U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Research and Development
National Center for Environmental Research
Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) Program

2015 EPA Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) Fellowships for Undergraduate Environmental Study

This is the initial announcement of this funding opportunity.

Funding Opportunity Number: (See Section I.D. for descriptions)

EPA-F2015U-GRO-P1 Natural and Life Sciences
EPA-F2015U-GRO-P2 Environmental Sciences and Interdisciplinary Programs
EPA-F2015U-GRO-P3 Engineering
EPA-F2015U-GRO-P4 Social Sciences
EPA-F2015U-GRO-Q1 Physical Sciences and Earth Sciences
EPA-F2015U-GRO-Q2 Mathematics and Computer Science

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 66.513

Solicitation Opening Date: March 30, 2015
Solicitation Closing Date: May 19, 2015, 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time

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
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. Peer Review
B. Programmatic Review
D. Human Subjects Research Statement (HSRS) Review
D. Funding Decisions
VI. AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION
A. Award Notices
B. Disputes
C. Administrative and National Policy Requirements
VII. AGENCY CONTACTS

Access GRO Fellowship Application Package and Forms (Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page)
For a checklist and simplified instructions, see the fellowships FAQ (Guidance & Frequent Questions)

SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS

Synopsis of Program:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) Fellowships program, is offering undergraduate fellowships for bachelor level students in environmental fields of study. The deadline for receipt of applications is May 19, 2015, at 11:59:59 PM ET.  Subject to availability of funding and other applicable considerations, the Agency plans to award approximately 34 new fellowships.  Eligible students will receive support for their junior and senior years of undergraduate study and for an internship at an EPA facility during the summer of their junior year. The fellowship provides up to $20,700 per academic year of support and $8,600 of support for a three-month summer internship.

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 applications must include a Human Subjects Research Statement (HSRS, as described in Section IV.B. Item 6 of this solicitation), 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.C and V.D of this solicitation.  Additional information can be found in Section I.A of the full announcement.

Guidance and training for investigators conducting EPA-funded research involving human subjects may be obtained here:
Basic Information about Human Subjects Research
Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

Award Information:
Anticipated Type of Award: Fellowship
Estimated Number of Awards: Approximately 34 awards
Anticipated Funding Amount: Approximately $1,700,000 for all awards
Potential Funding per Fellowship: Up to a total of $50,000 over a two-year period. Fellows will receive support for their junior and senior years of undergraduate study and for a paid summer internship at an EPA facility between their junior and senior years. Cost sharing is not required.

The earliest anticipated start date for these awards is September 1, 2015.

Eligibility Information (see Section III for complete description):

  1. Students must attend a fully accredited four-year U.S. college or university (located in the U.S. or its territories) for their last two years of undergraduate studies during the fellowship period.
  2. Students must also be citizens of the U.S. or its territories or possessions, or be lawfully admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence. Resident aliens must have their green card at the time of application.  Do not provide the green card number with your application; however, you may be asked to provide it at a later time to verify eligibility with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service of the Department of Homeland Security.
  3. The GRO Undergraduate Fellowship is intended for students entering their last two years of full-time study before obtaining their first bachelor’s degree.  Students who have already earned one bachelor’s degree and are pursuing additional degrees are not eligible.  The fellowship tenure is for two full academic years (9 months each) with a required paid internship during the summer after the first year. Thus, only students who will be entering their last two years of college will be considered eligible.
  4. Students must have at least a “B” average overall at the time of application submittal and during the tenure of the fellowship.
  5. In order to receive the fellowship, students must attend a fully accredited four-year U.S. institution of higher education. These schools must be listed as not highly funded for research and development capacity.  For the purposes of this solicitation, students attending those institutions receiving more than $35 million in annual federal research and development funding are ineligible to apply under this solicitation. Institutions who exceed this threshold can be identified in the National Science Foundation's publication "Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions: FY 2012," Page 37, Table 12, column 2. These data can be found at  Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions: FY 2012 (PDF) (260 pp, 4.78 MB, about PDF)
  6. At the time of application submittal, students attending two-year institutions or community colleges, as well as students not in attendance at an institution of higher education, may be eligible to apply. However, in order to receive the fellowship, students attending two-year institutions or community colleges or students not in attendance at the time of application will need to show evidence of having received their Associate’s degree, as well as demonstrating that they only have two years left of undergraduate studies for completion of the Bachelor’s degree, and that they have been accepted to attend an accredited eligible four-year institution. This requirement is considered satisfied if the student is transferring to an accredited eligible four-year institution which has an Articulation Agreement with the two-year institution, thus meaning that all credits will transfer towards requirements for the Bachelor’s degree.  See Section III.A. Eligible Applicants for further information.

Application Materials:
To apply 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 GRO application will be found on the National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) web site. If you are not currently registered with Grants.gov, you need to allow approximately one week to complete the registration process. See Section IV for further information on application submission procedures.

If you do not have the technical capability to utilize the Grants.gov application submission process for this solicitation, see Section IV.A below for additional guidance and instructions.

The following application materials must be submitted:

Item 1. Application for Federal Assistance, Standard Form (SF) 424
Item 2. EPA Key Contacts Form (5700-54)
Item 3. Front Page
Item 4. Personal Statement
Item 5. Background Information:
Education & Relevant Experiences
Presentations
Course Work
Item 6. EPA Human Subjects Research Statement (HSRS)
Item 7. Letters of Recommendation (submitted by reference letter writers)

Applications must identify a single topic and corresponding Funding Opportunity Number (FON), as described in Section I.D. that is appropriately related to the proposed area of inquiry. If your application seems to fit under more than one topic/FON, you still must choose a single topic/FON for purposes of submission. Your application can be submitted to one, and only one, FON.  In instances where more than one application is submitted, EPA will contact the applicant to determine which application(s) will be withdrawn.

Agency Contacts:
Program Contact: Georgette Boddie ( boddie.georgette@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8049
Eligibility Contact: Ron Josephson; (josephson.ron@epa.gov) phone: 703-308-0442
Electronic Submissions Contact: Debra M. Jones (jones.debram@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8081

I. FUNDING OPPORTUNITY DESCRIPTION

A. Introduction
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Center for Environmental Research (NCER), invites applications for the Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) Fellowships for undergraduate environmentally-related study for bachelor’s level students. The deadline for receipt of applications is May 19, 2015. Subject to availability of funding, the quality of applications received and other applicable considerations, the Agency plans to award approximately 34 new fellowships. The fellowship provides up to $20,700 per year of academic support and $8,600 for internship support for a combined total of up to $50,000 over the life of the fellowship. The GRO program enhances and supports quality environmental education for undergraduates, and thereby encourages them to continue their education beyond the baccalaureate level, and pursue careers in environmentally-related fields, such as biology, health, the social sciences, and engineering. The actual amount awarded per year will vary depending on the amount of tuition and fees and the number of months the stipend is required. This fellowship is intended to help defray costs associated with environmentally-oriented study leading to a bachelor’s degree.

EPA recognizes that scientific, technical, engineering and mathematical (STEM) competence is essential to the Nation’s future well-being in terms of national security and competitive economic advantage.  For instance, the health and vitality of the economy is predicated, in part, on the availability of an adequate supply of scientists, technicians, engineers and mathematicians, to develop innovative technologies and solutions.  In other words, this country must engage all available minds to address the challenges it faces.  Minorities, women, and persons with disabilities historically have been under-represented in the STEM fields.  For this reason, EPA strongly encourages all eligible applicants including, women, minorities, and persons with disabilities to apply.

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 applications must include a Human Subjects Research Statement (HSRS, as described in Section IV.B. Item 6 of this solicitation), 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.C and V.D of this solicitation.

Please note that surveys, interviews, and focus groups with individuals may constitute human subjects research.

The additional level of review is conducted by the EPA Human Subjects Research Review Official (HSRRO).  In making a determination about conditional and later final approval, the HSRRO will apply both EPA Regulation 40 CFR 26 and EPA Policy Order 1000.17 Change A1, where human exposure research is interpreted as any intervention that manipulates subjects’ environment (i.e., modifies subjects’ exposure).

For more specific information including guidance and training, see:
Basic Information about Human Subjects Research
Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

B. Background
The GRO Undergraduate Fellowship program is part of the national effort to help ensure that the United States meets its current and projected human resource needs in the environmental science, engineering, mathematics, and technology fields.  By enhancing and supporting quality environmental education for undergraduate students, the GRO Undergraduate Fellowship encourages promising students to pursue careers in environmentally-related fields and to continue their education beyond the baccalaureate level. This goal is consistent with the mission of EPA, which is to provide environmental and human health protection.  The GRO Fellowship program has benefited the public by consistently providing the nation with well-trained environmental specialists to meet environmental challenges in our society. GRO supported fellows have provided new environmental research in the physical, biological, health, and social sciences as well as in engineering.

The specific Strategic Goal and Objective from the EPA’s Strategic Plan that relates to this solicitation are:
Goal 3: Cleaning Up Communities and Advancing Sustainable Development, Objective 3.1: Promote Sustainable and Livable Communities.

More information can be found in EPA’s FY 2014-2018 Strategic Plan

C. Authority and Regulations
The authority for this RFA and resulting awards is contained in one or more of the following:
the Clean Air Act (CAA), Section 103, 42 U.S.C. 7403; the Clean Water Act (CWA), Section 104, 33 U.S.C. 1254; the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Section 1442, 42 U.S.C. 300j-1; the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), Section 20, 7 U.S.C. 136r; the Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA), Section 8001, 42 U.S.C. 6981; and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), Section 10, 15 U.S.C. 2609. 

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

Planned course of study must have a focus that is supported under one of the above mentioned funding authorities. Projects that relate to other funding authorities, such as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act or CERCLA (i.e., Superfund sites and Brownfields) are not eligible for funding under this RFA.  In addition, applications dealing with hydraulic fracking will not be funded by EPA through this program.

Applicable Regulation: 40 CFR Part 46 (Fellowships)

    Descriptions of the authorizing statutes are provided below:

    CAA: Clean Air Act--Section 103:
    Section 103 of the Clean Air Act authorizes the EPA to make grants for research, investigations, experiments, demonstrations, surveys and studies relating to the causes, effects (including health and welfare effects), extent, prevention and control of air pollution.

    CWA: Clean Water Act--Section 104:
    Section 104 of the Clean Water Act authorizes the EPA to make grants for research, investigations, experiments, training, demonstrations, surveys and studies relating to the causes, effects, extent, prevention, reduction, and elimination of water pollution.

    SDWA: Safe Drinking Water Act--Section 1442:
    Section 1442 of the Safe Drinking Water Act authorizes the EPA to make grants for research, training, studies, and demonstrations relating to the causes, diagnosis, treatment, control, and prevention of physical and mental diseases and other impairments of man resulting directly or indirectly from contaminants in water, or to the provision of a dependably safe supply of drinking water, including (A) improved methods: (i) to identify and measure the existence of contaminants in drinking water (including methods which may be used by State and local health and water officials), and (ii) to identify the source of such contaminants; (B) improved methods to identify and measure the health effects of contaminants in drinking water; (C) new methods of treating raw water to prepare it for drinking, so as to improve the efficiency of water treatment and to remove contaminants from water; (D) improved methods for providing a dependably safe supply of drinking water, including improvements in water purification and distribution, and methods of assessing the health related hazards of drinking water; and (E) improved methods of protecting underground water sources of public water systems from contamination.

    FIFRA: Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act--Section 20:
    Section 20 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act authorizes the EPA to make grants for pesticide-related research, development, monitoring, public education, training, demonstrations, and studies.

    SWDA: Solid Waste Disposal Act--Section 8001:
    Section 8001 of the Solid Waste Disposal Act authorizes the EPA to make grants for research, investigations, experiments, training, demonstrations, surveys, public education programs and studies relating to: (1) adverse health and welfare effects from solid waste; (2) solid waste management programs; (3) resource recovery and conservation, and hazardous waste management systems; (4) production of usable forms of recovered resources; (5) waste reduction; (6) improved solid waste collection and disposal methods; (7) identification of solid waste components; (8) small scale and low technology solid waste management systems; (9) methods to improve performance of recovered solid waste; (10) improvements in land disposal practices; (11) methods for sound disposal of resources, including sludge and coal slurry; (12) methods of hazardous waste management; and (13) air quality impacts from the burning of solid waste.

    TSCA: Toxic Substance Control Act--Section 10:
    Section 10 of the Toxic Substance Control Act authorizes the EPA to make grants for research, development, monitoring, public education, training, demonstrations and studies directed toward the development of the fundamental scientific basis of screening and monitoring techniques used to detect toxic chemical substances and quantify the effects of toxic chemical substances and mixtures in the environment.

    NEPA: National Environmental Policy Act --Section 102(2)(F):
    For fellowships with an international aspect, the above statutes are supplemented, as appropriate, by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Section 102(2)(F) which authorizes support to foreign recipients and international work/travel by domestic recipients.  (Note: NEPA cannot be the sole supporting statute for a proposed fellowship.)

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 statue(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.

D. Specific Areas of Interest
This RFA solicits applications from students interested in environmentally-related study and problem solving in a variety of environmentally-related areas which are described below. By providing financial support across disciplines, EPA expects to continue to assist in increasing the nation’s environmental workforce and the ability to produce leading edge research, and in advancing the nation’s research and development enterprise.

Funding Opportunity Numbers (FON)
Select a single Funding Opportunity Number (FON) for your application from the list below. You may submit only one application under this fellowship announcement and therefore can apply for only one FON.  Failure to select a proper FON could result in an inappropriate review assignment. If your application seems to fit under more than one FON, choose the most appropriate one, or select “Environmental Sciences & Interdisciplinary Programs.” Your application can be submitted to one, and only one, FON.  In instances where more than one application is submitted, EPA will contact the applicant to determine which application(s) will be withdrawn.

Note: Your application should describe the relationship of these topic areas to the statutorily required purpose of pollution prevention and/or control.

EPA-F2015U-GRO-P1 Natural and Life Sciences
(Includes pollution prevention and/or control-related study in Biology, Ecology, Microbiology, Molecular Sciences, etc.)

EPA-F2015U-GRO-P2 Environmental Sciences and Interdisciplinary Programs
(Includes pollution prevention and/or control-related study in Environmental Studies, Urban Sustainability and Land Use Planning, Environmental Health, Environmental Policy, Environmental Education, Native/Tribal Environmental Science, Social Entrepreneurship, etc.)

EPA-F2015U-GRO-P3 Engineering
(Includes pollution prevention and/or control-related study in Environmental Engineering, Waste Management, Green Building Engineering, Biotechnology, Environmental Design, Innovative Environmental Technology Development, etc.)

EPA-F2015U-GRO-P4 Social Sciences
(Includes pollution prevention and/or control-related study in Economics, International Environmental Studies, Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, Environmental Justice, etc.)

EPA-F2015U-GRO-Q1 Physical Sciences and Earth Sciences
(Includes pollution prevention and/or control-related study in Atmospheric Sciences, Chemistry, Geology, Geography, Biogeochemistry, Water Quality, etc.)

EPA-F2015U-GRO-Q2 Mathematics and Computer Science
(Includes pollution prevention and/or control-related study in Environmental Information Science, Mathematics and Statistics, Bioinformatics, etc.)

E. References
EPA’s FY 2014-2018 Strategic Plan
Fellowships webpage

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.

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) (PDF) (133 pp, 1.21 MB, about PDF) (EPA/600/R-08/062) 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 applications must include a Human Subjects Research Statement (HSRS; described in Section IV.B. Item 6 of this solicitation) 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.C and V.D of this solicitation.

The fellowship awards expected to be made under this RFA 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 $1,700,000 will be awarded under this announcement, depending on the availability of funds, the quality of applications received, and other applicable considerations. The EPA anticipates funding approximately 34 fellowships under this RFA. The maximum projected award per fellowship is $20,700 per year total costs for up to two years, plus $8,600 for internship support.  Requests for amounts in excess of a total of $50,000 will not be considered.  Further, the duration of the fellowship cannot exceed two years.

The EPA reserves the right to reject all applications and make no awards or make fewer awards than anticipated under this announcement. 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.

The fellowship provides up to $20,700 per year of academic support and $8,600 for internship support for a combined total of up to $50,000 over the life of the fellowship. A more detailed breakout of the funding which covers stipend, tuition, and expenses is provided below:  

Stipends: During the nine-month academic year, an $800 stipend will be paid to the Fellow each month, for a total annual stipend of $7,200. Stipends are paid directly to the Fellow.  At its discretion, the institution may supplement a Fellow's stipend from institutional funds in accordance with the supplementation policy of the institution.

Tuition and Academic Fees: Up to $11,000 per year will be paid directly to the institution for allowable tuition and fees. For the purposes of this fellowship, health insurance is not considered to be an academic fee even if it is required by the institution. For purposes of this fellowship, health insurance is an expense, not an academic fee.

Expense Allowance:  $2,500 per year will be paid directly to the institution to pay for items and activities for the direct benefit of the fellow’s education, such as for health insurance, books, supplies, and travel to technical and scientific meetings. Specific instructions regarding the disbursement and management of the expense allowance will be provided during the award process.

Internship Allowance: During the summer internship, the fellow will receive a total of $8,600 for the three-month period. This amount includes $1,000 for travel to and from the summer internship site, $1,000 getting started fee (relocation and related expenses); $1,000 for travel while at the site, and a stipend of $5,600 for living expenses.

Summer Internship: The fellow will participate for up to 12 weeks at an EPA facility (located in the U.S. or its territories) as a Summer Intern in the EPA GRO Summer Intern Program, during the summer of their first year of EPA fellowship support.  Each Intern must complete a summer project that is designed to complement and enhance the training received under the fellowship program.  An aspect of the summer project will explore topics in broader societal impacts including but not limited to: furthering environmental awareness, encouraging environmental stewardship, promoting environmental equity and justice, and broadening participation of all citizens.  EPA will provide support for temporary relocation and provide a living stipend, as described above, during the Summer Internship. Fellows will be contacted during their first year to arrange for this Internship.

Annual Conference: Fellows are expected to attend one technical/scientific conference as long as they are members of the GRO undergraduate program. Resources to support this travel are to be taken from the expense allowance.

International Activities: The Fellow's proposed research may be conducted outside the U.S. However, EPA allows only $2,500/year for all expenses, including travel.  See "Expense Allowance" for details. If it becomes necessary to travel outside the U.S. or its territories, you must notify your Project Officer at least six (6) months in advance. You will also be required to obtain local permits in other countries to conduct research there. Your Project Officer will obtain the necessary EPA and State Department approvals before the fellowship funds can be used to conduct these activities. Fellows who travel overseas using federal funds will be required to comply with the provisions of the Fly America Act.

III. ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION

A. Eligible Applicants
Applicants must attend a fully accredited four-year U.S. college or university (located in the U.S. or its territories) for the fellowship period. Individuals must be citizens of the U.S. or its territories or possessions, or be lawfully admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence. You must have your green card at the time of application to be eligible for this Fellowship opportunity. Do not provide the green card number with your application; however, you may be asked to provide it at a later time to verify eligibility with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service of the Department of Homeland Security.

The GRO Undergraduate Fellowship is intended for students entering their last two years of full time study before obtaining their first bachelor’s degree. Students who have already earned one bachelor’s degree and are pursuing additional degrees are not eligible. The fellowship tenure is for 2 full academic years (9 months each) with a required paid summer internship after their first year. Thus, only students who will be entering their last two years of college will be considered eligible.

In order to receive the fellowship, the student must attend a fully accredited four-year U.S. institution of higher education. This school must be among those that are not highly funded for research and development capacity. For the purposes of this solicitation, students attending those institutions receiving more than $35 million in annual federal research and development funding are ineligible to apply under this solicitation. Institutions who exceed this threshold can be identified in the National Science Foundation's publication "Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions: FY 2012," Page 37, Table 12, column 2. These data can be found at Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions: FY 2012 (PDF) (260 pp, 4.78 MB, about PDF)

Students attending those institutions either not listed, or listed as having received $35 million or less as designated in column 2 of Table 12 are eligible to apply.

Students attending two-year institutions, community colleges, and those not in attendance at an institution of higher education at the time of application submittal may be eligible to apply. However, in order to be eligible to receive the fellowship, students attending two-year institutions, community colleges, or those not in attendance at the time of application will need to show evidence of having received their Associate’s degree, demonstrate that they only have two years left of undergraduate studies for completion of their Bachelor’s degree, and will also need to demonstrate that they have been accepted to attend an accredited eligible four-year institution. This requirement is considered satisfied if the student is transferring to an accredited eligible four-year institution which has an Articulation Agreement with the two-year institution, thus meaning that all credits will transfer towards requirements for the Bachelor’s degree.  An Articulation Agreement is a signed contract between a community or technical college and a four-year college or university that guarantees that a student who earns an associate’s degree at a participating two-year institution can transfer all of the general education core credits to the four-year institution toward the completion of baccalaureate degree requirements. More information can usually be obtained directly from the institution’s Registrar.  Alternately, a student with an Associate’s degree may provide a letter from the Registrar of the accredited eligible four-year institution verifying that upon matriculation, the student will only have two remaining years of undergraduate study to complete the first Bachelor’s degree.

Students must be pursuing a bachelor's degree in an environmentally-related field, such as biology, health, the social sciences, or engineering. Students must have two (2) years remaining from the start of the Fall semester (Fall 2015) before receiving their initial bachelor's degree.  Students must have at least a “B” average overall at the time of application submittal and during the tenure of the fellowship.

Applicants who currently have another federal fellowship are not eligible. However, acceptance of a fellowship under this solicitation does not necessarily preclude acceptance of another private, state, regional, local, or non-profit scholarship, fellowship, traineeship, research assistantship, teaching assistantship, or grant aid.

Employees of the U.S. government may apply, but must be able to prove separation from Federal service before accepting this fellowship.

Applications must be submitted by the student.  Applications submitted by the institution on behalf of the student will be rejected without review.

The exact term (start and end dates) of the undergraduate fellowship is negotiated with the student and covers a period of nine months for each fellowship year. Students seeking a bachelor’s degree may be supported for a maximum of two academic years. 

Diversity: EPA recognizes that scientific, technical, engineering and mathematical (STEM) competence is essential to the Nation’s future well-being in terms of national security and competitive economic advantage.  For instance, the health and vitality of the economy is predicated, in part, on the availability of an adequate supply of scientists, technicians, engineers and mathematicians, to develop innovative technologies and solutions.  In other words, this country must engage all available minds to address the challenges it faces.  Minorities, women, and persons with disabilities historically have been under-represented in the STEM fields.  For this reason, EPA strongly encourages women, minorities, and persons with disabilities to apply.

B. Cost-Sharing
Cost sharing is not required.

C. Other
Applications must substantially comply with the application submission instructions and requirements set forth in Section IV of this announcement or they will be rejected without review.  In addition, where a page limit is expressed in Section IV with respect to parts of the application, pages in excess of the limitation will not be reviewed.  In addition, applications must be submitted through Grants.gov as stated in Section IV of this announcement (except in the limited circumstances where another mode of submission is specifically allowed for as explained in Section IV) on or before the application submission deadline published in Section IV of this announcement. Applicants are responsible for following the submission instructions in Section IV of this announcement (see Section IV.E. “Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements” for further information) to ensure that their application is timely submitted. Applications submitted after the submission deadline will be considered late and deemed ineligible without further consideration unless the applicant can clearly demonstrate that it was late due to EPA mishandling or because of technical problems associated with Grants.gov or relevant SAM.gov system issues. An applicant’s failure to timely submit their application through Grants.gov because they did not timely or properly register in SAM.gov or Grants.gov will not be considered an acceptable reason to consider a late submission.  All applicants must also follow the instructions for verifying that their application was received by NCER or their application may not be accepted for review. Also, applications exceeding the funding limits described in Section II will be rejected without review.  Further, 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.

Applicants may submit only one application for this announcement. Applications must identify a single topic and corresponding Funding Opportunity Number (FON), as described in Section I.D. that is appropriately related to the proposed area of inquiry.  If your application seems to fit under more than one topic/FON, you still must choose a single topic/FON for purposes of submission. Your application can be submitted to one, and only one, FON.  In instances where more than one application is submitted, EPA will contact the applicant to determine which application(s) will be withdrawn.

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

Potential applicants who are uncertain of their eligibility should contact Ron Josephson; (josephson.ron@epa.gov) in NCER, phone: 703-308-0442.

IV. APPLICATION AND SUBMISSION INFORMATION

A. Internet Address to Request Application Package
Applicants, except as noted below, must apply electronically through Grants.gov under this funding opportunity based on the Grants.gov instructions in this announcement.  If an applicant does not have the technical capability to apply electronically through Grants.gov because of limited or no internet access which prevents them from being able to upload the required application materials to Grants.gov, the applicant must contact OGDWaivers@epa.gov or the address listed below in writing (e.g., by hard copy, email) at least 15 calendar days prior to the submission deadline under this announcement to request approval to submit their application materials through an alternate method. 

Mailing Address:
OGD Waivers
c/o Barbara Perkins
USEPA Headquarters
William Jefferson Clinton Building
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N. W.
Mail Code: 3903R
Washington, DC 20460

Courier Address:
OGD Waivers
c/o Barbara Perkins
Ronald Reagan Building
1300 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Rm # 51267
Washington, DC 20004

In the request, the applicant must include the following information:
Funding Opportunity Number (FON)
Applicant Name
Applicant’s Contact Information (email address and phone number)
Explanation of how you lack the technical capability to apply electronically through Grants.gov because of 1) limited internet access or 2) no internet access which prevents them from being able to upload the required application materials through Grants.gov. 

EPA will only consider alternate submission exception requests based on the two reasons stated above and will timely respond to the request -- all other requests will be denied. If an alternate submission method is approved, the applicant will receive documentation of this approval and further instructions on how to apply under this announcement. Applicants will be required to submit the documentation of approval with any initial application submitted under the alternative method.   In addition, any submittal through an alternative method must comply with all applicable requirements and deadlines in the announcement including the submission deadline and requirements regarding proposal content and page limits (although the documentation of approval of an alternate submission method will not count against any page limits).

If an exception is granted, it is valid for submissions to EPA for the remainder of the entire calendar year in which the exception was approved and can be used to justify alternative submission methods for application submissions made through December 31 of the calendar year in which the exception was approved (e.g., if the exception was approved on March 1, 2015, it is valid for any competitive or non-competitive application submission to EPA through December 31, 2015).    Applicants need only request an exception once in a calendar year and all exceptions will expire on December 31 of that calendar year. Applicants must request a new exception from required electronic submission through Grants.gov for submissions for any succeeding calendar year.  For example, if there is a competitive opportunity issued on December 1, 2015 with a submission deadline of January 15, 2016, the applicant would need a new exception to submit through alternative methods beginning January 1, 2016.

Please note that the process described in this section is only for requesting alternate submission methods.  All other inquiries about this announcement must be directed to the Agency Contacts listed in Section VII of the announcement. Queries or requests submitted to the email address identified above for any reason other than to request an alternate submission method will not be acknowledged or answered.

Use the application package available at Grants.gov (see "Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements"). Instructions for completing these forms follow.

An email will be sent by NCER to the applicant to acknowledge receipt of the application and to transmit other important information. The email will be sent from receipt.application@epa.gov; any email sent to this address will not be accepted. Please be aware that this notification is separate from the one you will receive from Grants.gov. NCER does not notify you of receipt of your Letters of Recommendation.

Due to the volume of applications received, the emailed acknowledgement from receipt.application@epa.gov may take several weeks. Thus, our staff will not respond to queries regarding applications received before June 18, 2015. Please make a notation on your calendar to contact the program at 2015FellowshipsRFA@epa.gov from June 18, 2015 to no later than 5:00 PM Eastern Time on July 9, 2015 for information if you have not received the notification from receipt.application@epa.gov by that time. Failure to follow these instructions may result in your application being rejected without review. See "Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements" for additional information regarding acknowledgment of receipt of electronically submitted applications.  Check your email spam folder and/or check your spam filter settings to ensure emails from EPA are delivered to your email inbox.

B. Content and Form of Application Submission
The application is made by submitting the materials described below.  Applications must contain all information requested and be submitted in the formats described.   It is essential that all contact information be that of the applicant unless specifically requested otherwise.
 
The following forms and documents are required under this announcement:

Summary of Application Materials

Mandatory documents:

    Item 1. Application for Federal Assistance, Standard Form (SF) 424
    Item 2. EPA Key Contacts Form (5700-54)
    Item 3. Front Page
    Item 4. Personal Statement
    Item 5. Background Information:
    Education & Relevant Experiences
    Presentations
    Course Work
    Item 6. EPA Human Subjects Research Statement (HSRS)
    Item 7. Letters of Recommendation (sent by letter writers)

The application is made by submitting the materials described below. For Items 3-6 prepare these using standard 8.5" x 11" page size, 12-point, Times New Roman font, 1" margins on all sides, and single spacing. 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.

Do not exceed the page limits indicated. Excess pages will not be reviewed. References in the end notes do not count towards the page limits. Images may be included; however they will be reproduced only in black and white. All images, in-text citations, and footnotes are included in the page limits. 

The applicant submits Items 1-6 as part of the Grants.gov application (See “Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements”). The Letters of Recommendation (Item 7) are submitted directly to EPA by those individuals writing the letters (see "Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements”).

Item 1. Standard Form 424
The student, that is the individual applying for funding, must complete Standard Form 424 for electronic submissions via Grants.gov.  This form will be the first page of the application. Use the Standard Form 424 in the electronic application package (see "Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements").

Instructions for Standard Form 424

Follow the instructions detailed below for items that may cause difficulty. Only the yellow highlighted fields of the form need to be completed.

1.  Check “Pre-application.”
8.a. The applicant is the student submitting the application (not an Institution).
8.b. Enter “00-0000000” (see 8.a.).
8.f. The contact person is the student (see 8.a.).
9. Enter "P: individual"
15. Enter the title of your chosen FON. You do not need to provide a description.
16.a. For help finding the appropriate Congressional District, see Legislative Resources at U.S. House of Representatives (upper right hand corner where it says “Find Your Representative.”) For U.S. territories (e.g., Puerto Rico), please enter 00.
16.b. Enter "00".
17.a. Enter a start date of 09/01/2015.
17.b. Enter an End Date up to two (2) academic years for bachelor's degree support. If necessary, these dates can be modified if you receive a fellowship.
18.a. Enter the amount of funding you are requesting (up to $50,000 total for the tenure of the fellowship leading up to the bachelor’s degree).
18.b.-f. Enter "0"
19. Enter "c" Program is not covered.

The Authorized Representative is the student (see 8.a.). You may enter "student" as the title. “Close Form” will save and close the form.

Item 2. EPA Key Contacts Form (5700-54)
The applicant must complete the "Key Contacts" form as the second page of the application as directed below.  Use the EPA Key Contacts Form (5700-54) in the electronic application package (see "Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements").  Please make certain that all contact information is accurate. 

Key Contacts Form Instructions:
Authorized Representative: Enter the applicant's name and current address information.

Payee: Enter the applicant's permanent address information. This is the address NCER will use for correspondence.

Administrative Contact:  Enter the business information for the applicant's advisor. Leave blank if the applicant has not identified an advisor.

Principal Investigator: Leave blank or, if the applicant has a second advisor, please enter the second advisor's information here.

Item 3.  Front Page (1 page limit)

Use standard 8.5" x 11" page size, 12-point, Times New Roman font, 1" margins on all sides, and single spacing. 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.

Do not exceed the page limits indicated. Excess pages will not be reviewed.

Instructions for Submission:

Starting with a blank page, please begin each item on a separate line using the appropriate numbered heading.

  1. Your name: Last name, first name, middle initial/name.
  2. Your citizenship. If not a U.S. citizen, you must be lawfully admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence to be eligible for this opportunity. Please state your eligible resident status here. You must have a green card at the time of application. EPA will request a copy of your green card if you are selected as a finalist and may verify this number with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service of the Department of Homeland Security.
  3. Current College/University, School or Department: Name and location of the college/university, school or department you are currently attending. If you are not attending a college or university at the time of application, put “N/A.”
  4. Intended College/University, School or Department: Name and location of the college/university, school or department from which your bachelor’s degree will be obtained. If you are considering multiple institutions, list your top two choices.
  5. Institution GRO Eligibility Letter: You must verify that your school or intended school is GRO eligible. These data can be accessed at Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions: FY 2012 (PDF) (260 pp, 4.78 MB, about PDF), Page 37, Table 12, Column two. If your institution is listed, find the amount in the second column, and multiply the figure by 1000. If your institution is eligible, then complete the following statement: "According to the National Science Foundation's report "Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions: Fiscal Year 2012," Page 37, Table 12, Column two, my institution received $_________ in Federal Research and Development expenditures in fiscal year 2012. Since this is $35 Million or less, my university is GRO eligible." If your institution is not listed, then it is eligible and you should enter “$0”. EPA will verify student eligibility before awards are made. Only students who will attend GRO eligible institutions can be awarded these fellowships.
  6.  Degree Sought: Enter the type of Bachelor’s Degree you are seeking to complete e.g. B.A., B.S.). Include the month and year you expect the degree to be awarded.
  7. Funding Opportunity Number and Topic Title. This category must match what appears on Standard Form SF 424.
  8. Environmental Discipline. List your major(s) for your undergraduate studies.

For submission via Grants.gov this item will be combined with Items 4, 5 and 6 into one PDF file that will be uploaded into Grants.gov as the “Mandatory Project Narrative” (See “Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements”).

Item 4.  Personal Statement (1 page limit)

Use standard 8.5" x 11" page size, 12-point, Times New Roman font, 1" margins on all sides, and single spacing. 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.

Do not exceed the page limits indicated. Excess pages will not be reviewed. References in the end notes do not count towards the page limits. Images may be included; however they will be reproduced only in black and white. All images, in-text citations, and footnotes are included in the page limits. 

This Personal Statement will be of paramount importance in evaluating your request for a fellowship. Therefore, your answer to all the questions should be well thought out and expressed in a clear and detailed but concise manner. Please give enough details so you may be adequately evaluated.

 This personal statement will be reviewed on how well you demonstrate the following:

  1. Commitment to the stated academic and career goals; and potential for success in the   proposed course of study;
  2. Organizational, analytical, and written skills;
  3. Commitment to environmentally-related study; and commitment to the environment.

Personal Statements that fully address ALL of the areas below with respect to the Criteria in Section V. may be rated more highly. Clearly, concisely, and with appropriate detail, address the following three areas:

  1. Academic and Career Goals
    What are your academic and career goals and how will this fellowship help you attain them? 

  2. Research Project or Environmental Issue of Concern
    What environmental issue is of particular interest to you and how might you go about addressing it (this may be a description of your research project if you have one or planned course of study or inquiry)?

    NOTE: To be eligible for funding consideration, your research project or environmental issue of concern must focus on activities within the statutory terms of EPA's financial assistance authorities; specifically, the statute(s) listed in Section I.C.

    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.

  3. Experiences
    What experiences (e.g., education, work, volunteering, study abroad, research, or other) have interested you in environmentally related study, and how have these experiences made you a good candidate for this fellowship?

Instructions:
For submission via Grants.gov this item will be combined with Items 3, 5 and 6 into one PDF file that will be will be uploaded into Grants.gov as the “Mandatory Project Narrative” (See “Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements”).

Item 5. Background Information: Education & Relevant Experiences, Presentations, and Course Work

Instructions:

Start each of these three sections on a separate page.

  1. Education & Relevant Experiences (1 Page limit – Use a resume format)

    Under Education, list your educational background--names of all post-secondary institutions attended, years attended, degrees received or expected to receive, major(s), and GPA.

    For Relevant Experiences, this section could include but is not limited to paid employment, military service, research positions, internships, study abroad, student groups, volunteering, teaching, etc., focusing on the most relevant first. For each listed experience, indicate dates, names and addresses (city and state) of employers, and a short description of your duties.

  2. Presentations (1 Page limit)

    Presentations:  List all relevant presentations both poster and oral. For each please provide the title, date, type of presentation [e.g. oral or poster] and name of event (meeting or conference).  If you have not presented, write “NA” for “not applicable”.

  3. Course Work  (use as many pages as are necessary-no page limit)

    Provide, in tabular form, a list of all your past and current Course Work (much of this information should be obtained from your transcripts). Include the following: the institutions at which the credits were earned, dates, names and catalog numbers of courses taken, credit hours, grades received, and cumulative GPA for all courses taken at each degree level. Be sure to list any degree(s) (e.g., Associate’s Degree, technical degree, etc.) received. Abbreviations are allowed if their meaning is generally understood. Note if courses were audited or not completed. If any institution you attended had a grading system different from the traditional "A, B, C" system, explain the system in a short footnote. Do not leave anything out. Include data from your entire college career.  DO NOT INCLUDE COPIES OF YOUR TRANSCRIPTS. Top-ranked applicants will be required to submit official copies of transcripts for validation prior to the award of the fellowship.

Instructions:
For submission via Grants.gov this item will be combined with Items 3, 4 and 6 into one PDF file that will be uploaded into Grants.gov as the “Mandatory Project Narrative” (See “Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements”). 

Item 6.  EPA Human Subjects Research Statement (HSRS) (4 page limit)

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.  While retaining the same notation, subparts B, C, and D are substantively different in 40 CFR 26 than in the more commonly cited 45 CFR 46. Particularly noteworthy is that 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.  EPA Policy Order 1000.17 Change A1 further clarifies this definition to include any intervention that manipulates their environment (i.e. modifies subjects’ exposure). Research meeting the regulatory definition of observational research (any research that is not intentional exposure 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).  These subparts also differ markedly from the language in 45 CFR 46. For more information, please see: Project Review by the Human Subjects Research Review Official (HSRRO).

Procedures for the review and oversight of human research subject to 40 CFR Part 26 are also provided in EPA Order 1000.17 Change A1 (PDF) (41 pp, 301 K, about PDF). These include review of projects for EPA-supported human research by the EPA Human Subjects Research Review Official (HSRRO).  EPA Order 1000.17 Change A1 requires preliminary approval by the HSRRO of all proposed EPA-supported human research before the agreement can be entered into.  Additional requirements must be met and final approval received from the HSRRO before the research can begin.  When reviewing human observational exposure studies, EPA Order 1000.17 Change A1 requires the HSRRO to apply the principles described in the SEAOES document (Scientific and Ethical Approaches for Observational Exposure Studies (SEAOES) (PDF) (133 pp, 1.21 MB, about PDF)) and grant approval only to studies that adhere to those principles.

All applications submitted under this solicitation must include a HSRS as described below. Please use the definitions below to determine whether the proposed research involves human subjects, and then prepare a HSRS as explained below in the “HSRS Requirements” section.

Definitions (from 40 CFR Part 26 Subparts A, B, and C) to determine the involvement of human subjects in proposed research:

  • "Human subject" means a living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research obtains (1) data through intervention or interaction with the individual, or (2) identifiable private information.
  • "Intervention" includes both physical procedures by which data are gathered and manipulations of the subject or the subject's environment that are performed for research purposes.
  • "Interaction" includes communication or interpersonal contact between investigator and subject.
  • "Private information" includes information about behavior that occurs in a context in which an individual can reasonably expect that no observation or recording is taking place, and information which has been provided for specific purposes by an individual and which the individual can reasonably expect will not be made public (for example, a medical record).
  • "Individually identifiable" means the identity of the subject is or may readily be ascertained by the investigator or associated with the information.
  • "Research involving the intentional exposure of a human subject" means a study of a substance in which the exposure to the substance experienced by a human subject participating in the study would not have occurred but for the human subject’s participation in the study.  In addition, EPA Policy 1000.17 Change A1 requires the HSRRO to conceptualize intentional exposure research quite broadly:

    (l) Research that includes the gathering of physiological measurements (e.g. monitoring a subject's cardio respiratory performance) or the collection of body fluids, tissue or expired air from subjects; or (2) Research that requires subjects to perform specific tasks other than their normal activities or manipulates their environment (e.g., modifies their exposure); or (3) Research that gathers or records private information (as defined in  40 CFR 26.102 (f)(2)) in a manner that associates such information with an identifiable subject.

  • "Observational research" means any human research that does not meet the definition of research involving intentional exposure of a human subject.  Please note that surveys, interviews, and focus groups with individuals may constitute human subjects research. Additional information is available at:  Basic Information about Human Subjects Research

Human Subjects Research Statement (HSRS) Requirements

If the proposed research does not involve human subjects as defined above, provide the following statement in your application package as your HSRS:  “The proposed research does not involve human subjects.”  Applicants should provide a clear justification about how the proposed research does not meet the definition (for example, all samples come from deceased individuals OR samples are purchased from a commercial source and provided without identifiers, etc.).

If the proposed research does involve human subjects, then include in your application package a HSRS that addresses each applicable section listed below, referencing the specific location of the information in the personal statement, providing the information in the HSRS, or explaining why the section does not apply to the proposed research.  (Not all will apply.)  Please use the definitions provided above to ensure consistency in the interpretation of terminology.  Do not exceed four consecutively numbered, 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced, standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins.

NOTE:  Before EPA approves any research involving human subjects, the requirements of the regulations at 40 CFR Part 26 must be met.  Also, before EPA approves human observational exposure research, EPA will examine it to ensure consistency with the SEAOES Principles. The federal Office for Human Research Protections requires that federally funded human subjects research only be conducted at facilities covered by a Federalwide Assurance (FWA). An FWA is a document that designates the Institutional Review Board that will review and oversee the research, specifies the ethical principles under which the research will be conducted, and names the individuals who will be responsible for the proper conduct of the research. The factors below are not intended to be exhaustive of all those needed for the HSRRO to provide the final approval necessary for research to be conducted, but provide a basis upon which the HSRRO may grant the conditional approval necessary for the funding process to begin.

Items 1 – 9 must be completed for all studies involving human subjects. For studies involving intentional exposures (i.e. increases, decreases, or otherwise modifies subjects’ exposure), also complete Items 10 -14.

  1. Human Subjects involvement, characteristics, and design: Describe the proposed involvement of human subjects in the work being proposed.
  2. Benefits of research/value to society: Discuss the potential benefits of the research to the research participants and others, including the value of the knowledge to be gained by the research.
  3. Potential risks to subjects: Describe the potential risks to human subjects (e.g., physical, psychological, financial, legal, or other) and assess their likelihood and seriousness to the human subjects.
  4. Protection against risks: Describe planned procedures for protecting against or minimizing potential risks and assess their likely effectiveness.
  5. Protection of privacy and confidentiality: Describe how data, specimens, and/or records will be collected, managed, and protected, including at collaborating sites, if any, as well as at the primary site.
  6. Protection of vulnerable groups: Explain the rationale for inclusion of vulnerable populations and describe the additional protections in place, if any, for protecting vulnerable populations in the research.
  7. Risk/benefit relationship: Justify how the risks are reasonable in relation to expected benefits.
  8. Informed Consent Process: Describe planned procedures for the process of obtaining and maintaining informed consent. Include a description of the circumstances under which consent will be sought and obtained, who will seek it, the nature of the information to be provided to prospective subjects, and the method of documenting consent.
  9. Relationship between researcher and community: If the research will take place in a community setting, describe the procedures in place for defining the community, obtaining its involvement in the research, and establishing and maintaining trust.

Items 10-14:  Projects involving the intentional exposure (i.e. increases, decreases, or otherwise modifies subjects’ exposure) of human subjects require additional justification. Note that intentional exposure of children, pregnant women or nursing women is prohibited, according to 40 CFR Part 26, subpart B. Please refer to the definition of “intentional exposure” described earlier in this section.

Please also note that projects involving intentional exposure of human subjects should only be considered if they have the potential of providing a clear health or environmental benefit or if acquisition of such information is not obtainable by any other means. In no case should the exposure cause lasting harm to study participants.

Provide the following for intentional exposure studies:

  1. Justification for exposure: Please provide the scientific background and rationale for the study design, subject selection, and value of the study to public health. Include any information about previous animal studies and (if available) human observational studies that justify the need for exposure research.
  2. Participant Selection and Informed Consent: Describe how subjects will be recruited for the study and how both participant selection and the informed consent process described earlier conform to best practices in exposure research.
  3. Compensation for Research Participation: Describe the amount of compensation being offered to participants, as well as the distribution plan, and justify these practices with respect to best practices in exposure research.
  4. Compensation for Research-Related Injury: Discuss how you plan to ensure that participants receive needed medical care for injuries incurred in the study, without cost to the participants.
  5. Appropriate Review and Oversight: Describe the constitution of the IRB that will review this research and defend its ability to consider whether the study(ies) has the potential of providing a clear health or environmental benefit to the community. In addition, describe the procedures for reporting adverse events or unanticipated problems to the IRB, as well as how these events will be analyzed with respect to risk to subjects.

The EPA HSRRO must also consider the following items to determine if the necessary conditions for scientifically and ethically acceptable intentional human dosing studies have been satisfied in order to approve intentional exposure research:

  • prior animal studies and, if available, human observational studies;
  • a demonstrated need for the knowledge to be obtained from intentional human dosing studies;
  • justification and documentation of a research design and statistical analysis that are appropriate to address an important scientific question, including adequate power to detect appropriate effects;
  • an acceptable balance of risks and benefits, and minimization of risks to participants;
  • equitable selection of participants;
  • free and informed consent of participants; and
  • review by an appropriately constituted IRB.

Instructions:
For submission via Grants.gov this item will be combined with Items 3, 4 and 5 into one PDF file that will be uploaded into Grants.gov as the “Mandatory Project Narrative” (See “Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements”).  

SAVE all Items, 3, 4, 5, and 6 into one file. Convert this one file into a PDF file. Check the file to ensure there are no conversion errors. Label the file “MandatoryProjectInfo”.  This file will be uploaded into Grants.gov as the “Mandatory Project Narrative” (See “Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements”).  Please do not use spaces or special characters in the file name as this may cause Grants.gov to reject your application.

Item 7.  Letters of Recommendation

Each applicant must arrange for the submittal of three (3) current Letters of Recommendation from individuals who have knowledge of his or her academic record.  These letters must be submitted by the letter writers directly to EPA electronically (see instructions below).  All letters of recommendation must be received by EPA no later than 11:59:59 PM Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date, May 19, 2015.

Letters of Recommendation are critical components of the application.  If the applicant has a sponsor or advisor in the program, one of these letters of recommendation should come from that individual. Select your references carefully and urge them to write letters specifically about you. Do not write the letters yourself. Letters of Recommendation that appear to be mass-produced are generally not ranked highly by the reviewers.  Applicants are advised to seek letters of recommendation from sources other than current EPA employees.  Absent extenuating circumstances, EPA will not accept letters of recommendation from current EPA employees.  However, if the applicant worked for or interned with a current EPA employee or studied under a current EPA employee, then EPA will accept a letter of recommendation under those circumstances.

Applicants are advised to start the process early of having Letters of Recommendation composed by the letter writers and timely submitted. Applicants are responsible for ensuring that all Letters of Recommendation are sent by the letter writers so that they are received by EPA by the due date and time.  Only those timely submitted will be considered during the review process.  Failure to submit 3 Letters of Recommendation may negatively affect the score during the evaluation outlined in Section V.

Applicants must start the letter of recommendation process by going to the following web page to receive a unique ID number and web page url to send to each of their letter writers: Letters of Recommendation

Applicants must fill out their contact information at the above web page and receive a

    A - unique ID number, and
    B – url (website link)

Applicants should receive a confirmation email with that same ID number and url.  Applicants must give their newly assigned ID number and the url to each of their letter writers to be used to electronically submit the recommendation letters.

Guidelines for Letter Writers

  1. Letters of Recommendations should be written on official letterhead.
  2. Letter writers should go to the url sent by the applicant to receive submission instructions using the applicant’s unique ID number.  Submission instructions for letter writers are also provided below. Letters of Recommendation must be submitted in PDF format only (no zip files).  Both the letter writer and the applicant should receive confirmation emails once the letter has been submitted.
  3. Letter writers should include the Funding Opportunity Number (FON), corresponding Topic Title, and applicant’s name at the beginning of the letter. The applicant should provide the FON and corresponding topic title to the letter writers.
  4. Letter writers are advised to use the applicant’s full name (as opposed to nicknames or shortened names).
  5. Letters of Recommendation should address the criteria for review outlined in Section V.  Letters of Recommendation should provide insights into the applicant’s creativity, motivation for environmentally-related study, potential for success, communication ability, and potential for addressing environmental issues. Letter writers should be careful to avoid providing sensitive personal information in their letters, e.g., applicant birth date.
  6. Letters must be in PDF format and must be submitted directly to EPA electronically per the instructions above. No zip files will be accepted.  All letters of recommendation must be submitted to the EPA no later than 11:59:59 PM ET on the solicitation closing date, May 19, 2015, in order to be considered during the review process.
    • NCER cannot guarantee that Letters of Recommendation that do not denote the applicant’s name, FON, and corresponding Topic Title will be matched with the appropriate application. Due to the potentially large number of applicants, NCER CANNOT ACKNOWLEDGE NOR VERIFY RECEIPT OF LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION.
    • It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that Letters of Recommendation are submitted by the letter writers in a timely manner. NCER will close the url to the public after the solicitation closing date.  After that time, NCER will not accept late letters unless the writer can show that he or she attempted to send the letter before the solicitation closing date but was prevented from doing so by circumstances beyond his or her control.

Important Note: Letters of Recommendation cannot be submitted through Grants.gov.  They must be submitted as described above.  Failure to submit three Letters of Recommendation may negatively affect the score during the evaluation outlined in Section V.

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.

EPA recommends that you do not include confidential business information (“CBI”) in your proposal/application.  However, if confidential business information is included, it will be treated in accordance with 40 CFR 2.203.  Applicants must clearly indicate which portion(s) of their proposal/application they are claiming as CBI.  EPA will evaluate such claims in accordance with 40 CFR Part 2.  If no claim of confidentiality is made, EPA is not required to make the inquiry to the applicant otherwise required by 40 CFR 2.204(c)(2) prior to disclosure.  The Agency protects competitive proposals/applications from disclosure under applicable provisions of the Freedom of Information Act prior to the completion of the competitive selection process.

Pre-proposal/Application Assistance and Communications:
In accordance with EPA's Assistance Agreement Competition Policy (EPA Order 5700.5A1), EPA staff will not meet with individual applicants to discuss draft proposals, provide informal comments on draft proposals, or provide advice to applicants on how to respond to ranking criteria. Applicants are responsible for the contents of their applications/proposals. However, consistent with the provisions in the announcement, EPA will respond to questions from individual applicants regarding threshold eligibility criteria, administrative issues related to the submission of the proposal, and requests for clarification about the announcement.  Please note that applicants should raise any questions they may have about the solicitation language to the contacts identified in Section VII as soon as possible so that any questions about the solicitation language may be resolved prior to submitting a proposal.  In addition, if necessary, EPA may clarify threshold eligibility issues with applicants prior to making an eligibility determination.

C. Submission Dates and Times

Special Note to Fellowship Applicants

Unlike other EPA grant applicants, you are submitting as an individual.  A great deal of information specific to you as an individual is requested in your application.  If recommended for award, you may be requested to supply your green card number (for permanent residents), social security number, and birth date; but at this point in the process, please do not include them in your application.  Please review your application before submission to assure none of these items have been unintentionally included.

Applications must be submitted to Grants.govby 11:59:59 PM ET on the solicitation closing date, May 19, 2015. Applications submitted through grants.gov will be time and date stamped electronically.

The application consists of the following mandatory documents:
Application for Federal Assistance, Standard Form (SF) 424 entered through   Grants.gov
EPA Key Contacts Form (5700-54) entered through Grants.gov

Items 3, 4, 5 & 6:
Uploaded as one PDF file labeled “MandatoryProjectInfo” to be submitted through Grants.gov. Attach the file by selecting “Add Mandatory Project Narrative” (See “Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements”).

Note that Letters of Recommendation (Item 7) cannot be submitted through Grants.gov.  They must be submitted as described above.

Letters of Recommendation:

All Letters of Recommendation must be submitted using the url provided (see IV.B. Item 7 above) no later than 11:59:59 PM ET on the solicitation closing date, May 19, 2015.

It should be noted that this schedule may be changed without prior notification because of factors that were not anticipated at the time of announcement. In the case of a change in the required solicitation closing date, a new date will be posted on the NCER web site and on grants.gov. Applications received after the closing date will be returned to the sender without further consideration.

D. Funding Restrictions
The funding mechanism for all awards issued under GRO 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 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 fellowship 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 academic progress through annual reports provided by Fellows and other contacts with the Fellows.

Applications must not include management fees or similar charges in excess of the direct costs and indirect costs at the rate approved by the institution’s cognizant audit agency, or at the rate provided for by the terms of the agreement negotiated with EPA. The term "management fees or similar charges" refers to expenses added to the direct costs in order to accumulate and reserve funds for ongoing business expenses, unforeseen liabilities, or for other similar costs that are not allowable under EPA assistance agreements. Management fees or similar charges may not be used to improve or expand the project funded under this agreement, except to the extent authorized as a direct cost of carrying out the scope of work.

If applicable, all costs incurred under this program must be allowable under 2 CFR Part 200 Subpart E. In accordance with applicable law, regulation, and policy, any recipient of funding must agree to comply with restrictions on using assistance funds for unauthorized lobbying, fund-raising, or political activities (i.e., lobbying members of Congress or lobbying for other federal grants, cooperative agreements, or contracts).  See e.g. 2 CFR 200.450. Funds generally cannot be used to pay for travel by federal agency staff. Proposed project activities must also comply with all state and federal regulations applicable to the project area. The applicant must also review the solicitation for any other programmatic funding restrictions applicable to this program. If awarded funding, the recipient must refer to the terms and conditions of its award for other funding restrictions applicable to its award. It is the responsibility of the recipient to ensure compliance with these requirements. In addition, please see 2 CFR §1500.8 for information on pre-award costs.

Generally, applicants are not prohibited from submitting the same or virtually the same proposal to EPA under multiple competitions, if appropriate. However, if an applicant does so, and the proposal is selected for award under another competition, that may affect their ability to receive an award under this competition for that proposal.

E. Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements
You may submit only one application for this announcement.

Contact individuals to submit your Letters of Recommendation as soon as possible. They are sent separately per the instructions above.

Please read this entire section before attempting an electronic submission through Grants.gov. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that these instructions are followed. Failure to follow these instructions may result in your application being rejected without review.

START EARLY!  Grants.gov requires a new individual registration to submit an application for this solicitation; however, registration is not required to view the application package. 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.  In the “Before You Apply: Get Registered” section, select “Register as an Individual.” Allow at least one day for the registration to be activated. Safeguard your username and password, as this information can take a great deal of time to retrieve should it be misplaced. Note that the use of an organizational registration (e.g., an academic institution registration) will result in a Grants.gov rejection.

Due to the potentially high volume of applications submitted as the deadline time approaches, it is possible that the Grants.gov electronic submission and telephone assistance systems may become overwhelmed. To assure successful transmission, it is highly recommended that you do not delay submission of your application past 10:00 AM ET on the deadline day. The complete application must be submitted to Grants.gov no later than 11:59:59 PM ET on May 19, 2015. Please note that the Grants.gov telephone assistance line (1-800-518-4726) is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week excluding Federal holidays.

Note for Fellowship Applicants

    As part of the registration process with Grants.gov, applicants need to enter a Funding Opportunity Number (FON) on the "Registration with Credential Provider" page. There is a problem with some FONs that results in an error message. If you encounter this problem, please enter the following FON: 0716-INDV-REGISTRATION.

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-F2015U-GRO-XX, or the CFDA number that applies to the announcement (CFDA 66.513), 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.

Application Package Preparation. See instructions at Section IV.B above. The grants.gov application package consists of 1 through 4 below.

  1. On the initial Grant Application Package page, complete the "Application Filing Name" field by entering the Applicant's name, starting with the last name. Note: Applicants do not need to complete the "Competition ID" field.
  2. Application for Federal Assistance (SF 424): Follow the instructions in Item 1 of Section IV.B. above.
  3. EPA Key Contacts Form 5700-54: Complete the form as described in Section IV.B. Item 2 above.
  4. Items 3-6 Attachment Form (click on "Add Mandatory Project Narrative"): Attach a single electronic file labeled "MandatoryProjectInfo" that contains Items 3, 4, 5 and 6 described in Section IV.B. above. This file must be submitted in PDF format. 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.

Letters of Recommendation cannot be submitted electronically through Grants.gov; see Section IV.B. Item 7 above for submission instructions. All Letters of Recommendation MUST be submitted by the letter writer to the EPA no later than 11:59:59 PM ET on May 19, 2015.

Once the application package has been completed, the "Submit" button should be enabled (you may need to "Check Package for Errors" as well as save the file before this occurs). If the "Submit" button is not active, please contact Grants.gov for assistance (Telephone: 1-800-518-4726). Applicants should save the completed application package with two different file names to avoid having to re-key the forms should submission problems be experienced.

Submitting the application to Grants.gov:
Minor problems are not uncommon with transfers to Grants.gov. In addition, slow connection and transfer rates are generally experienced as the deadline time approaches due to high demand. To assure successful transmission, it is highly recommended that you do not delay submission of your application past 10:00 AM ET on the deadline day.  For frequently asked questions concerning submissions via Grants.gov, please see Applicant Resources.

Close all other software before attempting to submit the electronic application package. Click the "Submit" button of the application package. Your internet browser will launch and a sign-in page will appear within a few minutes. Enter your individual registration user name and password.

A successful transfer should take no longer than 10-15 minutes and will end with an on-screen acknowledgement. "Print Screen" or “screen capture” this acknowledgement for documentation purposes. (Note: Subsequent email acknowledgements from Grants.gov regarding your submission may take as long as 48 hours to arrive.) If you experience submission problems, reboot the computer -- turning the power off may be necessary -- and re-attempt the submission. If submission problems continue, contact Grants.gov for assistance (Telephone: 1-800-518-4726 or e-mail: support@grants.gov).  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.  The Grants.gov support desk operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except Federal Holidays. If you are experiencing problems resulting in an inability to upload the application to Grants.gov, it is essential to contact grants.gov for assistance before the application deadline.

Transmission Difficulties.  If transmission difficulties continue after following the above instructions, follow the guidance below. NCER may decide to review the application if it is clearly demonstrated that the transmission difficulties were due solely as a result of unavoidable and unresolvable problems associated with the transfer to Grants.gov. Failure of an applicant to submit timely because they did not properly or timely register in grants.gov is not an acceptable reason to justify acceptance of a late submittal. The decision regarding acceptance of the application for review will be made by NCER management and provided to the applicant within ten calendar days of the request. All emails, as described below, are to be sent to Debra M. Jones (jones.debram@epa.gov) with the FON in the subject line within one business day of the closing date of this solicitation. Note: Grants.gov will issue a “case number” upon being contacted for assistance.

  1. Unsuccessful transfer of the application package: If a successful transfer of the application cannot be accomplished due to electronic submission issues, send an email to Debra M. Jones (jones.debram@epa.gov) before 11:59:59 PM ET on the solicitation closing date. In that email, document the problem, include the Grants.gov “case number,” and attach the entire application in PDF format.
  2. Grants.gov rejection of the application: If a notification is received from Grants.gov stating that the application has been rejected for reasons other than late submittal or use of an institutional rather than an individual registration, immediately send an email to Debra M. Jones (jones.debram@epa.gov) with the FON in the subject line within one business day of the closing date of this solicitation.  In that email, document the problem, include all materials provided by Grants.gov, and attach the entire application in PDF format.

Grants.gov will send several emails during their processing of the application. The last email will state that the application has been transferred to the Agency and is undergoing review. Save these emails for documentation purposes; however, the critical email is the one acknowledging receipt by the NCER Fellowship Program. This email will be sent from receipt.application@epa.gov.

Due to the volume of applications received, the emailed acknowledgement from receipt.application@epa.gov may take several weeks. Thus, EPA staff will not respond to queries regarding applications prior to June 18, 2015.  Please make a notation on your calendar to contact the program at 2015FellowshipsRFA@epa.gov from June 18, 2015, to no later than 5:00 PM ET, July 9, 2015, for information if you have not received the notification from receipt.application@epa.gov by that time. Failure to follow these instructions may result in your application being rejected without review.

Letters of Recommendation must be submitted by the letter writers (see Item 7).  Do not have letter writers mail Letters of Recommendation. Letters of Recommendation received by mail will be rejected.

NOTE: All Letters of Recommendation must be submitted to EPA no later than 11:59:59 PM ET, on May 19, 2015 (see Section IV.B. Item 7 above for further instructions).

V. APPLICATION REVIEW INFORMATION

A. Peer Review
All eligible applications are 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 applications to be reviewed by the entire panel. 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 between 15 and 20 applications on which to serve as a primary reviewer. During the review period leading up to the panel meeting, primary reviewers will read the 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 entire 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 will then be further discussed by the entire panel as described 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 entire peer review panel.  All other applications will be declined for further consideration. 

After the discussion of an application by the entire 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 undergo the internal programmatic review discussed 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.  

Reviewers will consider the entirety of the application—including the Personal Statement, Education & Experiences, Presentations (if applicable), and Course Work Information—with respect to the criteria below. Additionally, the content of the Letters of Recommendation will be considered with respect to how they speak to the criteria below. Applications with fewer than three letters of recommendation may not be rated as highly.

Peer reviewers consider an application’s merit based on the criteria below.  Criteria I-II are listed in descending order of importance.

Criteria I.  The Applicant’s Potential for Success in the Proposed Course of Study

Reviewers will consider the following elements, to be weighted equally:

  • The degree to which the candidate is committed to the stated academic and career goals;
  • The candidate's potential for scientific curiosity, creativity, and achievement in his or her planned course of study, including where appropriate, the scientific merit of the proposed project; and
  • The candidate's organizational, analytical, and written skills as evidenced in his or her personal statement.

Criteria II: The Applicant's Demonstrated Commitment to Environmental Study
Reviewers will consider the following elements, to be weighted equally:

  • The degree to which the candidate is committed to an environmentally-related study and the environment; and
  • The degree to which the candidate’s experiences (e.g., education, work, volunteering, study abroad, research, etc.) are relevant to environmental study.

B. Programmatic Review
Applications receiving scores of excellent or very good as a result of the peer review process will then undergo an internal programmatic review, which will be 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. All other applications are automatically declined.

The purpose of the programmatic review is to assure an integrated, balanced research portfolio for the Agency, and to help determine which applications to recommend for award. Applications will be evaluated to determine the strength and the degree to which the candidate is committed to the Agency’s mission to protect human health and the environment.

C. Human Subjects Research Statement (HSRS) Review
Applications being considered for funding after the Programmatic 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 Personal Statement to determine if the ethical treatment of human subjects is described in a manner appropriate for conditional approval to be granted. 

D. Funding Decisions
Final funding decisions are made by the NCER Director based on the results of the peer review and the internal programmatic review and, where applicable, the EPA HSRRO’s assessment of the applicant’s human subjects research (see Section IV.B. Item 6). In addition, in making the final funding decisions, the NCER Director may also consider availability of funds and program balance, including distribution of awards across disciplines, institutions and geography. Applicants selected for funding will be required to provide the additional information listed below under “Award Notices.” The application will then be forwarded to EPA’s Grants and Interagency Management Division for award in accordance with the EPA’s procedures.

VI. AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION

A. Award Notices
A Peer Review Results document summarizing the scientific review will be provided to each applicant with an award or declination letter.  The earliest anticipated start date for these awards is September 1, 2015.  

You are advised to retain this announcement for future reference.

The official notification of an award will be made by the EPA’s Grants and Interagency 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.

Selected applicants will be required to provide the following information to complete the application process:

  1. EPA Form 5770-2, "Fellowship Application" This form is available on the NCER web page (Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page ).
  2. Additional information and documentation about your educational status and tuition/other costs.
  3. Sealed official transcripts from all institutions.

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.

C. Administrative and National Policy Requirements
Terms and conditions associated with this award can be found at Guidance & Frequent Questions.

  1. Meetings:  Fellows are expected to attend a technical/scientific conference as long as they are members of the GRO program. Resources to support this travel are to be taken from the expense allowance.

  2. Human Subjects: An 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:
    Basic Information about Human Subjects Research
    Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

  3. Animal Welfare:

    A fellowship recipient must agree to comply with the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 (P.L. 89-544), as amended, 7 U.S.C. 2131-2159. The recipient must also agree to abide by the "U.S. Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals used in Testing, Research, and Training." (50 Federal Register 20864-20865 (May 20, 1985))

    * This clause applies if a research facility (defined as any school (except elementary or secondary), institution, organization or person) receives funds under a grant from a federal agency for the purpose of carrying out research, tests, or experiments involving animals.

  4. Reporting: A fellow is expected to manage fellowship funds efficiently and effectively and make sufficient academic progress for each year of fellowship funding.  The fellowship agreement will include terms/conditions implementing this requirement. In order to retain their funding, fellowship recipients must provide their EPA project officer with an annual, written statement from their advisor stating that they are maintaining the same criteria under which they were selected (i.e., acceptable grade-point average, full-time student, and still in the same discipline).  As part of the Fellowship, students must also participate in a summer internship for up to 12 weeks at an EPA facility (located in the U.S. or its territories). At the completion of the internship, Fellows will submit a report that addresses the following: summer project summary and explanation of topics in broader societal impacts including but not limited to: furthering environmental awareness, encouraging environmental stewardship, promoting environmental equity and justice, and broadening participation of all citizens. Fellows will also provide a final transcript that states that they have completed their studies.

  5. 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 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 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.

  6. Website References in Solicitation: Any non-federal websites or website links included in this solicitation are provided for proposal preparation and/or informational purposes only.  U.S. EPA does not endorse any of these entities or their services.  In addition, EPA does not guarantee that any linked, external websites referenced in this solicitation comply with Section 508 (Accessibility Requirements) of the Rehabilitation Act.

  7. Unfair Competitive Advantage:  EPA personnel will take appropriate actions in situations where it is determined that an applicant may have an unfair competitive advantage, or the appearance of such, in competing for awards under this announcement.  Affected applicants will be provided an opportunity to respond before any final action is taken.

  8. Copyrights and Data Access: In accordance with 40 CFR 46.205, if a fellowship recipient develops intangible property under a fellowship agreement (e.g., copyrighted software), EPA reserves a royalty-free, nonexclusive and irrevocable right to reproduce, publish or otherwise use the work for Federal purposes, and to authorize others to do so.  EPA's requirements for dealing with such intangible property are found at 2 CFR 200.315. Examples of federal purpose include but are not limited to: (1) Use by EPA and other federal employees for official Government purposes; (2) Use by federal contractors performing specific tasks for the Government; (3) Publication in EPA documents provided the document does not disclose trade secrets (e.g. software codes) and the work is properly attributed to the recipient through citation or otherwise; (4) Reproduction of documents for inclusion in federal depositories; (5) Use by state, tribal and local governments that carry out delegated federal environmental programs as “co-regulators” or act as official partners with EPA to carry out a national environmental program within their jurisdiction; and (6) Limited use by other grantees to carry out federal grants provided the use is consistent with the terms of EPA’s authorization to the grantee to use the copyrighted material.

    In addition, pursuant to 2 CFR 200.315(e), if EPA receives a Freedom of Information Act request for research data that (1) relates to published research findings produced under an EPA award and (2) was used by the Federal Government in developing an agency action that has the force and effect of law, then EPA shall request, and the award recipient shall provide, within a reasonable time, the research data so that it may be made available to the public through procedures established under the FOIA.

  9. EPA Financial Assistance Conflict of Interest Policy:  As required by 2 CFR §200.112, EPA has established a policy regarding conflicts of interest for applicants and recipients of Federal financial assistance awards from EPA.  The policy can be found at EPA's Interim Financial Assistance Conflict of Interest Policy.  Applicants should review this policy and its requirements which include certain disclosure requirements.  Applicants and recipients must complete the applicable disclosure requirements.

    Any questions about these clauses should be raised to the EPA program contact identified in the solicitation. Except as noted all Section VI Clauses apply to every award and/or solicitation. Questions about the applicability of any of these clauses should be raised to the EPA program contact identified in the solicitation.

  10. Confidentiality Statements (if applicable): Awards made under this announcement are subject to the provisions contained in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015, Public Law 113-235, Division E, Title VII, Section 743.  This provision prohibits EPA from awarding funds made available by the Act to an entity that requires employees or contractors of such entity seeking to report fraud, waste, or abuse to sign internal confidentiality agreements or statements prohibiting or otherwise restricting such employees or contactors from lawfully reporting such waste, fraud, or abuse to a designated investigative or law enforcement representative of a Federal department or agency authorized to receive such information.

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.

Program Contact: Georgette Boddie ( boddie.georgette@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8049
Eligibility Contact: Ron Josephson; (josephson.ron@epa.gov) phone: 703-308-0442
Electronic Submissions Contact: Debra M. Jones (jones.debram@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8081