Is an itemized budget justification required?
Question: Is an itemized budget justification required in addition to the "Explanatory Notes" contained in Exhibit B, Center Budget Plan? Also, should a budget justification be included for each subawardee included in our proposal?
Answer: An itemized budget justification is not required in addition to the Explanatory Notes. Also, amounts for sub-award universities should not be included as a lump sum on the lead/applicant’s budget or on the Center Budget Plan. Please see the answer to Q&A dated 3/5/2013 (Consortium-Member Costs in Center Budget Plan) on the website at http://www.rita.dot.gov/utc/about/grant_competition/2013/questions_and_answers for more information.
Submitting Hard Copies of Grant Package
Question: For the required hard copy, I planned to print out the grants.gov(link is external) package after it's submitted and send that to you. Is that acceptable, or should I complete the forms offline and get an actual signature on the forms?
Answer: The Grants.gov submission is the official one that will be submitted with a virtual signature, therefore the hard copies don’t need original signatures on the SF424 and SF424B.
Use of non-U.S. Third Party In-kind Contribution as Cost Sharing
Question: Is it possible to use a non-U.S. third party in-kind contribution as cost sharing? The obvious caveats being that it has to be verifiable/trackable, specifically related to this project, and occur in the same period of performance as the project.
Answer: OMB Circular A-110 reads, “Federal agencies may apply the provisions (subparts A though D) of this Circular to commercial organizations, foreign governments, organizations under the jurisdiction of foreign governments, and international organizations”. However, both the non-U.S. entity and the form of the third party in-kind contribution should be identified in the prospectus.
More about Providing Information on Number of Degrees Conferred
Question: On page 23, the solicitation states, “Describe any accredited degree-granting programs with transportation components and/or specializations that will be part of this grant, and provide the number of degrees conferred annually during the past five years (undergraduate, masters, and Ph.D.)…". Are we going to be providing the total number of degrees conferred in the entire program (e.g., all Civil Engineering degrees) or just those with transportation concentration?
Answer: If you can identify degrees awarded with transportation concentration, please report on those, and state in your application that that is what those numbers represent. We expect that some universities may only be able to identify degrees awarded in (for example) civil engineering, so that statement is important for reviewers to put the numbers into the appropriate context.
Fonts - Size/Type
Question: Page 19 of the solicitation states that the prospectus “must not exceed a total length of thirty-five (35) 8.5x11 standard-size pages, single-spaced, Arial 12 font, with one-inch margins.” Does this statement mean that the font to be used for body text must be only Arial 12 font, or, does it mean that the font size for body text may be smaller than Arial 12 but just not exceed it? Is caption font considered to be “within” a figure or table so able to use 9-size font? What about text in headers and footers? Are variations on the Arial font family, such as Arial Bold and Arial Narrow, acceptable for use in body text, headings, titles, etc.?
Answer: Arial 12 is the font/size that should be used throughout the document, including the cover page, except for tables/figures where, as noted in our response to the 1/4/2013 question, we will allow the size of text within the table/figure to go down to 9. We would consider caption text to be within a figure or table, and text within headers/footers may also go down to 9 size. Arial Black is acceptable, but Arial Narrow is not.
Use of Foreign Consultants on Grant Project
Question: Are there any reasons why we couldn’t use foreign consultants for our grant project? We did not see any criteria that excludes the use of foreign colleagues for this grant program. Please let us know as this will help us in the development of our final proposal submission.
Answer: Typically, the University/Grantee should look within itself (officers or employees) and its consortia membership to fill any consulting requirements. However, if, after looking there it cannot find suitable experts you should explain in your prospectus how using foreign consultants would help to accomplish the purpose of the grant.
RITA Review of Tier 1 Budgets
Question: Tier 1 proposal budgets will not be included in the material the reviewers will receive. According to the RFP, “for those Tier 1 applicants whose applications are selected through this competition, RITA’s UTC Program grant management staff will conduct the necessary review of the budget before awarding funds.” Exactly what will the UTC staff be looking at and for in the Tier 1 budgets? Will the UTC staff have the authority to “unselect” applications which were selected through the review panels, or will they just work with the selected centers to make adjustments to budgets as needed before awarding funds?
Answer: The review of Tier 1 budgets by RITA’s UTC Program grant management staff will be done after the selection. The review is for the purpose of ensuring proper agency oversight of federal grant funds, and while it is possible that such severe problems could be identified in a budget as to prevent the award of funds, RITA’s practice is to work with grantees to arrive at a mutually satisfactory budget.
Language on Restrictions in Solicitation versus Federal Register Notice
Question: The UTC Program solicitation, under the section on Restrictions on Receiving Multiple Grants, states that “A sole institution or an institution leading a consortium that receives a grant as a National Center or Regional Center is not eligible to receive a Tier 1 grant as a sole or lead institution of a consortium.” The RITA website, at http://www.rita.dot.gov/publications/federal_register/2012/html/rita_2012_10_01.html, says in the Eligibility section that “…a lead institution of a consortium that receives a grant for a National Center or a Regional Center is not eligible to receive a Tier I grant in any capacity (either as a sole institution, a lead institution or a member of a consortium).” These two instructions appear to be on conflict with one another? Which one takes precedent over the other?
Answer: The former quotation is from the December 2012 solicitation, and the latter is from an October 2012 Federal Register notice that preceded it. As a result of public comments received from the Federal Register Notice, certain restrictions on receiving multiple grants were lessened in the solicitation. The wording in the UTC Program solicitation (as well as the matrix on page 13) prevails.
Program Efficacy and Diversity Performance Metrics
Question: In the RFP, I do not see a requirement for performance metrics in the areas of Program Efficacy and Diversity. I assume we do not need to generate metrics for these areas?
Answer: That is correct.
Question: Please advise if the Institution may list projected revenues from, for example, training programs stemming from the proposed work as a source for matching funds?
Answer: This sounds like what federal grant regulations (OMB Circular A-110) call “program income.” UTC grantees are allowed to use program income as match so long as it complies with the guidance in OMB A-110.
Table of Contents
Question: Would it be allowable to put a table of contents on the inside front cover of the bound prospectus to help the reviewers navigate the document? We understand that it would not be part of our official application through grants.gov.
Answer: Your question raises two important points:
- All pages in the prospectus except the cover sheet and appendices count towards the 35-page limit; should you decide to add a table of contents to the prospectus, that would count toward the page limit, and you should keep in mind that all required items must also be included within that page limit.
- As noted on page 5 of the solicitation, the hard copies you submit “…must contain identical information to what you submitted through Grants.gov…”. If you put a table of contents in the hard copies, then that table of contents would also need to be in the electronic copy you submit to Grants.gov.
Not Submitting Hardship Documentation
Question: On page 27 of the FY13 Grant Solicitation it is stated that (regarding the appendices) the applicant “must arrange them in the order shown and state upfront if you choose not to submit the optional item.” Where exactly should the applicants state that they will not submit the optional appendix? I am assuming this should not be anywhere in the 35-page prospectus as it would be at odds with the statement on page 17: “For Tier 1 Centers, matching funds should only be shown in the budget and must not be discussed within the text of the proposal.”
Answer: It would have been better if we had asked applicants to state that they are not submitting the hardship documentation at the end of the appendices after the budget plan, instead of at the beginning of the appendices. If you are able to change this in your application now, please do so, or if not then your application will be acceptable with this information stated at the beginning of the appendices as the solicitation directs.
Unrecovered Indirect Costs as Match
Question: Are unrecovered indirect costs allowable match sources?
Answer: RITA does accept unrecovered indirect costs as match on the UTC Program.
Budget as Separate Document
Question: Because the budget pages for Tier 1 submittals will not be made available to the reviewers, should that information be provided separately (e.g. not bound with the rest of the prospectus)?
Answer: We did not ask applicants to do that in the solicitation, but doing so would be fine.
Question: Are 'in kind' matching funds acceptable?
Answer: In-kind is accepted as match so long as it complies with the criteria for such match stated in federal grant regulations (OMB Circular A-110).
Percent of Time for Center Director
Question: The solicitation requires that the center director devotes 50% or more of its effort on center activities. I presume this refers to 50% effort per year.
Answer: The solicitation does not require the center director to devote 50% or more of his/her effort on center activities.
Agreement with Subgrantees
Question: If the grant is awarded, are the consortium members’ contracts going to be subcontracts to the lead partner's contract? Or would each consortium partner have separate contracts with USDOT?
Answer: Only the lead/application university will have a grant agreement with US DOT/RITA. The lead university will award funds to any consortium members according to its university’s internal practices.
Scholarships in Budget Plan
Question: According to the General Provisions for Grants 2013, scholarships for undergraduate students are an allowable expense. However, there is not a category line on Exhibit B-Center Budget Plan where this can be itemized. Should the category “Student Tuition” be changed to Student Scholarships/Tuition? Or should we list the scholarship expenses under Other Direct Costs?
Answer: Please include scholarship expenses in Student Salaries or Student Tuition if either of those is the form the scholarships will take, or if not then in Other Direct Costs with the amount broken out from any other costs shown there.
CV for Vacant Key Staff Position
Question: If the Center desires to hire an Asst. Director, but that individual has not been identified prior to grant submission, can a job description be included instead of a CV? Or would the institution need to identify a potential person currently at the institution to serve in that role and include their CV?
Answer: It is reasonable that not all staff positions would be filled prior to receiving a grant, so including a two-page job description in lieu of a CV would be acceptable assuming that individual would be working 50% or more time on center activities.
Technology Transfer/Workforce Development Costs in Budget
Question: In what section of the Center Budget Plan should the costs for grant activities related to Tech Transfer and Workforce Development be included?
Answer: We do not ask applicants to break out costs according to their purpose for research, workforce development, etc.; rather, we ask you (for example) to include all faculty salary costs, whether those faculty are conducting research or workforce activities, on the faculty salaries line item. You should break out your costs for all activities, whether technology transfer, workforce development, education, or research, according to the type of expense to be incurred and using the budget categories shown in Exhibit B.
Funding to Faculty Member at Non-Consortium University
Question: If we will be partnering with a faculty member of an HBCU, do we need to include that faculty partner’s institution as a consortium member? Or, can we simply identify the individual as a consultant, not the institution?
Answer: You could treat that faculty member as a consultant if he/she will not be more fully involved in your center as would a consortium member. Please see the Q&A dated 1/23/2013 on the solicitation Q&A website at http://www.rita.dot.gov/utc/about/grant_competition/2013/questions_and_answers for information about participation by faculty not at consortium universities as well as the Q&A dated 3/6/2013 about being a consortium member.
Consortium Member vs. Collaborator
Question: We had a question concerning whether to involve another university as a subcontractor, collaborator, or consortium member. Since we have done some collaborative type proposals with NSF and have also done some subcontracts we are just investigating what consortium actually means to the UTC program, how it is viewed, and how these might differ from a sub-recipient or collaborator.
Answer: Typically on past UTC grants, the members of a consortium have been involved in planning the overall direction of the center’s activities, consortium members are generally involved in all aspects of the center, and the consortium is a long-term relationship lasting the full life of the grant. We see this as different from the way an entity might participate with the center on a particular project or by providing a particular service that assists in accomplishing just some of the center’s activities. You may want to visit some of the current UTCs’ websites (http://www.rita.dot.gov/utc/about/grant_recipients/html/2012_grant_recipients.html#tier_1) to see how they involve their consortium members.
Consortium-Member Costs in Center Budget Plan
Question: We are applying for a Tier 1 Center grant and are planning on collaborating with two other universities. Where would we list their budgets? If we use the “Center Budget Plan”, would the other universities’ budgets be listed under “Other Direct Costs”?
Answer: Each participating university including the lead/applicant should have its own budget representing the costs it plans to incur. You should then total the amounts on each line item of all university budgets and enter that total amount on that line item in the overall Center Budget Plan. This is sometimes called a “roll up” budget. Do not include amounts for sub-award universities just as a lump sum on the lead/applicant’s budget or on the Center Budget Plan.
Font in Appendices
Question: Can a different font (other than Arial 12) be used in the prospectus appendices?
Answer: Taking the appendices in the order they appear on pages 27-28 of the solicitation: i) RITA will accept CVs in any readable format; ii) the solicitation states that the budget may be in any format you choose, so you may choose any readable font for that appendix, and iii) please use, or model your submission closely after, the format of Exhibit A including font and type size.
Question: On Page 21 of your 2013 UTC Grant Solicitation document, you want us to discuss the degree to which our proposed activities are multimodal. Your definition of multimodal appears to be limited to surface transportation. If aviation is very strongly related to highway modes in the provision of transportation in our state, can we include a project related to aviation?
Answer: The UTC Program is a surface-transportation program, which could include the intersection of surface transportation and aviation. Applications focused solely on aviation would not be appropriate.
Meaning of “Federal Research Funding” in Exhibit A
Question: In the solicitation, question 1 of Exhibit A, Institutional Financial Hardship Statement, asks: “Has your institution received any federal research funding in the past five years that required a match which your institution, or collaborating partner, provided?” Can you please clarify whether “federal” funding means funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation or any federal funding (e.g., Department of Education).
Answer: The phrase “any federal research funding” means research funding from any federal-government agency.
Reduced Overhead Rate
Question: In the Program Efficacy portion of the proposal (section f) the instructions state that an applicant should describe the ability to implement the program in a cost efficient manner. Is it acceptable to mention the university overhead rate in this section if it has been reduced as an efficiency measure?
Answer: That would be acceptable.
Shortening Length of Grant
Question: Is it acceptable for the PI to anticipate utilizing all of the FY13 funds in year 1 of the project, therefore not extending the project over the entire four years?
Answer: The intention of the UTC Program is not to fund a single research project. The ability of an applicant to fulfill all the statutory goals of the UTC Program (research, education and workforce development, and technology transfer) will be a key part of the evaluation process.
More about Budget Start Date
Question: Can we use 08/15/2013 as the start date?
Answer: Please use 09/30/2013 as the start date; as of now, funds are not expected to be provided to grantees prior to that date. See also the 2/4/2013 Q&A about budget start date at http://www.rita.dot.gov/utc/about/grant_competition/2013/questions_and_answers.
More about Key Staff to be Included in Appendix
Question: It’s clear that any faculty/staff with less than 50% effort on the project may not include a CV. However, is anyone with 50% or greater effort on the project automatically required to provide a CV? Is that person automatically considered “Key Staff” solely because of the level of effort, or is the Key Staff criterion based on responsibilities in the project?
Answer: RITA considers anyone spending 50% or more of his/her time on UTC activities to be a key staff person for that center.
Evaluation “Score” as Deciding Factor
Question: Will the evaluation score be the deciding factor in whether an applicant’s Tier 1 Center application is selected instead of a National Center application that it also submitted and where the two applications may not both be selected because of the statutory restrictions?
Response: As noted on page 16 of the solicitation document, review panels will rate each application as highly recommended, recommended, or not recommended for funding, after which selections will be made in order to obtain a balanced portfolio across all three types of UTCs, the US DOT strategic goals, types/sizes of universities, geographic diversity, and multimodality. This means that the evaluation recommendation will not be the sole deciding factor in whether an application for one type of Center may be selected instead of an application for another type of Center submitted by the same applicant. Numerical scoring is not used in this competition.
Changes to Consortium After Award of Grant
Question: Can the members of the consortium be changed after a center has been established and funded? Can new consortium members be added, or can original consortium members leave, at any time during the four-year period?
Answer: Your consortium as it is proposed should be a meaningful arrangement with each member having a significant role in accomplishing the purpose of the grant. RITA would consider changes to a consortium during the grant on a case-by-case basis with full justification.
Color versus Black-and-White
Question: We want to include color in our proposal, but have concerns that a color document printed in black and white would not appear as we intended. Would using color cause problems with what reviewers receive?
Answer: You may use either color or black-and-white, and using color will not be problematic for reviewers.
Weights of Criteria
Question: In the review of proposals, will reviewers be instructed to give greater weight to some of the required sections and subsections than they do to other sections? If so, could you please provide the weighting basis for the various sections and subsections?
Answer: Per US DOT’s best-practice guidance in grant competitions, numerical values such as differing weights for various sections/criteria are not being used in this competition. Applications will be evaluated as a whole.
Preface/Conclusion Added to Prospectus
Question: I know the 35-page prospectus must follow an exact outline. Can I put a brief preface in front of that outline, and a brief written conclusion following it, with the entire package to remain within the 35-page limit?
Answer: Applicants must follow the outline, but RITA would not reject an application for noncompliance with such additions to the narrative portion of the prospectus so long as they do not cause the narrative portion of the prospectus to exceed the page limit or result in any of the required sections to be omitted.
Links to External Documents
Question: Could a table be included in the main body of the proposal or in the appendices with key references? A list of references is needed to discuss the examples of research contributions.
Answer: You should concisely discuss examples of research contributions within the narrative portion of your prospectus, as the review panels will use only the information contained within the application to do their reviews. Related to this question, please see the “NOTE” in the text box on page 19 of the solicitation document, which says: “Any hyperlinks to external websites that provide supplemental content to the information contained in the prospectus will not be viewed by the review panels.”
Responses from RITA regarding Statutory Conflicts Identified in Letters of Intent
Question: When will we receive information concerning conflicts with the statutory restrictions? Would you be able to provide Letter of Intent information received for our consortium member institutions (including contact information) so that we can ensure that our proposal is submitted without potential conflicts?
Answer: Letters of Intent have been analyzed to identify conflicts at the lead/sole institution level as well as at the consortium-member level. RITA’s responses about statutory conflicts are expected to be sent tomorrow to each university that has a potential conflict, delivered via e-mail to the individual(s) who submitted the Letter(s) of Intent. In cases where two different faculty members at one university or where two different universities are involved in the potential conflict, both are included on a single e-mail concerning that conflict; in the interest of privacy on such e-mails, only the basic information needed for the two parties to jointly address the potential conflict is provided (name, title, and e-mail address of each individual plus the type of UTC being sought by each on that conflict), and any other conflicts affecting just one of the two parties is provided in a separate e-mail sent just to that university.
Another Question on Letters of Support
Question: Will Letters of Support be considered at any point during the evaluation process? We have letters of support from State DOTs highlighting the importance of our proposed research. Since we cannot include those letters in the appendices, would it be advisable to send them to the RITA Deputy Administrator for possible consideration?
Answer: Applicants may include a statement in the 35-page narrative portion of the prospectus noting such support/commitment, or they may include copies of such letters within the narrative’s 35-page limit, keeping in mind that all required items must also be included within those 35 pages. All items that are included in the 35 pages of the prospectus will be considered by the review panels. Any other correspondence will not be seen by the review panels.
Letters of Support and the Instructions Not to Discuss Matching Funds in Tier 1 Application
Question: If an applicant has a commitment from a third party to provide certain services as a match, the value of which will be included in the matching funds column of the budget form, can we include a support letter detailing those services within the 35-page narrative portion of the prospectus? It seems that would not comply with the prohibition against discussing matching funds there. Alternatively, could we include a letter describing what the collaborator would provide without stating that it is being provided as matching funds?
Answer: RITA’s preferred method would be for you to include a brief description of the services being provided as matching funds in the “Explanatory Notes” column of the budget.
Question: The solicitation talks about the match for National and Regional centers being “in an amount at least equal to the US DOT grant amount.” However, the language used in talking about the required match for Tier 1 is different: “The match for Tier 1 UTCs is 50 percent” of the amount of the UTC grant. Can the matching funds for a Tier 1 center be more than 50%?
Answer: This answer applies to Tier 1 or National or Regional UTCs – more match than the stated amount is not required, but there is no prohibition against providing it if you wish. Please review the instructions on page 17 of the solicitation document about discussing match in Tier 1 applications.
Copies of Prior Proposals
Question: On the UTC website we are able to access the websites of all the grant recipients from the last several years, but we could not find any sample proposals that got funded in the last several years. Is there a publicly available place on the internet to get access to Tier 1 center sample proposals? It would be great to see if we are on track with writing our proposal.
Answer: We do not plan to post the past applications. The UTC competition for 2013 has different requirements for Tier 1 applicants than the 2011 competition.
Participating with Universities Not in a Consortium
Question: If awarded a grant, can a UTC distribute a Request for Proposals, and provide funds, to universities that are not listed as consortium members on the application?
Answer: There is no prohibition against doing this, though your application would need to state that you intend to do this, describe how this approach would help to accomplish the purpose of the grant, discuss what meaning your consortium has beyond this approach, and describe the peer review process that will be used to determine which projects to fund, including those involving universities outside the consortium.
Amount of Funding Available for a Tier 1 UTC
Question: Please clarify the amount of potential funding DOT has available for Tier 1 UTCs: is it $1.5M total to cover the entire period of up to four years (roughly Fall 2013 to Fall 2017), or is it $1.5M per year X 4 years = $6M?
Answer: Currently there is up to $1.5M available from Federal FY2013 funds for each of the Tier 1 UTCs to be selected, and this money may be spent over the approximately four-year period. The UTC Program’s legislative authorization allows for a second increment of up to $1.5M (bringing the total possible award amount to $3M) to be provided to the selected Tier 1 UTCs from Federal FY2014 funds, but until such funding becomes available through the Federal budget process US DOT cannot commit to providing it; if that second increment of funding does become available, then Tier 1 UTCs will have from the date of award of those additional funds until 9/30/17 to use them.
Consortium-Member Information on Cover Sheet
Question: Should we include the name of the contact person from each member of the consortium? Should we include the street address for each member of the consortium in addition to city, state and zip requested?
Answer: The requirements for the cover page are noted on page 19 of the solicitation, and neither of these data points is required. If you wish to include them, you may, unless doing so pushes the cover sheet beyond a single page.
Providing Information on Number of Degrees Conferred
On page 23, the solicitation states, “Describe any accredited degree-granting programs with transportation components and/or specializations that will be part of this grant, and provide the number of degrees conferred annually during the past five years (undergraduate, masters, and Ph.D.)…".
Question: Does this mean we need to provide undergraduate, MS, and Ph.D. degrees conferred for each member of a consortium broken down annually for each of the past 5 years?
Answer: Yes. Note that this section also asks you to discuss how the grant will be used to support, increase, and improve these programs, so an understanding of the pre-existing programs is needed.
Question: Please confirm that providing data at the departmental level (e.g. Civil Engineering graduates) is acceptable, even though transportation specialists will be a fraction of the data provided.
Answer: Yes, that is acceptable.
Releasing Letters of Intent
Question: My university has submitted a letter of intent for the current UTC solicitation, and we are wondering if all of the submitted letters will be published online? We would like to learn more about which organizations are planning to submit applications, for which type of UTC, and for which of the US DOT strategic goals?
Answer: The letters will not be published. Because the solicitation allows an applicant, between its submission of the letter of intent and the application, to change the type of UTC for which it is applying and the make-up of a consortium, releasing the letters of intent could influence the nature of the competition.
Posting of Q&As
Question: Are all submitted questions posted online? If not, how is it determined which questions are posted online?
Answer: Because of the number of questions that have been, and continue to be, submitted, not all questions have yet been posted. We prioritize posting to ensure that questions raising new issues that we consider to be especially important to the preparation of an application are posted first, and some questions that ask similar questions to ones already posted will not be posted at all.
Question: On page 21, the solicitation states that applicants should discuss how proposed research activities relate to research priorities identified in Section 503(b)(2), (3), (4), (5) of Title 23 USC. Do priorities need to be addressed for all of these subsections, or can a center concentrate on priorities that align with the US DOT strategic goal in which they are focusing?
Answer: Not all subsections needs to be addressed. Page 21 of the solicitation, in the second paragraph of the first bullet, states that “US DOT welcomes a focused Center that will make dramatic impacts on one or a few closely related topics and is not necessary looking for Centers trying to demonstrate the ability to connect to a large number of research topics.”
Question: We prefer if possible to have two or perhaps three center co-directors, rather than a single center director. We think this makes for a more robust and effective management. Is it allowed?
Answer: As stated on page 27 of the solicitation, RITA requires that a single center director be identified from the grantee institution. You have flexibility to propose members of the center’s key staff other than the director as you wish and can justify in section 3 of your prospectus.
Funding to Non-Consortium Organizations
Question: Can funding be provided to organizations that are not U.S. non-profit institutions of higher education so cannot be members of an applicant’s consortium?
Answer: Federal grant regulations allow grantees to use federal funds for certain purposes such as procurement of goods and services from a private company that are necessary to the conduct of the grant. An applicant should work closely with its university’s sponsored research office to develop a clear understanding of what types of costs and arrangements federal grant regulations and university policies allow. Procurement from a community college for goods and services that are allowable under federal grant regulations and are beneficial to fulfilling the purpose of the UTC grant would also be acceptable.
Binding and Cover of Hard Copies
Question: Please advise as to whether the required hard-copy submissions should be bound in a certain manner, or if there are restrictions related to the type of cover used.
Answer: The solicitation does not specify a particular type of binding or cover for hard copies, so any will be accepted, though a lightweight and not bulky binding/cover would be appreciated.
More on “Letters of Support or Commitment”
Question: I would like to also ask for a clarification on a question answered previously regarding the inclusion of letters of support. The answer indicates that letters of commitment are not to be included in the appendix. Does this mean they are prohibited or if included will not be read?
Answer: Do not include letters in the appendices. Applicants may include a statement in the 35-page narrative portion of the prospectus noting such support/commitment, or they may include copies of such letters within the narrative’s 35-page limit, keeping in mind that all required items must also be included within those 35 pages.
State Agency Supports Application, but Later Fails to Provide Matching Funds
Question: Our application will include indication of support from a state agency that, for legal reasons, is not a firm commitment to provide matching funds. If US DOT selects our application and awards us a grant, and then our state agency cannot provide the match, will RITA cancel the grant?
Answer: RITA does not require that an applicant have its full match locked in either at the time it submits its application or at the time a grant is awarded. Certainly, an applicant should present as complete and correct as possible a description of its financial arrangements in the application, but, in the situation you note, RITA would not cancel an award made to a university solely because anticipated state funds did not come through. There are many other allowable sources of matching funds beside state funds that could be pursued.
Question: How rigid is the outline of the prospectus?
Answer: You should follow the outline exactly.
Including Faculty/Staff at Less than 50% Time in Curriculum Vitae Appendix
Question: May we include a two-page resume for faculty/staff who are not working 50% on the UTC?
Answer: No, you should only include CVs in the appendix for those individuals previously discussed in section 3 (“Center Director and Key Staff”) of the narrative portion of the prospectus. If you wish to reference other faculty/staff who do not meet the 50% threshold, you may do so in the relevant part of section 2 (“Response to Evaluation Criteria”) of the narrative portion of the prospectus, keeping in mind that portion’s 35-page limit.
Question: Since we will be proposing a new Tier 1 UTC we will need to re-model and equip existing lab space for the new purpose. Can we include the funds for this in our budget proposal?
Answer: Such costs would seem to be a reasonable use of funds so long as you can justify that the labs are necessary to accomplish the grant activities you propose to conduct under the grant.
Budget Start Date
Question: We are trying to determine the start date for our budget and are confused because the solicitation seems to be giving two different start dates: page 27 says “ …should cover the approximately four years that we expect to be the period of performance under the grant (7/1/2013 to 9/30/2017)...” while the budget form (Exhibit B) on page 30 says “09/30/13 – 09/30/17.”
Answer: Please use the 09/30/2013 date (though because both dates are used in the solicitation, either date will be acceptable).
Exploratory Advanced Research
Question: The solicitation states that applicants for Regional and Tier 1 Centers should discuss how proposed research activities relate to the research priorities identified in Title 23 USC Section 503(b)(2), (3), (4), (5). Can this be extended to include 503(b)(6) on exploratory advanced research, or does RITA intend to specifically exclude that?
Answer: Section 503(b)(6) was not cited in the solicitation document as it is a reference to a specific FHWA program, but as applications under this solicitation are not limited to addressing only the priorities listed in sections 503(b)(2)-(5), an application may address exploratory advanced research.
Question: The Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC) just published a summary of results from their national summit on workforce development. The document lists action items. Would RITA encourage applicants to consider these action items when outlining workforce development projects in their applications?
Answer: RITA cannot advise applicants on what to put in their applications beyond what the solicitation document itself says.
Choosing Between Two Good Proposals that Cannot Both Be Selected
Question: If a university can propose to lead both a National UTC and a Tier 1 UTC, what would happen if both are winning proposals?
Answer: In accordance with the statutory language, both proposals cannot be selected. The selecting officials will consider the merits of each proposal along with the respective merits of the other proposals and the need for a balanced portfolio, as noted in the solicitation: “US DOT seeks to select a balanced portfolio across all selected Centers that supports the US DOT’s Strategic Goals, includes different types and/or sizes of universities, provides geographic diversity, and is multimodal in focus.”
Treatment of Peer Review in Applications
Question: The solicitation emphasizes the use of a peer review process to select research projects. Given that a quality peer review process cannot be conducted by March 19 when applications are due, does RITA expect proposals to identify specific research projects? If so, what type of peer review selection process does RITA expect for those projects?
Answer: On page 21, the solicitation does ask applicants to describe proposed research activities, including projects. The statutory requirement for completion of this competition does not allow for a longer period in which applicants may prepare their applications.
Discussion of UTC Competition at TRB
Question: It is our understanding that during the TRB Annual Meeting, a RITA official described in some detail the review process for the applications. For the benefit of all, could you provide that information in writing?
Answer: RITA officials were asked to speak about the UTC competition a number of times during TRB. They stated nothing more than can be gleaned from a careful reading of the grant solicitation itself.
More on Previous Question, “Restrictions on Changing Consortium Membership”
Question: If a university proposes to lead a National UTC and is also a member of a proposed Regional UTC, can this university wait until after the letters of intent are submitted and before the proposal deadline to decide which team to pull out from, in order avoid statutory conflict?
Answer: In accordance with the instructions in the solicitation, the members of a consortium can be changed after the letter of intent has been submitted. After the March 19 application deadline, the members of a consortium cannot be changed.
When Restrictions on Receiving Multiple Grants Will be Applied
Question: Since no changes to the consortium membership can be made after the solicitation’s closing date, including the dropping of a member who presents a conflict with the statutory restrictions on receiving multiple grants, will a proposal that has a conflict be thrown out and not evaluated?
Answer: All applications that are complete, responsive, and from eligible institutions will be evaluated for merit. After that, as they make funding decisions, the selection officials will apply the restrictions prohibiting multiple grants.
Signature on Letter of Intent
Question: The solicitation did not specify that a letter needs to come from the office of sponsored programs at the university. Is it OK to receive the letter from the PI directly and not through the OSP?
Answer: You should follow your university’s internal policies about submitting letters of intent, but if there is no such policy, then the letter may come from the PI.
Clarification on Previous Question, “Participation by Faculty Not at Consortium Universities”
Question: Please clarify your response to the previous question.
Answer: Researchers from entities not considered to be non-profit institutions of higher education (junior colleges or trade schools being examples) are not considered to be members of consortia but may be included in proposals as collaborators; such researchers may be paid through their employing entity. Researchers from non-profit institutions of higher education will be considered as part of that institution for purposes of restrictions on the receipt of multiple grants, unless the researcher is an independent contractor or consultant and is not paid UTC grant funds through his/her institution.
Discussing Both Federal FY13 and FY14 Funding in Prospectus
Question: Considering that additional funds may be available for FY14, should the body of the prospectus describe not only the activities which would be funded from FY13 money, but also refer to additional or expanded activities only possible should FY14 funds be made available later?
Answer: Yes, for the prospectus portion of the application. As noted in the question below, Federal Amount in Budget, the budget portion of the application should reflect only the FY13 funding.
Letters of Support or Commitment
Question: The appendices have two required and one optional section. There seems to be no opportunity to include letters of commitment for matching funds or other letters of support. Are either of these types of letters required or permitted to be included in the appendices?
Answer: Neither are required, nor should they be included in the appendices; if you wish to note such commitment or support in your application, we recommend that you state it in the text of your prospectus.
Applying for Less than Full Amount
Question: The solicitation states that Tier 1 UTCs will receive “up to $1.5 million per Center…”, and on page 7 applicants are instructed to budget for the full authorized $1.5M amount. May a Tier 1 UTC apply for less than $1.5 million?
Restrictions on Changing Consortia Membership
Question: Will USDOT award or deny funds to whole teams as proposed or will they eliminate non-leads based on awards being made? For example, if a university is a lead on a regional and a sub on a national, both of which are selected for funding, will the USDOT remove the regional lead from the national team and award the national grant to the remaining national consortium?
Answer: Once the deadline for submission of proposals has passed, no changes in consortia make-up will be allowed. The USDOT will not alter consortia teams, nor will any consortium be allowed to seek a change in the membership of its consortium as described in its proposal. Awards will be granted to consortia as constituted in proposals; if conflicts arise with respect to the statutory award restrictions, award decisions will be based on the consortia as described in the proposals. At no time will any consortium be allowed to recommend changes to its proposed consortium membership in an attempt to eliminate a conflict with the statutory award restrictions.
As noted in the solicitation:
RITA will identify potential conflicts in the Letters of Intent and notify institutions well before applications are due. An institution may change the type of Center being applied for, or the members of its consortium, in its application. However, you may not change the US DOT Strategic Goal that was identified in the Letter of Intent as your primary focus area.
Upon closing of the solicitation, applicants will not be allowed to submit preferences as to consortia selection or to change consortia membership in order to avoid any statutory restrictions.
Effect of “Restrictions” on Applying for Grants
Question: I understand the matrix on p. 13 of the solicitation about the various combinations when a university is, or is not, eligible to receive grants, but do these restrictions affect whether a university may apply for multiple grants, or just whether it may receive multiple grants?
Answer: The legislative authorization for this competition, MAP-21, does not restrict applying, only receiving, thus there are no restrictions in this competition on which grants a university may apply for. Applicants will want to keep the restrictions in mind, however, when deciding how to apply, as US DOT will make the final determination of which applications to fund within the restrictions. This issue is discussed in more detail in section F, “Restrictions on Receiving Multiple Grants,” on pp. 11-12 of the solicitation.
Font Size in Tables and Figures
Question: May we use a smaller font for the text inside tables and figures?
Answer: You may go down to a 9-size font for text and numbers within tables and figures; the title box and any headings must remain in Arial 12.
Participation by Faculty Not at Consortium Universities
Question: Our current organization, and the one that would be submitting an UTC proposal, used participating adjunct professors from differing Universities. Can we include them on the proposal as individuals, without their universities being formally in a consortium?
Answer: Including particular faculty from non-consortium universities in your proposed UTC’s activities would be acceptable if it contributes to fulfilling the purpose of the grant.
Question: In previous solicitations, applicants were required to include a section on Demonstration of Eligibility which had to present information about institutional commitment, expenditures, degrees awarded, and tenured faculty. Are these no longer needed?
Answer: For the grants to be awarded under this solicitation, the UTC Program’s current authorizing legislation (MAP-21) does not include the eligibility criteria that had been stated in previous authorizations, although for Regional UTCs it does specify certain elements of a transportation research and education program that must be demonstrated -- these are stated on page 15 of the solicitation. RITA does not ask Regional UTC applicants to respond to these elements as a separate section in the prospectus; rather, reviewers will look for relevant evidence as part of their overall evaluation of each application.
Federal Amount in Budget
Question: I am inquiring about the budget for a Tier 1 UTC, and based on the solicitation I am not sure whether or not the budget we provide with our proposal can be for both fiscal years 2013 and 2014 for a total budget of not more than $3 million (not including required matching funds).
Answer: For a Tier 1 UTC, please prepare your budget to reflect $1.5M in federal funds. Should federal Fiscal Year 2014 funds be made available as authorized for the UTC Program, RITA will at that time contact the UTCs that receive grants as a result of this solicitation to request a supplemental budget for those additional funds.
Similarly, for a National UTC the budget should reflect $3.0M in federal funds, and for a Regional UTC the budget should reflect $2.75M in federal funds.
Effect of Previously Awarded Grants on Restrictions
Question: Do the Restrictions on Receiving Multiple Grants (Section 1.F) pertain only to centers funded under this solicitation, or are centers funded under previous solicitations also included? For example, if my institution is a member of a National Center funded under the 2011 solicitation, is that participation to be considered when examining the restrictions described for the 2013 competition?
Answer: The restrictions described in the 2013 solicitation apply only to awards that will be made under this solicitation, not to centers/consortia that already exist as a result of a previous competition or Congressional designation.