U.S. Geological Survey
A Guide for the Submission of Unsolicited Proposals
Earth Science Research
Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Who May Submit Proposals
What to Submit
When to Submit Proposals
Where to Submit Proposals
USGS Review/Award Process
Administration of Assistance Awards
Notification of Award
Adherence to Original Estimates
Adherence to Research Objectives
Patents and Inventions
Changes in Personnel
Transfer of Awards
Accounting and Audit Procedures
Appendix I - Sample Budget Format
Appendix II - Personnel Categories
Appendix III - Disclosure Submission Conditions
As the Federal Government's largest earth science research agency and the primary source of data on the Nation's mineral and water resources, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) encourages and supports the efforts of individuals and organizations in meeting the challenge of managing the Nation's resources. This support is based on both unsolicited and solicited proposals that result in the award of grants and cooperative agreements (assistance awards) and contracts.
We have designed this booklet to serve as a guide for submitting unsolicited proposals for both research and research-related awards in the earth sciences arena. It is our hope that by clearly defining and simplifying submittal procedures for you that we develop and continue strong, cooperative relationships.
The USGS currently sponsors several formally announced and competed assistance programs which are administered by our headquarters' office in Reston. These programs include the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, Water Resources and Research Act programs, Mineral Resources Program, and cooperative geologic mapping programs. Un-solicited proposals for projects that meet the objectives of these programs will not normally be considered for award outside the competitive funding process. Should you have questions regarding the submission of unsolicited proposals for USGS programs, I encourage you to contact one of our procurement offices located in Reston, Virginia; Denver, Colorado; and Menlo Park, California.
Unsolicited proposals are written proposals that are submitted on the initiative of the submitter for the purpose of obtaining an award with the Government and are not in response to a formal or informal request other than a general statement of needs publicized by the agency. Such proposals are a valuable means for the USGS to obtain innovative or unique methods or approaches to accomplishing its mission from sources outside the Government. When this is the case, a contract may be awarded. Proposals relating to scientific activities which do not directly accomplish a USGS mission but further earth science research may result in a grant or cooperative agreement award.
An unsolicited proposal must not be an advance proposal for a known agency requirement that could be filled by competitive methods nor a rejected proposal from a previous solicitation. In addition, proposals received for advertising material, offers to provide commercial products and services, contributions, or technical correspondence are not considered unsolicited proposals.
To be considered, the proposal must:
The USGS issues several types of awards in response to proposals as defined below:
Contracts: Contracts are legal instruments used whenever the principal purpose of the instrument is the acquisition of property or services for the direct benefit of the Federal Government. The term contract means a procurement instrument awarded under the Federal Acquisition Regulation. Unsolicited proposal coverage is found at FAR Subpart 15.6. Most contracts are awarded as a result of USGS solicitations.
Federal Assistance Awards: Two types of awards are categorized as assistance awards:
Cooperative agreements are legal instruments where the principal purpose is to transfer funds or property to the provide support or stimulation authorized by statute and where substantial involvement is expected between the USGS and the recipient when performing the activity. There is a participatory relationship thus establishing the USGS as a "partner" with shared performance responsibility.
Grants are legal instruments where the principal purpose is to transfer funds or property to the recipient in order to accomplish a public purpose of support stimulation authorized by statute and where substantial involvement by the USGS is not required or anticipated. Although providing technical assistance to the awardee may be required, the USGS is essentially a "patron" of and contributor to the recipient.
The term substantial involvement is the criterion which distinguishes a grant relationship from a cooperative agreement relationship. Substantial involvement exists when 1) responsibility for the performance is shared with the awardee, or 2) it is desirable that the USGS monitor the conduct or management of the project activities for programmatic reasons.
The USGS, through its contracting process, considers research proposals in support of any field of study that helps fulfill its mission objectives. These fields include, but are not limited to geology, hydrology, geography, cartography, biology, and remote sensing. Additionally, the USGS has limited authority to make assistance awards in support of the advancement of research in the earth's sciences regardless of whether the proposal is directly related to our mission objectives. More information on USGS science programs can be found by exploring our website. For a historical perspective on our activities, please refer to USGS Circular 1274, Celebrating 125 Years of the U.S. Geological Survey.
Awards for renewed support of existing or previously awarded contract or assistance projects may also be made. Requests of renewed support of awards are generally treated as being in competition with all other pending proposals and should contain the same information as any other proposal and a summary of progress to date. Such requests should include an estimate of funds, if any, that will remain at the scheduled expiration of the current award. When a proposal requesting renewal of support is approved, a new award will generally be issued. In such instances, it will be necessary for the awardee to meet reporting requirements specified in the award documents such as submitting a final fiscal report when the report can reflect a full accounting of all funds on the original award.
|WHO MAY SUBMIT PROPOSALS:|
Awards are made to those organizations and individuals whose proposals demonstrate the potential to advance earth science research to an exceptional degree. Proposals will stand a better chance for funding if they (1) demonstrate a close relationship to the USGS's research programs, and (2) are technically meritorious. Special consideration will be given when the proposal is of exceptional significance or when the institution or individual submitting the proposal has unique capabilities for performing the project's work. The USGS accepts unsolicited proposals from various organizations including:
Most proposals are submitted by universities and colleges on behalf of their research faculty. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's) are particularly encouraged to submit proposals in support of earth science research.
Awards are made to nonprofit institutions whose proposals demonstrate a close relationship to the USGS's research programs.
Awards are made to state and local government agencies for research and other research related projects of mutual interest, usually when the awardee has unique research capabilities or resources. Proposals submitted by State Geological Surveys are encouraged.
In some instances, awards may be issued to a private for-profit organization. However, most awards to such organizations are contracts.
Awards are given to foreign institutions only in special circumstances such as possession of unique research capabilities or resources. Proposals should be discussed with USGS program officials before submission. Unaffiliated Individuals Scientists, engineers, or science educators who have no affiliations with organizations that could act as awardee institutions may receive support for meritorious research if they have the capability and access to facilities needed to perform the work.
|WHAT TO SUBMIT|
Proposals are comprised of five basic parts:
(1) Cover page;
(2) Narrative of the proposed project;
(3) Budget information;
(4) Resumes of principal personnel proposed to work on the project;
(5) Disclosure Submission Conditions Form
If the proposed activity would provide products, services, recommendations, data or other end results that would fill a USGS need, then the proposal should be submitted as a contract unsolicited proposal under the Federal Acquisition Regulation Subpart 15.6. If the proposal seeks sponsorship of an its own independent activity or project, with little direct or immediate benefit to the USGS, it should be submitted through Grants.gov as an assistance application.
A cover page should contain, at a minimum, the following information:
(1) Title of the proposed project. The title should be brief and descriptive.
(2) Name, address, and telephone number of the applicant. This may be an organization or individual.
(3) Name, title, address, and telephone number of the principal investigator(s).
(4) Commencement and completion dates of the proposed project.
(5) Total dollar amount requested from the USGS.
(6) If the proposal is for the renewal of an award, provide the USGS identification number of the previous award and any estimated carry-over balance.
(7) Name, title, and telephone number of the official authorized to commit the applicant to the proposed project and to enter into negotiations with the USGS.
(8) Signatures of principal investigator(s) and official authorized to commit the applicant to the proposed project. A paper proposal will not be considered complete if endorsement signatures are omitted.
All applicants are required to prepare a narrative regarding the proposed project. This description of the project should include three basic elements: 1) an abstract; 2) a detailed statement of work; and 3) a summary of potential and current research support of the project.
The abstract should present a concise description and state the principal and subordinate objectives of the proposed project, and the nature of the scientific approach to be undertaken in pursuit of these objectives. It should be approximately 200 words in length.
The project description should describe the scientific issue to be pursued and thesis to be tested and how the will be work will be conducted, including a milestone plan. The results and benefits to be derived from the project should be identified in relation to the objectives, including a plan for measuring the project and performance against specific milestones or agreed objectives . Also to be included are the facilities and major equipment to be utilized, a broad schedule of major events and specific tasks, and a list of deliverable items. The proposal should also indicate the anticipated percentage of time to be devoted to the project by the principal investigator(s) and any faculty associates.
The proposal must summarize all current and potential research support for the project. This information should include the titles and dates of current contracts or assistance awards, the source of funds, annual budget amounts, and the fraction of effort devoted to each project by each of the senior personnel. The proposal must also provide similar information for any proposals (including the proposal being submitted) which are being considered by, or which will be submitted in the near future to, other possible sponsors. Concurrent submission of a proposal to other organizations will not prejudice its review by the USGS.
Appraisal of the scientific merit of the proposed project is based primarily on this information. A more complete and detailed statement of work requires less time in review and negotiation than a less comprehensive proposal. Every effort should be made to present a carefully prepared and complete document.
A budget for each proposal must be submitted showing the estimated total cost of the project. The cost data must be accurate, complete and current. The judgmental factors used in projecting the estimates must be stated in sufficient detail to support the fact that the project has been well planned and budgeted to assure realistic estimates. If available, a copy of the current negotiation agreement of direct and indirect cost rates as negotiated by the cognizant audit agency should be provided. Appendix I is a sample budget that outlines the basic minimum information that must be presented. Budget information is to be categorized as follows:
Personnel costs represent costs of personnel directly associated with the proposed project. Personnel costs associated with the project in an indirect or administrative capacity are usually not charged as direct costs (see indirect Costs).
Salaries of senior personnel should be itemized in a separate statement attached to the budget. For educational institutions, this statement should include the annual salaries and amount of time during the academic year and summer months each faculty/staff participant will devote to the research. The number of weeks of the institution's academic year should also be included. For other personnel, each position must be listed with the rate of pay and the amount of time to be devoted to the project. Personnel categories are listed in Appendix II.
Payroll fringe benefits such as FICA, retirement, and health benefits can be treated as direct or indirect costs, dependent upon the usual accounting practices by which the awardee organization provides for the institutional contribution to employee benefits.
Equipment consists of permanent equipment and expendable equipment. Permanent equipment (non-standard scientific or technical equipment, personal computers, etc.) should be itemized by description and their costs estimated in the proposal. Adequate justification for the procurement of needed equipment must be included within the narrative, with a statement that the requested equipment is not already available for the conduct of the proposed work. Unless provided for in writing in the award document, funds may not be used to purchase such equipment. Title of purchased equipment may vest with the recipient organization upon award, at completion of the work, or be retained by the USGS (see Equipment/Property).
Expendable property such as supplies should be indicated in general terms with estimated costs. When substantial funds are requested, a detailed breakdown should be provided.
Travel requirements should be itemized. Individual trips, including estimated costs, should be listed in the narrative. Allowances for air travel will not normally exceed round-trip jet economy air accommodations. Air travel must be made by U.S. carriers with limited exceptions.
If foreign travel is planned, the proposal must include relevant information (including itinerary) and justification in detail. The use of Government funds for foreign travel requires special approval well in advance of the contemplated departure date.
Other Direct Costs not included above should be itemized. These may include, but are not limited to, publication costs, machine shop costs, and aircraft rental.
Indirect Costs are costs that cannot be traced specifically to a unit of output under the project. Examples of these costs may include executive officers' salaries, indirect materials and shop costs. Such costs are accumulated in overhead categories normally maintained by the awardee's accounting system. Application of overhead rates is subject to government audit.
Certain programs supported by the USGS require by law a minimum percentage amount of cost sharing. While cost sharing is not required for all programs, it is encouraged for all unsolicited proposals. The budget should contain the percentage amount the applicant is willing to assume. Applicants should inquire during preliminary contacts with the USGS as to what level of cost sharing is required for their proposed project. Cost sharing does not affect the Government's technical evaluation or mission priorities.
Applicants submitting proposals must be prepared to discuss budget items in detail with the contracting officer who is responsible for negotiating and determining that costs agreed to are reasonable, allocable, and allowable in conformance with Government cost principles. During negotiations, applicants should be prepared to explain the rationale for project planning and the basis for budget estimates. As determined by the contracting officer, proposals may be audited prior to negotiations, during award performance, and/or generally within three years after final payment.
The proposal should contain resumes of the principal investigator(s) responsible for direct supervision of the program and of principal senior personnel who will participate in the program. Short biographical sketches and lists of principal publications during the past five years should be included in the resumes. Similar biographical information should be supplied for other senior personnel.
As part of the proposal package, a signed Disclosure Submission Conditions Form should be included. The proposal package will not be considered complete without this form and proposal review will be delayed until it is received. This form describes the USGS's and the applicant's responsibilities and rights as to the disclosure of information contained in the proposal. A copy of the form is contained in Appendix III. The Disclosure Submission Conditions Form should be signed by the official authorized to commit the applicant to the proposed project.
|WHEN TO SUBMIT PROPOSALS|
Proposals may be submitted for consideration any time during the year. However, proposals submitted at the beginning or end of the Federal Government's fiscal year may be delayed pending Congressional budget activities and funding decisions. Organizations may contact USGS program officials to determine potential interests before expending significant effort developing the unsolicited proposal. In addition to potentially saving resources in developing a proposal, organizations will ensure a greater opportunity of meeting the needs of the program.
These preliminary contacts should include inquiries with technical personnel for obtaining an understanding of the USGS mission and the general requirement relative to the organization's contemplated effort. However, such contacts are not opportunities for negotiations, nor can they result in any binding commitments. Negotiations are conducted only by the USGS contracting officer after review of the proposal by the technical officer.
Requests for support generally should be well in advance of the anticipated commencement of work (see USGS Review/Award Process). Preliminary contacts with the USGS will provide insight as to the feasibility of USGS support. Discussions should not be considered a commitment by the USGS to accept the proposal upon submission.
|WHERE TO SUBMIT PROPOSALS|
The proposal should be submitted to the Region covering the geographic area to be studied during the project, unless you are aware of a different USGS component with specific interest in the proposed study. If you believe your proposed project is or may be of interest to a particular USGS program or office (such as from the advance discussions mentioned above or from a web page, professional paper, article or talk), submit the proposal to the acquisition and grants office/branch that supports that USGS component.
Listed below are the three USGS regional acquisition offices.
Northwest Region: Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming
Pacific Region: Arizona, California and Nevada
Alaska and Hawaii
U.S. Geological Survey
Chief, Sacramento Acquisition and Grants Branch
Modoc Hall, Suite 2002
3020 State University Drive East
Sacramento, California 95819
Southwest Region: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah
Midwest Region: Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and South Dakota
U.S. Geological Survey
Chief, Denver Acquisition and Grants Branch
Denver Federal Center - Mail Stop 204
Post Office Box 25046
Denver, Colorado 80225
|Northeast Region: Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York,
Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia (except Headquarters components in Reston, VA/Washington DC.)
Southeast Region: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina and Tennessee
U.S. Geological Survey
Chief, Reston Acquisition Branch
National Center - Mail Stop 205
Reston, Virginia 20192
USGS headquarters components in Reston VA/Washington, DC (including Director's Office, Associate Directors, and national competitive and formula grant programs) are supported from:
U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Acquisition and Grants
National Center - Mail Stop 205
Reston, Virginia 20192
Contract unsolicited proposals should be mailed (original and one copy) to the appropriate acquisition office.
Applications for federal financial assistance (grants or cooperative agreements) must be submitted electronically through Grants.gov. Electronic submission information can be obtained from the acquisition office.
|USGS REVIEW/AWARD PROCESS|
Program officials and scientists within the USGS review and evaluate all submitted proposals. To aid their evaluations, they occasionally obtain the advice of other scientists who are specialists in the fields covered in the proposals. Proposals must contain pertinent information in sufficient detail to define the nature and merit of the proposed project.
Meritorious proposals will be supported in order of priority to the extent permitted by available funds.
The USGS will return copies of each proposal that does not result in an award. If a proposal results in an award, it may be made available to interested individuals upon specific request. However, information or material that the USGS determines to be of a privileged nature will be held in confidence to the extent permitted by law.
The processes outlined below are normally required once a proposal is received by the procurement office. Time frames for processing and issuing awards will vary dependent upon individual circumstances (i.e., determination of type of award, time of fiscal year, complexity of the proposal, total cost, and audit requirements). Given these circumstances, the time frame for the entire process from initial submission to award normally should take from two to four months for assistance awards and from three to six months for contractual awards. Proposals reviewed by scientists outside the USGS may take longer to evaluate and award.
1. Initial administrative processing of an unsolicited proposal includes logging in the proposal, providing the submitter a required disclosure form if not already submitted, screening of the proposal by administrative and program officials, and forwarding it to the appropriate technical office for evaluation by the scientific staff.
2. Technical evaluation and disposition includes a review and evaluation of the technical merit of the proposed project. The technical office notifies the procurement office if the proposal has merit, and if funds are available, the procurement office will notify the applicant of the proposal's disposition. It should be noted that even though a proposal may receive a meritorious technical review, this fact does not solely justify making a noncompetitive award. Additionally, should a contract be selected as the most appropriate award instrument, certain other requirements may be necessary such as announcing a procurement action in the FebBizOpps. Only proposals offering genuinely unique or proprietary innovative solutions can be accepted for a noncompetitive contract award.
3. Procurement procedures include assignment of the proposal to a contracting officer for action and award. At this time, the Contracting Officer makes the formal determination of the type of award to be made, whether it is a cooperative agreement, grant, or contract award. Proposals submitted as assistance applications may, upon further review, be determined to have an acquisition purpose. Unsolicited acquisition proposals may be awarded only if they can be justified under an exception to the Competition in Contracting Act.
For both acquisition and assistance awards, a cost analysis (or budget review) is performed, negotiations are completed, the award document prepared, and appropriate reviews and approvals are obtained. The contracting officer who is the only USGS official authorized to make contract, grant, and cooperative agreement awards.
|ADMINISTRATION OF AWARDS|
The administration of all awards is governed by the provisions of the contract, grant or cooperative agreement document. The provisions provided in the award are set by law or Federal regulations. These laws and regulations are very different for contracts and assistance-type awards. Guidance for administering contracts is contained in the Federal Acquisition Regulation. Public Law 95-224 (41 U.S.C. 501 through 509) as amended by Public Law 97-258 (31 U.S.C. Chapter 63 (6301 through 6308)) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) circulars provide guidance for the administration of grants and cooperative agreements. See Reference Documents for a list of relevant OMB circulars.
Since the administration of an award is so dependent on the type of document awarded and the specific clauses provided in that document, it is very difficult to generalize the administration process of an award. The following paragraphs attempt to address broad issues of award administration.
Notification of an award is by a contract, grant or cooperative agreement document signed by a contracting officer and addressed to the organization to which the award is made.
The award incorporates by attachment or reference certain documents that will establish binding terms and conditions upon the awardee. Prior to award, the awardee will be provided the opportunity to review these terms and conditions. The conditions state the conduct relating to the general nature and scope of the award, termination of the award, return of unused funds, budget, summary, patent rights, status reports, etc.
The period begins on the date of the award unless otherwise specified and runs for the length of time indicated in the award.
When progress under the award is delayed, an extension of the award period, without additional funds, may be necessary. If a time extension is required, a written request for extension must be submitted to the contracting officer. Such requests should include a justification for the requested extension. Only in exceptional cases will more than one extension be granted.
The contractor or recipient bears the primary responsibility for fiscal accountability. Unless previously agreed to by the parties and spelled out in the award document, expenditures incurred before the effective date of the award may not normally be charged under the award. In addition, commitments may not be incurred after the expiration date of the award.
Accordingly, while the principal investigator is free to alter the direction of research when changes seem scientifically advantageous, the awardee must give full consideration to the effects of budget reallocations on the cost-sharing and indirect cost portions of the budget. The awardee must remember that it may not exceed the amount of funds obligated on the award. Likewise, items not included in the approved award budget will not be charged to the award unless approved by the contracting officer.
The USGS believes that the principal investigator, operating within the established policies of his or her institution, should feel free to pursue interesting and important leads which may arise during the conduct of the research. The principal investigator may discontinue or materially modify unpromising lines of inquiry, without jeopardizing continuation of support for the remainder of the award period, when it appears from a scientific standpoint that the inquiry as originally contemplated will no longer be fruitful or that a related line of inquiry will be more promising.
However, when new and promising leads or potential lines of inquiry do arise leading to possible major deviations from original research objectives, approval by the contracting officer is required and award modification may be initiated. Additionally, proposed changes such as additions, deletions or substitutions to permanent equipment must be approved by the contracting officer in advance.
Equipment purchased under the award will be used for the originally authorized purpose for which it was acquired. Equipment that is no longer needed for the program or any other Federally supported program with a fair market value of less than $5,000 may be retained and disposed of by the awardee with no further obligation to the Government. Title to equipment exceeding $5,000 in value may be vested with the recipient or reserved by the Government, as provided in the award document. USGS does not have authority to vest title in recipients other than educational institutions and nonprofit research organizations.
The USGS encourages the development and use of inventions in performing work relative to contract and assistance awards. Each award is subject to a patent and invention clause governing the disposition of inventions in a manner calculated to protect the public interest and the equities of the contractor or assistance recipient.
The USGS must approve changes involving the participation of key personnel in a project. When the change is not permanent, as when a principal investigator is on leave, the technical officer should be informed of the arrangements made for supervision and management of the award during the interim.
An award is not automatically transferable from one institution to another. In the event that a principal investigator changes his/her organizational affiliation, a new proposal through the new institution may be initiated. Alternatively, the original awardee institution may propose a substitute principal investigator or initiate termination of the current award. It is the USGS's decision whether to keep the award with the original institution or transfer it to the new institution.
An appropriate acknowledgement of USGS support should be made in connection with publication of any material based on research aided by the USGS. Also, a standard disclaimer, as provided in the award, is to be included in such publications.
Normally, investigators will not need access to classified security information in performing research supported by the USGS. If it appears that access to such information is desirable, investigators should advise the USGS. When the principal investigator determines that information developed under the award should be classified, he/she must notify the contracting officer immediately.
The USGS cannot assume liability with respect to accidents, illnesses, or claims arising while performing work under the awards. The awardee is advised to insure or protect itself as necessary.
Dependent on the award document, certain reports must be submitted in connection with award activities. Each award will detail reporting requirements. The types and number of copies of reports will be specified in the award.
|ACCOUNTING AND AUDIT PROCEDURES|
The financial management systems of contractors and recipients of Federal funding are required to accurately disclose current and complete financial results of each award. Such records must identify the source and application of funds for financially-supported activities and maintain control over and accountability for property and other related assets.
Examinations in the form of audits are required in order to test fiscal integrity of the awardee's financial system. A review of accounting transactions, as well as testing compliance with the terms and conditions of the Federal agreement are made.
The documents listed below provide guidance regarding the awarding and administering of contract and assistance awards. Dates reference the latest revision to the regulation.
1. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Subpart 15.6 -- Unsolicited Proposals
2. Public Law 95-224 -- Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act of 1977, codified at 31 U.S.C. Chapter 63 (6301et seq.)
3. OMB Circular -- Grants and Agreements
4. FAR Part 31 - Contract Cost Principles and Procedures
5. Executive Order 12372 -- Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs
6. Department of the Interior Financial Assistance Policy and Regulations
Appendix I - Sample Budget Format
Appendix II - Personnel Categories
Appendix III - Disclosure Submission Conditions
Contact for more information: Scott Morton
USGS Contracts Home Page