Seed Grants - Coconut

Request for Proposals (RFP)

Application Deadline: January 6, 2023

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Overview

The USDA NIFA-funded Agricultural Genome to Phenome Initiative (AG2PI) addresses agricultural challenges, from genome to phenome, by building and supporting a cross-kingdom and multi-disciplinary research community. Our coconut (larger seed) grant mechanism is intended to foster impactful AG2P research.

We encourage research proposals in one of the topic areas described below (see Program Scope), but welcome proposals on any topic relevant to the agricultural G2P community. Priority will be given to projects that broaden multidisciplinary discoveries and develop synergies across communities and organizational types (e.g., crops and livestock; academics, government, and the private sector). We also welcome high risk/high reward proposals that, if successful, would represent a leap forward for the field. Potential applicants with high risk/high reward proposals are encouraged to contact AG2PI in advance for guidance.

  • Anticipated number of awards: 6-8
  • Target budget per award: Up to $250,000
  • Application Deadline: January 6, 2023
  • Start date: March 1, 2023
  • Length of award: up to 12 months, unless otherwise negotiated; no cost extensions will typically NOT be granted

Program Scope

This AG2PI grant opportunity is focused on supporting research projects that have applications to both crops and livestock. In general, proposals for activities that span both plant and animal systems will be the most successful, but single species/domain proposals that describe how the work will apply across kingdoms are also eligible. Although other topic areas will be considered, the following topic areas have been identified by USDA as special topics of interest for this round of the AG2PI and proposals in these three areas are especially encouraged:

  1. Develop tools and datasets that can be used across multiple crop species to advance genome engineering tools for integrated optimization of crop yield and livestock feed for improved animal reproduction and nutrition.
  2. Mitigate environmental impacts from crop and livestock production.
  3. Encourage development of root stocks that increase carbon capture and can support grain crop cover.

Additional topics identified in the AG2PI community surveys as being of major cross-kingdom importance will also be considered. Examples of activities that would be responsive to this RFP include – but are not limited to – the following:

  • Building on genomic research, such as NSF-funded Plant Genome Research projects and the USDA-funded National Animal Genome Research Program, to understand gene/genome function(s) relevant to production environments that are expected to have considerable returns for crops and livestock of importance to U.S. agriculture.
  • Collecting, developing, and/or integrating phenotyping data, tools and technologies to advance AG2PI research.
  • Updating data repositories important to the AG2PI community to employ optimal data sharing principles and/or to enable data sharing while maintaining privacy (e.g., federated databases; homomorphic encryption).
  • Developing strategies for handling and integrating disparate data types (multi-scale, multimodal, etc.) to address research challenges across scientific communities.
  • Making tools and technology more accessible and/or scalable, particularly to those with limited resources.
  • Partnerships with the USDA-funded Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes are encouraged.

Eligibility

  • Lead proposer(s) (Principal Investigator) 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.
  • Awardees of previous or current AG2PI seed grants are eligible yet will not receive preference in the application review or award selection process.
  • Individuals from underrepresented groups are encouraged to apply, especially those from minority-serving institutions.
  • Applicants should check with their sponsored project offices before submitting their proposals, particularly with respect to their proposal budgets. Non-complying budgets can delay the project start date by months; no-cost extensions will not be granted.

Awards

Awards (up to $250,000) 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 allocated to the receiving university for administrative and other overhead costs.


Deliverables

Proposals should describe how the results of the proposed activity are anticipated to further the aims of AG2PI and how project deliverables will be shared.

  • A brief final written report of the project activities and deliverables must be submitted to the AG2PI seed grant chair within 60 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 to USDA-NIFA on data about the number and characteristics of participants in engagement activities, and information about outcomes and impacts. Successful applicants will be required to provide these data upon completion of the proposed activity.
  • Awardees are required to agree to AG2PI's Data Management Plan (DMP) and 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 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 the final 60 days of seed grant project, before the project end date). There is space in the proposal to provide details, in 2-4 sentences, for your specific data management plan.
  • Awardees are encouraged to work with the AG2PI team (i.e., Executive Board and staff) to make seed project activities and outcomes visible through the AG2PI communication channels, as well as via webinars and events. Awardees will be required to present at an AG2PI-organized event in 2023 and are encouraged to present at other national and international venues.
  • Identifying information for PIs and Co-PIs, as well as project narratives, will be shared on the AG2PI website for all awarded proposals.
  • All presentations, papers, posters, and other public communications (e.g., interviews), that originate from the grant must acknowledge support from the AG2PI and the United States Department of Agriculture under USDA award # 2022-70412-38454. If you are tweeting about your project, please be sure to use our hashtag (#AG2PI) and #NIFAimpacts or @AG2PI and @USDA_NIFA handles in your tweet.

How to Apply

Please read all submission guidelines and instructions below on how to format and electronically submit your proposal.


Submission Guidelines

There are two forms comprising the proposal:

An online application in Smartsheet and a Word template that needs to be filled out and saved as a PDF. Below are details for what information must be included in each form.

Seed Grants Application Form Word Template Form

Smartsheet application contents:

  • 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: Provide a brief title for your proposed project (not to exceed 50 characters).
  • Project summary/abstract: Provide a brief summary for the proposed project (up to 500 characters).
  • Keywords: Provide up to five keywords for your proposal. This will assist with identifying qualified reviewers for your proposal.
  • AG2PI Priority Area: Check the box next to the priority area(s) that your project is designed to address.
  • PDF upload: Complete the Word template (described below) and save as a PDF, then upload at the bottom of the Smartsheet application.

Word template (proposal) contents:

This must be saved as a PDF and uploaded to the Smartsheet application. Do not adjust the font (12pt, Times New Roman) or margin settings (1", all sides).

  1. Project description (no more than five pages) containing the following components:

    1. Objectives/aims with preliminary results and plans for achieving each objective/aim (2 pages)
    2. Describe how the project will further the aims of the AG2PI – particularly with respect to how the project may contribute to research on both livestock and crops – and the basis for evaluating the success of the project (0.5 pages)
    3. Expected outcomes and deliverables (1 page)
    4. Qualifications of the project team (0.5 pages)
    5. Proposal timeline (0.5 pages)
    6. Description of how the project will engage the AG2P scientific communities and underrepresented groups (0.5 pages)
  2. Bibliography/References cited
  3. Data management plan agreement (a written statement is required regarding how you meet the requirements laid out in the AG2PI data management plan).
  4. Budget and budget justification (follow USDA guidelines for allowable expenses). The budget justification detail should follow the same order as the budget. Include travel funds to cover expenses of presenting your project results at relevant scientific venue(s). Information on how to calculate indirect costs can be found here:

    https://rsp.wisc.edu/forms/calculateUnusualIndirectCosts.cfm

    https://nifa.usda.gov/sites/default/files/resource/Frequently-Asked-Questions-Farm-Bill-Indirect-Costs.pdf

  5. USDA Conflict of Interest (COI) information for each senior/key person. This will assist with avoiding COI during the review process.
  6. Letters of collaboration. If you are including collaborators or who have agreed to render services in your proposal, you must include a letter that documents the collaboration from each individual with whom you are collaborating. The purpose of this letter is to document 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.

    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:

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

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


Review Criteria and Process

The AG2PI Seed Funds are administered by the AG2PI Executive Board. The Board will manage a peer-review process for proposals and select proposals for AG2PI support. AG2PI Board members are not eligible to serve as PI, co-PI or collaborator on a proposal. Ad hoc grant reviewers may be included in the review process, as necessary, particularly if a proposal is outside the expertise of Board members. Previous or current AG2PI seed grant awardees will not receive preference in the proposal review or award selection process. The processes of the Board will abide by the AG2PI Conflict of Interest Management Plan.

AG2PI supports and encourages diversity in all members, volunteers and audiences, including full participation in programs, policy formulation, and decision-making. View our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) statement here.


Timeline / Administration

Activity Date
Call for proposals release October 28, 2022
Deadline to submit proposals January 6, 2023
Project start date March 1, 2023
Final reports due Within 60 days of project completion

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.


Previously Funded Proposals

Previously funded AG2PI seed grant proposals can be found here

Previously Funded AG2PI Proposals


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.

  12. I previously received a seed grant from AG2PI, can I apply for a coconut grant?

    Answer: Yes, this research grant opportunity is available to anyone who is not on the AG2PI Executive Board.

  13. My research idea is high risk, but has the potential for high reward. Is it a good fit for a coconut grant?

    Answer: Yes, high risk/high reward projects will be considered. You are encouraged to contact us early to discuss your idea.