Request for Proposals FY18

FY18 Water Resources Sustainability Research Grants (USGS 104b)

WRRI FY18 Request for Proposals (PDF)

Request for Proposals (RFP) Menu


  • RFP Announcement: Monday, June 26, 2017
  • RFP Information Session: Thursday, July 6, 2017 at 12 PM (Norman Smith Hall).
    Virtual options for participation are available. Contact
    Please RSVP by 9am, Wednesday, July 5, 2017 (
  • Concept/Pre-Proposal Due: Monday, July 24, 2017 at 4 PM
  • Proposal Invitations: Monday, August 7, 2017
  • Full Proposals Due: Monday, October 2, 2017 at 4 PM
  • Award Notification by: Friday, December 1, 2017
  • Project Start Date: March 1, 2018
  • Project End Date: February 28, 2019


The Maine Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) in the Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions is committed to supporting research and outreach that enhance the capacity for solving problems related to the sustainable management of water resources. This request for pre-proposals is for funding through the U.S. Geological Survey 104b program for solutions-driven projects in which interdisciplinary teams collaborate with stakeholders and provide support for undergraduate/graduate training. Another goal of this RFP is to broaden and strengthen the scope of the Mitchell Center’s research portfolio in ways that address the multi-faceted nature of critical water resource challenges, to accelerate the development of real-world solutions, and to increase our collective ability to obtain external grants and contracts.

This request for pre-proposals from the Maine-USGS WRRI, a program of the Mitchell Center, constitutes the FY18 Maine grants program as authorized by the federal Water Resources Research Act of 1984 as amended. Please note that funding for the FY18 WRRI program is dependent on inclusion of the program in the FY18 federal budget.

Grant Period: Research proposals for projects up to 12 months in duration will be considered to occur in a project period of March 1, 2018 through February 28, 2019.

Grant Categories: Three categories of projects may be funded under this program:

  • Research grants are funded for up to $40,000, not including required match provided by the PI. A typical grant is approximately $25,000. There is no minimum award limit.
  • Information transfer or environmental education grants are typically funded in the range of $5,000 to $15,000, not including PI match.
  • Seed grants are funded for no more than $5,000, not including PI match. These grants are intended to be pilot projects or incubators for future research ideas or funding.


The objectives of this federally sponsored program place special emphasis on the importance of research and education aimed at improving the nation’s water supply. This focus is concordant with the Water Science Vision and Mission of the U.S. Geological Survey:

The USGS will provide unbiased knowledge of the Nation’s water resources to support human well-being, healthy ecosystems, economic prosperity, and anticipate and help resolve impending water-resource conflicts and emergencies… The USGS Water Mission Area… will serve society through water-resource monitoring, assessment, modeling, and research to provide tools that managers and policymakers can use… Improvements are needed in the char­acterization and understanding of water quantity and water quality if we are to maintain our society and quality of life.USGS Circular 1383-G

The 104b program objectives also align with the mission and vision of the Mitchell Center. The Mitchell Center’s intent is to foster innovative work to address intersections among the environmental, social, and economic dimensions of sustainability challenges in water resources through stakeholder-engaged, solutions-driven, interdisciplinary research.

RFP Objectives and Deliverables:

Pre-proposals must be related to freshwater resources, and focus on developing stakeholder partnerships and interdisciplinary teams that help accelerate progress in understanding and solving sustainability problems via one or more of the following strategies:

  • Identifying and overcoming key barriers in connecting scientific knowledge with societal actions to promote effective water resource management;
  • Building upon past research to increase the delivery of decision-support systems and other tools that facilitate real-world problem-solving;
  • Tackling sustainability problems that are highly relevant to place-based problems in Maine;
  • Pursuing other novel research strategies to understand and solve sustainability problems in water resources.

All proposals must align with the WRRI’s program objectives and the Mitchell Center’s mission, vision, and approach, and demonstrate significant promise for securing external funding.


  1. Team composition: Federal guidelines for this USGS program require that principal investigators (PI) be faculty or regular staff of a four-year institution of higher education in Maine. Co-investigators are not required to meet this criterion.
  2. Interdisciplinarity: Teams must include participants with sufficiently diverse expertise across fields to respond effectively to the multi-faceted nature of the proposed problem.
  3. Stakeholder engagement: Proposals will only be accepted for projects that include strong stakeholder participation to maximize the relevance and usability (sensu Clark et al. 2016) of research or information transfer products. Examples of stakeholder participation include: identification of research needs, development of research goals, interpretation and use of research results.
  4. Project Scope: Single investigator proposals will not be accepted – only team-based, interdisciplinary projects are eligible.
  5. All PIs and co-PIs must be current on deliverables from prior USGS Institute grants.
  6. Federal employees cannot be PIs, but are encouraged as co-investigators. Federal employees may not be supported by funds from these grants, but are encouraged to provide fiscal support for the project. Federal support cannot be counted as match.
  7. This program supports water resource-related research. Projects primarily focusing on human health, specific biological organisms or communities (unless to be used as an indicator or wider application), oceanography, or exclusively marine issues are not eligible for this program under federal rules. Estuarine proposals that directly connect with freshwater flows are eligible for funding.

Proposal & Review Process:

  1. Pre-Proposal: All interested applicants must submit a four-page pre-proposal explaining their project idea by July 24, 2017 at 4 PM. Please utilize the format below and email to Ruth Hallsworth at
  2. Evaluation: A review committee representing the Mitchell Center, the USGS New England District, and other pertinent experts will evaluate the submitted pre-proposals for relevance to the program’s mission, vision and objectives. Invitations for full proposal submission will be announced by August 7. Full proposal format requirements are included below, with full proposals due by 4 PM on October 2, 2017.
  3. Selection: The review committee will evaluate the submitted full proposals. The WRRI Director will then consult with members of the Research Advisory Committee to make final award selections. Notification will be made no later than December 1, 2017.
  4. Award Period: The award period for these projects begins March 1, 2018 and all project components must be completed by February 28, 2019.
  5. Support level: It is anticipated that in FY18 $60,000 will be available for research and information transfer projects. Applicants are encouraged to leverage matching sources of funding whenever possible. Final project reports will be due by April 30, 2019.

Questions regarding this RFP should be directed to WRRI Director David Hart ( or Mitchell Center Strategic Program Manager Ruth Hallsworth (

Fiscal Guidelines:

Proposal budgets must reflect a $2 non-federal match for each federal dollar requested. This means that a federal request of $20,000 will result in a research project with at least a $60,000 total project cost. The match may include fringe benefits and indirect costs, as well as direct costs. Contact Ruth Hallsworth ( for specific guidance on match. Overhead (indirect) costs are not permitted to be charged on the federal funding request in this program, although the match may include those indirect costs that are not charged on federal dollars. An Excel budget template is available. Please contact Ruth Hallsworth for a copy of the template.

The congressional authorizing language in the Water Resources Research Act specifically refers to the “training of future water resource professionals.” Therefore, preference is given to projects for which student participation and training is a substantial part of the effort. All projects must include a training component for students, and typically will fund a graduate assistantship or undergraduate stipend. The recommended minimum monthly graduate stipend rate is $1,689 ($15,200/9 months). PIs are urged to provide tuition in the ‘other’ budget line. Tuition does not generate IDC match. Please note that partial payment of health insurance premiums is required for UMaine graduate students.

Base-funded faculty PIs should prioritize student support, not their own salary. Rarely are projects funded that request more than one week per year in faculty salary.


The pre-proposal has two parts: 1) technical document (3 pages); and 2) sustainability concept document (1 page). It should be set in 12-point type with one-inch margins on all sides. The document must be entirely self-contained and self-explanatory; no cover letter is allowed. The following technical document structure is highly recommended as it follows the format for a full proposal:

Technical Document (3 page limit)

  • Project title PIs and affiliations (include contact information for the lead PI)
  • Project dates and duration
  • Agency funds requested
  • Proposed match and source of funds
  • Project synopsis (one paragraph – provided in 3rd person, present tense, lay-friendly text for publication purposes)
  • Problem Statement
  • Objectives (bulleted)
  • Methods outline
  • Impact of project (one paragraph)
  • Expected deliverables (bulleted)
  • Investigators qualifications (one paragraph; no CVs)

Sustainability Concepts (1 page limit)

  1. What sustainability problem does the proposed research address?
  2. Who are the relevant project stakeholders, what kind of stakeholder engagement has already occurred, and how do you plan to strengthen their participation?*
  3. What is the status of your plans for creating a research team with sufficient interdisciplinary breadth to address the problem?
  4. How do you plan to identify and implement a solution to this problem?

* Full proposals will be required to include details on stakeholder participation at each stage of the project. Letters from stakeholders describing their commitment to participation will also be required.

Budget description/justification (one paragraph)

Budget outline:

Cost Category Program Funds Non-Federal Match
Students (no fringe benefits)
Fringe benefits @ (rate)
Other (e.g. tuition)
Total Direct Costs
IDC on Program $
IDC on Match
Total Requests


Full Proposal Review, Ranking Criteria, and Selection Process

Invited research proposals will be reviewed by at least three peer reviewers.

The proposal submission procedure for this program is a two-step process:

Step I: Prior to submission to the Mitchell Center, full proposals must be processed through your institution’s standard procedure for proposals to be submitted to Federal agencies. A scanned copy of the signature paperwork must be emailed to by October 2, 2017. Researchers at UMaine can expedite the institutional review notification by adding Ruth Hallsworth as the final approver in PARS. All other proposal review procedures at UMaine must be completed.

Step II: The complete electronic copy of the proposal must be submitted by the PI to no later than 4 PM on October 2, 2017. Proposal text, investigator information and budget information are entered directly on the web page.

Once the peer-review process has been completed, final project selection will be based on consultation with the Mitchell Center’s Research Advisory Committee comprised of expert stakeholders. PIs should pay careful attention to the proposal evaluation criteria used by reviewers and the selection panel:

  • Relevance to key research needs and priorities in Maine in accordance with the program goals and objectives listed on pages 1 and 2. (25%)
  • Scientific merit as judged by peer reviews. (20%)
  • Impact – the potential of the project to be important and innovative, deliver progress towards solutions, and benefit stakeholders. (20%)
  • Stakeholder involvement (required). (15%)
  • Student involvement (required). (10%)
  • Total budget request and cost-effectiveness of the project, including leveraging of external dollars. (5%)
  • Attainable and significant proposed deliverables consistent with sustainability goals, including the likelihood of additional follow-on funding. (5%)

Please refer to the fiscal guidelines for information on prioritizing student support.


Reviewers will be selected by the Director of the Maine WRRI.

Research proposal

The following information is entered on-line at New investigators must register under Maine at to obtain access to the site. Enter ERAS subsystem for (104B) System proposal.

Executive summary:

  1. Title
  2. Focus categories
  3. Keywords
  4. Project duration is one year, project start date may be as early as March 1, 2018
  5. Agency funding requested
  6. Matching funds provided
  7. PI names and affiliations (with full contact information for the lead PI)
  8. Congressional district (first or second Maine)
  9. Abstract
  10. Budget (use format provided)
  11. Budget justification (one page maximum)

The information above is entered on-line at Text can be transferred using cut-and-paste.

Main body of proposal (numbered starting with page 1)

  1. Title
  2. Statement of critical regional or state water problem
  3. Statement of results and benefits
  4. Nature, scope, and objectives
  5. Methods, procedures, and facilities available
  6. Summary of closely related research (related activities for IT proposals)
  7. Student training
  8. Statement of government involvement
  9. Expected deliverables, including information dissemination plan for all proposals, a bulleted list is preferred
  10. References cited

The text should be formatted in 12 point type with one inch margins on all sides.
Sections 12 through 21 must fit on 8 pages.

  1. Narrative statement of investigators qualifications
  2. CVs/Resumes (maximum two pages per investigator)
  3. Letters of participation from stakeholders. Letters must include a commitment by the stakeholder to participate actively in the project. Examples of participation include: identification of research needs, development of research goals, interpretation and use of research results.

We strongly recommend that PIs read the fiscal guidelines before preparing proposal budgets.


Proposed projects may be up to 12 months in duration and may begin as early as March 1, 2018. Projects must be completed by February 28, 2019. No-cost extensions may be requested on a case-by-case basis. Final funding decisions will be announced by December 1, 2017, and are dependent upon federal budget completion.

Award Requirements

Projects receiving WRRI funding are required to provide the following items:

  1. Final report (due April 30, 2019). If a no-cost extension is requested, an interim report is due on April 30, 2019 with a final report due on April 30, 2020.
  2. Oral or poster presentation at Maine Sustainability & Water Conference.
  3. One page summary of proposed project for lay audience (due March 2018).
  4. One page report of project results for lay audience (due April 2019).


Mitchell Center Mission, Vision and Approach

Key Publications and other Resources for Preparing Effective Research Proposals

General Sustainability Science Resources

  • Clark, W. C., van Kerkhoff, L., Lebel, L., & Gallopin, G. C. (2016). Crafting usable knowledge for sustainable development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(17), 4570-4578.
  • Hart, D.D. et al. (2016). Mobilizing the power of higher education to tackle the grand challenge of sustainability: Lessons from novel initiatives. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, 4: 000090.
    doi: 10.12952/journal.elementa.000090
  • Kates, R.W. et al. (2001). Sustainability Science. Science 292(5517), 641-642.
  • Miller TR. 2015. Reconstructing sustainability science: Knowledge and action for a sustainable future. New York: Routledge.
  • PNAS Sustainability Science Web Page – Access to PNAS publications and links to other relevant websites.

Understanding and strengthening connections between knowledge and action