Saturday, September 23, 2017

Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This informal listing of questions and answers does not supersede the FFO published in Grants.Gov. The information contained herein is intended to provide a sense of what exemplary proposals can entail.

Please refer to the detailed OER Announcement for more information on preproposals, full proposals, and the proposal selection process.



Question: What is exploration?

Answer: For the purposes of this program, OER has adopted the definition used in the Report of the President's Panel on Ocean Exploration: "Exploration is defined as discovery through disciplined diverse observations and the recording of the findings. An explorer is distinguished from a researcher by virtue of the fact that an explorer has not narrowly designed the observing strategy to test a specific hypothesis."

Exploration advances the breadth of knowledge, and basic research advances the depth of knowledge. Exploration and basic research share the following characteristics:

  1. the goal of discovery and expanding our knowledge base;
  2. technology and infrastructure needs;
  3. the opportunity for integrating science and education.

[Jim Yoder, Report on the international Global Ocean Exploration Workshop, in Exploration of the Seas, Voyage into the Unknown, NRC, 2003.]

This philosophy is also reflected in the report to the President's Panel on Ocean Exploration, Discovering Earth's Final Frontier: A U.S. Strategy for Ocean Exploration, which describes exploration as a disciplined activity to observe and record findings of unknown areas and processes, providing a legacy of information to generate questions and future research. We are interested in funding exploration, not basic research.

Question: What is the difference between a preproposal and a full proposal?

Answer: Preproposals are an abbreviated form of a full proposal that outline and succinctly describe the purpose and objectives of the proposed project. Preproposals must be accompanied by the OER preproposal cover sheet and a basic budget. Preproposals will be reviewed by the OER Director in consultation with the appropriate OER program staff to determine if the proposed project meets the intent of the FFO. Based on this review, OER will either encourage or discourage an applicant to submit a full proposal. The final decision to submit a full proposal is up to the applicant.

A full proposal provides a detailed description of the proposed project and must be accompanied by the OER proposal cover sheet, a detailed budget and the required government forms. Full proposals will be evaluated and rated individually by three or more independent peer reviewers. The pool of evaluators will be composed of scientists, engineers, social scientists, economists, and resource managers as appropriate to the scope of proposals received in response to the FFO.

Question: Who can submit a preproposal and a full proposal?

Answer: The FFO is open to academia, industry and government entities, as well as activities that meet the stated criteria of the program. Partnering efforts involving proposers/investigators from at least two of these three sectors are particularly encouraged.  Only those who submit a preproposal will be allowed to submit a full proposal. 

Question: How are preproposals and full pro proposals to be submitted?

Answer: Submissions are to be made as follows:

  • Pre-proposal submissions by non-Federal and Federal grantees are to be emailed.
  • Full proposal submissions from non-Federal grantees must be submitted through
  • Full proposal submissions from Federal grantees are to be submitted by email.

Question: What if I don’t have internet access?

Answer: If an eligible applicant can prove he/she does not have internet access, contact the Agency Contact listed in Section VII of the FFO for submission instructions.

Question:     I am not certain whether or not my research program fits the guidelines for your current FFO. 

Answer: Your project may very well address at least some of the Ocean Exploration program's priority criteria. If you believe that your project fits these and other categories identified in the FFO, we encourage you to forward a preproposal, then a full proposal, to us as appropriate. In addition to the FFO, another important resource for achieving a clear understanding of Ocean Exploration's goals, with respect to what you may propose, is the President's Panel Report, Discovering Earth's Final Frontier: A U.S. Strategy for Ocean Exploration 

Question: I cannot make the application deadline. Can I get an extension?

Answer: All submissions must be received (not just submitted) by the published deadlines.

Question: What is OER's CFDA number?

Answer: OER's CFDA (Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number) is 11.011, Title: Ocean Exploration.

Question: Clarify what OER means by "bio-prospecting."

Answer: Bioprospecting is exploration that investigates useful processes and/or products derived from nature. In many cases, bioprospecting is a search for useful organic compounds in microorganisms, plants, animals, and fungi that grow in extreme environments, such as the oceans' depths. The results of bioprospecting may have potential value for pharmaceutical development.

Question: What about cost-sharing with the private sector; is that an expectation of this program?

Answer:    The FFO addresses this question. Cost sharing is not a requirement. Applicants are not required to seek contributions or matching funds to qualify for an award. Public or private sector collaborators willing to donate resources are encouraged. The contribution to an investigator by a private sector partner should be included and identified as such on the submission cover page and/or in the proposal budget. If a successful applicant chooses to cost-share, and documents this in their budget, the applicant and cost-sharing partners will be bound by the percentage of the cost-sharing reflected in the award.

Question: Are commercial companies allowed to make a profit on these grants?

Answer:  Profit is not customarily allowed in Federal grant and cooperative agreement programs. Grants and cooperative agreements are "financial assistance"; that is, the purpose of the arrangement is to provide Federal support for an activity that will benefit the public (see 31 USC Section 6304-05). In financial assistance, the Federal Government ordinarily supports only the actual costs of fulfilling the project activities. In contrast, profit is customary in Federal procurement contracts because the purpose of the arrangement is for a company to provide a service directly to the U.S. Government (see 31 USC Section 6303). Commercial companies are encouraged to submit proposals for a contract in response to this announcement.


Question: Will OER fund the development of advanced technologies, as well as the application of advanced technologies?

Answer: Technology development and applications are a central theme of the program but is not in every FFO. Applicants should check each FFO to ensure that technology is included as one of the possible topics.


Question: Can Federal entities respond to this FFO? If so, what is the procedure?

Answer: Yes, Federal entities may apply. Please read the specific FFO for the proper protocol for submission.

Question: Would NOAA consider a grant written as collaboration among a state agency, a university, and another Federal agency?

Answer: Yes, we are encouraging collaborations among multiple institutions and sectors.

Question: We have a number of groups interested in submitting proposals collaboratively. We would like some advice on whether or not NOAA would prefer that collaborating applicants (1) provide individual submissions or (2) combine their proposals as a collection under one submission?

Answer:   Both types of submissions are fine. However, if the groups are working together on separate elements of one distinct project and if the entire group will be collaborating on one expedition, it may make more sense to generate only one proposal. Otherwise, each proposal would be reviewed separately, and there would be no guarantee that all of the elements would be selected for award. 

In contrast, if the proposals are truly separate, yet complement one another (for example, two different projects investigating similar phenomena in different areas of the ocean), it may make more sense to generate separate proposals and reference the other proposal as a complementary effort.

Question: Assuming a foreign country has interest and is willing to partner in an OER study, would a study site in ocean areas associated with that foreign country be appropriate for the OER initiative?

Answer: We have a procedure to identify those who are eligible to apply for and be awarded funds. This procedure applies to foreign governments, organizations under the jurisdiction of foreign governments, and international organizations. Our program encourages a wide range of participants who are likely to have interest and insight into a broad scope of study areas. Proposals that investigate foreign waters or open ocean are acceptable. Obtaining permission to operate in another country's waters is the responsibility of the applicant. Include appropriate documentation in your proposal to avoid this being a negative review factor.

Question: Can a private company submit a proposal to OER for media coverage of an expedition?

Answer: OER does not separately fund professional media coverage of expeditions. However, professional media are encouraged to collaborate with investigators so they can be included in the science proposal and, ultimately, the mission/expedition. Please note, onboard coverage often requires 2 weeks to 1 month at sea.

Question: Will partnering with someone from the private sector reduce the chances of funding?

Answer:  No. Eligibility for proposal submission and funding extends to, among others, institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations and commercial organizations. Your chances of funding are not reduced by collaborating with a private entity. Collaboration is encouraged, whether among private or public entities.


Question: Can you tell me whether the OER funding has been approved? If not, what might you expect to happen regarding funding?

Answer: NOAA Ocean Exploration funding for Fiscal Year 2014 has not yet been appropriated. The final appropriation will influence the number of proposals the program will be able to support.

Question: Although there is no explicit limit to the amount of funds that can be requested, could you indicate what range of awards might be considered, or the range of awards made in the past?

Answer: In anticipation of the FY 2014 President's Budget, OER expects to support approximately 8-15 awards (including ship time) at an estimated budget level of $3,000,000 through this solicitation.  Proposals are expected to be funded between $10,000 to $2,500,000.

Question: Do smaller proposals receive preference over large grant requests?

Answer: No. All proposals are evaluated and shall be selected in accordance with the FFO criteria published at Grants.Gov announcing this exploration opportunity.

Question: Can one apply for multiyear funding? If so, what kind of funding obligation does OER have in the out-years?

Answer: Multiyear proposals will be considered, although the principal focus will be on one-year field projects and expeditions. Multiyear length of award is limited to two years.

Question: Can one apply for multiyear funding? If so, what kind of funding obligation does OER have in the out-years?

Answer: Multiyear proposals will be accepted, although the principal focus will be on one-year field projects and expeditions. For field programs, sufficient funds for subsequent analysis, publication, and archiving of data should be included. Out-year funding will be contingent upon factors including successful accomplishment of prior-year objectives as well as availability of program funding and other relevant resources.

Question: Would you please advise me if there is legal authority for NOAA to award funds to non-NOAA federal entities for research under this initiative? If so, what do we as a Federal agency need to do to apply?

Answer: The receiving Federal agency must have the authority to receive funds. Thus, Federal applicants are advised to state what their authority is to receive the funds (other than the Economy Act). If your Federal agency has such receiving authority and a decision (an award) ultimately is made to transfer funds, an interagency agreement will then have to be drafted by NOAA and signed by the other agency's representative, spelling out the conditions under which the funds are being transferred.

Proposal Guidance

Question: How can applicants know how to write their proposals if we don't provide a specific platform? What ships are available? Who has ship time?

Answer: Submissions should include ship and hardware needs, and these should be reflected in the budget. Parties submitting proposals should investigate available ship time and reflect this in their proposals. Applicants may wish to refer to the NOAA Marine and Aviations Operations ( and/or the UNOLS ( website for information on the NOAA and UNOLS fleet of ships, platform specifics, and ship time.

Question: I am looking for guidance on how to submit a budget for a single project/proposal that involves investigators from several different institutions. Should we provide a single budget with subcontracts or separate budgets for each entity/institution?

Answer: NOAA will only issue one award per proposal, whether that proposal incorporates the interests of one or many entities. Thus, with each proposal, we are looking for a single proposal budget that breaks out and delineates the modular components and/or subcontracts.

Question: As a Federal employee who wishes to apply for OER funding, I am trying to discern which, if any, forms I am required to fill out.

Answer: In addition to the OER full proposal cover sheet, OER requires Federal employees to provide a completed SF-424, SF-424A, project narrative, a budget narrative (included within the body of the project narrative) that matches the budget categories defined in the SF-424A, and a NEPA Questionaire. This will ensure that the science panel and OER have enough information to make informed decisions.

Question: The FFO application guidance states that a DOC Form CD-346, "Application for Funding Assistance" is required. Does an Institution for Higher Education have to complete this form?

Answer: The CD-346 is a DOC Name Check form used to check on the financial integrity of an applicant for financial assistance. The form is only to be completed by nonprofits, for-profits, and individuals. Institutions for Higher Education and States' governments are exempt from completing this form.

Question: The instructions for the SF-424A budget form state, "In preparing the budget, adhere to any existing Federal grantor agency guidelines which prescribe how and whether budgeted amounts should be separately shown for different functions or activities within the program." Are there any additional guidelines?

Answer: See Appendix I (50K, PDF) for the questions that NOAA's grant specialists use when reviewing an application. Please note that not all sections/questions may apply to your proposal/application. However, this may give you a better idea of our expectations with regard to budget packaging and detail. Furthermore, it is important to make sure that the budget narrative in your proposal matches the budget categories defined in the SF-424A.

Education and Outreach

NOTE:   Education and Outreach is not a review criterion for FY 2014 Ocean Exploration and Research FF0 proposals.

Question: What kind of public outreach should I expect, and what types of public outreach have been successful in past OER funded proposals?

Answer: There is no one answer to this question; there are a wide spectrum of acceptable public outreach products and activities, some of which may be of greater value for a particular locale or region. Geographically convenient partnership opportunities, such as with a nearby science museum, laboratory or aquarium, may also be available that can serve to motivate particular types of public outreach activities.

Persons submitting proposals are encouraged to consider a range of education and outreach activities that span formal and informal K-12, higher education, and general public audiences. Applicants are encouraged to work with regional National Science Foundation Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEEs) where appropriate. Persons submitting proposals should consider how efforts might be presented as an integrated education and outreach package and should address the expected degree of sustainability of these efforts after the completion of the expedition. 

Question: Am I required to submit an education and outreach component to my science proposal to address OER's outreach and education program priority?

Answer:  No. Exploration and Marine Archaeology proposals are not required to have an education and outreach component. Exploration-related proposals may include specific education and outreach components, but they are not required. What is required is a written statement within the proposal acknowledging a willingness to incorporate outreach and education into a grant-funded project, as outlined in the FFO's Section VIII.B.