Introduction to Competitive Grant Programs And Tips for Success Mark Poth, PhD Waterfront Reconfiguration NIFA ORGANIZATION OFFICE OF THE DIRECTOR INSTITUTE OF FOOD PRODUCTION AND SUSTAINABILITY INSTITUTE OF BIOENERGY, CLIMATE, AND ENVIRONMENT INSTITUTE INSTITUTE OF OF YOUTH, FOOD SAFETY AND NUTRITION FAMILY, AND COMMUNITY OFFICE OF GRANTS AND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT OFFICE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY Division of Animal Systems Division of Bioenergy Division of Food Safety Division of Global Climate Change Division of Nutrition Awards Management Division Applications Division Division of Plant Systems – Protection Division of Community and Education Division of Youth and 4-H Division of Plant Systems – Production Division of Environmental Systems Policy and Oversight Division Division of Agricultural Systems Division of Family and Consumer Sciences Financial Operations Division EQUAL OPPORTUNITY STAFF Budget Staff Communications Staff Operations and Administrative Systems Division Planning, Accountability, Information, Policy, Planning, And Reporting Staff and Training Division Center For International Programs TOM VILSACK Secretary, USDA DR. CATHERINE WOTEKI DR. SONNY RAMASWAMY Under Secretary, Research, Education, and Economics (REE) and USDA Chief Scientist Director, NIFA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) established by the 2008 Farm Bill • Research enables us to develop the knowledge needed to solve many of the issues facing our nation • Education strengthens schools and universities to train the next generation of scientists, educators, producers, and citizens • Extension brings the knowledge gained through research and education to the people who need it most – in the United States and around the world National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) • Integration brings the three components of the agricultural knowledge system (research, education, and extension) together around a problem area or activity. Integration occurs when the components complement one another and are truly necessary for the ultimate success of the project or program. Over 30 Different Competitive Programs (some examples) • Agriculture and Food Research Initiative ($264M) • Specialty Crop Research Initiative ($40M) • NIFA Fellows (Pre-Doc and Post Doc at $7M) • Small Business Innovation Research ($18M) • Biotechnology Risk ($3M) • Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education ($10M) Keys to Competitive Success • Understand NIFA mission • Explore the full range of programs – Many options (find your advantage!) • Communicate with the National Program Leader or Leaders in your area of interest • Persistent Participation – Ad hoc Reviewer to Panelist – Grantsmanship Workshops – Applicant to Project Director! Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Finding Your Competitive Advantage Who Gets Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Grants? FY 2010 Success Rates proportional to Applications Rates! 1. Land Grant Universities: 80% of applications and 75% of grants 2. Non-Land Grant Public Universities: 5% of applications and 5% of grants 3. Private Colleges/Universities: 5% of applications and 7% of grants 4. Private Research Organizations: 4% of applications and 4% of grants 5. Others (federal, Industry, Individual): the balance Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Foundational Program RFA: estimated $70 M for FY2012 1. 2. 3. 4. Plant Health and Production and Plant Products Animal Health and Production and Animal Products Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health Renewable Energy, Natural Resources, and Environment 5. Agriculture Systems and Technology 6. Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Five Challenge Area RFAs (funding levels TBD) and include Coordinated Agricultural Projects (CAPS) 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Childhood Obesity Prevention Climate Change Global Food Security Food Safety Sustainable Bioenergy Letters of Intent • Required for most program areas. • Take care to follow the guidelines (PDF!). • Applications submitted without a prior Letter of Intent submission will not be reviewed. Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) Grants: • • • • Pre-doctoral Fellowship Grants Postdoctoral Fellowship Grants New Investigator Grants (Restricted eligibility) Strengthening Grants (Restricted eligibility) – – – – Sabbatical Grants Equipment Grants Seed Grants Strengthening Standard and Strengthening CAP Grants Understanding the level of competition in AFRI • Programs get about 100 proposals • Will fund about 20 • So my chances of getting funded are about 20%...right? • WRONG! Your chances are much higher if you are eligible for the AFRI Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) Program! Agriculture and Food Research Initiative: FASE Strengthening Awards -Funded from 7.5% set aside from AFRI appropriation ( that’s 7.5% of $264 million in FY2012! Or over $19 million) - Eligibility limited to EPSCoR states or small to mid sized institutions (<17,500 enrolled with limited institutional success not in the top 100) or Minority Serving Institutions. Just meet one of these requirements and you are eligible! Strengthening Award Types • Standard Strengthening (second chance funding for full research grant $300k to $30 million) • Career Enhancement Award (Sabbatical, “one year of salary plus travel and supplies”) • Seed grants (up to $150k) • Equipment grants (the only AFRI grant type that requires a match) Strengthening Strategy • Plan your work to link awards and leverage Grants • Evaluate where you are and what you need • Equipment? Training or a collaborator (sabbatical award)? Preliminary data (seed/sabbatical)? • What is your three year plan? (equipment>seed>standard or sabbatical>standard or other) • How will this fit with your unique institutional advantages and strengths? Understanding the level of competition in AFRI • Programs is asking for just CAP awards? • Look closer…for your advantage. • All programs will take Strengthening Grant applications • Includes Equipment, Seed, Sabbatical and Standard strengthening (including CAP) grants • Contact the NPL for your program of interest to discuss before submission of a LOI Panel Participation • Panelists from all regions needed. • Faculty from all levels (Assistant, Associate and Full Professor) • In 2001 less than 2% from MSI, in 2010 7.6% from MSIs for AFRI! • Contact the National Program Leader listed in the Request for Applications if interested in serving or [email protected] Panel Participation – Administrator’s Role • Panel is a large work load. There will be about 15 applications to review. This takes most reviewers about 40 hours before panel. • Administrators must work with faculty to free up this time (release from teaching or other duties). • Panels are on a fixed time line that may conflict with teaching or other assignments. • Administrators must work with faculty to cover assignments while faculty member is in Washington for the week of panel (or for virtual panels). Grantsmanship Workshops • • • • • Provides overview of programs to applicants Mock Peer Review Panel “Face time” with National Program Leaders Tips on grant-writing from experts Travel fellowships for attendees from minorityserving institutions • Offered in Washington, D.C. (planning now underway, dates announced on our web site, search “grantsmanship”) Grantsmanship Workshops – your role • Structured for faculty that will be preparing applications • Do your homework – check the web site for programs of interest and the associated NPLs • Use your time to engage! – Introduce yourself to NPLs in your areas of interest – Offer to serve on a panel (follow up with an email to the NPL with your 2 page CV) – Network with others from your region who might team with you in the future on larger applications Submitting Applications! • Start Early! • Read the Request for Applications! • Contact NIFA with questions or to discuss ideas (use the contact information in the RFA and not general information from the web) • Letters of intent may be required before you are allowed to submit an applicationcheck dates in the RFA! Overview of the Competitive Grant Proposal Process • Application Process • Review Process • Awards and Declines • Post-Panel Administration Application Process Request for Application (RFA) • Posted to the NIFA website www.nifa.usda.gov link to “Grants” page • Project Directors submit Letter of Intent (LOI) When applicable – not required for all programs Requirements provided in RFA Submission in advance of proposal deadline Application Process • Develop proposal following: Specific program goals, priorities and published deadline Guidelines provided in RFA • Submit proposal electronically (www.grants.gov) Highly recommend submitting at least 72 hr before deadline During the Review Process • Contact NPL if you do not receive an e-mail within 4 weeks acknowledging receipt of your proposal • Keep program updated of changes in address, phone number, status of other pending proposals, and COI status • Wait for notification of funding decision based on initial NPL e-mail received that also listed the anticipated timeline (contact NPL if deadline passes !) Competitive Peer Review Process • Reviewed and rated highly by the NRC • Designed to be scholarly & fair: Review by peers & other experts Provide written & verbal evaluations • Understand the review process for your specific program (research; education; extension; integrated) to prepare a competitive proposal Program-dependent evaluation factors in the RFA are critical to the success of an application Review process is co-led by a National Program Leader (NPL) and a Panel Manager • Organize and conduct review panel to assure fairness & rigorous evaluations • Neither NPL nor Panel Manager influence the evaluation of any particular proposal Selection of the Panel Manager • Established and active in science as a researcher, educator, or extension specialist • Leader in the program’s field of science, education or extension • Knowledgeable of current trends & priorities in the scientific area • Hired as part-time USDA employee (1-2 years) Role of Panel Manager & National Program Leader (NPL) • Study proposals to evaluate expertise needs for thorough review of program applications • Invite appropriate experts for review panel • Assign proposals for peer-review (minimum 3): – Panelists: number depends on the program needs to cover portfolio of applications – External ad hoc reviewers (optional): number depends on program needs Panel Member Selection • Active in Research, Education or Extension • Balanced to represent breadth of proposals and applicants: – – – – – Discipline Geography Institution Size and Type Professional Rank Gender & Ethnicity • Continuity: experience in the review process Role of Panelists • Review up to 20 proposals; # depends on program • Provide scientific, constructive & fair evaluation • Protect confidentiality • Avoid Conflict of Interest Protecting Confidentiality • Proposal content and identity of applicant • Reviewer identity • Reviews (shared with PD only) • Panel proceedings Avoiding Conflicts of Interest • Advisors and advisees (lifetime) • Collaborators and co-authors (3 years) • Institutional • Anyone who stands to materially profit from an award decision • Other personal reasons defined by the reviewer Avoiding Conflicts of Interest (cont.) • Applies to NPL, Panel Manager, panelists and ad hoc reviewers • May not participate in any aspect of evaluation • May not participate in decision regarding budget, project scope, or project duration Reviewer Evaluation of Proposals Reviewers prepare written reviews before meeting • Use RFA evaluation criteria • Address strengths and weaknesses • Make suggestions for improvement Reviewers provide individual summary rating • Excellent • Very Good • Good • Fair • Poor Evaluation Criteria (e.g., AFRI research proposals) 1. Scientific merit 2. Qualifications of project personnel, adequacy of facilities, and project management 3. Relevance and importance of topic to US Agriculture as articulated by the program’s priorities Evaluation Criteria for AFRI research 1. Scientific merit • Novel, innovative, unique, original • For model systems – ability to transfer knowledge to important agricultural organisms • Conceptual adequacy of research • Clarity, delineation of objectives Evaluation Criteria for AFRI research 1. Scientific merit (cont.) • Adequacy of description and suitability / feasibility of methods • Demonstration of feasibility through preliminary data • Probability of success (High risk? Worth the reward?) Evaluation Criteria for AFRI research 2. Qualifications of project personnel, adequacy of facilities, and project management • Qualifications of PD and project team, including performance record – CV (Think of this as a pass/fail element, is not a barrier for new faculty) • Awareness of previous and alternative approaches – pitfalls and limitations ( Be frank!) • Planning and administration of project (Did this program ask for a management plan?) Evaluation Criteria for AFRI research 2. Qualifications of project personnel, adequacy of facilities, and project management • Institutional experience, competence (not just a track record but evidence of commitment for larger grants) • Adequate facilities and instrumentation (Think of this as a pass/fail element. It is not a barrier for smaller institutions. If the project needs just one greenhouse it does not matter if your university has only one or 100) Evaluation Criteria for AFRI research 3. Project Relevance • Relevant to US Agriculture and Food systems as defined in the program priorities in RFA To yield improvements in: Agriculture, Human nutrition, food safety & quality, Environment, or Rural communities Evaluation Criteria Evaluation Criteria for other proposal types differ: • Integrated Projects • Fellowships • Research Career Enhancement (Sabbaticals) • Equipment Grants • Seed Grants • Conference Grants Review Panel Meeting During panel meeting • Primary reviewer summarizes proposal • Primary, secondary, tertiary, etc. reviewers provide evaluation and critique in order • Ad hoc reviews are summarized (if used) • Response to last year’s panel summary discussed for resubmissions • Ratings available to all panelists (except those with COI) Review Panel Meeting • Interactive Panel discussion • Panel consensus and categorizing • Outstanding • High Priority • Medium Priority • Low Priority • Do Not Fund • Triage • Prepare panel summary Preparation of the Panel Summary • POSITIVE Aspects • NEGATIVE Aspects • SYNTHESIS Panel Meeting: Final Day Re-rank of proposals: • Re-visit all categories • Numerical ranking - usually only proposals ranked in top ~50% Funding of ranked applications • Budgets may be adjusted as recommended by the panel • NPL and PM make decisions to fund eligible projects “below the line” from set aside funds ( AFRI Strengthening and New Investigator grants) • NPL and Panel Manager prepare funding list according to panel ranking for review and approval by Division Director and Assistant Director Post-panel: Declined Proposals • E-mail and/or letter to the PD from National Program Leader • Return of: • Written reviews • • Panel summary Relative ranking Post-panel: Recommended Awards • Phone Call • Return of: – reviews – panel summary – relative ranking (categorical ranking) • Complete award paperwork Post-panel • Panel Manager written report Recommendations for program enhancement - New topic areas; Improved review process/panel processes; - ‘Hot topics’ from awards for annual report; - Recommendations for future Panel Managers and panelists • NPL Award administration Feedback and consultation on declined proposals Reporting performance, summaries, success stories & highlights (USDA, Congress, White House - OSTP, OMB, others) Program communication including outreach & promotion Even More Competitive Programs… Other Competitive Programs • Biotechnology Risk Assessment • Small Business Innovation Research • Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education • NIFA Fellows Biotechnology Risk Assessment Program • Purpose: To assist Federal regulatory agencies in making science-based decisions about the introduction of transgenic organisms into the environment – Risk Assessment Research – Risk Mitigation/Management Research Biotechnology Risk Assessment Program • Authorized in the 1990 Farm Bill • All U.S. public or private research or educational institutions or organizations are eligible • Funded through a 2% set-aside of all funds used for agricultural biotechnology research • Approximately $4 M available Biotechnology Risk Assessment Program • Identify and develop appropriate management practices to minimize physical and biological risks • Develop methods to monitor the dispersal of genetically engineered animals, plants, and microorganisms • To further knowledge of characteristics, rates and methods of gene transfer Biotechnology Risk Assessment Program • Compare the relative impacts of organisms modified through genetic engineering to other types of production systems • Program Contact: Shing Kwok Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program • Grants provided to Small Businesses to Research and Develop technologies, products or services that will be commercialized or brought to the marketplace. • Two-phase program • $100,000 (Phase I) – feasibility study • $500,000 (Phase II) – development and scale-up Eligibility: Small businesses of 500 employees or less. SBIR Topic Areas • Forests & Related Resources • Plant Production & Protection Biology • Animal Production & Protection • Air, Water & Soils • Food Science & Nutrition SBIR Topic Areas (cont.) • Rural Development • Aquaculture • Biofuels and Biobased Products • Small and Mid-size Farms • Plant Production & Protection Engineering University Involvement in USDA SBIR • Strongly encouraged • Faculty may serve as consultants or receive subcontract and continue to work full time at university No more than 1/3 of a Phase I award budget or 1/2 of a Phase II award budget may be subcontracted. University Involvement in USDA SBIR (cont.) • Faculty may serve as principal investigator on the grant by: reducing university employment to 49% for duration of grant and conducting SBIR research off-site (i.e., other than university research lab). • Usually not acceptable for faculty to serve as consultants and have all the research done in their lab. SBIR Program Program Contacts: Cleland Charles Cleland Bill Goldner S. (Suresh) Sureshwaran Dionne Toombs Adele Turzillo Goldner Sureshwaran Toombs Turzillo Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education (SARE) Purpose: Increase and disseminate knowledge that helps farmers and ranchers adopt practices that are profitable, environmentally sound, and enhance the quality of life for producers and society as a whole. Eligibility: Open to all qualified public and private entities, including all colleges and universities, federal, state, and local agencies, private organizations, corporations, and individuals SARE Grant Types • • • • • Research and Education Farmer/Rancher On Farm Graduate Student Community Innovation SARE Regional Boundaries SARE Regional Coordinators North Central http://www.sare.org/ncrsare/ Coordinator: Bill Wilke 120 BAE, University of Minnesota 1390 Eckles Avenue St. Paul, MN 55108 612-625-8205 [email protected] Southern http://www.southernsare.uga.edu/ Coordinator: Jeff Jordan University of Georgia Griffin Campus 1109 Experiment St. Room 206, Stuckey Building Griffin, GA 30223-1797 770-412-4787 [email protected].edu Northeast http://nesare.org Coordinator: Vern Grubinger University of Vermont Extension 11 University Way, Suite # 4 Brattleboro, VT 05301-3669 802-257-7967 x13 [email protected] Western http://wsare.usu.edu/ Coordinator: Phil Rasmussen Utah State University 4865 Old Main Hill Logan, Utah 84322-4865 435-797-3394 [email protected] NIFA contact: Rob Hedberg Top Ten Tips for Success #10 #10… Submit ON TIME • How far in advance should you submit your proposal? a. b. c. d. e. One Week One Day One Hour One Minute One Second Naval Observatory Master Clock Grants.gov Master Clock # Nine #9… Have a Colleague Review Your Proposal • Leave time before submitting your proposal to solicit feedback (technical and proofreading). • Alternatively, ask successful colleagues for a copy of their funded proposal. TIP: Be sure to express your gratitude for their time, energy, and input. • Review abstracts from funded projects: http://cris.nifa.usda.gov/ #8 #8… Write a Meaningful and Engaging Project Summary • Summary should include goals and objectives, hypothesis being tested • Highlight what’s innovative about your project • Describe outputs and outcomes TIP: Recall that most panelists will not read your entire proposal – get them interested with your Project Summary N.B. – Cutting and pasting the first two paragraphs of your Introduction generally is not successful. #7… Write the Proposal for the Reviewers • Put yourself in the shoes of a reviewer who will read between 15 and 20 proposals. – Capture their attention – Get to the point = Be succinct “What will be different as a result of your project?” “So what?” #7… If a Letter of Intent is Required • Be certain that you address priorities listed in the Program Description • Describe the salient points of the project • Include key objectives and define all necessary functions (research, education, and/or extension) • Identify potential outcomes or outputs from the project • Follow formatting guidelines (e.g., submit in .PDF) #6 #6… Responding to Reviewer Comments • Take advantage of the extra page to address reviewer’s comments • Identify places in the proposal where reviewer comments are addressed – On page 9 we address… • If you disagree with reviewers, be careful TIP: It doesn’t pay to refer to reviewers as idiots, intellectual lightweights, etc. Don’t totally ignore reviewer comments, be diplomatic Five #5A… Develop a Comprehensive Project Outline • Outline should reflect: – Goals and objectives – Critical project functions – Roles for project co-PDs and collaborators if any #5B… Develop a Timeline for Completing the Proposal (on Time) • When is the deadline for submission? • How much time will your Office of Contracts and Grants need to review and submit the project? Will holidays complicate this? • How much time will a colleague need for review? TIP: Start early! Don’t delay!!! Remember #10! Fore! #4… Goals and Objectives • Integrated projects: What’s the point of funding this project? – A clear Goal Statement should define the project “What will be different after completing this project?” • Research Projects – Is there a clear hypothesis that can be tested in what is proposed? Looking for new knowledge and not “observations”. #3 #3… How does this fit with your Career Strategy? • Just because funding is available to do something doesn’t mean that you should be doing it. • Are you trying to fit a square peg in a round hole? • How will this build on other resources you have incorporated into your strategy (start up funding, industry funding, set aside funding)? • Have you “fallen in love” with this idea such that you cannot be reached by reason or peer reviewers? #2 #2… Serve on a Panel • Contact the NPL or Panel Manager and volunteer to serve – Add your name to the Reviewer Database: Send an email to: [email protected] N.B. – You may not serve on a panel in the same year that you submit to the program. #1 #1… READ THE RFA!!! • Explore to find your competitive advantage! • Program priorities can and do change! • The RFA is more than just the Program Description – – – – – – Eligibility Funding levels DEADLINES (Letters of Intent, Full Proposals) Review criteria Project requirements NPL contact information Summary 1. 2. 3. 4. Read the RFA! Serve on a panel Career Strategy Fit? Write a clear goal or hypothesis statement 5. Develop a comprehensive project outline 6. Responding to reviewer comments 7. Write the proposal for the reviewers 8. Write a meaningful and engaging project summary 9. Have a colleague review your proposal 10.Submit ON TIME! Questions? • Contact: Dr. Mark Poth • Division Director • Sustainable Bioenergy • 202-401-5244 • [email protected] • Thank You!!