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

CLOSED - FOR REFERENCES PURPOSES ONLY

Environmental Statistics Center

Opening Date:  October 30, 2000
Closing Date:  March 21, 2001

Background
Description
Funds Available
Eligibility
Instructions for Submitting the Application
How to Apply
Application Review
Selection Criteria
Proprietary Information
Funding Mechanism
Contacts

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BACKGROUND

In 1996, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the National Research Center on Statistics and the Environment (the Center) by means of a five-year cooperative agreement.  This center has provided a national capability to identify and perform cutting-edge research in environmental statistics that will further application of statistics to the environmental sciences and facilitate the professional development of future environmental statisticians.  EPA proposes through this solicitation to open this Center to re-competition for an additional five-year period.

Statistical science is crucial to environmental research at many stages, including design, development, and analysis.  Sound environmental decisions must be based on sound science which in turn must be based on appropriate, high-quality data, data models, and data analysis.  Statistical design and analysis techniques are central to environmental data collection programs.  Statistical techniques often can identify and adjust for biases in data.  When sufficient data are not available from one source, data and other quantitative information from multiple, disparate sources must be combined statistically.  Environmental data are inherently spatial, and spatial statistical methods are needed to model and analyze environmental data; spatio-temporal methods are also needed.  Computer models of environmental and other phenomena and environmental monitoring networks must be evaluated to identify embedded biases, sensitivities, or limitations, which then may be addressed.  Environmental risks must be based and evaluated on sound notions of likelihood, duration, and intensity of exposure and the relationship of exposure to potential effects.  Assessment of the state of our environmental will benefit from further developments in statistical meta-analysis and data synthesis.  Environmental sampling methods, such as for hazardous waste site characterization, must be efficient and able to account for both false-positive and false-negative errors.  Many of these needs require new statistical methods or approaches.  These and other examples motivate modern environmental statistics research and illustrate the need for a cutting edge, cohesive national research capability in environmental statistics.

DESCRIPTION

Research on the environment is important for understanding and responding to threats to human and ecosystem health posed by various types of pollution.  While we have a good understanding of many of the components that make up the environment, we have much less knowledge about the interactions between components.  Such an understanding is imperative for finding acceptable responses to threats to the environment.  Research to aid in recognizing and responding to these threats requires the use of statistics, from sampling and data collection to analysis and modeling.  This announcement invites proposals for statistical research that improves the methodology or theory of statistics relevant to environmental research.  Examples of such research include, but are not limited to:

  • the design, evaluation, and placement of environmental monitoring networks;
  • accounting for meteorological and co-pollutant effects on estimation of status and trends in air toxics;
  • statistical approaches to environmental epidemiology and toxicology;
  • methods to expand the use of epidemiological data in risk assessment for characterizing and reducing uncertainty in environmental risk assessment; and
  • methods for linking information about contaminant source, transport, human and ecosystem interactions and adverse effects.
Applicants are expected to address the following issues: organization, location, leadership, and governance of the Center; scientific objectives over the five-year period; research to be undertaken during at least the first two years; areas and extent of proposed collaboration with Office of Research and Development (ORD) programs and scientists; anticipated interactions with other scientific fields and scientists, including evidence of past collaborations; computing and other scientific resources available or required; and cost and cost sharing information, including identification of other potential sources of funds.

ORD has ongoing research in environmental statistics, including the following: statistical methods for combining environmental information and for the design and evaluation of environmental monitoring networks, accounting for meteorological and co-pollutant effects on estimation of status and trends in air toxics; spatial sampling designs for hazardous waste site characterization; statistical environmental epidemiology and toxicology; development and evaluation of ecological indicators and indexes, including issues of aggregation and scale; data quality assurance; and statistical modeling, validation of biokinetic models, and methods for combining epidemiological and toxicological studies for environmental criteria assessment.

ORD statisticians can serve as research collaborators, sources of problem issues, data, and experience with important environmental problems, and for the transfer of research findings into applied environments.  The new Center is expected to interact actively with ORD research programs and researchers and to identify and explore other promising areas of research in collaboration with other partners.  However, ORD researchers must be alert for any conflicts of interest associated with the solicitation, review, or decision-making processes related to the application.

Please note that a separate Request for Applications for the establishment of  “Research Programs on Statistical Survey Design and Analysis for Aquatic Resources” has been announced.  Applicants may submit to both solicitations; however, each application must address  specifically the language of the solicitation to which it is submitted.

FUNDS AVAILABLE

Approximately $1.25 million per year, including direct and indirect costs, will be awarded for a single Center, depending on the availability of funds.  The project period will be 5 years with a formal review of progress during project year 3.

ELIGIBILITY

Academic and not-for-profit institutions located in the U.S., and state or local governments, are eligible under all existing authorizations.  Profit-making firms are not eligible to receive cooperative agreements from EPA under this program.  Federal agencies and national laboratories funded by federal agencies (Federally-Funded Research and Development Centers, FFRDCs) may not apply.

Federal employees are not eligible to serve in a principal leadership role on a cooperative agreement.  FFRDC employees may cooperate or collaborate with eligible applicants within the limits imposed by applicable legislation and regulations.  They may participate in planning, conducting, and analyzing the research directed by the principal investigator, but may not direct projects on behalf of the applicant organization or principal investigator.  The principal investigator's institution may provide funds through its agreement from EPA to a FFRDC for research personnel, supplies, equipment, and other expenses directly related to the research.  However, salaries for permanent FFRDC employees may not be provided through this mechanism.

Federal employees may not receive salaries or in other ways augment their agency's appropriations through cooperative agreements made by this program.  The principal investigator’s institution may enter into an agreement with a federal agency to purchase or utilize unique supplies or services unavailable in the private sector.  Examples are purchase of satellite data, census data tapes, chemical reference standards, analyses, or use of instrumentation or other facilities not available elsewhere, etc.  A written description of the federal involvement must be included in the application, along with an assurance from the federal agency involved which commits it to supply the specified service.

Potential applicants who are uncertain of their eligibility should contact Dr. Robert E. Menzer in NCER, phone (202) 564-6849, email: menzer.robert@epa.gov.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE APPLICATION

1. SORTING CODE

At various places within the application, applicants will be asked to identify this topic area by using the Sorting Code.  The Sorting Code for this solicitation is 2001-STAR-F1.

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

2. The Application

The initial application is made through the submission of the materials described below.  It is essential that the application contain all the information requested and be submitted in the formats described.  If an application is considered for award, (i.e., after external peer review and internal review) additional forms and other information will be requested by the Project Officer.  The original signed copy of the application should not be bound or stapled in any way.  Other copies should be stapled or bound with clips.

The Application will include both the overall Center program plan and descriptions of the individual research projects that will be in place for at least the first two years of the Center.  The overall application contains the following:

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

B. Key Contacts:  The applicant must complete the Key Contacts Form (click here for required forms) as the second page of the submitted application.

C. Table of Contents:  Provide a list of the major subdivisions of the application which indicates the page number on which each section begins.

D.  Abstract:  The abstract is a very important document.  It is critical that the abstract accurately describe the research being proposed and convey all the essential elements of the research.  The abstracts of funded applications will be posted on the NCER web site. The abstract, limited to two pages,  should include the following information, as indicated in the example format provided (click here for required forms).  Examples of abstracts for current grants may be found on the NCER web site (http://www.epa.gov/ncerqa).

 1. Sorting Code: 2001-STAR-F1.

 2. Title: Use the exact title as it appears in the rest of the application.

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

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

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

 6. Project Cost: Provide the total request for federal funds for the entire project period.

 7. Overall Summary: This should summarize: (a) the objectives of the Center (including all hypotheses that will be tested), (b) the experimental approach to be used (which should give an accurate description of the Center’s objectives as described in the proposal), and (c) the expected results of the research and how it addresses the needs identified in the solicitation, including the estimated improvement in risk assessment or risk management that will result from successful completion of the work proposed.

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

E.  Overall Description:  This description must not exceed fifteen (15) consecutively numbered (center bottom), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins, inclusive of figures and other visual materials, but exclusive of references.  The description must provide the following information:
 1. Objectives:  List the overall objectives of the research that will be conducted by the members of the Center and briefly state why the intended research is important.  This section should also include any background or introductory information that would help explain the overall Center objectives (one to two pages recommended).

 2. Approach: Summarize the overall methods, approaches, and techniques that you intend to employ in meeting the objectives stated above (two to five pages recommended).

 3. Expected Results or Benefits: Describe the results you expect to achieve, the benefits of success as they relate to environmental statistics, and the potential recipients of these benefits.  This section should also discuss the utility of the research projects proposed for addressing the environmental problems described in the solicitation (one to two pages recommended).

 4. Management Plan and Milestones: The administrative and management aspects of the Center should be described.  This plan should describe how priorities are set, how projects will be monitored and how progress will be measured.  The management plan should also state its data policy, present both the budget for administration of the overall Center and an overall summary budget, and contain a resume for the Director.  Project management should be clearly delineated, with the roles and responsibilities of each investigator described.  A year-by-year summary of proposed work must be included with intermediate outcomes and a time line of major tasks covering the duration of the proposed project (two to five pages recommended).

 5. General Information: Discuss other information relevant to the potential success of the Center.  This should include facilities, interactions with other institutions, etc. (one to two pages recommended).

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

In addition to the overall program description of the Center, each initial individual research project must be described.  Each of the individual research projects is allocated an additional 15 pages.

D. Individual Research Project Descriptions:  Each of the specific individual research projects should be completely described according to the instructions in NCER’s Standard Instructions for Submitting a STAR Application (click here for standard instructions).  An additional fifteen pages is permitted for each of the individual project descriptions.  Each should include its own abstract, project budget, and resumes of participating researchers, all of which are in addition to the allowed 15 pages.  The Director of the Center may participate as the Principal Investigator on one or more of the individual projects. All individual project proposals should be collected and submitted as part of an integrated Center proposal.  No proposal independent of the proposed overall Center plan will be considered.

The following sections are in addition to the 15-page Project Description for the overall Center plan and for each individual project.  These materials should be included for both the overall plan and the individual projects, as appropriate:

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

H. Current and Pending Support: The applicant must identify any current and pending financial resources that are intended to support research related to that included in the proposal or which would consume the time of principal investigators.  This should be done by completing the appropriate form (click here for required forms) for each investigator and other senior personnel involved in the proposal.  Failure to provide this information may delay consideration of your proposal.

I. Budget:  The applicant must present a detailed, itemized budget for the entire Center.  This budget must be in the format provided in the example (click here for required forms) and not exceed two consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages with 1-inch margins.  Please note that institutional cost-sharing is not required and, therefore, does not have to be included in the budget table.  However, if you intend to cost-share, a brief statement concerning cost sharing can be added to the budget justification, which should include the estimated dollar amounts associated with the appropriate categories in the budget table.  In addition, provide a separate budget for each individual research project in the same format.  Sum the costs in the master budget for all projects in the Center.

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

K. Quality Assurance Statement:  For any project involving data collection or processing, conducting surveys, environmental measurements, and/or modeling, or the development of environmental technology (whether hardware-based or via new techniques) for pollution control and waste treatment, provide a statement on quality processes that will be used to assure that results of the research satisfy the intended project objectives.  The statement must describe a quality system that complies with the requirements of ANSI/ASQC E4, "Specifications and Guidelines for Quality Systems for Environmental Data Collection and Environmental Technology Programs," and must not exceed two pages.  This Statement should, for each item listed below, present the required information, reference the relevant portion of the project description containing the information, or provide a justification as to why the item does not apply to the proposed research.

 1. Discuss the activities to be performed or hypothesis to be tested and  criteria for determining acceptable data quality.  (Note: Such criteria may be expressed in terms of precision, accuracy, representativeness, completeness, and comparability or in terms of data quality objectives or acceptance criteria.  Furthermore, these criteria must also be applied to determine the acceptability of existing or secondary data to be used in the project.  In this context secondary data may be defined as data previously collected for other purposes or from other sources, including the literature, compilations from computerized data bases, or results from models of environmental processes and conditions.)

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

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

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

 5. Discuss the procedures for data reduction and reporting, including a description of all statistical methods, with reference to any statistical software to be used, to make inferences and conclusions; discuss any computer models to be designed or utilized with associated verification and validation techniques.

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

 After the award is made, a more detailed quality assurance statement will be required.

 ANSI/ASQC E4, "Specifications and Guidelines for Quality Systems for Environmental Data Collection and Environmental Technology Programs," is available for purchase from the American Society for Quality, phone 1-800-248-1946, item T55.  Only in exceptional circumstances should it be necessary to consult this document. An EPA guidance document, Guidance on Satisfying EPA Quality System Requirements for STAR Grants (EPA  QA/G-1STAR) is available for potential applicants which addresses in detail how to comply with ANSI/ASQC E4 for STAR grants.  This may be found on the Internet at http://www.epa.gov/ncerqa.

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

HOW TO APPLY

The original and ten (10) copies of the fully developed application (11 in all) and one (1) additional copy of the abstracts (12 in all), must be received by NCER no later than 4:00 P.M. EST on the closing date March 21, 2001.

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

Completed applications should be sent via regular mail to:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Peer Review Division (8703R)
Sorting Code: 2001-STAR-F1
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington DC  20460

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

U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
Peer Review Division (8703R)
Sorting Code: 2001-STAR-F1
Room B-10105
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004

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

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

APPLICATION REVIEW

All applications will be reviewed by an appropriate technical peer review group.  This review is designed to evaluate each proposal according to its technical merit.  In general, the review group is composed of  statisticians and scientists, engineers, social scientists, and/or economists who are experts in their respective disciplines and are proficient in their technical areas.

The application will be evaluated in the following areas: (1) the individual research projects and (2) the overall Center plan, including its administrative structure,  the management plan, and the overall research integration plan.

The reviewers use the following criteria to help them in their reviews of the individual projects:

 1. The originality and creativity of the proposed research, the appropriateness and adequacy of the methods proposed, and the appropriateness and adequacy of the Quality Assurance Statement.  Is the research approach practical and technically defensible, and can the project be performed within the proposed time period?  Will the proposed research contribute to the objectives of the Center?  Is the application well-prepared with supportive information that is self-explanatory and understandable?

 2. The qualifications of the principal investigator(s) and other key personnel, including research training, demonstrated knowledge of pertinent literature, experience, and publication records.  Will all key personnel contribute a significant time commitment to the project?

 3. The availability and/or adequacy of the facilities and equipment proposed for the projects.  Are there any deficiencies that may interfere with the successful completion of the research?

 4. The responsiveness of the application to the research needs identified. Is the proposed effort integrated with current activities at the site?

 5. Although budget information is not used by the reviewers as the basis for their evaluation of scientific merit, the reviewers are asked to provide their view on the appropriateness and/or adequacy of the proposed budget and its implications for the potential success of the proposed work.  Input on requested equipment is of particular interest.

Applying the above listed criteria, the peer review panel will also evaluate the overall Center application on the basis of the plan for integration of the research program, its scope, degree of integration of the several research projects, and the capacity of the Center to achieve its overall objectives.

SELECTION CRITERIA

Applications that receive scores of excellent or very good from the peer reviewers are subjected to a programmatic review within EPA.  Upon conclusion of all reviews, the most meritorious application will be recommended for funding.  Subsequent grant administration procedures will be in accordance with EPA policies.  A summary statement of the scientific review by the peer panel will be provided to each applicant.

The application selected for funding will require additional certifications, possibly a revised budget, and responses to any comments or suggestions offered by the peer reviewers.  The project officer will contact principal investigators to obtain these materials.

PROPRIETARY INFORMATION

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

FUNDING  MECHANISM

The funding mechanism of a cooperative agreement from EPA and depends on the availability of funds.  In accordance with Public Law 95-224, the primary purpose of a cooperative agreement is to accomplish a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by Federal statute rather than acquisition for the direct benefit of the government.

CONTACTS

Additional general information on the grants program, forms used for applications, etc., may be obtained by exploring our Web page at http://www.epa.gov/ncerqa.  EPA does not intend to make mass-mailings of this announcement.  Information not available on the Internet may be obtained by contacting:

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

 Phone: 1-800-490-9194

In addition, the contact person listed below can respond to any technical questions related to your application.

 Chris Saint    202-564-6911
 saint.chris@epa.gov

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