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2015 Environmental Literacy Grants Program FAQs

NOAA funding opportunity NOAA-SEC-OED-2015-2004408 is currently open and will close on 11:59:59 pm EDT on April 13, 2015. Review of applications will occur from April-June, 2015. It is anticipated that recommendations for funding under this announcement will be made by September 30, 2015. Projects funded under this announcement will start no earlier than October 1, 2015.

Two informational webinars with the program officers will occur on March 9, 2015 from 3:00 to 5:00 pm EDT and March 10, 2015 from 3:00 to 5:00 pm EDT. NOTE: the same content will be presented in both webinars. By 12:00 PM EST on March 6, 2015, interested applicants should register for one of the webinars by emailing oed.grants@noaa.gov. Include in the Subject line of the email: "Register for ELG15 FFO Webinar" and in the body of the email, provide the interested party's name(s), institution, telephone number, and email address and indicate the preferred webinar date. An email response from oed.grants@noaa.gov will be sent with the login information and date for the webinar. Whenever possible, individuals from the same institution should try to join the webinar from the same computer/phone line.


(Note: If your question is not on this list and is not answered in the Announcement of Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) found at Grants.gov (search under CFDA number 11.008) please contact one of the Program Officers at (202-482-0793) or oed.grants@noaa.gov)


Templates, models and checklists

  • Where can I find the templates mentioned in the FFO?
  • Are there any models for the two budget elements?
  • Are there any checklists to help me ensure I submit a complete application?
  • Is it possible to get a copy of a funded application from a previous year?

Required Project Components and Areas of Emphasis

  • What types of project activities are allowed?
  • Is it required that my project reach groups traditionally underserved and/or underrepresented in Earth System science?
  • What is the goal of this funding opportunity?
  • At what scale should projects be implemented?

Grants.gov and Submission Information

  • How do I get registered for Grants.gov?
  • I am registered with NSF's FastLane. Do I also need to register with Grants.gov?
  • How do I fill out an application in Grants.gov?
  • How do I access the application package in Grants.gov?
  • Is my version of Adobe Reader compatible with Grants.gov?
  • I am having technical problems submitting my application through Grants.gov.  What do I do?
  • When are the full proposals due?
  • Are original ("wet") signatures required on any part of the application?
  • May I submit an application by email or fax?
  • What if Grants.gov or my institution's Internet connection is unavailable at the submission deadline?
  • Can I request an extension of time to submit an application?
  • I submitted my application to Grants.gov but later discovered a mistake or missing element in my application. What should I do?


Eligibility Requirements

  • What types of applicants are allowed to apply to this funding opportunity?
  • May a federal employee serve as a PI or co-PI?
  • May NOAA personnel (both Federal employees and contractors) serve as Co-PIs?
  • Are individuals unaffiliated with an institution allowed to apply?
  • May foreign (non-US) institutions apply?
  • May graduate students serve as PIs for this funding opportunity?
  • How many applications can an investigator or institution submit this year to this funding opportunity?
  • Can Federal Agencies apply for funds?
  • Would NEERS or Sea Grant be considered eligible applicants? after How many applications can an investigator or institution submit this year to this funding opportunity?


Application Preparation

  • Are there any templates for the full application?
  • The required application elements listed in the Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) are not consistent with what is listed in the mandatory and optional documents sections in the "Grant Application Package" of Grants.gov. Which list do I follow?
  • Where in Grants.gov should I upload the required application elements?
  • Will you enforce the page limits on full applications?
  • Does the list of references cited in the full application project description count against the 15-page limit?
  • What elements are required for the full application package?
  • I do not have any current or pending support to report or any references embedded in the project description. Do I still need to include these required elements of the application in the Project Narrative?
  • Can I submit letters of commitment? If so, how?
  • Can additional letters of commitment be submitted after the application deadline?
  • Can I submit appendices to the project description with additional information on the proposed project activities?
  • What do I put down under items #16a and 16b on the SF-424 for the Congressional district if there is more than one district for the applicant and/or project or if my state only has one district?
  • On the SF-424, I do not know what is meant by "Applicant Identifier", "Federal Entity Identifier", "Federal Award Identifier" and "State Identifier" (items 3, 4, 5a, 5b, 6, and 7). Where do I find this information?
  • On the CD-511 form, the field for "Award Number" is required. What should I put in this field?
  • I want to submit an application that does not address the identified priorities. How will this affect my chances of success?
  • Can a project have impact in a foreign country?
  • Do we need a data-sharing plan if we are having students collect data that will not be contributed to any scientific study or NOAA monitoring system? (We do not plan to do any QC/QA on the plan.)
  • Our project budget will cover 5 years, but the SF424a only provides space for reporting 4 years of funding. How do I fill out the form for all 5 years?

Budget Information

  • What is the total amount of funding for which I can apply?
  • What is the minimum amount of funding for which I can apply?
  • May faculty request academic year salary in addition to or instead of summer salary?
  • May application budgets include equipment?
  • Are sub-awards allowed?
  • Should I provide documentation for my institution's negotiated indirect cost agreement?
  • What if my institution does not have a negotiated indirect cost rate agreement?
  • Can the amount for evaluation exceed the recommended 10-20% of the total project budget?
  • What categories should be included in the budget table and narrative?
  • Is there a cap on the amount I can allot for any particular budget category?

Project Partners and NOAA Assets

  • What types of project partners would make an application more competitive?
  • What NOAA entities are available for me to partner with?
  • Where can I find more information on NOAA assets that might be used in my project?
  • Who should NOAA letters of commitment come from?

Cooperative Agreements

  • Do I need to indicate whether my application is for a cooperative agreement or a grant?
  • What is the difference between a cooperative agreement and a grant?

Templates, models and checklists

Q: Where can I find the templates mentioned in the FFO?
A: Our Templates & Models page

Q: Are there any models for the two budget elements?

A: Yes; again, please look at our Templates & Models page. There are models for the budget table, budget narrative, and SF-424A form.

Q: Are there any checklists to help me ensure I submit a complete application?
A: Yes, checklists for completing a full application are available on our Templates & Models page. If submitting as a collaborative team, there are separate checklists for lead applicants and non-lead applicants. Please note that incomplete applications will not be considered for funding.

Q: Is it possible to get a copy of a funded application from a previous year?
A: NOAA's Office of Education is not authorized to distribute the applications outside of our internal grants process. If you are interested in seeing a particular application, we recommend you contact the Principal Investigator directly for assistance.

Q: My question is not in this list and is not answered in the Announcement of Federal Funding Opportunity. What should I do?
A: Contact Stacey Rudolph at oed.grants@noaa.gov

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Required Project Components and Areas of Emphasis

Q: What types of project activities are allowed?
A: NOAA will consider funding a wide range of project types, but all projects must actively engage participants in learning about and addressing real-world issues and strengthen the public’s and/or K-12 students’ environmental literacy to enable informed decision-making necessary for community resilience to extreme weather events and environmental changes.

Q: Is it required that my project reach groups traditionally underserved and/or underrepresented in Earth System science?
A:No; however, addressing the STEM needs of underrepresented and/or underserved groups is an area of special interest in this funding opportunity, and is a specific component of the review criteria.

Q: My question is not in this list and is not answered in the Announcement of Federal Funding Opportunity. What should I do?
A: Contact Stacey Rudolph at oed.grants@noaa.gov.

Q: What is the goal of this funding opportunity?
A: Projects should build the environmental literacy necessary for community resilience by focusing on geographic awareness and an understanding of Earth systems and the threats and vulnerabilities that are associated with a community’s location.

Q: At what scale should projects be implemented?
A: Projects may be implemented on local to regional scales, but all projects should evaluate which components of the project may be applicable to projects in other places.

Q: My question is not in this list and is not answered in the Announcement of Federal Funding Opportunity. What should I do?
A: Contact Stacey Rudolph at oed.grants@noaa.gov


Grants.gov and Submission Information

Q: How do I get registered for Grants.gov?
A: Get registered right away! Getting started with Grants.gov is easy, but it can take up to 3 weeks to complete the registration process. Go to www.Grants.gov and click on "Get Started". We recommend going to the Grants.gov "Get Registered" site that explains the steps involved in the registration process.

Q: I am registered with NSF's FastLane. Do I also need to register with Grants.gov?
A:Yes, you need to register separately with Grants.gov. Registration with NSF's FastLane does NOT constitute registration with Grants.gov.

Q: How do I fill out an application in Grants.gov?
A: Grants.gov application process information can be found here this site.

Q: How do I access the application package in Grants.gov?
A: The application package is now available in Grants.gov. You can search for it using the Funding Opportunity Number, NOAA-SEC-OED-2015-2004408, or the CFDA number, 11.008.

Q: Is my version of Adobe Reader compatible with Grants.gov?
A: To determine if your version of Adobe Reader is compatible with Grants.gov, use their application test package here.

Q: I am having technical problems submitting my application through Grants.gov.  What do I do?
A: Go to the Grants.gov resources FAQ for additional support. www.grants.gov/web/grants/applicants/applicant-resources.html. For documentation purposes, if you are experiencing difficulties with your Grants.gov submission we recommend that you contact the Grants.gov help desk and record and save your ticket number.

Q: When are the applications due?
A: Applications are due by 11:59:59 pm EST on April 13, 2015 (note that Office of Education staff will only be available to answer questions until 5 PM EST). Applications submitted after this deadline will not be accepted.

Please note: Grants.gov requires applicants to register with the system prior to submitting an application. This registration process can take several weeks and involves multiple steps. In order to allow sufficient time for this process, applicants should register as soon as they decide they intend to apply, even if they are not yet ready to submit their applications. Also, even if an applicant has registered with Grants.gov previously, the applicant's password may have expired or their central contractor registration may need to be renewed prior to submitting to Grants.gov. Grants.gov will not accept submissions if the applicant has not been authorized or if credentials are incorrect. Authorizations and credential corrections can take several days to establish. Please plan accordingly to avoid late submissions. For further information please visit the Systems Award Management (SAM) website.

Q: Are original ("wet") signatures required on any part of the application?
A: When submitting through Grants.gov, the final electronic submission by the authorizing official is equal to an original ("wet") signature.

Q: May I submit an application by mail, email, or fax?
A: No. Only applications submitted electronically through Grants.gov will be accepted.

Q: What if Grants.gov or my institution's Internet connection is unavailable at the submission deadline?
A: Please avoid this problem by submitting early. If you choose not to submit until the last minute, you do so at your own risk.

Q: Can I request an extension of time to submit an application?
A: No.

Q: I submitted my application to Grants.gov but later discovered a mistake or missing element in my application. What should I do?
A: As long as the problem was discovered before the posted application deadline, you may re-submit the corrected application to Grants.gov. Please notify Stacey Rudolph at oed.grants@noaa.gov that you have re-submitted an updated application. Once the application deadline has passed, submitted applications may not be corrected or updated.

Q: My question is not in this list and is not answered in the Announcement of Federal Funding Opportunity. What should I do?
A: Contact Stacey Rudolph at oed.grants@noaa.gov.

[Back to Topics]

Eligibility Requirements

Q: What types of applicants are allowed to apply to this funding opportunity?
A: Eligible applicants for this funding opportunity are limited to institutions of higher education; other nonprofits, including informal education institutions such as museums, zoos, and aquariums; K-12 public and independent schools and school systems; and state, local and Indian tribal governments in the United States. For-profit organizations, foreign institutions, and individuals are not eligible to apply. Eligible applicants may submit an individual application or submit as part of a collaborative team of two or more eligible institutions.

Q: May a federal employee serve as a PI or co-PI?
A: Federal employees may not serve as PIs or co-PIs on any application; however, they may be included as key personnel or project partners

Q: May NOAA personnel (both Federal employees and contractors) serve as Co-PIs?
A. No, NOAA personnel (both Federal employees and contractors) cannot serve as Co-PIs, but can be listed as project partners.

Q: Are individuals unaffiliated with an institution allowed to apply?
A:No, individuals are not eligible to apply; only institutions may submit pre-proposals and full applications.

Q: May foreign (non-US) or for-profit institutions apply?
A: No, foreign institutions or for-profit institutions are not allowed to apply to this funding opportunity. However, they may serve as project partners.

Q: May graduate students serve as PIs for this funding opportunity?
A: No; however, they may serve as Co-PIs or key personnel

Q: How many applications can an investigator or institution submit this year to this funding opportunity?
A: An individual may apply only once as Principal Investigator (PI) through this funding opportunity.  However, institutions may submit more than one application per funding opportunity and individuals may serve as co-PIs or key personnel on more than one application.

Q: Would NEERS or Sea Grant be considered eligible applicants?
A: NERRS, State Sea Grant and Sea Grant Colleges are eligible applicants, and can also serve as a NOAA partner.

Q: Can Federal Agencies apply for funds?
A: Federal agencies cannot apply for funds.

Q: My question is not in this list and is not answered in the Announcement of Federal Funding Opportunity. What should I do?
A: Contact Stacey Rudolph at oed.grants@noaa.gov.

[Back to Topics]

Application Preparation

Q: Are there any templates for the application? A:Yes, there are suggested templates for the title page, project description, and current and pending support. We recommend that you use these templates to ensure that the information is provided in a manner that facilitates processing of your application. Additionally, there are models for the budget narrative and budget table that provide high quality examples, and there is also a model showing how to correctly fill out the SF-424A form. These templates are posted at www.oesd.noaa.gov/grants/elg/funding_template.html.

Q: The required application elements listed in the Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) are not consistent with what is listed in the mandatory and optional documents sections in the "Grant Application Package" of Grants.gov. Which list do I follow?
A: A complete application will include all of the elements and forms listed in the FFO regardless of what is shown in Grants.gov. (You can upload forms and documents into Grants.gov even if they are not listed as mandatory or optional documents of an application. See the Full Application Checklist of Required Elements at www.oesd.noaa.gov/grants/elg/funding_template.html for more details about how and where to upload the required documents.)

Q: Where in Grants.gov should I upload the required application elements?
A: Please see the "Full Application Checklist of Required Elements" found at www.oesd.noaa.gov/grants/elg/funding_template.html. This document provides information about how to bundle and upload the required application elements.

Q: Will you enforce the page limits on applications?
A: Yes. There are page limits only for the project description (15 pages) and the brief resumes (3 pages per resume). The page limits on the project descriptions are inclusive of figures and other visual materials.

Q: Does the list of references cited in the full application project description count against the 15-page limit?
A: No. References, milestone chart, budget information, resumes, current and pending support, and letters of commitment are not included in the 15-page project description limit.

Q: What elements are required for the application package?
A: Checklists of all required elements are available at www.oesd.noaa.gov/grants/elg/funding_template.html. Note that there are different checklists for lead applicants vs. non-lead applicants.

Q: I do not have any current or pending support to report. Do I still need to include this required element of the application?
A: Yes. If any PI or Co-PI has no current or pending funding beyond this application, this must be clearly indicated on a separate page under a heading "Current and Pending Support".

Q: Can I submit letters of commitment? If so, how?
A: Yes, letters of commitment may be included as part of the application submitted by the lead institution through Grants.gov. They will not count against the 15-page project description limit. For instructions on how to submit the letters, please see the Full Application Checklist of Required Elements at www.oesd.noaa.gov/grants/elg/funding_template.html.

Q: Can additional letters of commitment be submitted after the application deadline?
A: No. All letters must be included as part of the original application submitted through Grants.gov before the application deadline.

Q: Can I submit appendices to the project description with additional information on the proposed project activities?
A: No, you may not submit any appendices beyond the required and optional application elements listed in the Announcement of Federal Funding Opportunity. Any non-requested elements submitted as part of an application package will be removed from the application prior to merit review.

Q: What do I put down under items #16a and 16b on the SF-424 for the Congressional district if there is more than one district for the applicant and/or project or if my state only has one district?
A:If the applicant has several offices in different districts, use the district with the largest population. If the project will take place in multiple districts, all districts involved may be used. The SF-424 requires that you enter numbers only. To find your Representative's district go to http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/olm112.aspx. If your state only has one representative (e.g. Alaska) or a delegate instead of a representative (e.g., District of Columbia), enter a zero.

Q: On the SF-424,  I do not know what is meant by "Applicant Identifier", "Federal Entity Identifier", "Federal Award Identifier" and "State Identifier" (items 3, 4, 5a, 5b, 6, and 7).   Where do I find this information?
A: These items on the SF-424 do not apply to applications in this call for applications, so please leave them blank. (Note: The boxes in the SF-424 on grants.gov are not highlighted in yellow, which is an indication that providing this information is optional.)

Q: On the CD-511 form, the field for "Award Number" is required. What should I put in this field?
A: Please write "N/A" in the Award Number field.

Q: I want to submit an application that does not address the identified priority. How will this affect my chances of success?
A: Chances of success will be low because evaluation criterion #1 assesses how well the application addresses the program priorities.

Q: Can a project have impact in a foreign country?
A: It would be allowable if a project also has impact in two or more states. Additionally, foreign organizations or U.S. organizations located outside of the US are able to serve as project partners. However, we are anticipating this funding opportunity to be highly competitive and it is likely that projects with impacts occurring within the US would out-compete projects with impacts occurring outside the U.S.

Q: Do we need a data-sharing plan if we are having students collect data that will not be contributed to any scientific study or NOAA monitoring system? (We do not plan to do any QC/QA on the plan.)
A: The data sharing policy is new for our agency and educators and students were not the intended audiences for this policy. So, in the section of your proposal for "data sharing plan" (see section IV.B.1(i) of the FFO), just briefly describe the data you will be collecting and what you plan to do with them and then, if you are recommended for funding and if we think these are the kinds of data that should be shared, then we'll ask for a more fully fleshed out plan when we enter into negotiations for making an award.

Q: Our project budget will cover 5 years, but the SF424a only provides space for reporting 4 years of funding. How do I fill out the form for all 5 years?
A: If your project has a duration of five years, in section B of the SF424a, sum your budgets for years 4 and 5 and put the combined amounts in column (4). Please note: The totals in section B, row k, should match the totals in section A, column g of the SF424a. For additional information on how to fill out this and other forms, please see our "Grant Application Templates and Models" website at: http://www.oesd.noaa.gov/grants/elg/application_templates.html.

Q: My question is not in this list and is not answered in the Announcement of Federal Funding Opportunity. What should I do?
A: Contact Stacey Rudolph at oed.grants@noaa.gov.


[Back to Topics]

Budget Information

Q: What is the total amount of funding for which I can apply?
A: The total Federal amount requested from NOAA by all collaborative applicants combined must be no less than $500,000 and no more than $1,000,000 for all years of the project, including direct and indirect costs. No single institution may request more than 70% of the total combined federal request for the collaborative project. Collaborative teams of applicants requesting Federal support from NOAA of less than $500,000 or more than $1,000,000 total for all years, or collaborative teams of applicants in which an individual applicant requests more than 70% of the total combined federal request for the project, will not be considered for funding.

Q: What is the minimum amount of funding for which I can apply?
A: There is no restriction as long as the requirements are met.

Q: May faculty request academic year salary in addition to or instead of summer salary?
A: NOAA does not limit the amount of salary requested by faculty as long as it does not exceed 100% of an individual's time in a given year, including time accounted for on other grants.

Q: May equipment be included in the budget?
A: Yes. Equipment that is necessary to carry out the proposed project may be requested and should be justified in the budget table and narrative.

Q: Are sub-awards allowed?
A: Yes. The project description and budget justification should clearly state why there is a need for a sub-award, what the sub-awardee will do, and the organization(s) or individual(s) to which the sub-awards will be made. Additionally, if any funds are planned for a sub-awardee, you must describe and provide the funding amounts in the same level of detail as is provided in the overall budget, i.e., you should provide the same category break-down as for the overall budget for the sub-awardee budget, for all the categories that apply. The cumulative cost of the sub-awards should appear under the category of "contractual" in the SF-424A.

Q: Should I provide documentation for my institution's negotiated indirect cost (IDC) agreement?
A: Yes, if your institution has documentation of its negotiated indirect cost agreement, please upload this document to Grants.gov with the other budget information you will provide.

Q: What if my institution does not have a negotiated indirect cost rate agreement?
A: If your organization does not have a negotiated indirect cost rate agreement with a federal agency or the agreement is out of date and a renewal is not pending, you should list those indirect costs as direct costs in the budget narrative and SF-424A and leave the IDC rate at 0%.

Q: Can the amount for evaluation exceed the recommended 10-20% of the total project budget?
A: Yes; as long as the cost of evaluation is justified in the project description and budget narrative, there is no cap for the costs of evaluation.

Q: What categories should be included in the budget table and narrative?
A: Categories should match those in the SF-424A.

Q: Is there a cap on the amount I can allot for any particular budget category?
A: As long as the costs are justified in the project description and budget narrative, there is no cap on any budget category.

Q: My question is not in this list and is not answered in the Announcement of Federal Funding Opportunity. What should I do?
A: Contact Stacey Rudolph at oed.grants@noaa.gov.

[Back to Topics]

Project Partners and NOAA Assets

Q: What types of project partners would make an application more competitive?
A: Partnerships with both NOAA and non-NOAA entities are encouraged on all proposed projects. Although a specific type of partner will not necessarily make an application more or less competitive, the strength of each proposed partnership will be evaluated by reviewers. The application should clearly articulate the role of each partner and how the partnership will contribute to the success of the project activities. All project partnerships should also be articulated in letters of commitment.

Q: What NOAA entities are available for me to partner with?
A: NOAA entities include, but are not limited to, programs, offices, and organizations such as the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, National Marine Sanctuary Program, National Sea Grant College Program, National Weather Service Weather Forecast Offices, NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, NOAA Cooperative Institutes, and Regional Associations of the Integrated Ocean Observing System. Websites and contact information for many of these entities can be found at www.oesd.noaa.gov/grants/NOAA_assets.html

Q: Where can I find more information on NOAA assets that might be used in my project?
A: A list of NOAA assets can be found at: www.oesd.noaa.gov/grants/NOAA_assets.html

Q: Who should NOAA letters of commitment come from?
A: NOAA partner letters of commitment should come from Federal managers.

Q: My question is not in this list and is not answered in the Announcement of Federal Funding Opportunity. What should I do?
A: Contact Stacey Rudolph at oed.grants@noaa.gov.

[Back to Topics]

Cooperative Agreements

Q: Do I need to indicate whether my application is for a cooperative agreement or a grant?
A: No, all applicants should apply for a non-construction grant. If the application is selected for funding, NOAA will determine if the proposed activities constitute substantial involvement of a NOAA entity to the extent that requires a cooperative agreement. Therefore, the applicant should describe in sufficient detail in the project description the nature of involvement of any participating NOAA entities in the project. If the project is selected for funding the exact nature of NOAA's involvement will be negotiated and included in the terms and conditions of the award.

Q: What is the difference between a cooperative agreement and a grant?
A: The legal definition of a Cooperative Agreement: The legal instrument reflecting a relationship between NOAA and a recipient whenever: (1) the principal purpose of the relationship is to transfer money, property, services, or anything of value to accomplish a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by Federal statute and (2) substantial involvement (e.g., collaboration, participation, or intervention by NOAA in the management of the project) is anticipated between NOAA and the recipient during performance of the contemplated activity. Cooperative agreements are subject to the same OMB, Treasury, and other Federal laws and policies as grants. See 31 U.S.C. 6305. A grant is the funding instrument used when only condition (1) exists.

Q: My question is not in this list and is not answered in the Announcement of Federal Funding Opportunity. What should I do?
A: Contact Stacey Rudolph at oed.grants@noaa.gov.

[Back to Topics]