Seed Grants - Round 1

Request for Proposals (RFP)

Application Deadline: March 19, 2021

Synopsis

The Agricultural Genome to Phenome Initiative (AG2PI) is offering a seed grant program which will fund around six (6) awards, each up to $20,000 with application deadline of March 19, 2021. The anticipated start date for funded projects is May 15, 2021 and each project may be 6-12 months in duration. Details regarding the request for proposals, application and review are below.

AG2PI will be hosting a Seed Grant Mini-Conference from 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM CST (UTC-6:00) on February 24 (register here). This conference will provide an overview of the seed grant mechanism, examples of how seed grants have improved or advanced a scientific endeavor or community and will provide an opportunity to ask questions regarding the seed grants. Additionally, there will be a "teaming" event which will create the virtual space to discuss your seed grant idea with like-minded researchers with whom you may want to collaborate. Please note: grant proposals that include multiple disciplines (especially cross-kingdom) and multiple institutions will receive priority. For more information on this Mini-Conference, please see the Workshops & Activities page of the AG2PI website.


Overview

The Agricultural Genome to Phenome Initiative (AG2PI) was created to address the challenges of agriculture, from genome to phenome, by building a cross-kingdom and multi-disciplinary research community. The seed grant mechanism within AG2PI is intended to foster first steps towards the development of community solutions to research needs and opportunities, as well as gaps in physical infrastructure and data management.

In the first round of funding, we invite proposals that will further develop the AG2PI community in one of the four theme areas described below (see Program Scope). Projects that broaden interactions as much as possible and seek to find synergies across communities and organizational types are highly encouraged (e.g., plants and animals; academics government, and the private sector).

  • Anticipated number of awards: 6
  • Target budget per award: Target request of $15,000 not to exceed $20,000
  • Application Deadline: March 19, 2021
  • Anticipated Project Start date: May 15, 2021
  • Length of award: 6-12 months

Please note: Individual investigator research projects are outside the scope of this call. In other words, priority will be given to research that addresses a community challenge or enables the AG2P community, broadly speaking. As such, preference will be given to activities or events which are open to participants from outside the proposer's host institution or organization.


Program Scope

The AG2PI seed grant opportunity is focused on supporting one of the following general topic areas: 1) Identify best practices, tools, and techniques for G2P data sharing and storage; 2) Encourage cross-fertilization of existing or novel G2P tools, data, or ideas; 3) Coordinate available educational resources and/or determine best approaches for expanding cross-disciplinary training in AG2P data science/biology/engineering; 4) Motivate agriculture-focused analyses of G2P from ethical, legal, social, ecological, and economic perspectives; and 5) Use of sensors in agricultural genome to phenome research.

As such, a successful proposal could address - but is not limited to - one of the following:

Topic Area 1: Identify best practices, tools, and techniques for G2P data sharing and storage
  • Exploring methods and/or defining standards to enable data sharing while maintaining privacy (e.g., federated databases; homomorphic encryption)
  • Developing and/or deploying standards or ontologies for AG2P environments and management regimes
  • Creating repositories that use optimal data sharing principles
  • Developing strategies for handling and integrating disparate data types (multi-scale, multimodal, etc.) across communities
  • Making technology more accessible, particularly to those with limited resources
Topic Area 2: Encourage cross-fertilization of existing or novel G2P tools, data, or ideas
  • Defining strategies to improve phenotypic prediction via a combination of genomic prediction, growth models, and AI
  • Identifying needed phenotyping data, tools and technologies (e.g., survey, webinar, white paper, working group)
  • Developing interactive workshops for community planning activities in one or more areas relevant to AG2PI (e.g., crop research, livestock research, data sharing, engineering, social/economic policy-making, etc.)
  • Engaging relevant and emerging scientific communities that are currently underrepresented in AG2P
  • Coordinating shared resources and pursuing collaborative research across industries, countries and species
Topic Area 3: Coordinate available educational resources and/or determine best approaches for expanding cross-disciplinary training in AG2P data science/biology/engineering
  • Encouraging outreach opportunities for training the next generation of AG2P scientists to pursue research and expand education
  • Identifying needed training resources and best practices for sustainable delivery to diverse communities (i.e., data science for biologists, biological principles for data scientists)
  • Develop training activities tailored to multiple scientific communities and different career stages within AG2P
Topic Area 4: Motivate agriculture-focused analyses of G2P from ethical, legal, social, ecological, and economic perspectives
  • Quantifying and documenting the value to US society of investments in AG2P research
  • Clarifying and managing ethical, legal and social aspects of AG2P research and initiatives
  • Improving public relations and better communicating the value of G2P research to the public and to funding agencies.
Topic Area 5: Use of sensors in agricultural genome to phenome research
  • Building economical sensor systems that can be deployed in AG2P research
  • Creating new technologies that can be used to improve animal health and well-being and potentially can be used by farmers
  • Developing analytical tools to model data coming from sensor systems, including ones that can be used by farmers in their decision-making

Proposals should describe how the results of the proposed activity are anticipated to further the aims of AG2PI and how these outcomes will be shared. Examples might include: drafting proposals for funding, white papers, repositories, best practices documents, computational tools/software, curricula, or learning outcomes for future training events.


Eligibility

  • Lead proposer(s) (PI) must be primarily affiliated with an institution or organization that is eligible for a USDA award. We will be following the eligibility requirements listed in the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative- Foundational and Applied Science Program RFA (see Part III, A).
  • Lead PIs are limited to one proposal per funding cycle.
  • To broaden participation, grow the AG2PI community, and ensure a transparent and fair process, proposers who are current members of the AG2PI principal investigator team must include collaborators from an institution/organization not currently represented on the team.
  • AG2PI Seed Grant Steering Committee members must recuse themselves from the review of any proposals that are from their home institutions, or that involve their own work, or that of their family members, current students or employees, or current collaborators. Participation and reviewing will follow standard USDA conflict of interest policies.
  • Early career and graduate student applicants are especially encouraged to apply. You are encouraged to discuss your project with a member of the AG2PI seed grant steering committee and your supervisor, especially if you have not previously applied for a grant
  • Individuals from underrepresented groups are encouraged to apply, especially those from minority serving institutions
  • It is recommended that applicants check with their sponsored project offices before submitting their applications, particularly with respect to their budget proposals.

Deliverables

  • A brief final written report of the project activities and outcomes must be submitted to the AG2PI seed grant chair within 90 days of the completion of the project. The scope of the report is dependent on the nature of the project activities. AG2PI is required to report data about the number and characteristics of participants in engagement activities, and information about outcomes and impacts. Successful applicants will be asked to provide this data on completion of the proposed activity.
  • Awardees are required to make content, data, resources, tools, etc. that are collected and/or developed using AG2PI support available to the broader stakeholder community using standard USDA practices, open source, FAIR, or other models. Awardees should familiarize themselves with AG2PI's Data Management Plan (DMP) and the USDA guidelines for data management plans (https://nifa.usda.gov/resource/data-management-plan-nifa-funded-research-projects) and have required materials submitted by the timeline provided in the DMP (i.e., within 6 months of seed grant project completion). A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) can be made available as deemed necessary.
  • Awardees are encouraged to work with the AG2PI team to make seed project activities and outcomes visible through the AG2PI communication channels, as well as via webinars and events.
  • In all presentations, papers, posters, and other public communications (including social media posts), awardees must acknowledge support from the AG2PI and the United States Department of Agriculture under USDA award # 2020-70412-32615.

Awards

Awards will be made in the form of subcontracts for allowable project expenses, where "allowable" is determined by USDA guidelines. Please check with your office of sponsored projects to help determine what is an eligible expense. Indirect costs are allowed so please ensure your budget meets USDA indirect cost requirements. An indirect cost is the percentage of the award paid directly to the university for administrative and other overhead costs.

We anticipate making 5-6 awards in this cycle. Total budget request should not exceed $20,000. Activities should be completed within 6-12 months of the award start date.


Review Criteria and Process

AG2PI Seed Funds are administered by the Seed Grant Steering Committee. Steering Committee members are nominated by the AG2PI participating organizations and the AG2PI Executive Board. Steering Committee members do not receive compensation. They represent the diversity of AG2PI constituents and demonstrate independence of judgment and expertise in the area(s) assigned to them. Some AG2PI Executive Board members are included in the committee to fill knowledge gaps, to replace a committee member who is unable to complete their reviews, or to otherwise facilitate the review process. The Committee manages the peer-review process for proposals, selects proposals for AG2PI support, and provides feedback to proposers. The processes of the Committee abide by the AG2PI Conflict of Interest Management Plan to ensure that no one included or affiliated with a proposal is involved in its review.

AG2PI supports and encourages diversity in all members, volunteers and audiences, including full participation in programs, policy formulation, and decision-making. The grant review committee will make every effort to engage a diverse range of voices in reviewing applications as well as in awarding grants. View our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) statement here.


Timeline / Administration

Activity Date
Call for proposals released February 1, 2021
Informational Mini-Conference February 24, 2021
Deadline to submit proposals March 19, 2021
Target date for notification April 15, 2021
Project start date May 15, 2021
Final reports due Within 90 days of completion of the activity
Outcomes assessment Following completion of each award

How to Apply

Submission guidelines can be found here. Application form and instructions on how to format and electronically submit your application can be found by clicking the button below:

Seed Grants Application Form


Contact Information

Potential applicants may contact AG2PI to learn more about the Seed Funding program and its community engagement efforts. Email: Nicole Scott at nmscott@iastate.edu You may also send inquiries from your sponsored programs office to Nicole.


Diversity & Inclusion Statement

AG2PI was formed with the belief that different ideas, perspectives and backgrounds create stronger and more creative research and learning environments that promise to advance science more quickly and evenly. To support an inclusive environment, this project aims to provide equal opportunities to all participants without regard to race, religion, age, sex, national origin, citizenship, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic disposition, neurodiversity, or disability.


Seed Grants Steering Committee

This committee represents the diversity of AG2PI constituents and demonstrates independence of judgment and expertise. AG2PI has established appropriate mechanisms to manage conflicts of interest.


Submission Guidelines

General Information
  • Contact Information: Include the name, title, affiliation, and contact email for all individuals on the project team. Identify who will lead the project, i.e., who will be responsible for budget and deliverables.
  • Title: Please provide a brief title for your proposed project (not to exceed 50 characters).
  • Project summary/abstract: Please provide a brief summary for the proposed project (up to 500 characters)
  • Keywords: Please provide up to five keywords for your proposal. This will assist with identifying qualified reviewers for your application.

Please upload a single document (PDF) containing the following information. All proposals must follow USDA formatting requirements (font size at least 12 point, margins at least one inch in all directions, no more than six lines per vertical inch).

  1. Project description (no more than four pages) containing the following components: Objectives/aims with preliminary results and plans for achieving each objective/aim (2 pages)
    1. Describe how the project will further the aims of the AG2PI and the basis for evaluating the success of the project (0.5 pages)
    2. Expected outcomes and deliverables (0.5 pages)
    3. Qualifications of the project team (0.5 pages)
    4. Proposal timeline (0.5 pages)
    5. Description of how the project will engage the AG2P scientific communities and underrepresented groups
  2. Bibliography/References cited
  3. Data management plan
  4. Budget and budget justification (please follow USDA guidelines for allowable expenses). The budget justification detail should follow the same order as the budget.
  5. Current and Pending support information for each senior/key person
  6. Letters of collaboration (these are required for consultants or collaborators who have agreed to render services). If you are including collaborators or consultants in your proposal, the individual(s) with whom you are collaborating must provide you with a letter that documents the collaboration. This letter must be included in your single document upload with your application. The letter must be written on letterhead of the institution with which the collaborator is affiliated and signed by the collaborator.

    The letter should clearly state:

    • The full name of the collaborator and his/her institution.
    • A description of the collaborator's expected role in the research.
    • A brief statement which describes the experience and expertise of collaborator in his/her field.
    • A statement acknowledging that facilities and equipment are available to the collaborator.
    • Acknowledgement of any prior or on-going collaboration with any members of the scientific team on the plan.

    The purpose of this letter is to show the peer review panel that the collaborator can provide the needed expertise.

    Letters should not substitute for explaining a collaboration in your project plan. They are to confirm intended and described collaborators.

  7. USDA Conflict of Interest (COI) information for each senior/key person. This will assist with avoiding COI during the review process.

Application form and instructions on how to format and electronically submit your application can be found here.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. Why should I apply?

    Answer: There are many benefits to this seed grant award, beyond funding your project. First, it will promote community-building as well as promote your work to the community. Second, funded awards will help direct future USDA and other federal funding initiatives and investments. Third, grant awards will be listed on the AG2PI website and Twitter account in order to advertise the exceptional work being done in the AG2P community; thus, giving them visibility and presence in the greater professional community.

  2. How will these grants benefit the AG2P and greater community?

    Answer: The results of funded projects will be shared with the AG2P community via the AG2PI website as well as through white papers to the scientific community and federal agencies, including Congress. In this way, funded awards will help direct future USDA and other federal funding initiatives and investments. Furthermore, grant awards will be listed on the AG2PI website and Twitter account in order to advertise the exceptional work being done in the AG2P community; thus, giving them visibility and presence in the greater professional community.

  3. I'm a graduate student; can I apply?

    Answer: Yes, graduate students can apply. We recommend involving your research advisor and sponsored projects office in completing the application.

  4. Do I need to involve my office of sponsored projects?

    Answer: Not necessarily. Awards will be made as a subaward of the AG2PI grant, so it is a good idea to involve your sponsored projects office to help decide indirect costs (IDC) and how these will affect your budget request. If your proposal is selected for funding, the AG2PI team will work with you and your institution on the formal subaward agreement.

  5. I am currently working outside of the US. Am I eligible to apply for this seed grant?

    Answer: Yes, but not as a Principal Investigator. Seed grants may only be submitted by eligible U.S. institutions. Applications may include collaborations with international partners. Such applications may include subcontracts to international partners or other institutions and must clearly demonstrate benefits to the United States. Please visit this webpage for additional information: https://nifa.usda.gov/resource/afri-international-partnerships

  6. Do I need to include a letter of support or a letter of collaboration? What is the difference?

    Answer: If you are including collaborators or consultants in your proposal, the individual(s) with whom you are collaborating must provide you with a letter that documents the collaboration. This letter must be included in your single document upload with your application.

    A letter of support aims to increase enthusiasm for the project or to highlight the qualifications of the PI or co-PI. Letters of support typically come from key stakeholders such as a department chair or mentor. This letter should not be included in your proposal.

    A letter of collaboration documents a collaboration between a principle investigator (PI) and other entities whose contributions are significant to a proposal. This letter is a required component of your proposal. The purpose of this letter is to show the peer review panel that the collaborator can provide the needed expertise.

    Letters should not substitute for explaining a collaboration in your project plan. They are to confirm intended and described collaborators.

  7. Which IDC rate should I use in my budget?

    Answer: See Budget and budget justification section under submission guidelines for more details.

  8. What is an Indirect Cost (IDC)?

    Answer: An indirect cost is the percentage of the award paid directly to the university for administrative and other overhead costs.

  9. If I applied for one of the other AG2PI grant types, can I also apply for this grant?

    Answer: Lead PIs are limited to one proposal per funding cycle, per grant type (i.e., rolling, round 3 or working group). For example, if you applied for a Round 3 or working group grant, then you may also apply for a rolling grant. Each RFP has a different, specific focus so individuals may serve as lead PI to more than one proposal, but only one within each of the three types of grants per funding cycle.

  10. Will I receive feedback on my proposal if it isn't awarded any funds?

    Answer: Yes, all non-funded proposals will receive a short summary of reviewer's comments.

  11. Are there examples of successful proposals?

    Answer: Yes, please see section Previously Funded Proposals where some of the project narratives are linked to the project title.