Thursday, June 5, 2014

New Applied Research & Development Grants Stress Regional Priorities and Collaboration

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture's new Crop Protection and Pest Management request for proposals has several important changes that affect IPM researchers in the West.

For one, Regional IPM grants have been replaced by a new Applied Research and Development Program designed to support projects from single or multiple investigators for the development of new IPM tactics, technologies, practices and strategies. Unlike the RIPM grants, proposals submitted under the new program are evaluated by a single review panel in  Washington, D.C. and are not evaluated by panels convened by the Regional IPM Centers.

Part of the reason is simple efficiency.

“From a work point-of-view, the RIPM grants were extremely difficult to administer,” explained Herb Bolton, a national program leader with NIFA. “If a project had both a research and extension component, money came from two different funding lines. RIPM required four RFAs, four panels and had separate funding sources. The new program has one RFA, one panel and one funding source.”

But that doesn’t mean regional priorities are now less important.  

“It’s really important to emphasize that these awards are still based on regional priorities,” Bolton said. “Applicants have to give specific stakeholder input that shows these priorities. Those could be through priority statements of the IPM Centers, or WERA-type groups and their committees. This requirement has been strengthened in the new RFA, and if somebody doesn’t come in with a strong regional focus and letters of support, they probably won’t do well.”  

The take-home message for applicants is to be more conscious then ever of documenting the stakeholder demand for their projects, particularly since some reviewers on a national panel won’t have knowledge of regional pest issues. The RFA provides links and sources for stakeholder-identified IPM needs.

An Expectation of Cooperation
Another new aspect of the Applied Research and Development grants is a much greater emphasis on regional cooperation.

“We’re expecting recipients to be active in participating in activities in their region,” Bolton said. “It’s a new emphasis, an expectation of increased coordination and cooperation, so we can leverage the few dollars we have for pest management more effectively.”

The Regional IPM Centers will play an important role in that part of the program. Each Center will organize a meeting for the Applied Research and Development project directors in their regions, and the project directors are required, as part of their grants, to attend.

“We’ve never told an award recipient that they are required to participate in a WERA or IPM Center meeting before for the goal of increased communication, coordination and collaboration,” Bolton said. “We’re giving the Centers the authority to be a little more active with some folks. It’s a chance for greater cooperation and input from the Centers.”

(The Crop Protection and Pest Management request for proposals also contains grants for an Extension Implementation Program Area, and a Regional Coordination Program Area. The latter funds the four Regional IPM Centers, and the Western IPM Center is preparing its application for that grant to continue to serve the West.) 

For the Applied Research and Development grants, request maximums are $125,000 for a project with a project director or directors from one state, and $250,000 for projects with directors in multiple states. Bolton stressed those are maximums, not suggested amounts.

 “If someone wants to come in with a smaller project, they can,” he said. “We encourage applications of all budget sizes.”

NIFA anticipates making up to 30 awards, and proposals are due June 19. You can download the request for applications here

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