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


Futures Research in Natural Sciences

Research on Nanotechnology, Natural Sciences, and Socio-Economics

Opening Date: January 29, 2001
Closing Dates: Part 1: June 18, 2001
                             Part 2: July 11, 2001
                             Part 3: July 11, 2001

Scope of Research
    Futures Research in Natural Sciences


To support the mission of  EPA to protect human health and the environment, the Agency must have a base of sound science.  Research conducted under the STAR program is an important mechanism for promoting a sound scientific foundation for environmental protection, one that addresses current problems and anticipates future problems.  One of the approaches under STAR to build this foundation is the issuance of requests for applications (RFAs) for research that addresses gaps in today’s science and engineering knowledge.  A second approach is to allow open, investigator-initiated projects which apply new, novel, and highly innovative approaches to address environmental issues or the scientific or engineering principles that underlie them. The three parts of this  solicitation which follow combine these approaches.

The question often arises whether it is possible to predict or detect potential environmental problems before they occur so that preventive or remedial actions can be started before the issue becomes serious.  Early awareness of an environmental problem should result in the ability to cope with a less serious problem, one easier and cheaper to handle. The possibility of early detection of environmental problems was the subject of the Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board's 1995 report, Beyond the Horizon: Using Foresight to Protect the Environmental Future. The report discussed why thinking about the future is important, possible systems of inquiry, and recommended that "...EPA should move toward using futures research and analysis in its programs and activities, particularly strategic planning and budgeting...."  Specifically:

"As much attention should be given to avoiding future problems as to controlling current ones," and

"EPA should establish a strong environmental futures capability that serves as an early warning system for emerging environmental problems."

Our objective in this announcement is to support innovative, and possibly high risk, research that may help define and understand significant emerging  environmental problems. We seek novel approaches that can lead to significant breakthroughs which will provide enhanced environmental benefit.

Applications which are more appropriately responsive to other Fiscal Year 2001 NCER RFAs may not be submitted to this competition and will not be considered.


Futures Research in Natural Sciences

In order to perform its mission better, EPA wishes to engage the scientific community  in identifying and applying new knowledge, approaches, and techniques in novel ways to solve the emerging environmental problems of the future.  In this part of this RFA emphasis must be on issues that the research community needs to start working on now before headlines have emerged.  Research may be considered “high risk” or deal with fundamental principles, but should lead to creative or innovative solutions to potential high risk environmental problems.  Applications should describe the nature and significance of the environmental issue being targeted, along with the nature and expected benefits of the proposed research in leading to a solution to that issue or significantly advancing the understanding of the science that underlies it.

In the application, proposers should:

1. suggest an area where scientific data are minimal, scattered, or conflicting that could portend a future environmental problem or describe an emerging field of knowledge which may be applied to an environmental problem in a unique way;

2. justify and defend that choice in detail, including consideration of potential environmental risk or the potential benefit of using the new knowledge.;

3. propose a research program of up to two years duration to explore the problem, and

4. explain why the proposed investigator is the right person to do the research proposed.

Key features in proposal evaluation will be: (1) the seriousness in terms of damage to the environment or public health of the identified potential problem, (2) the value of the possible proposed synthesis, even if the seriousness of the suspected problem turns out to be minimal, and (3) the potential to provide novel solutions to current problems.

Examples of problems which might have profited from such early examination in the past include (this is not a list of preferred or present topics):

• acid rain
• stratospheric ozone depletion
• effects and environmental persistence of PCBs
At the conclusion of these studies, a workshop will be held to determine what issues should be pursued through a focused mechanism either by EPA or other research organizations.  Applicants should budget for their attendance at such a workshop in the Washington, DC, area.


Approximately $5 million is expected to be available in FY2001 for new research grants in part 1, $1 million in part 2, and $1 million in part 3.  The project award range for part 1 is $100,000 to $150,000 per year for up to 3 years; for parts 2 and 3, is $75,000 to $125,000 per year for up to 2 years.  Awards are subject to the availability of funds.


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 grants 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 grant.  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 grant 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 grants made by this program.  However, federal employees may interact with grantees so long as their involvement is not essential to achieving the basic goals of the grant.1  The principal investigator’s institution may also 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 justification for 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.

 1EPA encourages interaction between its own laboratory scientists and grant principal investigators for the sole purpose of exchanging information in research areas of common interest that may add value to their respective research activities.  However, this interaction must be incidental to achieving the goals of the research under a grant.  Interaction that is “incidental” is not reflected in a research proposal and involves no resource commitments.

Potential applicants who are uncertain of their eligibility should contact Jack Puzak  in NCER, phone (202) 564-6825, Email: puzak.jack@epa.gov.

Standard Instructions for Submitting an Application

A set of special instructions on how applicants should apply for an NCER grant is found on the NCER web site Standard Instructions for Submitting a STAR Application.  The necessary forms for submitting an application will be found on this web site.

 Sorting Codes

The need for a sorting code to be used in the application and for mailing is described in the Standard Instructions for Submitting a STAR Application.  The sorting codes for applications submitted in response to this solicitation are

 2001-STAR-K2 for part 2, “Futures Research in Natural Sciences.”

The deadlines for receipt of the applications by NCER are no later than 4:00 p.m. ET, July 11, 2001, for Part K2.


Further information, if needed, may be obtained from the EPA officials indicated below. Email inquiries are preferred.

Contact for part 2, “Futures Research in Natural Sciences:”

Roger Cortesi   202-564-6852