flow analysis; vulnerability studies; and operator training.  Together, these models provide municipalities the tools to develop the most cost effective green and grey water infrastructure options to reduce the release of untreated wastewater and improve the availability of safe drinking water.

Under this solicitation, the EPA is seeking to provide the initial five years of funding to establish a Center that i) facilitates the technology transfer and public water modeling community ownership of open source water infrastructure models and ii) shares green infrastructure tools and research advancements with local communities and stakeholders. 

This announcement seeks initial applications for a National Center for Sustainable Water Infrastructure Modeling Research (Center) which can benefit from EPA Office of Research and Development expertise in sustainable water infrastructure modeling.  A cooperative agreement award is similar to a grant award, in that both support research to accomplish a public purpose; however, in a cooperative agreement there is substantial involvement in the research, community support and outreach, and model and code development by EPA.  More detail on EPA’s proposed involvement is provided in Section II.

While EPA has expertise in open source sustainable infrastructure water models and wishes to cooperate with the future Center, it is important to note that the focus of the proposed research and the breadth of models to be considered by the Center should not be limited to EPANET and SWMM.  The inclusion of EPANET and SWMM is not a requirement for this Center.

The proposed Center will support the Agency’s Green Infrastructure Strategy, contribute uniquely to the overall research objectives of EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Research Program, and will complement on-going efforts in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

The specific Strategic Goal and Objective from the EPA’s Strategic Plan that relate to this solicitation are:

Goal 2: Protecting America's Waters, Objective 2.2: Protect and Restore Watersheds and Aquatic Ecosystems,

More information can be found in EPA’s FY 2011-2015 Strategic Plan

C. Authority and Regulations

The authority for this RFA and resulting awards is contained in the Safe Drinking Water Act, Section 1442, 42 U.S.C. 300j-1, and the Clean Water Act, Section 104, 33 U.S.C. 1254.

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

Note that a project’s focus is to consist of activities within the statutory terms of EPA’s financial assistance authorities; specifically, the statute(s) listed 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 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.

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, and OMB Circular A-122 (Cost Principles for Non-Profit Organizations) relocated to 2 CFR Part 230.

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

EPA is interested in supporting a National Center for Sustainable Water Infrastructure Modeling Research (Center) to i) promote research and development of computational models focused on answering key questions related to planning, managing and operating water resource systems and ii) develop a sustainable water infrastructure modeling community and lead cutting edge research in the field of sustainable water infrastructure.  Although EPA cannot fund commercialization, applicants are strongly encouraged to leverage resources and collaborative opportunities, and build on those resources and collaborative opportunities throughout the life of the Center with the goal of achieving self-sufficiency by the end of the five year project period.  While the ultimate structure of the Center will be determined by the applicant, activities within each of the Center’s three core components could include some or all, and would not necessarily be limited to, the following research areas:

  1. Novel Research that engages sustainable water infrastructure models, modelers, model users and stakeholders towards improving real time control of water systems, advancing water infrastructure software design, building the next generation of water modeling tools, and providing solutions to such difficult problems as climate change, water security, and environmental compliance. 

    A critical component of the Center will include being a leader in advancing the research field of sustainable water infrastructure.  Applications under this solicitation should strive to address as many of the following research areas as possible:

    1. Development and successful demonstration of computer simulation and decision support models that improve or optimize real time operation and control of water distribution, stormwater runoff, and wastewater collection systems.
    2. Demonstration and improvement of models that provide sustainable and robust solutions to such difficult problems as climate change and extreme events, population growth, water security to detect and monitor contaminants, and environmental compliance. (i.e. How can sustainable infrastructure models incorporate life-cycle analysis and life-cycle cost tools in order to enable cost comparison between green and gray infrastructure? How can sustainable infrastructure models produce the actionable information necessary to provide a vision for the way cities should be adapting to climate and increased frequency or intensity of extreme events?)
    3. Identifying and demonstrating improvements that can be made to the algorithms and software design used in the current generation of water simulation and decision support models.
    4. Identifying what the next generation of water modeling tools will look like and what specific questions they will address.
  2. Community Support that fosters, supports and trains a growing global community of sustainable water infrastructure modelers, model users, and stakeholders.

    In order to engage and promote the development of a vibrant and sustainable water infrastructure community, a successful Center may focus community support activities within two general areas – i) training and ii) outreach.  Training could include workshops on applying the supported models to targeted application areas, community modeling camps, “hack-a-thons”, a how to manual for targeted application areas, web-based discussion forums for individual sustainable infrastructure models, conference participation and training sessions, short courses, or tutorials.  Outreach efforts should seek to broaden the community to include model users and stakeholders.  In reaching out to the modeling community for voluntary participation, the Center should have a mechanism to incorporate voluntary model and code improvements.  Software maintenance and outreach for the supported models within the Center could include an on-line help desk to get help with supported Center products, a software clearinghouse to download the supported Center products, development assistance to add new science to the supported Center products, on-line software documentation for supported Center products, and a Data Clearinghouse to access sustainable water infrastructure data from around the community. Applications under this solicitation should strive to address as many of the following research areas regarding community support as possible: 

    1. Define the modeling and stakeholder community this Center will reach out to and engage.  What sustainable infrastructure models or types of models will the Center initially support?  By what process will the types of models supported evolve with time?
    2. How will the Center reach out to and engage the modeling community?
    3. What core resources will the Center provide to the community?
    4. How will the proposed research and interactive modeling be used and embraced by the community?
  3. Model and Code Development that maintains, supports and helps develop freely available software models of sustainable stormwater, wastewater, and water supply systems.

    Community-based improvement and innovation of supported model codes will be an essential component of the Center.  Model and code development of supported models could include a code repository with concurrent versioning control, a bug tracking system, and QA/QC for updating new releases.  The development of a structure to scientifically review, validate, test, QA/QC, and incorporate new code into existing supported models would be encouraged.  The application should discuss the process by which the Center will accept and evaluate outside community sourced contributions for code improvements and modules for existing and future models (for example, creating architecture within the models for plug-in applications).  Applications under this solicitation should strive to address as many of the following research areas regarding model and code development as possible: 

    1. What is the best method for sharing existing model code and developing or incorporating new tools into sustainable infrastructure models?
    2. How can the proposed Center best utilize and assimilate the skills and expertise of the user community?
    3. How can new tools and components – such as climate change adaptation, life cycle analysis, and green versus gray cost comparisons – be integrated into the Center-supported models by users while maintaining the version control necessary for the Center and the larger modeling community?

    The focus of the research component of this solicitation is on the development and improvement of computer models used to simulate, design, and operate water supply, stormwater runoff, and wastewater collection systems. Applicants are encouraged to develop partnerships with water, stormwater, and wastewater managers to serve as a source of data and to demonstrate the value of the research to the water modeling community.  The research question of how models provide sustainable and robust solutions should include a discussion of the data to be used, evaluations to be performed, quality control, reliability, and confidence with which the community considers the models.  

    The outputs of the Center will include a data warehouse, model and model code clearinghouse, community support services, reports, presentations, and peer reviewed journal publications describing the advances made in modeling of water infrastructure systems as well as software packages that implement these advances.

    The expected outcomes of this Center are an improved ability to manage water supplies, runoff, and wastewater collection in both a cost-effective, sustainable and environmentally sound manner that considers the cost-benefit in terms of combinations of sustainable (green) and conventional (grey) infrastructure strategies.  Improved water infrastructure models will be used to develop more successful water resources and water quality management strategies that provide improved decision making capabilities to reduce economic and impaired water risk on both a local and regional scale.

    To the extent practicable, full applications must embody innovation and sustainability.  Full applications must include a discussion on how the proposed research is innovative and include a discussion on how the proposed research will seek sustainable solutions that protect the environment and strengthen our communities.  Additional details on application content and instructions for submitting full applications will be provided to finalists in the Spring of 2014.

E. References

  1. AWWA (2012). Computer Modeling of Water Distribution Systems, AWWA Manual M32, 3rd Edition, American Water Works Association, Denver, CO.
  2. Nix, S.J. (1994). Urban Stormwater Modeling and Simulation, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL
  3. U.S. EPA (2000). EPANET 2 Users Manual, EPA/600/R-00/057, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati, OH.
  4. U.S. EPA (2005). Water Distribution System Analysis: Field Studies, Modeling and Management, EPA/600/R-06/028, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati, OH.
  5. U.S. EPA (2006). BMP Modeling Concepts and Simulation, EPA/600/R-06/033, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati, OH.
  6. U.S. EPA (2010). Storm Water Management User’s Manual Version 5.0, EPA/600/R-05/040, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati, OH.

F. Special Requirements
Agency policy and ethical considerations prevent EPA technical staff and managers from providing 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.  EPA employees cannot endorse any particular application.

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 (Research Business Models Working Group).

This solicitation provides the opportunity for the submission of applications for projects that may involve human subjects research.  There are many scientific and ethical considerations that must be addressed in such studies by the study sponsor and research team, including, but not limited to, those related to recruitment, retention, participant compensation, third-party issues, researcher-participant interactions, researcher-community interactions, communications, interventions, and education.  All such research must comply with the requirements of 40 CFR Part 26, and any human observational exposure studies must also adhere to the principles set forth in the Scientific and Ethical Approaches for Observational Exposure Studies (SEAOES) (EPA/600/R-08/062) (PDF) (133 pp, 1.21 MB) document.  SEAOES, which was published by researchers in EPA and which discusses the principles for the ethical conduct of human research studies, serves as a resource for applicants interested in applying under this solicitation.  References to “SEAOES Principles” in this solicitation refers, in general, to the issues of interest in conducting human subjects research studies that maintain the highest scientific and ethical standards and safety during the conduct of these studies.  All full applications must include a Human Subjects Research Statement (HSRS; see Section V.B.) and if the project involves human subjects research, it will be subject to an additional level of review prior to funding decisions being made as described in Sections V.D and V.E of this solicitation.

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.

Notwithstanding the provisions of 40 CFR Part 30.36 or 40 CFR Part 31.34, the applicant agrees that any software developed under the award will be released under an open source license.

The full application submitted by finalists shall include a plan (see Section V.B.) to make available to the NCER project officer all data generated (first produced under the award) from observations, analyses, or model development used under an agreement awarded from this RFA.  The data must be available in a format and with documentation such that they may be used by others in the scientific community.

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

II. AWARD INFORMATION

It is anticipated that a total of approximately $4.0 million will be awarded under this announcement, depending on the availability of funds, quality of applications received, and other applicable considerations.  The EPA anticipates funding 1 award under this RFA.  Requests for amounts in excess of a total of $4.0 million, 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 proposals/applications by funding discrete portions or phases of proposed projects. If EPA decides to partially fund a proposal/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 will award a cooperative agreement under this announcement.

When addressing a research question/problem of common interest, collaborations between EPA scientists and the institution’s principal investigators are permitted under a cooperative agreement.  These collaborations may include data and information exchange, providing technical input to experimental design and theoretical development, coordinating extramural research with in-house activities, the refinement of valuation endpoints, and joint authorship of journal articles on these activities.  For this solicitation, EPA’s contribution will be in the form of in-kind resources and services, such as staff hours, computing facilities, and/or laboratory services or equipment.  EPA staff expertise and technical capabilities would make it possible for EPA to support and collaborate with the Center in the following areas:

  • Supporting and collaborating with the Center in model improvement, model version control, and in sustainable water modeling research topics and projects. 
  • Serving as collaborators on selected research projects undertaken by the Center, pursuant to EPA staff areas of expertise and available resources.
  • Participating in the Center’s efforts to provide training and other forms of outreach for the models that it supports. This could include jointly designing the content of training workshops, sharing in the teaching of these workshops, and helping to design web pages and other forms of social media outreach. 

Initial and full proposals may not identify EPA cooperators or interactions; specific interactions between EPA’s investigators and those of the prospective recipient for cooperative agreements will be negotiated at the time of award. 

III. ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION

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

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

Foreign governments, international organizations, and non-governmental international organizations/institutions are not eligible to apply.

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

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

The applicant institution may enter into an agreement with a Federal Agency to purchase or utilize unique supplies or services unavailable in the private sector to the extent authorized by law.  Examples are purchase of satellite data, 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 Ron Josephson (josephson.ron@epa.gov) in NCER, phone: 703-308-0442.

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

C. Other
Initial applications must substantially comply with the initial 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 initial application, pages in excess of the page limit will not be reviewed.  Initial applications must be submitted through grants.gov or by other authorized alternate means (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, initial applications exceeding the funding limits or project period term described herein will be returned without review.  Further, initial 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. 

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

IV. APPLICATION AND SUBMISSION INFORMATION

Additional provisions that apply to this solicitation and/or awards made under this solicitation, including but not limited to those related to confidential business information, contracts and subawards under grants, and proposal assistance and communications, can be found at Contracts and Subawards

These, and the other provisions that can be found at the website link, are important, and applicants must review them when preparing applications for this solicitation.   If you are unable to access these provisions electronically at the website above, please communicate with the EPA contact listed in this solicitation to obtain the provisions.

Formal instructions for submission of Initial Applications through Grants.gov follow in Section E.

A. Internet Address to Request Application Package
Use the application package available at Grants.gov (see Section E. “Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements”).  Note: With the exception of the current and pending support form (available at Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page), all necessary forms are included in the electronic application package.

An email will be sent by NCER to the Lead/Contact PI and the Administrative Contact (see below) to acknowledge receipt of the application and transmit other important information.  The email will be sent from receipt.application@epa.gov; emails to this address will not be accepted.  If you do not receive an email acknowledgment within 30 days of the submission closing date, immediately inform the Eligibility Contact shown in this solicitation.  Failure to do so may result in your application not being reviewed.  See Section E. “Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements” for additional information regarding the application receipt acknowledgment.

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

  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 SF424, 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 Dun and Bradstreet Exit EPA Click for Disclaimer.

    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 Intergovernmental Review (SPOC List).  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 found in the Grants.gov application package.  An “Additional Key Contacts” form is also available at Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page.  The Key Contacts form should also be completed for major sub-agreements (i.e., primary investigators).  Do not include information for consultants or other contractors.  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 initial 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 initial application will be shared with any PI upon request.  The Contact PI is to be listed on the Key Contact Form as the Project Manager/Principal Investigator (the term Project Manager is used on the Grants.gov form, the term Principal Investigator is used on the form located on NCER’s web site).  For additional PIs, complete the Major Co-Investigator fields and identify PI status next to the name (e.g., “Name: John Smith, Principal Investigator”).

  3. Table of Contents

    Provide a list of the major subdivisions of the application indicating the page number on which each section begins.

  4. Abstract (1 page)

    The abstract is a very important document in the review process.  Therefore, it is critical that the abstract accurately describes the research being proposed and conveys all the essential elements of the research.  Also, the abstracts of applications that receive funding will be posted on the NCER web site.

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

    1. Funding Opportunity Title and Number for this proposal.
    2. Project Title: Use the exact title of your project as it appears in the initial 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, use more commonly understood terminology.  Do not use general phrases such as “research on.”
    3. Investigators: For initial applications with multiple investigators, state whether this is a single Lead PI (with co-PIs) or Multiple PI initial application (see Section I.F.).  For Lead PI initial applications, list the Lead PI, then the name(s) of each co-PI who will significantly contribute to the project.  For Multiple PI initial 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(s): 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 performance site(s)/geographical location(s) where the work will be conducted.
    6. Project Cost: Show the total funding 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 and organizational approach to be used (a description of the proposed project), and (3) the expected results (outputs/outcomes) 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: Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page.
  5. Research Plan, Quality Assurance Statement, Human Subjects Research Statement, Data Plan, Early Career Verification and References

    1. Research Plan (8 pages)

      Initial 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 reviewers.

      This description must not exceed eight (8) consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced, standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins.  While these guidelines establish the minimum type size requirements, applicants are advised that readability is of paramount importance and should take precedence in selection of an appropriate font for use in the proposal.

      The Research Plan should describe the applicant’s plan for establishing a Center to perform the proposed research and should highlight the Center’s overall goals, objectives, and approach.  The description should also explain how the Center will conduct its research to accomplish the purposes of this RFA.  The description should explain how the Research Subproject(s) will integrate the three core components of the Center: 1. Novel Research, 2. Community Support and Outreach, and 3. Model and Code Development to seek sustainable water infrastructure modeling solutions that protect the environment and strengthen our communities. The application should also describe the Center’s initial plans towards self-sufficiency by the end of the project period.  The applicant should explain how they will engage and support the modeling community for the supported models.

      The description for the initial proposal 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.
      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).  Describe how progress toward achieving the expected results (outputs and outcomes) of the research will be tracked and measured.  This section should also discuss how the research results will lead to solutions to environmental problems and improve the public’s ability to protect the environment and human health.  A clear, concise description will help NCER and the reviewers understand the merits of the research.
      4. Project Management: Discuss other information relevant to the potential success of the project.  This should include facilities, personnel expertise/experience, project schedules with associated milestones and target dates, proposed management, interactions with other institutions, etc.  Initial applications for multi-investigator projects must identify project management and the functions of each investigator in each team and describe plans to communicate and share data.
      5. Appendices may be included but must remain within the 8-page limit.
    2. References: References cited are in addition to other page limits (e.g. research plan).

  6. Budget and Budget Justification

    1. Budget

      Prepare a master budget table using “SF-424A Budget Information for Non-Construction Programs” (aka SF-424A), available in the Grants.gov electronic application package and also at Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page.  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.

      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 refer to Contracts and Subawards if your organization intends to identify specific contractors, including consultants, and subawardees in your proposal. 

    2. Budget Justification [1 page in addition to the Section IV.B.5. page limitations.]

      Briefly describe the basis for calculating the personnel, fringe benefits, travel, equipment, supplies, contractual support, and other costs identified in the SF-424A.  The budget justification should not exceed one, 8.5x11-inch page of single-spaced, standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins.  This description is intended only to provide a budget overview; detailed budget information will be requested of those applicants who are invited subsequently to develop full applications.

  7. Resumes

    Provide resumes for each investigator and important co-worker.  You may include resumes from staff of subawardees such as universities.  Do not include resumes of consultants or other contractors. The resume for each individual must not exceed two consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced, standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins.

  8. Guidelines, Limitations, and Additional Requirements

    1. Funding Opportunity Number(s) (FON)

      At various places in the application, applicants are asked to identify the FON.

      The Funding Opportunity Number for this RFA is:
      National Center for Sustainable Water Infrastructure Modeling Research, EPA-G2014-STAR-H1

    2. 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.

C. Submission Dates and Times
Initial applications must be transferred to Grants.gov no later than 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date.  Applications transferred after the closing date and time will be returned to the sender without further consideration.  EPA will not accept any changes to applications after the closing date.

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 (Funding Opportunities) and a modification posted on Grants.gov. 

Solicitation Closing Date: March 10, 2014, 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time (applications must be submitted to Grants.gov 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.

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 through Grants.gov. 

If you do not have the technical capability to utilize the Grants.gov application submission process for this solicitation, send a webmail message 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 emailed whenever possible.  Any applications submitted through alternate submission methods must comply with all the provisions of this RFA, including Section IV, and be received by the solicitation closing date identified above.

Note:  Grants.gov submission instructions are updated on an as-needed basis.  Please provide your Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) with a copy of the following instructions to avoid submission delays that may occur from the use of outdated instructions.

  1. Preparing for Submission.  The electronic submission of your application must be made by an official representative of your institution who is registered with Grants.gov and is authorized to sign applications for Federal assistance. For more information on the registration requirements that must be completed in order to submit an application through grants.gov, go to Grants.gov and click on “Applicants” on the top of the page and then go to the “Get Registered” link on the page. If your organization is not currently registered with Grants.gov, please encourage your office to designate an Authorized Organization Representative (AOR) and ask that individual to begin the registration process as soon as possible. Please note that the registration process also requires that your organization have a DUNS number and a current registration with the System for Award Management (SAM) and the process of obtaining both could take a month or more.  Applicants must ensure that all registration requirements are met in order to apply for this opportunity through grants.gov and should ensure that all such requirements have been met well in advance of the submission deadline.  Registration on grants.gov, SAM.gov, and DUNS number assignment is FREE.

    To begin the application process under this grant announcement, go to Grants.gov and click on “Applicants” on the top of the page and then “Apply for Grants” from the dropdown menu and then follow the instructions accordingly. Please note: To apply through grants.gov, you must use Adobe Reader software and download the compatible Adobe Reader version. For more information about Adobe Reader, to verify compatibility, or to download the free software, please visit Adobe Reader Compatibility

    You may also be able to access the application package for this announcement by searching for the opportunity on Grants.gov.   Go to Grants.gov and then click on “Search Grants” at the top of the page and enter the Funding Opportunity Number, EPA-G2014-STAR-H1, or the CFDA number that applies to the announcement (CFDA 66.509), in the appropriate field and click the Search button. Alternatively, you may be able to access the application package by clicking on the Application Package button at the top right of the synopsis page for the announcement on Grants.gov.  To find the synopsis page, go to Grants.gov and click “Browse Agencies” in the middle of the page and then go to “Environmental Protection Agency” to find the EPA funding opportunities.

  2. Acknowledgement of Receipt.  The complete application must be transferred to Grants.gov no later than 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date (see “Submission Dates and Times”).  Applications submitted through grants.gov will be time and date stamped electronically.  Grants.gov provides an on-screen notification of successful initial transfer as well as an email notification of successful transfer from Grants.gov to EPA.  While it is advisable to retain copies of these Grants.gov acknowledgements to document submission, the only official documentation that the application has been received by NCER is the email 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 receipt.application@epa.gov has not been received within 30 days of the solicitation closing date, immediately inform the Eligibility Contact shown in this solicitation.  Failure to do so may result in your application not being reviewed.

  3. Application Package Preparation.  Your organization’s AOR must submit your complete application package electronically to EPA through Grants.gov (Grants.gov) no later than March 10, 2014, 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time. Please allow for enough time to successfully submit your application process and allow for unexpected errors that may require you to resubmit.    

    Please submit all of the application materials described below using the grants.gov application package that you downloaded using the instructions above. For additional instructions on completing and submitting the electronic application package, click on the “Show Instructions” tab that is accessible within the application package itself. 

    The application package consists of the following mandatory documents. 

    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 (d) below.
    3. SF-424A Budget Information for Non-Construction Programs: 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.
    4. Project Narrative Attachment Form (click on “Add Mandatory Project Narrative”):  Attach a single electronic PDF file labeled “Application” that contains the items described in Section IV.B.3. through IV.B.7. (Table of Contents, Abstract, Research Plan, References, Budget Justification, and Resumes) 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 Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page) are needed, place them before the Table of Contents (Section IV.B.3.).

    Please note that applicants are limited to using the following characters in all attachment file names.  Valid file names may only include the following UTF-8 characters: 
    A-Z, a-z, 0-9, underscore ( _ ), hyphen (-), space, period. If applicants use any other characters when naming their attachment files their applications will be rejected by grants.gov.

    Once the application package has been completed, the “Submit” button should be enabled.  If the “Submit” button is not active, please call Grants.gov for assistance at 1-800-518-4726.  Applicants who are outside the U.S. at the time of submittal and are not able to access the toll-free number may reach a Grants.gov representative by calling 606-545-5035.  Investigators should save the completed application package with two different file names before providing it to the AOR to avoid having to re-create the package should submission problems be experienced or a revised application needs to be submitted.  Note:  Revised applications must be submitted before the solicitation closing date and time.

  4. Submitting the application.  The application package must be transferred to Grants.gov by an AOR.  The AOR should close all other software before attempting to submit the application package.  Click the “submit” button of the application package. Your Internet browser will launch and a sign-in page will appear.  Note:  Minor problems are not uncommon with transfers to Grants.gov.  It is essential to allow sufficient time to ensure that your application is submitted to Grants.gov BEFORE 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date.  The Grants.gov support desk operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except Federal Holidays.

    A successful transfer will end with an on-screen acknowledgement.  For documentation purposes, print or screen capture this acknowledgement.  If a submission problem occurs, reboot the computer – turning the power off may be necessary – and re-attempt the submission. 

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

  5. Transmission Difficulties.  If transmission difficulties that result in a late transmission, no transmission, or rejection of the transmitted application are experienced, and following the above instructions do not resolve the problem so that the application is submitted to Grants.Gov by the deadline date and time, follow the guidance below.  The Agency will make a decision concerning each late submission on a case-by-case basis as to whether it should be forwarded for peer review.  All emails, as described below, are to be sent to peterson.todd@epa.gov with the FON in the subject line.

    Please note that if the application you are submitting is greater than 70 MB in size, please call or send an email message to the Electronic Submissions Contact listed for this RFA.  The Agency may experience technical difficulty downloading files of this size from Grants.gov.  Therefore, it is important that the Agency verify that the file can be downloaded.  The Agency will provide alternate submission instructions if the file cannot be downloaded.

    1. If you are experiencing problems resulting in an inability to upload the application to Grants.gov, it is essential to call Grants.gov for assistance at 1-800-518-4726 before the application deadline.  Applicants who are outside the U.S. at the time of submittal and are not able to access the toll-free number may reach a Grants.gov representative by calling 606-545-5035.  Be sure to obtain a case number from Grants.gov.
    2. Unsuccessful transfer of the application package: If a successful transfer of the application cannot be accomplished even with assistance from Grants.gov due to electronic submission issues, send an email message by 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date. The email message must document the problem and include the Grants.gov case number as well as the entire application in PDF format as an attachment.
    3. Grants.gov rejection of the application package:  If a notification is received from Grants.gov stating that the application has been rejected for reasons other than late submittal, promptly send an email to Todd Peterson (peterson.todd@epa.gov) with the FON in the subject line within one business day of the closing date of this solicitation.  The email should include any materials provided by Grants.gov and attach the entire application in PDF format.

    After review of initial applications, EPA will notify applicants about whether they will be requested to submit full applications that will be further considered for funding in accordance with Section V.  Applicants requested to submit full applications will receive information and instructions on the content of the full application package, how to submit it, and the deadline for submission.  Full applications will be evaluated based on the review process described in Section V below. Applicants who are not requested to submit full applications will also be notified. 

V. APPLICATION REVIEW INFORMATION

A. Review of Initial Applications
All eligible (based on Section III) initial applications for the cooperative agreement will undergo an internal 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.  The purpose of this internal review is to assure an integrated research portfolio for the Agency and to determine which initial proposals to recommend for submission of full applications and further funding consideration.

The internal EPA review panel will assess the following factors which are of equal importance:

  1. The relevance of the proposed science to EPA research priorities. 
  2. The degree to which the initial application is responsive to the objectives as measured by the following two subcriteria which are equal in importance:
    1. Quality, robustness, and initial plans towards self-sufficiency for a Center that coordinates the following three critical, integrated core components to the advancement of sustainable water models and model research: Novel Research,  Community Support and Outreach, and Model and Code Development.
    2. The degree to which the application incorporates each of the three components with equal emphasis in creating a cohesive and coherent Center. 
  3. The degree to which the application describes the applicant’s plans for tracking and measuring its progress toward achieving expected results (outputs and outcomes).

Reviewers are asked to individually assign a score of excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor to each initial application.  The average of these individual scores is translated into the final review score for the initial application.  Applicants whose initial applications receive an average score of Excellent or Very Good will be invited to an information session with EPA to learn more about EPA’s capabilities and invited to submit a full application which will be reviewed as described below.  This process is in place to provide equal opportunity for finalists to ask questions and interact with EPA scientists at the information session, and to optimize the submittal and evaluation of full applications for this complex and multi-disciplinary Center.  Further submission instructions will be provided to those applicants invited to submit full applications.  Applicants whose initial proposals receive a score of Good or lower will be notified that their initial applications have been eliminated from further consideration. 

B. Development of Full Application and Information on Past Performance
The full applications will be reviewed as described below and based on the criteria in V.C.

Prior to submitting full applications, finalists will be invited to meet as a group with EPA’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory to learn more about EPA capabilities and plans for sustainable water infrastructure models.  To ensure equal access to information for all applicants, one meeting will be held at EPA in Cincinnati, OH on April 23, 2014.  There will be videoconferencing available for those who cannot attend in person and a meeting summary will be provided to all finalists.  All finalists will have equal opportunity to ask questions and interact with EPA scientists as a group during the one day event in Cincinnati.  Applicants cannot work jointly with EPA staff on their proposal until funding has been awarded.  Once the award has been made, EPA staff and the awardees will work collaboratively on the Center’s projects. 

Instructions on submitting full applications will be provided to the finalists on or around April 30, 2014 and full applications will be due on or around June 9, 2014. Further information on submission requirements and deadlines for full applications will be provided to finalists.  For informational purposes at this time, full applications are expected to include:

  1. SF 424
  2. Key Contacts
  3. Table of Contents
  4. Abstract(s)
  5. Center Description
  6. Research Project Plan Descriptions for Individual Research Subprojects within the Center.  The full proposal can contain no more than five subprojects.
  7. Quality Management Plan
  8. References
  9. Human Subjects Research Statement
  10. Data Plan
  11. Administrative Unit Description
  12. Budget and Budget Justification
  13. Resumes
  14. Current and pending support for each investigator
  15. Letters of Intent, Letters of Support

C. Full Application Review Criteria

  1. Peer Review

    All full applications will be reviewed by appropriate external technical peer reviewers based on the criteria and process described below.  This review is designed to evaluate each application according to its scientific merit.  The individual external peer reviewers include 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.

    Prior to the external technical peer review panel meeting, all reviewers will receive electronic copies of all full applications, as well as a full set of abstracts for the applications. Each application will be assigned to a minimum of three primary peer reviewers, one of whom will be assigned the role of Rapporteur. Each reviewer will be assigned up to approximately 10 full applications on which to serve as a primary reviewer. During the review period leading up to the panel meeting, primary reviewers will read the full set of abstracts and entire application package for each application they are assigned. They will also prepare a written individual evaluation for each assigned application that addresses the peer review criteria described below and rate the application with a score of excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor. 

    At the beginning of the panel meeting, each primary reviewer will report their ratings for the applications they reviewed.  Those applications receiving at least two ratings of Very Good or one rating of Excellent from among the primary reviewers of the application will then be further discussed by the panel in terms of the peer review criteria below.  In addition, if there is one Very Good rating among the primary reviewers of an application, the primary reviewer, whose initial rating is the Very Good, may request discussion of the application by the peer review panel.  All other full applications will be declined for further consideration. 

    After the discussion of an application by the panel, the primary reviewers may revise their initial ratings and if they do so, this will also be documented. The final ratings of the primary reviewers will then be translated by EPA into the final peer review score (excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor) for the application. This is reflected in a peer review results document developed by the Rapporteur which combines the individual initial and final evaluations of the primary reviewers and captures any substantive comments from the panel discussion. This score will be used to determine which applications are further considered for funding as discussed in the "Past Performance Review" below.  A peer review results document is also developed for applications that are not discussed.  However, this document is a consolidation of the individual primary reviewer initial evaluations, with an average of the scores assigned by the primary reviewers.  

    Peer reviewers consider a full application’s merit based on the criteria below.  Criteria 1-6 are listed in descending order of importance:

    1. Research Proposal (criteria 1.a - 1.i are equal in importance):

      1. The originality and creativity of the proposed research, and the appropriateness and adequacy of the proposed research methods including quality assurance/quality control protocols.
      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 and supports trans-diciplinarity.
      4. The proposed research challenges and seeks to shift current research, design, or engineering paradigms by using innovative theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation or interventions.
      5. Projected benefits of the proposed activity to the environment, economy and society, including human health.
      6. Partners in the proposed project(s) contribute significant benefits to achieving the overall purpose and objectives of the research.
      7. The proposed research embodies the principles of sustainability and seeks sustainable solutions that protect the environment and strengthen our communities.  The sustainability primer (PDF) (2 pp, 195 K) provides examples of research activities that promote and incorporate sustainability principles.
      8. The results are disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding.
      9. The proposal is well prepared with supportive information that is self-explanatory or understandable.
    2. Overall Center

      Applications will be evaluated based on the quality and extent to which the overall Center addresses the following criteria (criteria 2.a - 2.d are equal in importance).

      1. Interdisciplinary nature and relevance of the proposed activities, integration of the subprojects around an overarching theme, and development of research subprojects which reflect the Center’s commitment to achieving its research goals.
      2. Capacity of the research subprojects collectively to result in a greater contribution to the overall goals of the Center than if each were pursued independently.
      3. Qualifications of the Principal Investigator(s) and other key personnel, including research training, demonstrated knowledge of pertinent literature, experience, publication records and experience. Complementary experience and capabilities should be clearly identified for each participant or cooperator. All key personnel must make a significant time commitment to the project.
      4. The number, capabilities, and relevance of partners and collaborating organizations.
    3. Administrative Unit (criteria 3.a – 3.d are equal in importance)

      1. Scientific and organizational structure of the Center. Are the lines of authority and administrative structure designed for effective management? How does the administrative structure maximize the Center's capability to take advantage of research opportunities?
      2. The effectiveness of leaders, specifically as managers of the Center. Has the Center Director demonstrated the capacity to ensure quality control and possesses the experience to effectively administer and integrate all components of the Center? Is the percent of effort committed to the management of the Center appropriate?
      3. Duties and percent efforts of administrative staff of the Center and their qualifications and contributions to the specialized needs and conduct of the Center’s research activities.
      4. Effectiveness of the Center's internal planning, technology transfer, and quality management plan. Is the approach for ensuring successful achievement of project objectives adequate and in accordance with the Center’s project schedule and milestones? Is the approach, procedures, and controls for ensuring timely and efficient expenditure of awarded grant funds well defined and acceptable?
    4. 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.  The degree to which the Center integrates with equal emphasis the three critical components of 1. Novel Research, 2. Community Support, and 3. Model and Code Development.

    5. 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.

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

  2. Past Performance Review
    Full applications receiving final peer review scores of excellent or very good will have the proposed Lead PI's (in the case of Multiple-PI applications, the Contact PI’s) "Past Performance and Reporting History" evaluated and will be asked to provide the information described below.  All other applications are automatically declined.

    Applicants will be asked to provide additional information pertaining to the proposed Lead PI’s (in the case of Multiple-PI applications, the Contact PI’s) "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 each agreement.

    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 one week 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 Email address (if available).

    NCER staff will conduct a review of the Lead/Contact PI’s performance and reporting history 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. The proposed Lead/Contact PI’s past performance will be assessed 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 towards achieving results (outputs/outcomes) under these agreements, including the proposed Lead PI’s history of submitting timely progress/final technical reports that adequately describe the progress toward achieving the expected results  under the agreements. Any explanation of why progress towards achieving the results was not made will also be considered. Applicants whose proposed Lead/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. In conducting this 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.

D. Human Subjects Research Statement (HSRS) Review
Full applications being considered for funding after the Peer Review and past performance review that involve human subjects research studies will have their HSRS reviewed by EPA’s HSRRO prior to award.  The HSRRO will review the information provided in the HSRS and the Research Plan to determine if the ethical treatment of human subjects is described in a manner appropriate for conditional approval to be granted. 

E. Funding Decisions
Final funding decisions are made by the NCER Director based on the results of the review of initial applications, peer review of full applications, past performance review and, where applicable, the EPA HSRRO’s assessment of the applicant’s HSRS.  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 EPA’s Grants and Interagency Agreement Management Division for award in accordance with the EPA’s procedures.

VI. AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION

A. Award Notices
Customarily, applicants are notified about evaluation decisions within six months of the 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 and/or submit a revised budget.  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.

The official notification of an award will be made by the Agency’s 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.  For example, statutory authorization, funding, or other issues discovered during the award process may affect the ability of EPA to make an award to an applicant.  The award notice, signed by an EPA grants officer, is the authorizing document and will be provided through electronic or postal mail.

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 Dispute Resolution Procedures.  Questions regarding disputes may be referred to the Eligibility Contact identified below.

C. Administrative and National Policy Requirements
Additional provisions that apply to this solicitation and/or awards made under this solicitation, including but not limited to those related to DUNS, SAM, copyrights, disputes, and administrative capability, can be found at Contracts and Subawards

These, and the other provisions that can be found at the website link, are important, and applicants must review them when preparing applications for this solicitation.  If you are unable to access these provisions electronically at the website above, please communicate with the EPA contact listed in this solicitation to obtain the provisions.

Expectations and responsibilities of NCER grantees and cooperative agreement holders are summarized in this section, although the terms grant and grantee are used.  See Guidance & Frequent Questions for the full terms and conditions associated with an award, including which activities require prior approval from the EPA.

  1. Meetings: Principal Investigators will be expected to budget for, and participate in, All-Investigators Meetings (also known as progress reviews) approximately once per year with EPA scientists and other grantees to report on research activities and discuss issues of mutual interest. 

  2. Approval of Changes after Award: Prior written approval of changes may be required from EPA. Examples of these changes are contained in 40 C.F.R. 30.25.  Note: prior written approval is also required from the EPA Award Official 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 Part 26.  Studies involving intentional exposure of human subjects who are children or pregnant or nursing women are prohibited by Subpart B of 40 CFR Part 26.  For observational studies involving children or pregnant women and fetuses please refer to Subparts C & D of 40 CFR Part 26.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regulations at 45 CFR Part 46.101(e) have long required "... compliance with pertinent Federal laws or regulations which provide additional protection for human subjects."  EPA’s regulation 40 CFR Part 26 is such a pertinent Federal regulation.  Therefore, the applicant's Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval must state that the applicant's study meets the EPA's regulations at 40 CFR Part 26.  No work involving human subjects, including recruiting, may be initiated before the EPA has received a copy of the applicant’s IRB approval of the project and the EPA has also provided approval.  Where human subjects are involved in the research, the recipient must provide evidence of subsequent IRB reviews, including amendments or minor changes of protocol, as part of annual reports. 

    Guidance and training for investigators conducting EPA-funded research involving human subjects may be obtained here:
    Ethics, Regulations, and Policies
    Human Subjects Research at the Environmental Protection Agency: Ethical Standards and Regulatory Requirements

  4. Data Access and Information Release: After award, all data first produced under the award 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 EPA Information Quality Guidelines (EPA IQG).  These procedures may apply to data generated by grant recipients if those data are disseminated as described in the Guidelines.

    Notwithstanding the provisions of 40 CFR Part 30.36 or 40 CFR Part 31.34, the applicant agrees that any software developed under the award will be released under an open source license.

  5. Reporting: 

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

    A grant recipient must agree to provide copies of any peer reviewed journal article(s) resulting from the research during the project period.  In addition, the recipient should notify the NCER 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.

  6. Acknowledgement of EPA Support: EPA’s full or partial support must be acknowledged in journal articles, oral or poster presentations, news releases, interviews with reporters and other communications.  Any documents developed under this agreement that are intended for distribution to the public or inclusion in a scientific, technical, or other journal shall include the following statement:

    This publication [article] was developed under Assistance Agreement No.________ awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to [name of recipient].  It has not been formally reviewed by EPA.  The views expressed in this document are solely those of [name of recipient or names of authors] and do not necessarily reflect those of the Agency.  EPA does not endorse any products or commercial services mentioned in this publication.

    A graphic that may be converted to a slide or used in other ways, such as on a poster, is located at Guidance & Frequent Questions.  EPA expects recipients to use this graphic in oral and poster presentations.

  7. Coordination after Grant Award:  Science Advisory Committee (SAC) - After award, the Center must establish a SAC. The SAC membership will typically consist of peers selected from the academic, private, non-profit, and public sectors.  It is encouraged that a member of the SAC have sufficient experience to advise the Center on the Center’s plans towards developing a self-sustaining Center at the end of the project period.  The function of the SAC is to assist in evaluating the (1) merit, value and contribution of the Center’s 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.

VII. AGENCY CONTACTS

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

Technical Contact: Michael Hiscock (hiscock.michael@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-0258
Eligibility Contact: Ron Josephson (josephson.ron@epa.gov); phone: 703-308-0442
Electronic Submissions: Todd Peterson (peterson.todd@epa.gov); phone: 703-308-7224

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