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Frequently Asked Questions for Funding Opportunity EPA-OPEI-NCEE-10-01 Environmental Economics Workshops, and Data Gathering for Dissertation and Early Career Research on the Pollution Control Aspects of Environmental Economics

New or Modified Questions and Answers

New questions/answers prepared in response to recipients can be found at the end of this page. This page was last modified in response to new questions on March 31, 2010. Minor corrections or clarifications to existing questions will be identified with an "*" by the question/answer numbers, with new text identified using "italics" and removed text identified using "strikeout" style.

Q1. Are indirect (overhead) costs allowable costs to include in the budget of the application?
A1. Yes, indirect costs are allowable costs. For more detailed information on policies concerning the definition and treatment of indirect costs for assistance agreement awards, visit the Grants Management website of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB): http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/grants/grants_circulars.html.

Q2. Where do I add details explaining the basis for the budget calculations of indicated sums?
A2. Please include details on the budget calculations in the Budget Justification . The Budget Justification is to be included as part of the Narrative Proposal file described in Section IV.B.4 of the announcement. The calculations should include a breakdown of all the cost categories on the Form SF-424A (e.g.,, salaries and wages of those involved in the project, Travel: N trips X number of people @ $X cost per per traveler, etc.) For guidance on preparing a Budget Justification, please see http://www.epa.gov/ogd/recipient/tips.htm. Do not include information on budget calculations in box 23 of SF-424A; NCEE will not consider any justification information located here in evaluating the adequacy of the proposer's budget.

Q3. What happens if I submit an application after the 11:59pm EST on April126, 2010 deadline?
A3. It will not be reviewed.

Q4. What happens if my proposal is longer than the specified page limits?
A4. We will only consider the pages up to and including the last allowable page. Applicants should follow the instructions on page limits cited in Section IV.B.4 of the solicitation.

Q5. How can I determine whether the subject matter addressed in my proposal is covered under the statutory authority the EPA is using to provide the means for funding of assistance agreements covered under this solicitation?
A5. The EPA is given authority in its authorizing statutes to issue assistance agreements in support of economic studies addressing a variety of environmental issues and conditions. The specific citations introduced in the solicitation can be found in the United States Code. Links to the sections included in the solicitation are provided below:

EPA funds may only be used for the purposes set forth in the award and must be consistent with the statutory authority for the award. The applicant is responsible for drawing a clear connection in the application between the subject matter of the research to be performed and the statutory authority given to EPA to address issues that concern this same subject matter. Once proposals are reviewed and final recommendations are prepared, EPA will confirm the statutory authority to be used to fund the projects and may require modifications to the project consistent with the applicable statute.

Q6. Are other federal agencies and federally-funded research and development centers (FFRDC) eligible to participate in this solicitation?
A6. National laboratories funded by Federal Agencies (Federally-Funded Research and Development Centers, “FFRDCs”) may not apply. FFRDC employees may cooperate or collaborate with eligible applicants within the limits imposed by applicable legislation and regulations. They may participate in planning, conducting, and analyzing the research directed by the applicant, but may not direct projects on behalf of the applicant organization. The institution, organization, or governance receiving the award may provide funds through its assistance agreement from the EPA to an FFRDC for research personnel, supplies, equipment, and other expenses directly related to the research.

Federal Agencies may not apply. Federal employees are not eligible to serve in a principal leadership role on a assistance agreement, and may not receive salaries or augment their Agency’s appropriations in other ways through awards made under this program.

The applicant institution may enter into an agreement with a Federal Agency to purchase or utilize unique supplies or services unavailable in the private sector. Examples are purchase of satellite data, census data tapes, chemical reference standards, analyses, or use of instrumentation or other facilities not available elsewhere. A written justification for federal involvement must be included in the application. In addition, an appropriate form of assurance that documents the commitment, such as a letter of intent from the Federal Agency involved, should be included.

Q7. Does the applicant need to complete the information on the SF-424 form that asks for the "Federal Entity Identifier" and the "Federal Award Identifier"?
A7. No. Both of these fields can be left blank by applicants, whether filling out the form using grants.gov or using one of the other methods to file an application.

Q8. Can I request advice on whether my proposal falls within the scope of the RFP? Can I request feedback on whether the EPA is interested in my proposal? Can you give me any suggestions on how to improve the proposal?
A8. No - 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. Proposals will be reviewed in accordance with the criteria set out in Section V of the RFP and the scope of the requested proposals is described in Section II. EPA cannot provide further information on these areas.

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.

Q 9. For Area 2. "Data Gathering for Dissertation and Early Career Research on the Pollution Control Aspects of Environmental Economics," the solicitation reads: "The applicant's principal investigator or at least one major co-investigator for proposals under area (2) must be either a current Ph.D. student or have received their Ph.D. no earlier than January 1, 2006. The proposals should involve data primarily intended for use in a research project being prepared by this investigator. This investigator may request minimal EPA funds for their time spent on the project. Other researchers, such as Ph.D. advisors and committee members, senior faculty, and other colleagues are encouraged to collaborate in the research proposal, however, no EPA funds should be allocated for time spent by these other researchers. The bulk of funds in the proposed budget should cover the data gathering involved."
In this context what does minimal mean? Does this mean that the bulk of the money cannot be spent on tuition or stipend for a graduate student?
A9. For current graduate students, “minimal“ will depend on the particular circumstances of the student. For early career researchers, “minimal“ should be no more than two weeks time or the smallest unit of time that can be billed by your organization, whichever is larger.

Funds can be used for graduate student stipends and tuition remission. The bulk of the money cannot be spent on a stipend for a graduate student unless that student is otherwise unsupported and the time is directly related to the data collection. Tuition may only be charged if tuition remission is a necessary component of graduate student support needed to perform the data collection.

Q10. Do I need to stress in the narrative proposal that I am a young faculty member or would it be sufficient to attach a resume or curriculum vita that shows dissertation dates?
A10. We suggest that applicants respond directly to the criteria and make it clear that they are at a stage in their career where they meet the eligibility criteria, and not leave that interpretation only to readers of their resume or curriculum vita included in the application.

Q11. Is it necessary to have an economist on the team?
A11. No, having an economist on the team is not a threshold criterion, but the evaluation criteria in Section V. broadly, and sometimes specifically, emphasize the subject of environmental economics. For example, one of the criteria for Area 2. "Data Gathering for Dissertation and Early Career Research on the Pollution Control Aspects of Environmental Economics," concerns "Likely credibility of the proposed data to the environmental economics research community."

Q12. What are suggested start and end dates for projects? What are eligible lengths of times for a project?
A12. According to Section VI.A, "EPA expects to announce successful awards no later than November 15, 2010, and according to Section II, "Assistance agreements may be awarded for project periods of up to 5 years where appropriate." The proposed projects should therefore plan to start around November 15, 2010 and the end date would be contingent on the nature of the project, but would be no later than five years.

Q13. Can you clarify what a "reasonable time period" is in context of the Data Plan described in Section IV.B.4.d. and referenced again later in Section VI.G. of the solicitation?
A13. Proposals under Area 2, “Data Gathering for Dissertation and Early Career Research on the Pollution Control Aspects of Environmental Economics” will be evaluated under the criteria in Section V.B, including a criterion on “Cost Effectiveness.” The data plan will figure into the review of the proposals as described in this criterion, and the panel assembled to review the proposals will be expected to apply a consistent approach to rating proposals on this criteria. We are unable to describe a fixed time period applicable to all data plans, since each proposal's data plan will depend on the specifics of the rest of the proposal (for example, confidentiality or privacy concerns). When data sharing provisions are included in solicitations of this type (including at other agencies), examples of "reasonable time periods" could be until the first journal publication using the data is released, or perhaps two years after the closeout of the awarded grant. These time periods allow recipients to have first exclusive rights to use the data without adversely affecting their ratings when reviewers apply the criteria in the solicitation.

Q14. What forms should be filed with a proposal package should there be subcontracting of services included in the proposal? The application instructions state that a separate budget must be provided for each subcontract (Section IV.B.4,). Does this need to be done using an SF-424A form, or is a budget spreadsheet for each subcontract sufficient? Also, where should the separate subcontract budgets be included as part of a Grants.gov application package?
A14. Subcontractors do not have to supply their own SF-424A form detailing their own budget information. However, they should provide a budget spreadsheet which includes a breakdown of the subcontracting services. For guidance on developing on preparing a budget spreadsheet, please see http://www.epa.gov/ogd/recipient/tips.htm. For applications submitted electronically through Grants.gov, information on subcontractors, including such items as a budget spreadsheet, can be included in the application package as an attachment using the "Other Attachments Form" in the "Optional Documents" box.

Q15. Under Area 1, can funds provided under this RFA be used to support research projects with the intention that the research results will be used in a workshop?
A15.This program is not intended to support research activities. However, funds provided under Area 1 of this program may be used to support the collection and adaptation of results from existing research that will be used in the workshop.

Q16. If my proposal includes several workshops, and EPA decides it is not interested in some, but is interested in others, will my proposal be rejected outright or will a subset of my proposal be considered?
A16. A subset can only be considered if you have included in the Narrative Proposal the budget implications should we determine that the EPA should only fund a portion of your proposal. If the EPA is only interested in some portion of a multiple-workshop proposal, you will be advised of this when we request a complete application package. While a single proposal covering multiple workshops is permitted, applicants are strongly encouraged to submit separate proposals for each workshop, unless the proposal represents a cohesive package falling entirely within one of the three workshop categories (Section I.A).

Q17. Can costs associated with preparing (including case studies and language translations), organizing, implementing and disseminating the outcomes of the workshop be covered under the grant?
A17. Yes, all legitimate costs (see exceptions) may be covered under the grant. The solicitation, in Section I.D, outlines some types of approved expenses and Section III.B directs applicants to the OMB circulars if further definitions of allowable costs are desired..

Q18. Are EPA’s awards under this solicitation limited to $25,000 per workshop day (including indirect costs)?
A18. No. The solicitation calls for applicants to submit proposals for organizing workshops that are subject to a total cost limit, and these limits are not intended to communicate to applicants that there is any specific “per day” limit set for a proposed workshop. The total amount of EPA funds requested must fall within the limits set forth in the solicitation (more than $25,000 and less than $150,000). The cost-effectiveness of each proposal is one of the evaluation criterion considered by reviewers, so

Q19. Are institutions that received EPA funds to help finance the costs of environmental economics workshops held in previous years eligible to apply to this solicitation?
A 19. Yes, institutions that received EPA funds in prior competitive solicitations can apply for funding support, so as long as they meet the eligibility conditions outlined in this new solicitation. Each solicitation is managed using a separate review and award process, so there is no restriction or limitation placed on recipients of previous EPA awards.

Q20. Are there specific topics under the general heading 'environmental economics' precluded as workshop topics?
A20. No topic is precluded – applicants should refer to information that outlines the workshop descriptions in Section I.D, and identifies the evaluation criteria used in reviewing the workshop proposals, which is found in Section V.A, of the solicitation.

Q21. Once a final decision is made on the workshops that will receive funding from NCEE, what information on the non-funded workshops will NCEE share?
A21. Both initial proposals and complete applications for funding are subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), after award decisions have been made. This means that anyone can request, and may receive, copies of them. Therefore, applicants are discouraged from including any confidential information in their initial proposals. Although funded workshops will be announced on NCEE's website, details of non-funded workshop proposals won't be made public without a FOIA request.

Q22. Will NCEE help publicize our workshop and post its papers and proceedings?
A22. NCEE's website will provide basic information about each award ( http://yosemite.epa.gov/ee/epa/eed.nsf/webpages/Grants.html). If you provide a URL, your workshop may be listed on the NCEE Events page ( http://yosemite.epa.gov/ee/epa/eed.nsf/webpages/Events.html). After your workshop, NCEE may choose to post papers and proceedings on its website. But don't forget, reasonable expenses for publicizing your workshop and disseminating any papers or other information are considered to be part of the workshop costs and should be reflected in your budget .

Q23. I have never prepared a grant proposal and budget. Does EPA have guidance on preparing grant proposals and budgets?
A23. Yes. EPA has general guidance on preparing proposals and budgets. Please see http://www.epa.gov/ogd/recipient/tips.htm. We highly recommend that you review the information on this website before preparing your proposal and budget. If you are applying for support for a workshop, please also consult the Best Practices Guide for Conferences. http://www.epa.gov/ogd/recipient/bestpractice.htm.

Q24. I am interested in applying for support through Area (2) "Data Gathering for Dissertation and Early Career Research on the Pollution Control Aspects of Environmental Economics" but my proposal includes using existing data sources and does not solely involve the collection of original data. Would this approach to gathering data be eligible for financial support under the solicitation?
A24. We intentionally described Area (2) as "Data Gathering" instead of "Data Collection" in order to signify the breadth of the solicitation, which is designed to support a wide variety of approaches to assemble data that might benefit from additional financial support.  Some examples of data gathering include: original data collections (e.g., surveys or interviews); merging of existing data sets, including those that are proprietary or require funding for access (e.g., Census Research Data Centers); and meta-analytic collections of data.

Q25. How should PhD students submitting a proposal to Area 2. “Data Gathering for Dissertation and Early Career Research on the Pollution Control Aspects of Environmental Economics " interpret the questions and evaluation criteria on Programmatic Capability and Past Performance?
A25. As described in Section IV.B(4)(b) of the solicitation, the Programmatic Capability and Past Performance criteria request applicants to provide information on their organization's (e.g., academic department, not-for-profit organization) capabilities and past performance on assistance agreements, and not only information about the capabilities and expertise of the PhD student serving as principal investigator (PI) or co-PI on the project. As noted in the solicitation, if the organization and named PI and co-PIs do not have any relevant or available past performance or past reporting information, this should be indicated in the proposal and the application will receive a neutral score for these factors (a neutral score is half of the total points available in a subset of possible points). If no response is provided, the applicant may receive a score of zero for these factors.

Q26. For proposals submitted to Area 2. “Data Gathering for Dissertation and Early Career Research on the Pollution Control Aspects of Environmental Economics " that are designed to support a PhD student's dissertation, should the PhD student be identified as the principal investigator (PI) or should the student's dissertation adviser be identified as the PI? In this instance, which individual(s) should be listed as co-PIs?
A26. Applications under Area 2 "Data Gathering for Dissertation and Early Career Research on the Pollution Control Aspects of Environmental Economics" must meet the Threshold Eligibility criteria described in Section III.C.(9), which states "the applicant’s principal investigator or at least one major co-investigator, must be a currently-enrolled Ph.D. student or have received their Ph.D. no earlier than January 1, 2006." Neither the Threshold Eligibility criteria nor the evaluation criteria identify a preference for specific individuals to be identified as the PI or co-PI. NCEE recognizes that some institutions do not allow Ph.D. students to serve as the lead PI, and therefore the solicitation is written so as to treat applications from all eligible institutions equally on this point.

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