[Federal Register Volume 70, Number 240 (Thursday, December 15, 2005)]
[Notices]
[Pages 74299-74302]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E5-7396]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[Docket No.: 030602141-5302-31]


Financial Assistance To Administer NOAA's Educational Partnership 
Program (EPP) With Minority Serving Institutions (MSI), Graduate 
Sciences Program

AGENCY: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 
Department of Commerce.

ACTION: Notice of criteria to administer the EPP/MSI Graduate Sciences 
Program; and notice of availability of funds and solicitation for 
proposals for these funds.

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SUMMARY: The purpose of this document is to advise the public that 
NOAA's Educational Partnership Program is soliciting not-for-profit 
organizations to administer its EPP Graduate Sciences Program. The goal 
of the Graduate Sciences Program is to provide college graduates who 
have received at least a Bachelor's degree in mathematics, science, 
economics, law, and engineering, entry-level employment and hands-on 
research and work experience at NOAA. The program's objective is to 
increase the number of students who undertake course work and graduate 
with degrees in the targeted areas integral to NOAA's mission.
    The goal of the NOAA EPP/MSI Graduate Sciences Program (GSP) is 
aimed primarily at increasing opportunities and available programs for 
students in NOAA related fields to pursue research and graduate level

[[Page 74300]]

educational training in atmospheric, environmental, and oceanic 
sciences at Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) when possible. All 
students are competitively selected for positions in NOAA offices and 
facilities.
    Participants must be U.S. citizens, have a Bachelor's degree in 
mathematics, science, law, or engineering, and have, and maintain, a 
minimum G.P.A. of 3.0 or higher prior to and for the duration of their 
training. Prior to acceptance into the program, students must be 
enrolled in an accredited graduate school and obtain a letter of 
recommendation by a school official. This two-year program provides for 
formal periods of work, study, and structured classroom training 
programs in meteorology, hydrology, cartography, oceanography, ecology, 
remote sensing technology, environmental science and planning, marine 
science, fisheries biology, computer science, and environmental law. 
GSP pays for tuition, books, lab fees, campus housing allowance, travel 
expenses, and salary during 16 weeks of NOAA work experience per year 
at a NOAA research facility. NOAA scientists are assigned as mentors to 
graduate scientists during the training period.
    The progress of the students is monitored throughout the academic 
year and during the intermittent career work experiences. Under the 
program, graduate students are required to present their research at 
conferences, scientific meetings and workshops, education and science 
forums, etc. The program requires that students participate in an 
orientation program at NOAA Headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, at 
the beginning of their appointment.

DATES: Applications must be received by NOAA Educational Partnership 
Program (EPP) no later than 2 p.m. (eastern standard time), February 
13, 2006.

ADDRESSES: Applications submitted in response to this announcement are 
strongly encouraged to submit through the Grants.gov Web site. 
Electronic access to the full funding opportunity announcement for this 
program is available via the Grants.gov Web site: http://
www.grants.gov. The announcement will also be available at the NOAA EPP 
Web site http://epp.noaa.gov or by contacting the program official 
identified below. Applicants must comply with all requirements 
contained in the full funding opportunity announcement. Paper 
applications (a signed original and two copies) may also be submitted 
to the Educational Partnership Program at the following address: NOAA/
EPP, 1315 East West Highway, Room 10703, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910. 
No facsimile applications will be accepted. Institutions are encouraged 
to submit Letters of Intent to NOAA/EPP within 30 days of this 
announcement to aid in planning the review processes.
    Letters of Intent may be submitted via e-mail to 
Chantell.Haskins@noaa.gov. Information should include a general 
description of the program administration proposal.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Chantell Haskins, Program Manager at 
(301) 713-9437 ext. 125 or Chantell.Haskins@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    NOAA is committed to recruiting and retaining individuals from 
underrepresented communities as part of its workforce. The agency 
established EPP to provide financial assistance to train students in 
NOAA-related sciences and to conduct hands-on research related to the 
ongoing mission of the agency. Therefore, the agency established a 
program aimed at partnering with MSIs that train and graduate students 
in the areas of atmospheric, oceanic and environmental sciences, 
fisheries sciences, and management, and remote sensing technology. 
Since approximately 40% of minority students receive their 
undergraduate degrees at MSIs, direct collaboration with MSIs is an 
effective way to increase the number of students from under-represented 
communities trained and graduated in NOAA-related sciences.
    With such a limited pool of potential minority employees trained in 
NOAA-related sciences, it is important that NOAA seek new ways to make 
students aware of the mission of the agency and to support activities 
that increase opportunities for students trained in NOAA-related 
sciences.
    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 
Educational Partnership Program (EPP) with Minority Serving 
Institutions (MSIs) is a competitive program designed to develop and/or 
enhance the collaboration between NOAA and the MSI community to 
increase the number of students who pursue coursework and graduate with 
degrees in NOAA-related sciences. The program is designed to improve 
NOAA's outreach and recruitment efforts of under-represented 
individuals in the scientific mission-related occupational fields, 
i.e., fishery biology, environmental law, meteorology, cartography, 
oceanography, hydrology, computer science, ecology, environmental 
economics, and engineering. The program requires graduate student's 
participation in research projects that will promote in-depth knowledge 
and understanding of NOAA sciences in their academic institutions. For 
the purposes of this announcement, MSIs are defined as Historically 
Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, Tribal 
Colleges and Universities, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving 
Institutions as defined by the Department of Education and the most 
recent list can be found on the NOAA EPP Web site at http://
epp.noaa.gov.

Electronic Access

    Applicants can access, download, and submit electronic grant 
applications, including the full funding opportunity announcement, for 
NOAA programs at the Grants.gov Web site: http://www.grants.gov. The 
announcement will also be available at the NOAA EPP Web site http://
epp.noaa.gov or by contacting the program official identified above. 
The closing date will be the same as for paper submissions noted in 
this announcement. NOAA strongly recommends that you do not wait until 
the application deadline date to begin the application process through 
Grants.gov. If Internet access is unavailable, hard copies of proposals 
will also be accepted--a signed original and two copies--at time of 
submission. The project description (including relevant results from 
prior training programs) should not exceed 15 pages. Page limits are 
inclusive of figures, and other visual materials, but are exclusive of 
references, milestone charts, letters of collaboration from unfounded 
collaborators, letters of endorsement, and curriculum vitae which may 
not exceed 2 pages for each principal, program administrator/
coordinator. This includes color or high-resolution graphics, unusually 
sized materials, or otherwise unusual materials submitted as part of 
the proposal. For color graphics, submit either color originals or 
color copies. Facsimile transmissions and electronic mail submission of 
full proposals will not be accepted.

Funding Availability

    Subject to appropriations, this solicitation announces that funding 
at a maximum of $350,000 will be available for program administration 
of the Graduate Sciences Program over a two-year period. The proposal 
is limited to a total of $350,000 for a maximum of two years and one 
proposal will be funded. Up to 18% of $350,000 is

[[Page 74301]]

allowed for administrative overhead and at least 82% of $350,000 is for 
student support. It is anticipated that the funding instrument will be 
a cooperative agreement since NOAA will be substantially involved in 
identifying NOAA facilities to place students during the two summer 
internships, and with collaboration, participation, or intervention in 
project performance.

    Authorities: 15 U.S.C. 1540, 49 U.S.C. 44720, 33 U.S.C. 883d, 33 
U.S.C. 1442, 16 U.S.C. 1854(e), 16 U.S.C. 661, 16 U.S.C. 753(a), 16 
U.S.C. 1451 et seq., 16 U.S.C. 1431, 33 U.S.C. 883a and Executive 
Orders 12876, 12900, 13021, 13336, and 13339.

    Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance: 11.481--Educational 
Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions.

    Eligibility: Proposals will only be accepted from non-profit 
organizations.
    Cost Sharing Requirements: None.
    Intergovernmental Review: Applications under this program are not 
subject to Executive Order 12372, ``Intergovernmental Review of Federal 
Programs.''
    Evaluation and Selection Procedures: Once an application is 
received by NOAA, an initial administrative review is conducted to 
determine compliance with requirements and completeness of the 
application. The initial administrative review will be based on:
    1. Eligibility--Proposals will only be accepted and reviewed from 
not-for-profit organizations (as defined in Section IIIA of the full 
funding opportunity announcement);
    2. Submission date--Proposals will only be accepted and reviewed if 
they are received in the NOAA EPP office by the designated deadline;
    3. Project cost--Proposals will only be accepted and reviewed if 
the administrative overhead costs are no more than 18% of the total 
award.
    Each application that meets the requirements and is complete will 
be evaluated and scored individually in accordance with the assigned 
weights of the evaluation criteria by an independent peer review panel. 
Each peer panel reviewer will score proposals on a scale of five to 
one, where scores represent respectively: Excellent (5), Very Good (4), 
Good (3), Fair (2), Poor (1).
    Each peer review panel will be comprised of 3 to 5 individuals, 
having expertise in the program management of student fellowship, 
scholarship, or internship programs in the areas of science and 
technology. The individual peer review panelist scores shall be 
averaged for each application and presented to the Program Officer. No 
consensus advice will be given by the independent peer to the review 
panel. The Program Officer will neither vote nor score proposals as 
part of the independent peer review panel nor participate in discussion 
of the merits of the proposal. Those proposals receiving an average 
panel score of ``Good,'' ``Fair,'' or ``Poor'' will not be given 
further consideration, and applicants will be notified of non-
selection. For the proposals rated by the panel as either ``Excellent'' 
or ``Very Good,'' the Program Officer will (a) rank the proposals by 
average panel ratings, and/or by applying the project selection factors 
listed below; (b) determine the total duration of funding for the 
selected proposal; and (c) determine the amount of funds available for 
the selected proposal subject to the availability of fiscal year funds. 
A recommendation for funding is then forwarded to the selecting 
official, the Director, NOAA Office of Education, for the final funding 
decision. In making the final selection, the Director will award to the 
highest scoring applicant unless the selected proposal is justified to 
be selected out of rank order based on the selection factors listed 
below. Investigators may be asked to modify objectives, work plans or 
budgets, and provide supplemental information required by the agency 
prior to the award. When a decision has been made (whether an award or 
declination), verbatim anonymous copies of reviews and summaries of 
review panel deliberations, if any, will be made available to the 
applicant upon applicant request. Declined applications will be held in 
the NOAA EPP for the required 3 years in accordance with the current 
retention requirements, and then destroyed.
    Evaluation Criteria: Proposals will be evaluated on the basis of 
the following evaluation criteria at the indicated weights:
    (1) Importance and/or relevance and applicability of proposed 
project to the program goals. This ascertains whether there is 
intrinsic value in the proposed work and/or relevance to NOAA, Federal, 
regional, state, or local activities.
    (2) Technical/scientific merit: This assesses whether the approach 
is technically sound and/or innovative, if the methods are appropriate, 
and whether there are clear project goals and objectives.
    (3) Overall qualifications of applicants: This ascertains whether 
the applicant possesses the necessary education, experience, training, 
facilities, and administrative resources to accomplish the project.
    (4) Project costs: The Budget is evaluated to determine if it is 
realistic and commensurate with the project needs and time-frame.
    (5) Outreach and education: NOAA assesses whether this project 
provides a focused and effective education and outreach strategy 
regarding NOAA's mission to protect the Nation's natural resources.
    Selection Factors: The merit review ratings shall provide a rank 
order to the Selecting Official for final funding recommendation. A 
program officer may first make a recommendation to the Selecting 
Official applying the selection factors below. The Selecting Official 
shall award in the rank order unless the proposal is justified to be 
selected out of rank order based upon numbers 1, 4, 5 and 6 of the 
following factors:
    1. Availability of funding.
    2. Balance/distribution of funds:

a. Geographically
b. By type of institutions
c. By type of partners
d. By research areas
e. By project types

    3. Whether this project duplicates other projects funded or 
considered for funding by NOAA or other federal agencies.
    4. Program priorities and policy factors set forth in sections I.A. 
and B. and IV.B. of the Full Funding Opportunity.
    5. Applicant's prior award performance.
    6. Partnerships and/or Participation of targeted groups.
    7. Adequacy of information necessary for NOAA to make a NEPA 
determination and draft necessary documentation before recommendations 
for funding are made to the Grants Officer.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    NOAA must analyze the potential environmental impacts, as required 
by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), for applicant projects 
or proposals which are seeking NOAA federal funding opportunities. 
Detailed information on NOAA compliance with NEPA can be found at the 
following NOAA NEPA Web site: http://www.nepa.noaa.gov/, including our 
NOAA Administrative Order 216-6 for NEPA, http://www.nepa.noaa.gov/
NAO216_6_TOC.pdf, and the Council on Environmental Quality 
implementation regulations, http://ceq.eh.doe.gov/nepa/regs/ceq/toc_
ceq.htm. Consequently, as part of an applicant's package, and under 
their description of their program activities, applicants are required 
to provide detailed information on the activities to

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be conducted, locations, sites, species and habitat to be affected, 
possible construction activities, and any environmental concerns that 
may exist (e.g., the use and disposal of hazardous or toxic chemicals, 
introduction of non-indigenous species, impacts to endangered and 
threatened species, aquaculture projects, and impacts to coral reef 
systems). In addition to providing specific information that will serve 
as the basis for any required impact analyses, applicants may also be 
requested to assist NOAA in drafting of an environmental assessment, if 
NOAA determines an assessment is required. Applicants will also be 
required to cooperate with NOAA in identifying feasible measures to 
reduce or avoid any identified adverse environmental impacts of their 
proposal. The failure to do so shall be grounds for the denial of an 
application. In some cases if additional information is required after 
application is selected, funds can be withheld by the Grants Officer 
under a special award condition requiring the recipient to submit 
additional environmental compliance information sufficient to enable 
NOAA to make an assessment on any impacts that a project may have on 
the environment.

Pre-Award Notification Requirements for Grants and Cooperative 
Agreements

    The Department of Commerce Pre-Award Notification Requirements for 
Grants and Cooperative Agreements contained in the Federal Register 
notice of December 30, 2004 (69 FR 78389) are applicable to this 
solicitation.

Limitation of Liability

    Funding for the program administration listed in this notice is 
contingent upon availability of Fiscal Year 2006 appropriations. 
Applicants are hereby given notice that funds have not yet been 
appropriated for the Graduate Sciences Program. In no event will NOAA 
or the Department of Commerce accept responsibility for proposal 
preparation costs if these programs fail to receive funding or are 
cancelled because of other agency priorities. Publication of this 
announcement does not oblige NOAA to award any specific project or to 
obligate any available funds. Recipients and sub-recipients are subject 
to all Federal laws and agency policies, regulations and procedures 
applicable to Federal financial assistance awards.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This notification involves collection-of-information requirements 
subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act. The use of Standard Forms 424, 
424A, 424B, and SF-LLL and CD-346 has been approved by the Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) under control numbers 0348-0043, 0348-0044, 
0348-0040 and 0348-0046 and 0605-0001. Notwithstanding any other 
provision of law, no person is required to respond to, nor shall any 
person be subject to a penalty for failure to comply with, a collection 
of information subject to the requirements of the PRA unless that 
collection of information displays a currently valid OMB control 
number.

Executive Order 12866

    It has been determined that this notice is not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.

Executive Order 13132 (Federalism)

    It has been determined that this notice does not contain policies 
with Federalism implications as that term is defined in Executive Order 
13132.

Administrative Procedure Act/Regulatory Flexibility Act

    Prior notice and an opportunity for public comment are not required 
by the Administrative procedure Act or any other law for rules 
concerning public property, loans, grants, benefits, and contracts (5 
U.S.C. 553(a)(2)). Because notice and opportunity for comments are not 
required pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553 or any other law, the analytical 
requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) 
are inapplicable. Therefore, a regulatory flexibility analysis has not 
been prepared, and none has been prepared. It has been determined that 
this notice does not contain policies with Federalism implications as 
that term is defined in Executive Order 13132.

Mark Brown,
Chief Financial Officer, NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.
 [FR Doc. E5-7396 Filed 12-14-05; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-KD-P