1. OVERVIEW OF NIST CENTERS OF EXCELLENCE PROGRAM
Q: When is NIST announcing the new Centers of Excellence?
A: The Advanced Materials Center of Excellence was awarded in December 2013. Two additional Centers of Excellence – Resilience and Forensics were announced in FY2014. Information on the Centers of Excellence program can be found at www.nist.gov/coe.
Q: How much Federal investment will go into each Center of Excellence?
A: NIST will invest roughly $4 million per year for up to 10 years in the Community Resilience COE. Additional Centers are expected to be roughly similar in size and scope.
Q: What are the technology focus areas of the new Center of Excellence?
A: NIST researchers will collaborate with researchers from academia and industry on advancing the state of the art in selected domains through innovations in measurement science.
2. CENTER OF EXCELLENCE
Q: What is the primary objective of the NIST Community Resilience Center of Excellence?
A: The long-term objectives of the NIST Community Resilience COE are to accelerate developments in modeling and simulation, develop a data infrastructure for disaster and resilience, transition new breakthroughs in community resilience to industry, provide training opportunities, and demonstrate use of the tools and resources that will serve as a foundation for strengthening communities.
Q: Where can I find more information about NIST research in Community Resilience?
A: NIST research in Community Resilience is described at http://www.nist.gov/el/building_materials/resilience.
Q: Who is eligible to apply for the Community Resilience Center of Excellence?
A: Accredited institutions of higher education, non-profit organizations, and commercial organizations that are organized and operated in the United States and its territories. An eligible organization may work individually or include proposed subawardees, contractors or other collaborators in a project proposal, effectively forming a team or consortium. An organization may only serve as the lead organization on one proposal. In a team or consortium structure, eligible subawardees are U.S. non-profit organizations, accredited institutions of higher education, commercial organizations, and State, Tribal, and local governments. Federal agencies may participate in projects, but may not receive NIST funding.
Q: Are DOE national laboratories (federally funded research and development centers, FFRDCs) or energy lab contractors eligible to receive funds under this FFO?
A: The eligibility of a FFRDC or contractor can vary from situation to situation depending on different factors such as whether they would be acting on their own behalf or on behalf of the Department of Energy or another Federal agency. We recommend that these organizations consult with their legal offices to determine whether or not they are eligible for funds or the conditions that would allow them to be eligible to receive funds as defined under the eligibility requirements of the FFO.
Q: What is the ideal mix of participants to comprise the Community Resilience Center of Excellence?
A: Competitive applications for a Center should demonstrate the applicant's ability to create and manage a world-class research program, via a partnership with NIST, aimed at broadly accelerating the design, discovery, development and deployment of Community Resilience by the nation's academic and industry enterprises. The Center should establish opportunities for extended collaborations between NIST, lead and partner institutions, and recipient scientists through the Center, employing mechanisms such as staff exchanges, jointly advised graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and guest scientists. The Center should create a collaborative environment and concentration of scientific and technical capability to accelerate resilience development; provide opportunities to transition new breakthroughs in Community Resilience to industry; convene multidisciplinary and multi-sector communities for in-depth discussions; and provide training opportunities.
Q: What types of activities would the Community Resilience Center of Excellence focus on?
A: The Community Resilience Center of Excellence will conduct research and programs focused on:
- Computational Modeling Environment for Community Resilience.
- Data Management Tools for Community Resilience Systems.
- Resilience Data Architecture Validation Studies.
Q: How will the Center of Excellence be funded?
A: The Community Resilience Center of Excellence will be funded by a competitively awarded cooperative agreement. Instructions on how to apply can be found on Grants.gov at http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=259088, or at www.nist.gov/coe/resilience.
Q: Are matching funds required?
A: Matching funds are not required.
Q: How long will NIST support the Community Resilience Center of Excellence?
A: NIST plans to make an award for an initial five-year period, pending satisfactory annual progress and availability of NIST funds. Based on the results of a formal assessment of the progress and accomplishments of the awardee, at the end of the initial five year award, a second five-year period may be funded, for a total of ten-year funding. At the conclusion of ten years, if NIST chooses to continue funding Community Resilience research through the Centers of Excellence model, NIST may consider opening a new funding opportunity for the Community Resilience Center of Excellence.
Q: Are existing collaborations with NIST staff affected by this Federal Funding Opportunity?
A: Collaborations between NIST staff and applicants in research areas outside the scope of this Federal Funding Opportunity are not affected. Pre-existing collaborations between an applicant and NIST staff should be identified to NIST in order to avoid conflicts of interest during the review process.
Q: How are proposed collaborations with NIST staff handled?
A: The Community Resilience Center of Excellence Program Description specifically anticipates collaboration with NIST. Applicants are not required to collaborate with specific NIST employees and may propose staff exchanges, sabbatical programs, activities involving jointly advised students, and other research collaboration activities without proposing any specific NIST collaborators. If the applicant wishes to propose collaboration with a specific NIST employee, the statement of work should include a statement of this intention, a description of the collaboration, and prominently identify the NIST employee(s) involved, if known. Any collaboration by a NIST employee must be approved by appropriate NIST management and is at the sole discretion of NIST. Prior to beginning the merit review process, NIST will verify the approval of the proposed collaboration. Any unapproved collaboration will be stricken from the proposal prior to the merit review. Any collaboration with an identified NIST employee that is approved by appropriate NIST management will not make an application more or less favorable in the competitive process.
Q: Are references included in the page count for the technical proposal?
A: References are considered part of the technical proposal and are therefore subject to the 25 page limit.
Q: Will funds from the grant need to be directed toward NIST for the collaborations and joint work?
A: NIST may not receive any funding from the grant. All work performed under the award by the recipient and its contractors and subawardees must be funded using the grant funds.
Q: We are putting together a collaboration between several universities to respond to this FFO. Will the proposal submission date be extended to allow additional time for agreements between partners?
A: We do not anticipate extending the submission deadline.
Q: Should IP issues be finalized prior to the submission? Getting IP agreements hammered out between multiple universities before the submission deadline will be a challenge.
A: It is anticipated that the awardee will develop an intellectual property (IP) management plan, consistent with Section L.04., Department of Commerce Financial Assistance Standard Terms and Conditions for Financial Assistance Awards, "Intellectual Property Rights," and authorities referenced therein, which addresses ownership and licensing of all IP created or acquired under the award and pre-existing IP used under the award by any of the award participants, including subawardees, contractors, and/or other collaborators, who participate in the project. It is expected that the awardee will obtain the concurrence of each award participant to the awardee's IP management plan. Given the objective under this Funding Opportunity of providing decision-makers and professionals with methods and tools to support cost-effective infrastructure designs and investments, NIST may require the awardee to transfer to NIST its copyright in a particular work (for example, a data architecture or data management tool) if NIST will undertake the primary dissemination of the work. http://www.osec.doc.gov/oam/grants_management/policy/documents/DOC_Standard Terms_and_Conditions_01_10_2013.pdf.
Q: Is the Community Resilience Center of Excellence supposed to be structurally similar to the other existing NIST-sponsored centers, such as Joint Quantum Institute, Institute for Biology and Biotechnology Research, or JILA?
A: No. The key elements for the Community Resilience Center of Excellence are defined in the FFO. However, it is up to the proponent to propose what they feel is the optimal structure for the Community Resilience Center of Excellence.
Q: The FFO limits applicants to five one-page resumes. Can we include more than five?
A: No, resume pages in excess of the five one-page resumes will not be considered. However, applicants are encouraged to briefly describe the capabilities and accomplishments of additional personnel within the 25-page technical proposal.
Q: Is there a maximum or minimum percentage of the funding that can be budgeted toward subawardees?
Q: Is there a restriction on foreign nationals?
A: In general, there is no restriction on foreign nationals working for an awardee, subawardee, or contractor. However, applicants should be aware of the following:
- Foreign nationals visiting or working at NIST are subject to the security screening and/or background check requirements for visiting or working on a NIST site.
- Recipients are responsible for effective export compliance procedures during performance of an award, including control of access to export controlled items by foreign nationals, as further described in Department of Commerce Financial Assistance award term L.13, linked in the FFO on page 13 at Section VI.1. http://www.osec.doc.gov/oam/grants_management/policy/documents/DOC_Standard Terms_and_Conditions_01_10_2013.pdf.
Q: Will there be an information webinar for prospective proposers?
A: Yes. The Webinar is scheduled for August 5, 2014 from 1:00 – 2:30 pm EST.
Q: Will the presentation from the webinar posted?
A: Yes. Please see www.nist.gov/coe/resilience. You may need to hit the refresh button on your browser so that the latest version of web page is loaded.
Q: Can you describe NIST policy on patents?
A: It is part of NIST's mission to transfer the results of its research, including intellectual property, to industry, academia and government agencies. Generally, inventions conceived in whole or in part by a grantee or contractor of the Federal government are subject to the Bayh Dole Act. Subject to certain conditions, contractors or grantees who invent while using Federal funds are entitled to elect to retain their ownership interest in the invention. If such an invention is co-invented by a Government employee and a Federal grant recipient or contractor, the government will retain its ownership interest in the invention and the contractor or grantee will be entitled to elect to retain their ownership interest in the invention. As such, an invention that is jointly created will be jointly owned when the contractor or grantee elects to retain title. Further, the contractor or grantee may be given the opportunity to apply for an exclusive license to the government's interest in the jointly owned invention. Invention made solely by NIST employees are owned solely by NIST, although such invention may be made available for licensing. Further information can be found the Commerce Financial Assistance Standard Terms L.04 and L.10 http://www.osec.doc.gov/oam/grants_management/policy/documents/DOC_Standard Terms_and_Conditions_01_10_2013.pdf.
Q: Are foreign or multi-national companies eligible as sub-awardees?
A: Provided that a company otherwise meets all eligibility requirements described in the Federal Funding Opportunity, foreign or multi-national companies are not excluded as sub-awardees. However, it is the mission of the U.S. Department of Commerce to support U.S. industry whenever possible. Additionally, recipients are responsible for effective export compliance procedures during performance of an award, including control of access to export controlled items by foreign nationals, as further described in Department of Commerce Financial Assistance award term L.13, linked in the FFO on page 10 at Section VI.1., http://www.osec.doc.gov/oam/grants_management/policy/documents/DOC_Standard Terms_and_Conditions_01_10_2013.pdf.
Q: Can you clarify the rules for contacting NIST employees regarding collaborations or identifying a NIST collaborator in this solicitation?
A: NIST requests that applicants do not contact NIST employees, other than those specifically identified as NIST contact points within the Federal Funding Opportunity. As the Federal Funding Opportunity requires, proposed collaborations with specific (named) NIST researchers must be approved prior to submission of an application. However, applicants should note that identification of a specific NIST employee will not provide an advantage to an applicant; consequently, NIST encourages applicants to propose specific techniques or research areas rather than specific employees in order to minimize the burden associated with pre-approval of identified NIST collaborations. Technical information regarding NIST resilience research is available on the NIST website (including http://www.nist.gov/el/building_materials/resilience). If a specific collaboration with a NIST employee is to be identified in a proposal, please contact Simon Frechette at firstname.lastname@example.org to initiate the process or for additional information.
Q: Can letters of support be submitted after the due date for the Federal Funding Opportunity?
A: No. Letters of support will not be accepted after the closing date.
Q: Can the budget include instrumentation costs?
Q: Can the budget include construction costs?
A: No. The program description does not envision construction of new facilities.
Q: Can the budget include costs for staff, including administrative support?
Q: Should we provide the one-page CV's and then also describe separately in the body of the proposal the qualifications and activities of key personnel?
A: Yes. The 25-page technical proposal should succinctly describe the qualifications and activities of key personnel. This can be supplemented by up to five one-page resumes (not part of the page count).
Q: For the references at the end of the 25-page technical proposal, does the minimum 10 point font requirement apply?
A: Yes, references at the end of the 25-page technical report are to be in a minimum 10 point font.
3. EVALUATION AND METRICS
Q: How do I apply to the Federal Funding Opportunity announcement?
A: Electronic applications will be accepted www.grants.gov through 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, September 12, 2014. Go to http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=259088, review the Full Announcement, and click on the Application Package tab to find the Application Instructions and the Application Package.
Q: How will the proposals for Centers of Excellence be evaluated? Who evaluates the proposals?
A: Applications that are determined to be eligible, complete, and responsive will proceed for full reviews in accordance with the review and selection processes below:
Each application determined to be complete and timely, will be reviewed by at least three (3) independent, objective reviewers, knowledgeable in the subject matter of this FFO and its objectives and who are able to conduct a review based on the evaluation criteria. All applications will be provided to the Evaluation Panel with their respective reviews for further consideration.
An Evaluation Panel will be established. The Evaluation Panel will consist of NIST staff and/or other federal agency employees with appropriate technical expertise. The Evaluation Panel may ask questions of some or all applicants in writing and/or may require teleconferences with some or all applicants. Using the additional information obtained by the Evaluation Panel, the Evaluation Panel will prepare and provide an adjectival ranking of the applications to the Selecting Official, the NIST Associate Director for Laboratory Programs, or designee, for further consideration. The adjectival rankings are:
- Fundable, Outstanding
- Fundable, Very Good
The Selecting Official will make a final application selection and recommend funding to the NIST Grants Office.
Q: What criteria will be used to evaluate proposals for the Community Resilience Centers of Excellence?
A: The proposals will be evaluated according to four criteria: 1) rationality; 2) experience (qualifications), and resource availability; 3) technical plan; and 4) success metrics. The first criterion evaluates the clarity of the proposer's approach to effectively address scientific and technical challenges relevant to the objectives of the Community Resilience Center of Excellence. The second criterion evaluates the extent to which the proposer has access to the necessary facilities and overall support to accomplish project objectives. The third criterion evaluates the technical merit of the proposed work and the value it would contribute to future breakthroughs in Community Resilience. The fourth criterion evaluates the clarity and quality of proposed metrics and mechanisms for evaluating the effectiveness of outputs from the Community Resilience Center of Excellence, including the potential for utilization by communities and professionals to enhance resilience..
Q: How will the success of the Center of Excellence be determined?
A: The NIST Centers of Excellence will provide an interdisciplinary environment where researchers from NIST, academia and industry will collaborate on emerging areas of basic and applied research and innovations in measurement science. These centers are meant to:
- Foster expanded development of expertise in measurement science and its role in innovation through the education and training of scientists and engineers;
- Provide greater opportunities for NIST to engage with industry and entrepreneurs; and
- Enhance technical innovation through earlier alignment of measurement science with emerging and innovative fields of research.
The success of the Community Resilience Center of Excellence will be evaluated against progress towards the original goals of the Center. It is expected that the Community Resilience Center of Excellence will accelerate the development of tools and standards that will enhance the disaster resilience of communities and their built environment, and that the recipient will establish opportunities for extended collaborations with NIST. Additionally, awardees will propose specific metrics that will be used to periodically evaluate progress and success.
Q: What are the metrics for reviews and renewals?
A: NIST anticipates seeking an independent, objective evaluation of the Community Resilience Center of Excellence that includes scientific and technical experts not affiliated with NIST or the recipient to assess the effectiveness and continued desirability of the program. NIST plans to consider the results of such a review, including any findings and recommendations, as part of the process of determining whether to approve potential renewal of the project. This process may be used as part of the overall assessment, consistent with the potential long-term nature and purpose of the program. The full process is expected to include programmatic, policy, financial, administrative, and responsibility assessments, and the availability of funds, consistent with Department of Commerce and NIST policies and procedures in effect at that time.
Q: Who can I contact if I have additional questions about the Community Resilience Center of Excellence?
A: Questions about the Community Resilience Center of Excellence Federal Funding Opportunity may be directed to the following individuals:
Programmatic and technical questions:
Electronic proposal submission through Grants.gov:
Grant rules and regulations:
Questions from the media may be directed to:
Phone: (301) 975-2763