NCER no longer uses Standard Instructions for Submission of Proposals. All solicitations posted on our web site contain complete instructions for submittal. The following instructions are provided for reference only.
U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA)
STANDARD INSTRUCTIONS FOR SUBMITTING A
2003-2004 STAR APPLICATION
U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA)
Go to Forms Download Page to get required forms
Form 424 (PDF, 1pp., 45KB)
This document contains the standard instructions on how to apply for a STAR grant. Proposed projects must be specifically designed to advance the state of knowledge in the research areas described in the specific solicitation. Please see the NCER web site, http://www.epa.gov/ncer, for detailed information on research program areas by selecting “Research Opportunities.” Information on past grant awards may also be found on this site by selecting “Grants,” then making one of the selections under “Recipient’s Lists.”
When applications for multiple research subjects are solicited by one Request for Applications (RFA), each distinct subject is referred to as a “topic area” and has a “sorting code” assigned to it to facilitate the review of applications. The sorting codes and application deadlines for each solicitation can be found at the end of the technical description of an RFA.
At various places within the application, applicants are asked to identify the sorting code corresponding to their proposed research topic area in the solicitation. It is the responsibility of the applicant to identify the proper sorting code, based on the nature of the proposed research. Failure to do so could result in an inappropriate peer review assignment. If your research seems to fit under more than one sorting code, choose the most appropriate one.
The sorting code must be placed at the top of the abstract (location is shown in the abstract format, see attachment, NCER Form 2), in Box 10 of Standard Form 424 (see description below in the section on SF424), and in the address on the package that is sent to the EPA (see Section 4. How to Apply, below). Each application submitted must fall under one topic area only, using a single sorting code. Applications submitted for more than one topic area will be assigned to the topic designated on the first version received, or to the first sorting code shown on the application.
The initial application is made through submission of the materials described below. It is essential that the application contain all information requested and be submitted in the formats described. Noncompliance with formatting instructions (page limits, font size, etc.) is grounds for administrative dismissal. Please note that If an application is being considered for an award (i.e., after external peer review and internal review), additional forms and other information will be requested by the EPA Project Officer. The application must contain the following:
A. Standard Form 424: The applicant must complete SF424 (see attached form and instructions). This form will be the first page of the application. Instructions for completion of the SF424 are included with the form. The form must contain the original signature of an authorized representative of the applying institution. Please note that both the Principal Investigator and an administrative contact are to be identified in Section 5 of the SF424.
Regarding Block 16 of the SF 424: research funded under this program may be eligible under E.O. 12372, “Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs,” if it affects public health or if an environmental impact statement is required. If applicable, an applicant should consult the office or official designated as the single point of contact in his or her State for more information on the process the State requires to be followed in applying for assistance, if the State has selected the program for review.
B. Key Contacts: The applicant must complete the Key Contacts Form (NCER
Form 1, see attached) as the second page of the application. A copy of
this form should also be completed for major subagreements (contacts
at the institutions of primary co-investigators).
D. Abstract: The abstract is a very important document. All abstracts are provided to the peer review panelists, and some of the panelists may read only the abstract. Abstracts also play a critical role in programmatic review. Therefore, it is critical that the abstract accurately describes the research being proposed and convey 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, limited to one page, should include the information indicated in the example format (NCER Form 2, see attached) and described below (1-8). Examples of abstracts for current grants may be found on the NCER web site.
E. Research Plan: This description must not exceed fifteen (15) consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced, standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins. The description must provide the following information:
The following sections must be included in addition to the 15-page Research Plan.
F. Resumes: Provide the resumes of all principal investigators and important co-workers. 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.
G. Current and Pending Support: Identify any current and pending financial resources that are intended to support research related to the proposal or which would consume the time of principal investigators. Complete the Current and Pending Support form (NCER form 5, see attached) for each investigator and other important co-workers.
H. Budget: The applicant must present a detailed, itemized budget for the entire project. This budget must be in the format provided in the example (NCER Form 4, see attachment) and must not exceed two consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages with 1-inch margins.
If a sub-agreement, such as a sub-contract, is included in the application, provide a separate budget for the sub-contract in the same format. Include the total amount for the sub-agreement under “Contracts” in the master budget. A project which contains a sub-agreement constituting more than 40% of the total direct cost of the grant will be subject to special review. Additional justification for use of such a sub-contract must be provided, discussing the need for this agreement to accomplish the objectives of the research project.
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 should be added to the budget justification, and estimated dollar amounts must be included in the appropriate categories in the budget table.
I. Budget Justification: Describe the basis for calculating the personnel,
fringe benefits, travel, equipment, supplies, contractual support, and
other costs identified in the itemized budget and explain the basis for
their calculation. (Special attention should be given to explaining the “travel,” “equipment,” and “other” categories.)
The budget justification should not exceed two consecutively numbered
(bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced, standard 12-point
type with 1-inch margins.
J. Quality Assurance Statement: For any project involving data collection or processing, conducting surveys, environmental measurements, modeling, or the development of environmental technology (whether hardware-based or via new techniques) for pollution control, provide a Statement on processes that will be used to assure that results of the research satisfy the intended project objectives. EPA is particularly interested in the quality controls for data generation and acquisition, and how data validation and usability will be verified. The Statement must describe a system that complies with ANSI/ASQC E4, Specifications and Guidelines for Quality Systems for Environmental Data Collection and Environmental Technology Programs, and must not exceed two consecutively numbered, 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced, standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins.
For each item below, either present the required information, reference the specific location of the information in the Research Plan, or provide a justification of why the item does not apply to the proposed research.
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 and 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/ncer under “Guidance and FAQs.”
By submitting an application in response to this solicitation, the applicant grants 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.
The original and eight (8) copies of the complete application (9 in all) and one (1) additional copy of the abstract, must be received by NCER no later than 4:00 P.M. Eastern Time on the closing date assigned to the topic area (see solicitation for date).
The application and abstract must be prepared in accordance with these instructions. Informal, incomplete, or unsigned applications will be returned without review. The original, signed copy of the application must not be bound or stapled in any way. The other eight (8) required copies of the application should be secured with paper or binder clips or secure staples.
Because of security concerns, applications cannot be personally delivered. They must be sent through regular mail, express mail, or a major courier.
The following address must be used for regular mail:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Please note: Due to uncertainties associated with timely delivery of regular mail, it is especially important to follow the procedures described in the second paragraph of section 2.B if this method of delivery is used.
The following address must be used for express mail and couriers:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Applications should be focused on a limited number of research objectives that can be adequately and clearly demonstrated to 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 the reviewers can evaluate the appropriateness of your approach and the tools you intend to use. The statement: “we will evaluate the data using the usual statistical methods” is not specific enough for peer reviewers.
If you wish to submit applications for more than one STAR RFA, you must ensure that the research proposed in each is significantly different from any other that has been submitted to the EPA or from any other grant you are currently receiving from the EPA or another federal government agency.
To be considered timely, applications and initial proposals must be received by the Agency on or before the deadline date published in the RFA. Applications received after the published deadline or applications that deviate from the prescribed format will be returned to the sender without further consideration. Also, applications exceeding the funding limits described in the RFA will be returned without review.
After evaluation and selection for award, applicants recommended for funding will be required to submit additional certifications and an electronic version of the revised project abstract, and may be requested to provide responses to comments or suggestions offered by the peer reviewers, a revised budget, and/or to resubmit their proposal. EPA Project Officers will contact Principal Investigators to obtain these materials. Before or after an award, certain applicants will be expected to provide additional quality assurance documentation.
Applications are selected for an award subject to the availability of funding.
Collaborative applications involving more than one institution must be submitted as a single administrative package from one of the institutions involved.
Research funded under this program may be eligible under E.O. 12372, “Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs,” if it affects public health or if an environmental impact statement is required. If applicable, an applicant should consult the office or official designated as the single point of contact in his or her State for more information on the process the State requires to be followed in applying for assistance, if the State has selected the program for review.
Congress, through OMB, has instructed each 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." EPA’s implementation may be found at http://www.epa.gov/quality/informationguidelines/. These procedures may apply to data generated by grant recipients if those data are disseminated as described in the Guidelines.
A. Review and Selection Process. All grant applications are reviewed
by an appropriate technical peer review panel. This review is designed
to evaluate each proposal according to its scientific merit. Applications
that receive scores of excellent and very good from the peer reviewers
are subjected to a programmatic review within the EPA to assure a balanced
research portfolio for the Agency. Applications are then recommended
for funding to the NCER Director who makes funding decisions. Applications
are selected for an award based on consideration of the scientific
quality of proposals and relevance to EPA program research priorities,
program balance, budget and available funds. Selected applicants will
be required to provide additional information (see above) and the application
will be forwarded to the grants administration office for award in
accordance with the EPA’s procedures.
B. Peer Review and Criteria. In general, each peer review group is composed of non-EPA scientists, engineers, social scientists, and/or economists who are experts in their respective disciplines and are proficient in the technical subjects they are reviewing. Reviewers are asked to assign a summary score to the application of either excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor, and use the criteria below to help them in their evaluations. These criteria are listed in descending order of importance.
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 Public Law 95-224, the primary purpose of a grant 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 agreement, 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.
Expectations and responsibilities of NCER grantees are summarized in this section; see www.epa.gov/ncer/guidance for full terms and conditions associated with an award, including what activities require prior approval of the EPA.
A. Meetings. Principal Investigators will be expected to budget for, and participate in, periodic All-Investigators Meetings (also known as progress reviews) approximately once per year with EPA scientists and other grantees to report on research activities and to discuss issues of mutual interest.
B. Approval of Changes after Award. Prior written approval is required from the EPA if there is to be significant change in the research that deviates markedly from work described in the application. Examples of these changes are contained in 40 C.F.R. 30.25. Prior written approval is also required from the EPA for incurring costs greater than 90 calendar days prior to award.
C. Human Subjects. A grant recipient must agree to meet all EPA requirements for studies using human subjects prior to implementing any work with these subjects. These requirements are given in 40 C.F.R. 26, referred to as the “Common Rule.” No work involving human subjects, including recruiting, may be initiated before the EPA has received a copy of the Institutional Review Board’s (IRB) approval of the project and the EPA has also provided approval. Where human subjects are involved in the research, the recipient must provide evidence of subsequent IRB reviews, including amendments or minor changes of protocol, as part of annual reports.
D. Animal Welfare. A grant recipient must agree to comply with the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 (P.L. 89-554), as amended. All projects involving vertebrate animals must have approval from the applying organization’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee before issuance of an EPA grant.
E. Data Access and Information Release. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-110 has been revised to provide public access to research data through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) under some circumstances. Data that are (1) first produced in a project that is supported in whole or in part with Federal funds and (2) cited publicly and officially by a Federal agency in support of an action that has the force and effect of law (i.e., a regulation) may be accessed through FOIA. All data sets, models, and databases developed under STAR grants may become accessible to the public and therefore freely available to all researchers. If such data are requested by the public, the EPA must ask for it, and the grantee must submit it, in accordance with A-110 and EPA regulations at 40 C.F.R. 30.36.
F. Reports. A grant recipient must agree to provide annual progress reports with associated summaries for posting on NCER’s web site, and a final report with an executive summary for web posting.
G. Acknowledgement of EPA Support. A grant recipient must agree to provide copies of any peer reviewed journal article(s) resulting from the research during the project period. In addition, the recipient should notify the EPA Project Officer of any papers published after completion of the grant which were based on research supported by the grant. NCER intends to post references to all publications resulting from the grant on the NCER web site.
EPA’s full or partial support should be acknowledged in journal articles, oral or poster presentations, news releases, interviews with reporters and other communications. Any documents developed under the agreement for distribution to the public or inclusion in a scientific, technical, or other journal shall include the following statement:
A graphic that can be converted to a slide or used in other ways, such as on a poster, is located at http://es.epa.gov/ncer/guidance/star_images.html. Use of this graphic in oral and poster presentations is expected.
Additional general information on the STAR grants program, forms used for applications, etc., may be obtained by exploring our Web page at http://www.epa.gov/ncer. Specific technical questions should be directed to the EPA contact person whose name is provided in each solicitation.
This RFA requests information for proposal forms and in project reports. The information on proposal forms, including quality-related data, will be used in connection with the selection of qualified proposals. Project reports submitted by awardees will be used for program evaluation. The information requested may be disclosed to qualified reviewers as part of the proposal review process, and to other government agencies needing information as part of the review process or in order to coordinate programs. Submission of the information is voluntary. However, failure to provide full and complete information may reduce the possibility of receiving an award. The OMB control number for this collection (General Administrative Requirements for Assistance Programs) is 2030-0020 (expires 2005). EPA regulations, as stated in 40 C.F.R. 30.54, require the inclusion of data quality planning documents, which are covered by Quality Assurance Specification and Requirements, OMB # 2080-0033.
See the specific RFA for applicable Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) citations. Awards by the EPA are made and administered under the authority of 40 C.F.R. Part 30 and 40, and applicable statutes.