1. Cycle 8 Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN 8) for the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI)

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science Mission Directorate has released a Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN) soliciting team-based proposals for membership in the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI).

    Solicitation Number: NNH17ZDA003C
    CAN Release Date: February 27, 2017
    Step-1 Proposal Due: April 12, 2017
    Step-2 Proposals Due: July 6, 2017

    The goal of the CAN Cycle 8 is to maintain a multidisciplinary institute by selecting focused, interdisciplinary teams that complement without replicating the strengths of the continuing teams. The teams selected in Cycle 8 will replace the teams selected in Cycle 6, whose five-year Cooperative Agreements are expiring.

    The CAN for Cycle 8 will require a brief Step-1 proposal to be submitted six weeks after the release of the CAN. Based on a programmatic review of these Step-1 proposals, proposers will be encouraged to or discouraged from submitting a full proposal. Other changes to previous solicitations are described in section 1.7 Public Access to Research Materials and Results of the CAN.

    Issuance of this CAN is dependent on programmatic factors, including NASA receiving an appropriation and operating plan containing adequate funding within the NASA Planetary Science Division budget. Any costs incurred by prospective investigators in preparing submissions in response to this CAN are incurred completely at the submitter’s own risk.

    Programmatic questions regarding this solicitation should be submitted in writing or via E-mail no later than 10 days prior to the Step-2 proposal due date to:

    Dr. Mary Voytek
    Senior Scientist for Astrobiology/ NAI Program Scientist
    Science Mission Directorate NASA Headquarters
    300 E Street SW
    Washington, DC 20546
    Phone: (202) 358-1577
    E-mail: mary.voytek-1@nasa.gov

    The CAN 8 Solicitation (NNH17ZDA003C) and related documentation are available on the NSPIRES website.

    A preproposal conference was held on March 10, 2017 to provide interested parties the opportunity to better understand the intent, scope, and selection criteria of this CAN. Slides from the preproposal conference are available:
    NAI CAN Cycle-8 Preproposal Briefing
    NASA Astrobiology Institute Overview

    FAQ’s

    Q: Is someone allowed to be a Co-I on more than one NAI team? 
    A: Yes you can be a Co-I on multiple teams.  However, proposing the same research multiple places is not permitted.

    Q: Are any references in Step-1 counted towards 5 pages limit?
    A: References are not counted in the 5 pages.

    Q: Are images/pictures allowed in Step-1 or is it text only?
    A: Yes you can include images or figures in the body of your step 1.  

    Q:  If a team member is a junior scientist (postdoc) and listed as a collaborator, and they move to another institution taking a permanent position (e.g. tenure track faculty), is there a mechanism to move them to Co-I status and flow funding to them? Might requests for supplemental funding be possible in such cases?
    A: You can list the postdoctoral as a Co-I.  As long as you include funding for the postdoc you can request permission to make it a sub award when they move.  Supplemental funding in general is not available and in particular not for this situation.

    Q: Given the new proposed federal budget, pending details to be announced, should we prepare to include an educational component in STEP-2? 
    A: No, CAN 8 proposals should not include an education component. The new proposed budget is not expected to flow education funds back into the individual programs, the centralized model for Education funding that we have now is expected to continue.

    Q: Page 19, Section 5.1.2.2 Merit of the Science Management Plan. The 2nd bullet states “…noting the portion of each individual’s time…” Just wanted to confirm that the information we list in the Summary of Personnel and Commitments section of the proposal is being repeated in the Science Management Plan section? 
    A: Yes we would like it in both places.  One is about resources and one is about roles and responsibilities, including time committed.

    Q: On page A-1 one of the bullets reads “Summary of Personnel, Commitments, and Costs” and on page A-3 one of the bullets reads “Summary of Personnel and Commitments” Is there a typo here? I’m interpreting this as two different requirements by adding the cost to one and not the other – and keeping it all to 1 page limit. 
    A: Yes, there is a typo.  Please do not include costs.  This should simply be a table of work effort for all participants.

    Q: In the guidelines for the Step-1 proposal, it is noted that proposers need to describe the relevance to the “goals of the Astrobiology Program as contained in the 2015 Astrobiology Science Strategy”. However, there are also 6 “major topics” that are mentioned and most of that report discusses these. Are we to describe the relevance of our project to the goals or major topics?
    A: Relevance is to the science goals of the Astrobiology Program as articulated within the topics in the Science Strategy.

    Q: What does the complementarity of the proposed research program to the research programs of CAN 7 teams mean?
    A: In the CAN, complementarity means how does your CAN 8 proposed work fit into the research represented by the CAN 7 teams. For example, the research proposed fills a gap or asks a similar question to a CAN 7 team but uses a completely different approach and would yield different information.

    Q: Are proposals that focus on human space exploration and human cell lines appropriate for the CAN Cycle 8 call?
    A: No. Research on humans or studies involving human exploration are not covered by the Astrobiology Program.

    Q: What is the appropriate “scope” for a research question for a CAN 8 proposal?
    A: Proposals should describe an interdisciplinary approach to a single, focused, compelling question in astrobiology, and may address a single Science Strategy goal or several Science Strategy goals. The scope of the research and the resources requested should exceed those typically considered in a Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) program element (e.g., Astrobiology: Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology, Astrobiology: Habitable Worlds).

    Q: Should CAN 8 proposals have named collaborators or CoIs from existing NAI teams?
    A: Proposals are not required to demonstrate collaborations with existing teams but if any are described in the proposal they must be verified with letters of commitment or via registration in NSPIRES.

    Q: Are letters of support or collaboration permitted? 
    A: Every PI, Co-I, and Collaborator identified as a participant on the proposal’s cover page and/or in the proposal’s Research Plan must acknowledge his/her intended participation in the proposed effort. The NSPIRES proposal management system allows for participants named on the Proposal Cover Page to acknowledge a statement of commitment electronically. However, in some cases it may be desirable to include a letter of support that provides more information as to the nature of the participation.

    Q: May we collaborate with non-4 year schools such as community colleges or is it only universities?
    A: Yes, collaborations with community colleges are permitted.

    Q: How soon will be the selection of preproposals made?
    A: Decisions about Step-1 proposals will be made within 4 weeks of the Step-1 submission deadline.

    Q; Is it necessary to include participation from Minority Institutions?
    A: The participation of a Minority Serving Institution is not a requirement. NASA recognizes that critical steps must be taken to broaden the participation of underrepresented groups and Minority Institutions in NASA space science missions, research, and education programs (NASA Science Plan, 2014). The NAI is committed to increasing the participation of underrepresented groups in its activities, and it strongly encourages Minority Institutions to participate in proposals as Lead or Co-Institutions.

    Q: What size teams does NAI envision for CAN 8? Must all teams be large?
    A: There is no ideal size of an NAI Team. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of NAI proposals, it is expected that the team size would be larger than a typical ROSES proposal. Team size and resources requested should be appropriate to the scale of the proposed research.

    Q: Can Step-1 proposals be submitted directly by PIs to NASA or do they need to go through our institutional SRO’s?
    A: Unlike a Notice of Intent (NOI), submission of the Step-1 proposal must go through your institutions Sponsored Research Office.

    Q: Should we request Letters of Support from the appropriate existing NAI CAN 7 teams?
    A: Letters of Support from an existing NAI CAN 7 team is not required.

    Q: Does the step-1 proposal need to include international collaborators?
    A: No.

    Q: Can funds provided from NASA to a US institution be budgeted for purchases of instrument time or other services from an international collaborator or facility? 
    A: NASA’s policy welcomes the opportunity to conduct research with non-U.S. organizations on a cooperative, no-exchange-of-funds basis. Although Co-Is or collaborators employed by non-U.S. organizations may be identified as part of a proposal submitted by a U.S. organization, NASA funding may not normally be used to support research efforts by non-U.S. organizations at any level. However, the direct purchase of supplies and/or services that do not constitute research from non-U.S. sources by U.S. award recipients is permitted. This would also apply to instrument time.

    Q: Is there any preference for empirical vs theoretical research programs?
    A: There is no preference for empirical versus theoretical approaches to a research question. Proposals will be evaluated on the merit and appropriateness of the approach.

    Q: To what extent does overlap among Step-1 proposals affect their evaluation?
    A: Every proposal received will be evaluated on its own merits and will not be compared to the scope or merit of other submissions.

    Q: Do you anticipate moving some proposals from this call that are highly rated and relevant to NExSS to NExSS?
    A: No. The Nexus of Exoplanet Systems Science (NExSS) cross divisional initiative was intended to evaluate the benefit of coordination and networking amongst funded proposals from all divisions in SMD. There is no plan to augment the existing research projects with new proposals from the NAI CAN.

    Q: Can additional collaborators be added after Step-1 proposals are submitted?
    A: Step-2 proposals must contain the same scientific goals and Principal Investigator, Co-Investigators and essential collaborators proposed in the Step-1 proposal. Step-1 proposal titles, Principal Investigators, Co-Investigators and essential collaborators cannot be changed in Step-2 proposals. Non-essential collaborators can be added to Step-2 proposals.

    Q: Can the budget include funding for research equipment?
    A: Yes, CAN 8 proposals can request funds for research equipment necessary to carry out the proposed research.