I. Regional Office
II. The Application
A. Standard Form 424
B. Key Contacts
C. Table of Contents
D. Abstract
E. Project Plan
F. Resumes
G. Current and Pending Support
H. Budget
I. Budget Justification
J. Quality Assurance Statement

III. Confidentiality
IV. How to Apply
V. Guidelines, Limitations, and Additional Requirements
VI. Review and Selection Criteria
VII. Funding Mechanism
VIII. Expectations and Responsibilities
IX. Contacts
X. Privacy Act and Public Burden Statements
XI. Applicable Federal Citations

I. Regional Office

Applicants are asked to identify the Regional Office they wish to review their application. See http://www.epa.gov/epahome/locate2.htm for a map of EPA regions.

II. 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.) may be dismissed prior to evaluation. Please note that if an application is being considered for an award (i.e., after proposal evaluation), 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 http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/). This form will be the first page of the application. Instructions for completing 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 Project Lead 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 http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/) as the second page of the application. A copy of this form should also be completed for major subagreements (contacts at the institutions or organizations of primary co-investigators).

Please make certain that all contact information is accurate. An e-mail will be sent to the Project Lead (with a copy to the Administrative Contact) to acknowledge receipt of the application and to transmit other important information. If an e-mail acknowledgment has not been received within 30 days of the submission deadline, then immediately contact the project officer listed under "Contacts" in the solicitation.

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

D. Abstract: The abstract is a very important document . All abstracts are provided to the evaluators, and some of the evaluators may read only the abstract. Therefore, it is critical that the abstract accurately describes the project being proposed and conveys all the essential elements of the project. 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 and described below (1-8):

  1. Title: Use the exact title of your project as it appears in the application. The title must be brief, yet represent the major thrust of the project.
  2. EPA Regional Office: Specify the EPA Regional Office that should evaluate this project. Please see http://www.epa.gov/epahome/locate2.htm for the locations of Regional Offices.
  3. Project Lead: List the Project Lead, then the names and affiliations of each co-lead who will significantly contribute to the project. Provide a web site URL or an e-mail contact address for additional information.
  4. Institutions: In the same order as the list of investigators, list the name and city/state of each participating university or other applicant institution. The lead institution applying for the assistance agreement must be clearly identified.
  5. Project Period: The project will begin on or about October 1, 2004 and end on or about September 30 in 2005, 2006, or 2007.
  6. Project Amount (EPA): Show the total dollar request, including direct and indirect costs, to the EPA for the entire project period such that the EPA budget total does not exceed $300,000 including direct and indirect costs.
  7. Total Project Amount: Show the total dollar amount, including the total dollar request from EPA and an estimate of the total contribution (funding and/or in-kind) that will be provided by partners (such as educational institutions, industry, NGOs).
  8. Project Summary: Include the following: 1) identify a problem or opportunity relating to sustainability, including its long term importance or significance for an identified region; 2) articulate the use of science and engineering; 3) define short- and long-term success in terms of environmental, economic, and social measures and explain how progress will be tracked; 4) articulate a plan for transferring tools, approaches, and lessons to other states, localities, regions, or industries; 5) articulate who will benefit from this work.

E. Project Plan: This description must not exceed ten (10) 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:

  1. Project Description . Address Evaluation Criteria 1-3. (See Evaluation Criteria section of RFA). Include the criteria subheadings (Identification of Problem or Opportunity; Use of Science; Definition of Success and Measurement of Progress).
  2. Collaborations . Discuss the project partners, their knowledge and expertise, and their roles in the project.
  3. Transferability . Discuss plans for transferring the lessons learned and/or results of this project to other cities, states, or industries. This may include, but is not limited to, workshops, websites, and reports.
  4. Project Schedule . Show significant steps and milestones in the project. Clearly depict the project's duration, and include key milestones and project tasks. Indicate anticipated role and tasks of each team member or department represented. Also, indicate anticipated interactions with any and all partners, if applicable.

The following sections must be included in the application, and do not count towards the 10-page limit for the Project Plan.

F. Resumes: Provide the resume of the Project Lead and co-lead. 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 work related to the proposal or which would consume the time of Project Leads. Complete the Current and Pending Support form (NCER form 5, see http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/) for the Project Lead, co-leads, 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, http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/) 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 to another educational institution (domestic or foreign), 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 assistance agreement 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 project.

I. Budget Justification: Describe the basis for calculating the travel, equipment, supplies, 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 one consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced, standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins.

If applicable, a statement concerning cost-sharing and in kind support should be added to the budget justification, and estimated dollar amounts must be included in the appropriate categories in the budget table.

Budget information should be supported at the level of detail described below.

  1. Personnel - List all staff positions by title. Give annual salary, percentage of time assigned to the project, and total cost for the budget period.
  2. Fringe Benefits - Identify the percentage used and the basis for its computation.
  3. Travel - Specify the estimated number of trips and locations, and other costs for each type of travel. Explain the need for any travel outside the United States. Include travel for annual workshops in Washington, DC.
  4. Equipment - Identify computers, and each item to be purchased which has an estimated cost of $5,000 or more per unit and a useful life of more than one year. (Items with a unit cost of less than $5,000 are considered supplies, per regulation.)
  5. Supplies - "Supplies" means all tangible property other than "equipment." Identify categories of supplies to be procured (e.g., laboratory supplies or office supplies).
  6. Contractual - Identify each proposed subagreement (grant or contract) and specify its purpose and estimated cost. Subagreements more than $25K should have a separate itemized budget included as part of the application.
  7. Other - List each item in sufficient detail for the EPA to determine the reasonableness of its cost relative to the work to be undertaken.
  8. Indirect Charges - If indirect charges are included in the budget, indicate the approved rate and base with an explanation of how indirect costs were calculated.
  9. Letters of Support - The applicant should include letters of support from collaborative partner(s). These letters must be on the partners' letterhead and must be signed by a responsible official of the partner organization stating their intention to work on and/or contribute funds to the project including an estimate of the funding and time commitment. The letters must be submitted as part of the proposal.

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 work 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 Project Plan, or provide a justification of why the item does not apply to the proposed work.

  1. Identify the individual who will be responsible for the quality assurance and quality control aspects of the work. (Quality assurance (QA) is an integrated system of management activities involving planning, implementation, documentation, assessment, and improvement to ensure that a process, or item is of the type and quality needed for the project. Quality control (QC) is the system of technical activities that measures the attributes and performance of a process or item against defined standards, to verify that they meet the stated requirements.)
  2. Discuss the activities to be performed or the 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 and evaluation criteria.) Also, these criteria must 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.)
  3. Describe the study design. Include sample type(s) and location requirements, all 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, or describe how new technology will be benchmarked to improve existing processes, such as those used by industry.
  4. Describe the procedures that will be used in the calibration and performance evaluation of all analytical instrumentation and all methods of analysis to be used during the project. Explain how the effectiveness of any new technology will be measured.
  5. Describe the procedures for the handling and custody of samples, including sample collection, identification, preservation, transportation, and storage, or how the accuracy of test measurements will be verified.
  6. Discuss the procedures for data reduction and reporting, including a description of all statistical methods to make inferences and conclusions, with identification of any statistical software to be used; discuss any computer models to be designed or utilized and describe the associated verification and validation techniques.
  7. 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.

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.”

III. Confidentiality

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.

IV. How to Apply

The original and twelve (12) copies of the complete application (13 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 May 21.

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 twelve (12) 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
Peer Review Division (8725F)
Sorting Code: 2004-NCER-YY
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20460

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 II.B if this method of delivery is used.

The following address must be used for express mail and couriers:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Peer Review Division (8725F)
Sorting Code: 2004-NCER-YY
1025 F. Street, NW (Room 3500)
Washington, DC 20004
Phone: (202) 233-0686

V. Guidelines, Limitations, and Additional Requirements

Applications should be focused on a limited number of objectives that can be adequately and clearly demonstrated to meet the RFA requirements. Explicitly state the main problems or opportunities you will address, the data you will create or use, the analytical tools you will use, the decisions you expect to support, and the results you expect to achieve. 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 evaluators.

Note: you must ensure that the work proposed is significantly different from any other that has been submitted to the EPA or from any other assistance agreement 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.

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.

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 assistance agreement recipients if those data are disseminated as described in the Guidelines.

VI. Review and Selection

See the RFA Application Processing and Review Information and Evaluation Criteria sections for this information.

VII. Funding Mechanism

The funding mechanism for all awards will consist of assistance agreements (grants or cooperative 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 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.

VIII. Expectations and Responsibilities of Grantees

Expectations and responsibilities of NCER grantees are summarized in this section; see http://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. Project Leads will be expected to budget for, and participate in, periodic Collaborative Network Workshops approximately once per year to discuss progress made, lessons learned, and additional issues of mutual interest. For budgeting purposes, assume these meetings will take place in Washington, DC.

B. Approval of Changes after Award. Prior written approval is required from the EPA if there is to be significant change in the work 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. An assistance agreement 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 work, the recipient must provide evidence of subsequent IRB reviews, including amendments or minor changes of protocol, as part of annual reports.

D. Animal Welfare. An assistance agreement 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 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 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. An assistance agreement 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. Publications. An assistance agreement recipient must agree to provide copies of any peer reviewed journal article(s) resulting from work during the project period. In addition, the recipient should notify the EPA Project Officer of any papers published after completion of the assistance agreement which were based on work supported by the assistance agreement. NCER intends to post references to all publications resulting from the assistance agreement on the NCER web site.
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:

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

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

IX. Contacts

Additional general information, may be obtained by exploring our Web page at http://www.epa.gov/ncer . Specific technical questions should be directed to Dr. Diana Bauer; Phone: 202-564-6932 (before April 1); 202-343-9759 (after April 1); email: Bauer.Diana@epa.gov

X. Privacy Act and Public Burden Statements

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 evaluators as part of the proposal review process, and to other government agencies needing information as part of the evaluation 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.

XI. Applicable Federal Citations

This program is described in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, under Number 66.510. Awards by the EPA are made and administered under the authority of 40 C.F.R. Part 30 and 35, and applicable statutes.