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SSP Policies and Guidelines: Things you should know

Principal Investigators

The intent of the Science Support Partnership is for USGS to provide research for the FWS. As such, whenever possible USGS should be conducting all aspects of the research. USGS reserves the right of first refusal on all SSP activities. Please keep in mind that all USGS Disciplines are eligible to receive SSP funds - it's not just for Biology anymore! If a proposal is being developed and you are not aware of a USGS capability to conduct the work, please contact Steve Hilburger to discuss possibilities.

Non-USGS Principal Investigators

In some rare cases in which USGS does not have the capability to meet FWS needs, an external party may conduct the work. Such instances require mutual concurrence by USGS National Coordinator and appropriate FWS Regional Coordinator prior to proposal development. Studies conducted external to USGS PIs must still be based on peer reviewed study plans.

These cases often require additional administrative work, such as establishment of contractual agreements to pass money, which may delay the dispersal of funds.  

Peer Review Requirements

The Science Support Partnership Program does not have a unique peer review policy for proposals or study plans.  However it is required that study plans will meet local (Center or Coop Unit) peer review requirements.  

An approved peer reviewed study plan is required by Reston prior to the release of SSP funds for research activities.

Reporting Requirements

Reporting requirements will vary from activity to activity, based on the needs of FWS.  In nearly all cases, a written final report to FWS is expected.  For studies more than one year in length, written annual reports are also expected.

It is critical that specific products be identified in the study plan - this sets the expectation for what is required by FWS to make SSP activities successful and useful - and ultimately produced. Please keep in mind that these products are required for FWS management decisions.

Copies of all products should be transmitted to the FWS and USGS National SSP Coordinator.

Funding Limits

There are no set funding limits for individual studies. However each FWS Region has a limited funding level each year, essentially limiting activities to some degree.  After accounting for ongoing activities, each FWS Region tries to maintain approximately 125-250K for new starts each year.  Budgets typically range from about 4K to 180K per year, and averaged about 40K. 

Funding for Multi-year Activities

It is the intent of SSP to fund projects for the length of their timeline rather than on a year by year basis. Proposals requesting two or more years of funding do not typically require resubmission in following years for future funding. Please refer to the list of currently active projects to verify out-year budget committments.  

Budget Restrictions

In accordance with the intent of SSP, funds should be used by USGS to conduct scientific activities in support of FWS. These funds should not be used for FWS operational activities. In one example, is FWS requires a species survey, USGS may conduct the survey or assist in the design of the survey. However SSP will not fund FWS staff to conduct the surveys.

Beyond that, there are no restrictions beyond normal guidelines and regulations for appropriated dollars, keeping in mind the ultimate goal of SSP - to provide science-based information to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

You may have heard that PI salaries are not allowable under SSP.  This restriction was removed in 2004.  PI salary may now be included at the Center Director's discretion.   

Overhead Rates and Indirect Costs - New for 2007!

In FY2006, a new overhead policy was implemented allowing USGS science centers to charge full overhead for SSP activities. Under previous policies, centers were limited to 6% in FY2006 and 7.5% in FY2007. The change was made in order to make overhead policies more consistent across USGS funding sources while decreasing the burden on USGS science centers. In order to implement this policy without decreasing the amount of funding available for science, approximately 390K was added to the SSP fund.

Beginning with FY2007 proposals, budgets from Science Centers may include up to their full overhead rate at the time of the proposal writing. Multi-year projects will make use of the same rate through the duration of the study.

Please note that this change applies to USGS Science Centers only. For activities at Cooperative Research Units, the USGS itself does not charge any overhead. However, the host university does charge a rate between 10% and 15% for all incoming funds.  SSP activities are assessed in this range.  The exact rate depends on the particular Coop Unit. This policy has not changed.

In addition, as funds were added to SSP in FY2006, this policy is being implemented retroactively for all science center-based SSP activities in 2006. Reston staff are planning to disperse additional funds up to the current full overhead rate. The amount to be dispersed was calculated on a project by project basis, by comparing the overhead from the original budgets to the FY2006 overhead rates in BASIS+. The difference between these two will be dispersed to Science Centers in the near future via either change of allocation or standard voucher. An Excel sheet showing all the proposed reimbursements can be found here.

In the case of studies which send funds to more than one Coop Unit or Science Centers, the overhead rate needs to be calculated separately depending on where the funds are sent. Please contact Steve Hilburger if you have a question about this.  

Activity Duration

There is no limit for the length of an SSP activity.  Due to the nature of information required by FWS, the majority of activities are completed in one to three years.  The time-frame required should be based on the scope of the work and will be determined in consultation with the FWS Project Officer.

Changes to Existing SSP Activities

Any divergence from an agreed upon SSP study plan must be discussed with the FWS Project Officer. 

For smaller changes, such as additional time to write up the results, the request for an extension should be communicated to the FWS project officer and the USGS Reston staff.  Both parties must concur with the request to make it official. Please seek FWS agreement prior to contacting USGS; we will not concur without FWS.

In the event of larger-scale changes, such as the scope of research to be conducted or a major change in activity duration, a new peer-reviewed study plan must be written and approved by both FWS and USGS.

In all cases where plans are changed, details of the agreed upon changes, including any new study plans, should be communicated to the appropriate FWS Regional Research Coordinator, the FWS National Research Coordinator, and USGS national staff.

SSP ID Numbers

SSP Identification numbers look like this: 01-R2-15.  The first two digits represent the fiscal year that the activity began.  The middle characters represent the FWS Region (Region 2 in this case).  The final two digits are simply sequential, this is the 15th activity for Region 2 in FY2001.  If possible, please include this number when corresponding with Reston staff about your activity.

Other Questions?

If you have any questions about your funding levels, please contact the national staff in Reston.

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