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PSIAP-UI FAQs

1. How do I apply?
The application package is available at Grants.gov under Funding Opportunity Number 2018-NIST-PSIAP-UI. Applicants should carefully follow the opportunity-specific instructions listed on Grants.gov to ensure that all attachments will be accepted by the submission system. Pre-applications are required and must be received via Grants.gov no later than 11:59 p.m. EST on December 29, 2017.

For further information or questions regarding electronic applications on Grants.gov, contact:
Christopher Hunton
Phone: (301) 975-5718
Email: grants@nist.gov

2. Can I submit multiple applications?
NIST will consider multiple Pre-Applications and Full Applications per applicant. However, an individual researcher may only be listed as the principal investigator on one Pre-Application and Full Application. In addition, applicants should refrain from submitting multiple Pre-Applications with related subject matter.

3. Can I just apply to the full application?
A pre-application is required from all applicants. NIST will invite applicants to submit full applications based on the pre-application review and selection process detailed in the Notice of Funding Opportunity.  Only selected pre-applicants may submit full applications.

4. What kind of “outputs” are you looking for? Papers, software, prototypes?
The goals of this funding opportunity are to produce research and technology that can be used in a VR/AR environment. The awardees will have the opportunity to create items such as, but limited to, prototypes for use in VR/AR, VR/AR software scenarios, VR/AR user-interfaces (e.g., HUD, haptic feedback) or modular environments. Awardees may also produce research papers, metrics, and methodologies for testing and measuring activities in a VR/AR environment. In general, we’re open to both practical development and more fundamental research. Our goal is to get better technology into first responders’ hands as quickly as possible.

5. This program is for a 3-year, $5M project, correct?
No. The maximum project duration is 2 years, except for academic institutions supporting PhD students whose dissertation research is part of the application. While we have not explicitly defined separate tracks for small, medium, and large projects, we anticipate funding a mixture of awards: Large awards are possible, but funding is limited to approximately $5 million for the entire program.

6. We are already working with NIST under a CRADA (Cooperative Research and Development Agreement). Are we eligible to apply for this grant?
Potentially: Being a CRADA partner does not, in itself, preclude you from this grant, but conflicts are possible. A sufficiently-detailed answer doesn’t fit in the space of this FAQ, but a key issue is that you cannot receive NIST funds for the same activities involved in the CRADA. If you are a current CRADA partner and considering applying, please contact us directly to discuss your specific situation.

7. Are non-US entities eligible for this program?
Yes. However, where the NOFO requires letters of commitment from public safety organizations (PSOs), those PSOs must be U.S. federal, state, or local organizations.

8. Who owns IP rights to work funded under this program? 
Invention rights for work funded under this program are governed by the Bayh-Dole Act, 35 U.S.C. § 200 et seq.  Generally, the inventor who conceives the invention (the recipient) may elect to own the invention rights, though the Federal Government receives certain use rights and there are some obligations. See section D.03 in the Department of Commerce’s Financial Assistance Standard Terms and Conditions, for more information. Please note, this FAQ is not legal advice.

9. What’s the timeline for applications and NIST’s response?
Key expected dates are provided below:

October 30, 2017: Notice of Funding Opportunity is published on Grants.gov
December 29, 2017: Deadline for Pre-Application Submissions
January 26, 2018: PSCR Pre-Application Decisions
January 26, 2018: Notification of Pre-Application Results
January 26, 2018: Full Notice of Funding Opportunity is published on Grants.gov
March 27, 2018: Deadline to submit formal application
June 2018: Full Application Review Decisions from PSCR

10. What is the “unique entity identifier number” in section IV.8.a?
Applicants will need a “D-U-N-S” number, which is a free, unique identifier provided by Dun and Bradstreet. Applicants will also need to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) provided by the Internal Revenue Service. 

Note, if your organization does not have these numbers, it may take some time to acquire them. Please see the Organization Applicant Registration page on the Applicants tab on Grants.gov.

11. Do references and citations count towards the page limit?
No, references and citations do not count toward the seven-page limit for the pre-application narrative and the twenty-page limit for the full application technical proposal.

12. How does NIST determine whether to award a grant vs. cooperative agreement? 
Per the NOFO, this determination is made at NIST’s discretion.  It involves many factors, but will primarily be based upon a determination if substantial involvement by PSCR will be necessary during the implementation of the project.

13. What if my institution will be collecting data about people, subjects, or participants during our proposed project?
Protection of human subjects is a priority of PSCR’s research and development programs. If you receive funding for a project that includes research involving human subjects, the NIST Human Subjects Protection Office (HSPO) must perform a review of your proposal as described in the Notice of Funding Opportunity. You may be asked to provide details about your proposed human subjects research; supporting documents such as consent forms; survey instruments; and IRB documentation. After HSPO review, your research must be explicitly authorized by a NIST grants officer in the form of a special award condition.

NIST uses the Common Rule for the Protection of Human Subjects, codified by the Department of Commerce at 15 C.F.R. Part 27, to define its criteria for research involving human subjects. If you have further questions about NIST human subjects requirements, please contact:

Anne Andrews, Director, NIST Human Subjects Protection Office
Phone: (301) 975-5445
E-mail: anne.andrews@nist.gov

14. Are federally funded research and development centers (FFRDC) eligible to apply?
Because of the funding instruments used to manage FFRDCs, FFRDCs are generally not eligible to apply. Interested FFRDCs should discuss this further with their Contracting Officer. FFRDCs are, however, eligible to be subcontractors to other eligible applicants.

15. Where can I find information about past awards?
To learn more about research and development projects funded by PSCR, visit the Funding Opportunities webpage.

16. Can the pre-applications include policy and legal discussion on the constitutionality of user interfaces in specific scenarios?
The goal of this NOFO is to develop and research technologies for improved user interfaces. Applicants should ensure they are addressing the objectives outlined in goal 1 and/or goal 2, at a minimum. Applicants may propose additional objectives they believe would be beneficial to the goals listed.

17. At the Pre-Application stage, will resumes of key personnel be considered in the review process?
Yes, the resumes will be considered as part of the “Qualifications and Resources Availability” criterion to assist reviewers with understanding the qualifications and experience of the key staff, leadership, and technical experts.

18. Can you review our technical proposal and provide comments if they meet the R&D objectives in the NOFO?
PSCR cannot comment on an applicant’s proposed technical solution. Applicants should refer to Section I of the PSIAP-UI NOFO for details about the two program goals and the specific types of research projects that the program is looking to fund. PSIAP-UI will provide funding to accelerate research, development, production, and testing of user interface technologies and capabilities through the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) for first responders.

19. Which kinds of public safety organizations are eligible for teaming and research?
For purposes of the PSIAP-UI NOFO, public safety organizations include U.S. federal, state, tribal, and local emergency medical services, fire services, law enforcement, and public safety communications/911 centers.

20. Can you provide more information on virtual reality and augmented reality?
The PSIAP-UI NOFO does not specify what VR/AR hardware or software an applicant must use in their proposed technical solution. Applicants are encouraged to review the evaluation criteria in Section V.2.a.(2) for further information on how the proposed VR/AR technology will be evaluated.

21. Can the proposed budget vary annually so long as it stays under the maximum funding amount for a given goal? For example, if Goal 2 funding is limited to $400k total award over the life of the project, can the proposed budget allocate $150k for year 1 and $250k for year 2?
Yes. Funding may vary between years, depending on the needs of the proposed project.

22. What is the maximum funding amount for projects addressing both goals with support of graduate students in a doctoral program?
Proposals submitted by institutions of higher education for the purposes of supporting research by graduate students as part of a doctoral program may have a period of performance up to three (3) years. The combined funds awarded for goal 1 and goal 2 may be up to $600,000 a year. The maximum potential funding for projects with graduate students in a doctoral program, addressing both goals, is $1,800,000. See Section II.3 of the PSIAP-UI NOFO for further information.

23. Must the proposed R&D objectives in Goal 1 be addressed within one of the three required scenarios listed in the PSIAP-UI NOFO?
As noted in Section I.D.1.a of the PSIAP-UI NOFO, applicants addressing Goal 1 are required to develop one of the three scenarios listed in the NOFO, but may develop additional scenarios as part of their proposal. Each scenario proposed for development must address at least one of the proposed R&D objectives for Goal 1.

24. Per the NOFO, Pre-Application Narratives will be reviewed for the degree of alignment with objectives detailed in the goals sections. Are the "objectives" referring to items i to iv under Goal 1 and items i to x under Goal 2?
The objectives for PSIAP-UI are outlined in the NOFO as follows:  For Goal 1, Section I.D.1.a and Section I.D.1.b.i-iv.  For Goal 2, Section I.D.2.a.i-x.

25. What is the preferred format for the resume and/or quad chart for the Pre-Application? Can you provide a template or example?
The PSIAP-UI NOFO outlines the Pre-Application format in Section IV.2.c. Submissions must contain an easy to read font (12-point minimum), pages must be 8.5” x 11”, and figures, graphs, images, and pictures must be easily viewable. Templates will not be provided for the quad chart or resumes. For more information on content requirements for the Pre-Application, see Section IV.2.a of the NOFO. 

26. Should we be aware of any potential conflicts of interest from the perspective of PSCR evaluating proposals that cross reference each other?
Each application is reviewed and evaluated on its own merit, and reviewers will be unable to verify or consider cross-referenced information.  For this reason, PSCR recommends not cross-referencing information in applications.  As a reminder, an individual researcher may only be listed as the principal investigator on one Pre-Application and Full Application. See Section III.1. of the PSIAP-UI NOFO for more information.

27. Could an example scenario be provided for how different proposals from different organizations could collaborate (but not depend on each other) and add value from the perspective of PSCR?
Applicants may work with other entities that received an award under this NOFO to complement their work in addressing the objectives of goal 1 or goal 2. Applicants should not reference any dependencies to other proposals within their application as awards are not guaranteed.  See also response to question 26.

28. In the NOFO, it is stated that foreign public entities are eligible to participate in the project. If researchers/professors from public universities in another country participate, are they allowed to receive funds as part of the budget?
All foreign public entities are eligible for funding under this NOFO.

29. If it is determined that the project includes human subjects research and therefore requires a determination from an IRB, how does an applicant who has no internal IRB comply?
It is the responsibility of the applicant to arrange for an IRB to review and approve their work, if awarded. Those costs are allowable under an award, so an applicant should account for those costs in their project budget.

30. If new technologies become available after the award that enhance the project goals, can the project scope be modified?
Generally speaking, awards may be modified to adjust for new technologies, although an amendment to the award may be required. However, the project budget generally cannot be increased after an award is made.

31. What's the earliest date the project could start, if awarded?
Currently, we anticipate June as the earliest possible award start date.

32. Will the choice of a grant or cooperative agreement be made solely by PSCR? How will the coordination between the PI and PSCR work for cooperative agreements?
Whether to award as a grant or cooperative agreement is at the discretion of NIST although an applicant can propose one or the other. The extent of the collaboration under a cooperative agreement can vary and is dependent upon the nature of each proposal.

33. Has the 2019 PSCR Public Safety Broadband Stakeholder Meeting location been identified so that we can budget accordingly?
Not yet. Estimate the best you are able.

34. Is there a formula or nist-equation or any rubric to assess the price score?
No, the evaluation criteria published in the NOFO are what will be used to evaluate the budgeted costs.

35. Who needs to submit letters of commitment? Is it just the first responder collaborators, or the primary applicant as well?
All funded and unfunded entities that have an active role in executing the activities outlined in the technical proposal must submit a letter of commitment. However, a letter of commitment is not required by the primary applicant as they are committing themselves through submission of the full application.

36. Are different colleagues in one University considered different entities and therefore need letters of commitment?
No, individuals working at the same entity (e.g., company, university) may be covered by one letter of commitment, provided that the person signing the letter of commitment has sufficient authority over all resources being committed by that institution.

37. For the letters of commitment, to whom should they be addressed to? Would it be the PI for the project application or another person/entity?
The letters of commitment should be addressed to the principal investigator for the project.

38. Assuming that anyone actively involved in the LoC is likely to have a title reflecting their position, like: "Battalion Chief for Training" or "Training Captain" or "Training Liason Officer," would their title be sufficient to document their "qualifications?" If not, how detailed should this list of "qualifications" be? Do you have a representative example that we can reference?
For public safety organizations, a title and position description are sufficient to define their qualifications.

39. What are examples of standards-based vs. non-standards-based user-interfaces as referred to in Section IV3.a.7.vi?
The interfaces in Section IV3.a.7.vi refer to the communication protocols between the AR/VR head mounted display, the computer systems driving the content, and any other system the solution will interface with. Applicants should document the various interfaces and connections used for their proposed solution (e.g., HDMI and USB, 802.11 wireless). For example, standards-based interfaces for VR headsets can include HDMI and USB cables. A non-standards-based interface could be a proprietary wireless protocol used to connect a transmitter on the head mounted display to a receiver on the computer driving the content. Another example is using the standards-based 802.15. Bluetooth wireless protocols to communication with wearables or sensors opposed to a proprietary communication protocol proposed by the applicant.

40. Will the PSIAP-UI evaluators be given the opportunity to interact with on-line representations of 3D models if we also include these models in 2D form within our submission?
The only content beyond text that can be submitted for this NOFO are referenced in Section IV.2.c.(2) and include Figures, Graphs, Images, and Pictures. This content must be included in the technical section of the application and counts toward the 20 page limit. External links to 3D models, videos, etc. are not allowed for this submission and would be redacted during administrative review.

41. Can I change the title name? If yes, do I need to take specific steps to make sure that it is correctly linked to my pre-application?
Yes, you may change the title of your application from your pre-application. Please make sure your application ID is the same.

42. Our team consists of x faculty members, x PhD students, and x undergrad student workers. Does this profile fit the NOFO's intent about supporting graduate students, and therefore qualify for the 3 year rather than 2 year project performance period? If so, do we need to add explanations and/or additional documents to explain the situation?
Yes; if the work in the application is being conducted by PhD students working towards their degree, a three-year period of performance may be proposed. The application should capture the degree status and proposed work for the students, including how the project fits into their dissertation plans.

43. Is there a mechanism for recovering costs associated with software licensing or studio time for projected work on the PSIAP-UI grant? If so, where should they appear in the budget?
There is a cost category that may be used for costs associated with software licensing or studio time. You may reference the NOFO on pages 20 and 21 for all the cost categories and what should be placed within each category. For any item that does not appear to fit well under any other category these items should be listed in the "Other Direct Costs" cost category.

*It is important to note that NIST will consider and determine if all costs are allowable, reasonable, and allocable in accordance with 2 CFR 200 Subpart E — Cost Principles when reviewing proposed costs under and award. Applicants should do their best to place all costs in the correct categories; however, if proposed costs are placed into an incorrect cost category NIST will move the cost to the correct category upon reward. 

Created November 20, 2017, Updated March 16, 2018