CHWA CESU Procedures for Submitting a Research Proposal to the National Park Service
The National Park Service (NPS) solicits research proposals from CESU non-federal partners in one of two ways: i) the NPS contact distributes a Request for Letters of Research Interest (LOIs) to obtain a list of prospective principal investigators (PIs) to choose from or ii) the NPS contact requests a research proposal/budget (see below) from a PI who he/she knows has the requisite experience and expertise to successfully complete the proposed project. LOIs are posted on the Chesapeake Watershed (CHWA) CESU’s website as well as distributed by the CESU Director to the CESU Technical Representative(s) for each of the non-federal partners.
Important Note: The CESU non-federal partner must have a CESU $0 Master Cooperative Agreement in place with the NPS if the project will be funded through the Chesapeake Watershed Region. This requirement differs by NPS region so check with the relevant NPS CESU Research Coordinator if funding is from another region.
Request for Letters of Research Interest (LOIs) (When Applicable)
The content of the Request may vary somewhat based on the NPS contact, but typically contains:
- Project Title
- Project Description
- Project Timeline
- Final Product(s)
- PI Requirements
- Funding Available
- Information to include in the LOI
- Evaluation Criteria
- NPS Contact Information
The LOI varies in length, depending on the specifications of the NPS contact, but is usually 2-6 pages. The LOI typically contains:
- PI Name and Contact Information
- Brief Description of the Proposed Approach(es) to Successfully Complete the Project
- Biographical Sketch(es) of Key Personnel (CVs attached)
- Brief Description of Relevant Past Projects
- Brief Description of Other Relevant Capabilities for Successfully Completing the Project
The NPS contact often creates a panel to review, rank and select the LOI. The PI with the top-ranked LOI then coordinates with the NPS contact to create a research proposal and detailed budget.
Research Proposal and Detailed Budget
The NPS cannot require a specific template for research proposals, but successful proposals usually contain these elements:
- Project Title
- Statement of the Problem/Issue
- What is the natural resource, cultural resource, or social science management issue to be addressed by the project?
- Include relevant literature citations.
- Purpose and Anticipated Benefits
- Clearly describe the purpose of the proposed project.
- Discuss how the anticipated project findings may assist resource managers in addressing the issue, in developing resource protection strategies, in further understanding the issue or resource being studied, etc.
- Proposed Methods
- For each task to be accomplished, clearly describe the proposed methods, including appropriate literature citations.
- Clearly identify the time required to accomplish each proposed task.
- Timeline should include written progress reports to be submitted in either quarterly (three month) or semi-annual (six month) intervals. Check with the NPS contact to determine which interval applies to your proposed project. Progress and financial reports are due within 30 days of the end of the reporting interval.
- Include submission of project deliverables (e.g., final technical report) in Draft and Final form. Final reports, final financial reports, and other items are due within 90 days of the agreement termination date.
- NOTE: It is recommended that the timeline not include a specific start date because the start date is not predictable. Project start date is the time of execution of the project task agreement.
- Literature Cited (as applicable)
- Detailed Budget (see SF-424A below)
- Provide a detailed itemized budget, including standard categories such as Personnel (salary and fringe), Travel, Supplies, Equipment, Indirect Costs, Total Costs.
- Indirect cost for the CESU program is negotiated at 17.5%.
- Budget Justification
- Clearly justify the requested cost for each budget category.
- Qualifications of Investigator(s)
- Provide a statement that describes the background and qualifications of the investigator(s) as related to the scope of the proposed project.
The research proposal and detailed budget will be attached to the Task Agreement that awards the funds to the recipient. In addition, the PI provides the following to the NPS contact (or designated NPS Agreements Technical Representative) to include in the Task Agreement package so that it can be processed and awarded.
- SF-424 (Application for Federal Assistance)
- SF-424A (Budget Information: Non-construction Project)
- SF-424B (Assurances: Non-construction Project)
- Insurance Liability Certificate (obtained from recipient’s insurance provider)
- If applicable: For awards over $100,000 – Lobbying Form for recipients who do not lobby Congress
- If applicable: For awards over $100,000 – Disclosure of Lobbying Activities form (SF-LLL) for recipients who do lobby Congress, but not for funds on this project
- If applicable: If the recipient has not expended $750,000 or more in Federal funds in the previous fiscal year, then an email is required from the recipient explaining that this is why they are exempt from the A-133 Audit requirement.
 A CESU $0 Master Cooperative Agreement is created in response to a Notice of Funding Opportunity posted on grants.gov, which satisfies the competition criterion and allows NPS staff to work with specific CESU non-federal partners with these agreements without further competition.
CHWA CESU Cooperative and Task Agreement Administrative Steps
FY 2020 Financial Assistance Deadlines (tentative):
May 3 – Last day to enter Master Cooperative Agreements into FBMS
May 3 – Last day to complete an Interagency Agreement
June 14 – Last day to enter Task Agreements into FBMS
July 12 – Last day to enter Task Agreement Modifications into FBMS
September 24 – Last day to obligate funds using Financial Assistance
Any project that will be awarded in Fiscal Year 2020 MUST be on entered into the Google form and be on the Google sheet for review by April 2, 2020 (tentative). Please use this document as you enter your project.
You can visit past year project sheets by using the following links:
You can view the status of your existing agreement by accessing the ASAP Draw Down Report here.
You can also check the history of an award by visiting this website and searching by the awards “P” number.
The process described below is written for the use of National Park Service employees who plan to complete a project using the Chesapeake Watershed Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit Network (CHWA CESU). If you are a university, Principal Investigator, or NGO, please contact the CHWA CESU Research coordinator.
- Please contact the CHWA CESU Research Coordinator by either email or telephone to determine if the university or NGO is you would like to engage is under a master cooperative agreement (for $0) or a stand-alone cooperative agreement (for the amount of the project) will need to be completed for the project. A list of all partners can be found by visiting the CHWA CESU Website.
- Per the Financial Assistance Policies and Procedures 1443-2015-06, competition is strongly encouraged and expected. There are regulatory time frames for posting awards on grants.gov with the minimum posting of 30 days, however, competition is not as daunting as it sounds; both a competitive announcement or a single source justification are available:
- Competitive Announcement – a rolling Notice for Funding Opportunity (NOFO) Announcement has been posted on grants.gov that will allow universities to submit proposals based upon the type of expertise you need. These submissions will be independently rated to determine the most qualified university or NGO.
- Single Source Jusitification – Completing a Notice for Intent to Award (NOI) is the appropriate action if the unique skills that you need for your project reside with one university or NGO. Remember, a single source justification must be compelling; if you are having trouble crafting a compelling justification, competition may be the appropriate route for your project.
- Check the NPS ATR Certification Database maintained by WASO to ensure that your ATR certification is current. ATRs must have completed the 24-hour initial ATR training or 8-hour re-certification training within the last 3 years AND be registered in the national database to serve as the key contact on a CESU project.
- The Agreements Technical Representative (ATR) and the Recipient/Partner need to assemble all pertinent documentation:
*The agreement could be a stand alone Cooperative Agreement for the project or a Task Agreement that will be completed under a Master Cooperative Agreement depending on if the project is being competition or is single-source; please contact the CHWA CESU Coordinator if you’re unsure of which financial agreement to use.,
**If the award is $25,000 or above and requires a stand-alone Cooperative Agreement, the ATR needs to complete a draft announcement for Grants.gov. This document must also be submitted with the PR. Use the attachments below (NOFO to Grants.gov) to build the purchase requisition and the draft announcement.
***OR the email confirming that you are registered and up-to-date with your ATR Refresher courses.
- The host park or program enters the Purchase Requisition (PR) into FBMS and uploads all supporting documents mentioned in Step 2. Have your requisitioner use UPC 411C0000 (Cooperative Agreement – No Property) when entering the PR.
- Once loaded into FBMS, please email Danny Filer, CHWA CESU Research Coordinator, a .pdf file of the SAP Purchase Requisition print out sheet. This will include the PR number and all information on the project so he can track the project to awarding.
- The requisitioner will work with their respective funds certifier and supervisor approver to send an approval request email to the purchase requests is officially submitted.
- The NCR Grants Specialist will review the information entered; if additional documentation is needed you will be contacted via email in three business days.
- If the award is $25,000 or more (including modifications), it must be posted on Grants.gov for 10 days. If it has to compete, there is a requirement that it be posted for 30-60 days on Grants.gov.
- Please allow this time frame, from beginning to end, for each award based upon the following schedule (based upon a COMPLETED package with all supporting documentation submitted correctly):
- After the award has been processed in FBMS, the NCR Grants Management Specialist will print the final task agreement, sign, scan, and email the executed agreement to the ATR and the recipient simultaneously. The ATR does NOT need to sign; the recipient will sign the document and return it to the NCR Grants Management Specialist and carbon copy the ATR and the CHWA CESU Research Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org) so they have the fully signed document.
- Each recipient should consult the terms and conditions in the task agreement as to when progress reports and the SF-425 are due to the NPS. They should be sent to the ATR, NCR Grants Management Specialist, and the CW CESU Research Coordinator.
****If the partner is working through a master cooperative agreement, there may be additional paperwork requirements related to risk assessment, especially if awards are cumulative for a fiscal year and exceeded $750,000 of federal funding.
*****Other Resources from across the CESU Network can be found on the Financial Assistance Documents Portal.
Important Document Download Links
- CESU Process Sheet
- CHWA Task Agreement Template
- PR Forms and Aides (.ZIP file)
- SF Forms (.ZIP file)
- Justification for Use of Financial Assistance
- NOI to Grants.gov
- Budget Details (Word .doc)
- C-3 Modification Template (Word .doc)
- Close Out Sheet
- Master Cooperative Agreement Template (2019)
- Stand-Alone Cooperative Agreement Template