UPDATED: NSF EPSCoR Track 2: Call for pre-proposals and idea papers Water/Food/Energy Nexus, or, Understanding the Human Brain

Solicitation of UM Idea Papers and UM Round 1 Pre-Proposals
for NSF’s EPSCoR Track-2 Funding Opportunity for Research in
The Water/Food/Energy Nexus
Understanding the Human Brain

Idea Papers and UM Round 1 pre-proposals are both due to the UM Vice Chancellor for Research and Sponsored Programs (VCRSP) by 5 p.m. Friday, November 7thth, and should be e-mailed to UM Vice Chancellor Alice Clark (amclark@olemiss.edu) or Jason Hale (jghale@olemiss.edu).

This announcement replaces a previous MRC-wide NSF EPSCoR Track-2 call for pre-proposals distributed to UM (and UMMC) through our office in early October. That announcement had called for pre-proposals by October 21st, and was based on the belief that there would be a jurisdiction-wide limit of one proposal. We have since then been told by NSF that the one proposal limitation will apply to each institution in the jurisdiction—not to the jurisdiction as a whole. Based on this new information, UM will treat this as an institutional limited submission, and will proceed based on our standard procedure for managing limited submission opportunities. For this opportunity, UM and UMMC are considered separate institutions. This announcement applies to UM only; UMMC will distribute its own announcement.


Mississippi EPSCoR anticipates the release of a new funding opportunity by the National Science Foundation (NSF) this November that will focus on collaborative research between one or more EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII)-eligible jurisdictions (AL, AK, AR, DE, GU, HI, ID, KS, KY, LA, ME, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NM, ND, OK, PR, RI, SC, SD, VT, VI, WV, and WY).  A jointly-developed, collaborative proposal that includes researchers/institutions within at least two (or more) of these states will be required.  We anticipate the maximum budget request allowed per four year project/proposal will be up to $1M annually (for collaborations involving two RII-eligible jurisdictions, or $4M total) or $1.5M annually ($6M total) for collaborations involving three or more RII-eligible jurisdictions, with no restrictions on how these funds are distributed among the collaboration jurisdictions/institutions. We do not anticipate F&A restrictions or cost sharing requirements.

We anticipate the release of a new solicitation in early November 2014, with full proposals due to NSF in late January 2015. Shortly after that solicitation is announced, we will wrap up Round 1 and share all received Idea Papers with all Round 1 pre-proposal submitters. We will then solicit Round 2 pre-proposals with a likely due date in mid-December. Only those who submitted Round 1 pre-proposals will be eligible to submit Round 2 pre-proposals. One month before the NSF deadline for full proposals, we will decide which Round 2 pre-proposal is selected to move forward to a full proposal.

Pre-proposals should address:

(1)   emphasis on recruitment and development of junior faculty
(2)   development of collaborations that will sustainable (highly competitive for external funding) beyond the award period;
(3)   partnership with (inclusion of research collaborators from) at least one other EPSCoR state partner from the list above;
(4)   partnership with (inclusion of researchers from) from at least one or two, and ideally three or four other MS research institutions (JSU, MSU, UMMC, or USM);
(5)   an emphasis on experimental approaches;
(6)   a plan to combine geographically dispersed expertise into a critical mass capable of competing for large-scale NSF applications.
(7)   a strong connection to one of this year’s scientific themes:

Water/Food/Energy Nexus or Understanding the Human Brain

(additional information on these themes is provided below)

(8)   a credible plan to meaningfully assess how well the program is working
(9)   a strong broader impacts potential

Format of Pre-Proposals:

(1)   no more than 6 pages in 11 or 12 point Times New Roman or Arial font.
(2)   names, contact information and institutional affiliations of the involved Mississippi participants.  A UM lead Principal Investigator (PI) must be designated.
(3)   an NSF-style summary of the proposed research
(4)   an NSF-style broader impacts statement
(5)   a list of potential EPSCoR jurisdictional research partners in MS and other states (see list of states in the 1st paragraph above) with their contact information and some evidence that each such potential partner is interested in collaboration on a UM-led proposal.
(6)   A brief outline of the budgetary request, only for the Mississippi activities.  Partner state budgets are not required with the pre-proposal submission.  

Instructions for Idea Papers

If you believe you could contribute to a larger project but do not feel you could yourself put together a sizable collaboration and lead a proposal, you may elect instead to submit an Idea Paper, in hopes that your idea might be “picked up” and adopted into someone else’s pre-proposal in UM round 2.

(1)   be limited to 1-2 pages in 11 or 12-point Times New Roman or Arial Font
(2)   describe one research study or program (or set of strongly related studies/programs) that, under your direction, could be undertaken as part of a larger project led by someone else
(3)   say how theses studies/programs fit well within the chosen theme
(4)   describe the relevant capabilities (expertise, experience, facilities) of the contributing researcher/educator/team member
(5)   estimate the (range of) direct costs required to implement the project
(6)   speculate on how this program/component might be integrated into a larger project—how it might tie in with other actual or hypothetical activities.
(7)   state whether ORSP has the permission to share your Idea Paper with other potential collaborators within UM, at UM, and/or with other MRC institutions (JSU, MSU, USM). By default, we will assume that we do have the permission to share this internally at UM, but that we do not have the permission to share with MRC.

About the two permitted research areas of focus….

Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus

The WEF Nexus is a complex, global grand challenge that reflects the interconnectedness and interdependencies among these resources.  Track-2 proposals in the focus area of the WEF Nexus must present a program that integrates all three elements of the nexus.

In all projects, emphasis must be on transformative research that improves fundamental understanding of the underlying dynamics, processes, and interactions between WEF systems. Proposals to apply existing methods or technologies to demonstrate or quantify aspects of the WEF Nexus will not be considered.

June 10-11, 2013, NSF conducted a workshop on the Energy-Water Nexus. Presentation topics and slides from that workshop may be viewed at http://www.aiche.org/ifs/conferences/water-energy-nexus-workshop/June-13.  UM (and UMMC) researchers are strongly encouraged to review these slides as a first step to deciding whether and what to propose.

WEF Example Thematic Areas:
• Integrated analysis and modeling – develop analytical methods and models to identify critical connections to global and regional energy and water resources that influence food production, investigate relationships among food, water, and energy technology options and socioeconomic factors such as population fluxes in urban and rural areas, economic drivers, and competing resource demands.
• Advanced materials and technological solutions – development of materials and technologies that can yield economically-relevant improvements in the WEF nexus.
• The integrated science behind improvements of feedstock productions systems, including aquaculture – the area encompasses improved understanding of the basic processes and interactions that underpin crops, agricultural, and aquaculture techniques that improve water quality, co-production of value-added products that reduce energy intensity and environmental protection across the food production lifecycle. Basic and fundamental research bridging the hydrological, environmental, ecological, geochemical, energy, and engineering sciences is encouraged.
• Advanced sensors and analytics – technologies for reliable measurement-based data of water availability, quality, and demand to support food and energy production and deliver relevant land-use and climate scenarios to support decisions related to water and resource allocation. Technologies may include subsurface sensing and characterization, remote sensing, and treatment systems to tailor water quality to specific food and energy production requirements.

Understanding the Human Brain

NSF’s goal is to enable scientific understanding of the full complexity of the brain, in action and in context, through targeted, cross-disciplinary investments in research, technology, and workforce development.  Track-2 proposals on Understanding the Brain should focus on one or more thematic areas of the NSF BRAIN Initiative (http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/brain/initiative/ ):
• Multi-scale Integration of the Dynamic Activity and Structure of the Brain – elucidate and link dynamics of the brain and neural circuits with brain function, including its real-time physiological, behavioral, and cognitive outputs.
• Neurotechnology and Research Infrastructure – create tools to image, sense, record and affect real-time brain function and complex behavior, and develop theories and systems to collect, visualize, analyze, model, store, and distribute BRAIN data.
• Quantitative Theory and Modeling of Brain Function – reveal emergent properties of the brain and provide predictive theoretical frameworks to guide future research.
• Brain-Inspired Concepts and Designs – capitalize on insights gained from BRAIN to inspire novel conceptual paradigms and innovative technologies and designs that will benefit society.

Researchers considering proposing in this theme are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with that the NSF has to say about understanding the brain, including information at http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/brain/   http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=127477