National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program-Revisions to Administrative Provisions, 54894-54898 [E6-15568]

Download as PDF 54894 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 182 / Wednesday, September 20, 2006 / Rules and Regulations Example (3). ORDERED: [payee’s name, SSN, and address] is awarded [fraction] of the [civilian and/or uniformed services] Thrift Savings Plan account[s] of [participant’s name, SSN, and address] as of [date]. Note: The following optional language can be used in conjunction with any of the above examples. FURTHER ORDERED: Earnings will be paid on the amount of the entitlement under this ORDER until payment is made. * * * * * [FR Doc. 06–7925 Filed 9–19–06; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6760–01–P DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, USDA 7 CFR Part 3411 RIN 0524–AA32 National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program— Revisions to Administrative Provisions Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, USDA. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: SUMMARY: The Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) is updating and making technical corrections to the administrative provisions for the National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program (NRICGP). In addition, CSREES is revising 7 CFR 3411.3(d), the ‘‘Eligibility requirements’’ for NRICGP Postdoctoral Fellowships, New Investigator Awards, and Strengthening Awards, and 7 CFR 3411.4(c)(8), the Agency instructions to applicants preparing project budgets for NRICGP conference grants and postdoctoral fellowships. CSREES anticipates the changes to the eligibility requirements will increase the impact of the Agricultural Research Enhancement Awards, while the changes to the budget instructions will facilitate additional conference and postdoctoral fellowship awards. DATES: Effective date: September 20, 2006. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gail rwilkins on PROD1PC63 with RULES McLean at (202) 401–6060 or via electronic mail at gmclean@csrees.usda.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Overview The Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service VerDate Aug<31>2005 18:46 Sep 19, 2006 Jkt 208001 (CSREES) revises the administrative provisions for the National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program (NRICGP), which was authorized in section 2(b) of the Act of August 4, 1965, as amended by section 1615 of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (FACT Act), (7 U.S.C. 450i(b)). Some of the revisions are mere technical corrections, including updates to the Agency’s name. Other revisions reflect the Agency’s developing capabilities to exchange proposal and grant data electronically. Finally, CSREES is substantively revising the eligibility requirements for Agricultural Research Enhancement Awards (7 CFR 3411.3(d)) and the Agency’s instructions to applicants preparing project budgets for NRICGP conference grants and postdoctoral fellowships (7 CFR 3411.4(c)(8)). CSREES published a Proposed Rule (71 FR 32479, June 6, 2006) on this topic and received three comments from the public by the August 7, 2006 deadline. The Agency is not revising the Proposed Rule based on these comments. Two of the comments supported the proposed changes, agreeing they would create additional flexibility for, and increase the competitiveness and continuity of funding at small and minority serving university research programs. The third comment was an expression of concern that the Agency might fund illegal aliens with NRICGP funds, which the Proposed Rule neither suggests nor encourages. The Agricultural Research Enhancement Awards are intended to help institutions develop competitive research programs and to attract scientists to research in agriculture, food, and environmental sciences. To increase the impact of the Agricultural Research Enhancement Awards, CSREES is changing the eligibility requirements for Postdoctoral Fellowships, New Investigator Awards, and Strengthening Awards. Anticipated impacts include, (1) for Postdoctoral Fellowships, improved funding continuity and potentially more postdoctoral scientists entering into an agricultural research career; (2) for New Investigator Awards, improved project design and increased probability of a successful agricultural research program; and (3) for Strengthening Awards, improved research project continuity and more incentive for researchers to stay at USDAExperimental Program for Stimulating Competitive Research (EPSCoR) or small/mid-sized institutions. The revisions to Agency instructions regarding the preparation of project budgets apply narrowly and should PO 00000 Frm 00002 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 optimize the use of NRICGP funds for scientific meetings and for postdoctoral researchers. Postdoctoral Fellowships Previously, provisions indicated a postdoctoral fellowship applicant should not have received a doctoral degree before January 1 of the fiscal year three years prior to the submission of the proposal and not later than June 15 of the fiscal year during which the proposal is submitted (7 CFR 3411.3(d)(1)(i)). In the past, NRICGP proposal submission dates were grouped together and occurred within an approximate range of three to four months. As a result, applicants had similar amounts of time from the date they submitted their proposals until they were notified of awards. This was important because applicants used the time to arrange for postdoctoral positions and ensure continuity of funding for their postdoctoral research. Now, however, NRICGP proposal submission dates are spread throughout the year. The old provisions put at a disadvantage postdoctoral fellowship applicants to NRICGP programs with proposal submission dates that are later in the fiscal year than the doctoral degree cutoff date of June 15. In order to ensure the availability of their awards, applicants to these programs may wait a year between receiving their doctoral degrees and applying for the postdoctoral fellowships. The gap in funding can result in postdoctoral researchers leaving agricultural research because they cannot find a laboratory with sufficient funding to support them during this interim. CSREES is revising the provisions for NRICGP postdoctoral fellowships to base cutoff dates for receipt of doctoral degrees on proposal due dates for specific NRICGP programs. This change adds equity to the process and allows applicants sufficient time to make arrangements for financial support of their postdoctoral research prior to graduation. In doing so, it should further the engagement of the best and brightest young scientists in agricultural research. New Investigator Awards The previous provisions required that, in addition to the Project Director, all co-Project Directors must meet NRICGP New Investigator Award eligibility requirements (7 CFR 3411.3(d)(2)). When evaluating the scientific merit of a proposal, reviewers frequently suggest that New Investigators work with established investigators. Established investigators can provide valuable expertise on scientific subjects and E:\FR\FM\20SER1.SGM 20SER1 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 182 / Wednesday, September 20, 2006 / Rules and Regulations rwilkins on PROD1PC63 with RULES experimental methods that New Investigators need for successful research projects. The interaction between New Investigators and established investigators can be more than simple collaboration and require sharing of funds and significant interaction. The previous eligibility requirements for New Investigator Awards inhibited, if not prevented, these close relationships. CSREES is revising the eligibility requirements for New Investigator Awards so that they apply to Project Directors only. As the Project Director, the New Investigator maintains the primary responsibility for the research and the funding. Previously, applicants were ineligible for New Investigator Awards if they had received competitively awarded Federal research funds beyond the level of preor postdoctoral research awards (7 CFR 3411.3(d)(2)). As a result, CSREES was not able to make New Investigator Awards to former recipients of NRICGP seed grants. NRICGP seed grants are relatively small awards that enable investigators to collect preliminary data they can use to prepare standard research grant applications. Seed grant eligibility is limited to faculty with appointments at (1) small and mid-sized degree-granting institutions that are not in the top 100 most successful institutions; and (2) degree-granting institutions eligible for USDA-EPSCoR funding. CSREES is revising the NRICGP New Investigator Award provisions so that former recipients of NRICGP seed grants are eligible to apply for these funds. By allowing investigators who received seed grants to remain eligible for New Investigator Awards, CSREES hopes to increase the chances that beginning scientists will achieve funding and continuation of agricultural research projects. Strengthening Awards According to the previous eligibility requirements for Research Career Enhancement Awards, Seed Grants, and Strengthening Standard Research Project Awards, no investigators on the Proposal Cover Page may have received a USDA NRICGP competitive research grant within the last 5 years (7 CFR 3411.3(d)(3)(ii)(A)). CSREES is removing this restriction so that investigators from eligible institutions can apply for these types of Strengthening Awards regardless of having received NRICGP awards in the past. The Agency believes this will increase the likelihood that investigators at institutions in EPSCoR states, and those at institutions with small to mid-sized enrollment, will have the funding stability necessary for successful agricultural research VerDate Aug<31>2005 18:46 Sep 19, 2006 Jkt 208001 programs. Often researchers from these institutions have difficulty renewing strengthening awards. Although their projects have important scientific merit, they tend to be limited in size and scope due to, for example, teaching commitments, equipment access, and smaller numbers of students and postdoctoral researchers. Thus, these proposals do not compete well against projects from larger research institutions that have more resources and personnel. This change will improve funding continuity and provide incentives for established researchers to stay at EPSCoR or small/mid-sized institutions. In doing so, it will strengthen the institutions and the future of agricultural research through increased opportunities for students to participate in active, successful agricultural research projects. The previous provisions required that, in addition to the Project Director, all co-Project Directors must meet NRICGP Strengthening Award eligibility requirements (7 CFR 3411.3(d)(3)(ii)(B)). As with a similar restriction placed on New Investigators, this requirement unnecessarily hampers close relationships between investigators who can provide expertise needed to successfully complete a project. CSREES is revising the eligibility requirements for these types of NRICGP Strengthening Awards so that they apply to Project Directors only. Indirect Costs—Conference Awards and Postdoctoral Fellowships CSREES is adding language to 7 CFR 3411.4(c)(8) that prohibits indirect costs for conference awards and postdoctoral fellowships. Previously, CSREES restricted conference awardees’ recovery of indirect costs to 20% of total Federal funds, as provided in Section 709 of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006 (Pub. L. 109–97). Conference awards support meetings that bring together scientists to identify research needs, update information, or advance an area of research. Typically, these awards are modest. They rarely exceed $10,000, but are recognized as integral to research efforts. Where grantees incur administrative costs relative to sponsoring such conferences (especially in off-site locations), the Agency believes the administrative costs are negligible. In accordance with its fiscal year 2006 Request for Applications (RFA) for NRICGP (available at http:// www.csrees.usda.gov/funding/rfas/ nri_rfa.html), CSREES allowed postdoctoral fellowship awardees to PO 00000 Frm 00003 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 54895 request an institutional allowance (not to exceed $2,400 per year) or indirect costs within the $125,000 maximum award limit. Postdoctoral fellowship applicants primarily request funds for salary support, although they are allowed to request other expenditures (e.g., supplies, travel, and publication) if they properly justify them. These awards allow postdoctoral researchers to develop independent research projects they can take with them to career-track positions. Postdoctoral fellowships play an important role in attracting and supporting beginning researchers in agricultural sciences. For postdoctoral fellowships, CSREES will continue to indicate in its annual NRICGP RFA a maximum institutional allowance, and, in accordance with revised administrative provisions, the Agency will make this allowance available to awardees in lieu of indirect costs. Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995— Information Collection Under the provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. chapter 35), the collection of information requirements contained in this Final Rule have been approved (OMB Approval No. 0524–0039). Regulatory Flexibility Act USDA certifies that this Final Rule will not have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities as defined in the Regulatory Flexibility Act, Public Law 96–354, as amended (5 U.S.C. 601, et seq.) because it is a Federal assistance program, not a regulatory regime, and the majority of awards will be made to colleges and universities that do not qualify as small entities. Executive Order 12866 This rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12866 and has been determined to be nonsignificant as it will not create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with an action planned by another agency; will not materially alter the budgetary impact of entitlement, grants, user fees, or loan programs, or rights and obligations of the recipients thereof; and will not raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal mandates, the President’s priorities, or principles set forth in this Executive Order. This rule will not have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health, or safety, or State, local, or tribal governments or communities. E:\FR\FM\20SER1.SGM 20SER1 54896 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 182 / Wednesday, September 20, 2006 / Rules and Regulations Unfunded Mandates Reform Act Pursuant to Title II of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (Pub. L. 104–4), the Department assessed the effects of this rulemaking action on State, local, and tribal government, and the public. This action does not compel the expenditure of $100 million or more by any State, local, or Tribal governments, or anyone in the private sector. Therefore, a statement under Section 202 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 is not required. Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act This rule is not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2), the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. This rule: (1) Does not have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more; (2) Will not cause a major increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual industries, Federal, State, or local government agencies, or geographic regions; and (3) Does not have significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of U.S.-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises. Executive Order 12988 This rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform. In accordance with the Executive Order: (1) All State and local laws and regulations that are in conflict with this rule will be preempted; (2) no retroactive effect will be given to this rule; (3) no administrative proceedings are required before bringing any judicial action regarding this rule. rwilkins on PROD1PC63 with RULES Executive Order 13132 In accordance with Executive Order 13132, this rulemaking does not have sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a Federalism Assessment. The policies contained in this rule do not have any substantial direct effect on policymaking discretion of the States, on the relationship between the national government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government. Nor does this rule impose substantial direct compliance costs on State and local governments. Executive Order 12372 For the reasons set forth in the Final Rule Related Notice for 7 CFR part 3015, subpart V (48 FR 29115, June 24, 1983), this program is excluded from the scope of the Executive Order 12372 which requires intergovernmental consultation VerDate Aug<31>2005 18:46 Sep 19, 2006 Jkt 208001 with State and local officials. This program does not directly affect State and local governments. Executive Order 13175 The policies contained in this rulemaking do not have tribal implications and thus no further action is required under Executive Order 13175. List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 3411 Agricultural research, Grant programs—agriculture, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. I For the reasons stated in the preamble, the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service amends 7 CFR 3411 to read as set forth below: PART 3411—NATIONAL RESEARCH INITIATIVE COMPETITIVE GRANTS PROGRAM 1. The authority citation for part 3411 continues to read as follows: I Authority: Sec. 2(i) of the Act of August 4, 1965, as amended (7 U.S.C. 450i(i)). Subpart A—General 2. Revise paragraph (a) of § 3411.1 to read as follows: I § 3411.1 Applicability of regulations. (a) The regulations of this part apply to competitive research grants awarded under the authority of section 2(b) of the Act of August 4, 1965, as amended by section 1615 of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (FACT Act), (7 U.S.C. 450i(b)), for the support of research to further the programs of the Department of Agriculture and to improve research capabilities in the agricultural, food, and environmental sciences in the following categories: Single investigators or coinvestigators in the same disciplines; teams of researchers from different disciplines; multidisciplinary teams for long-term applied research problems; multidisciplinary teams whose research has the eventual goal of technology transfer and education capacity through the acquisition of special research equipment and improvement of teaching and education, including fellowships; single investigators or coinvestigators who are beginning their research careers; and, faculty of small and mid-sized institutions not previously successful in obtaining competitive grants under this subsection. In accordance with Public Law 104–127, within the Department of Agriculture, the Secretary established the National Agricultural Research, PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board (NAREEEAB) to provide overall guidance to the Research, Education and Economics mission area on policies and priorities related to programs, including NRICGP. In addition to the stakeholder listening sessions NAREEEAB sponsors, CSREES receives stakeholder input on policies and priorities related to NRICGP from multiple sources including scientific societies; the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences; producers, processors, industry; the land-grant university system; nongovernmental organizations; and other federal agencies; and through international coordination. The Administrator of CSREES shall determine and announce, through publication of a notice on the CSREES Web site (http://www.csrees.usda.gov), the government-wide funding opportunities Web site (http:// www.grants.gov), or in such publications as the Federal Register, professional trade journals, agency or program handbooks, the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, or any other appropriate means, high-priority research areas and categories for which proposals will be solicited and the extent that funds are made available therefore. * * * * * I 3. Revise paragraphs (a) and (c) of § 3411.2 to read as follows: § 3411.2 Definitions. * * * * * (a) Administrator means the Administrator of the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) and any other officer or employee of the Department of Agriculture to whom the authority involved may be delegated. * * * * * (c) Project Director means a single individual who is responsible for the scientific and technical direction of the project, as designated by the grantee in the grant application and approved by the Administrator. * * * * * I 4. Amend § 3411.3 by revising paragraphs (a), (d) introductory text, (d)(1) introductory text, (d)(1)(i), (d)(2), and (d)(3)(ii) to read as follows: § 3411.3 Eligibility requirements. (a) For research projects, except where otherwise prohibited by law, State agricultural experiment stations, all colleges and universities, other research institutions and organizations, Federal agencies, private organizations or corporations, and individuals shall be E:\FR\FM\20SER1.SGM 20SER1 rwilkins on PROD1PC63 with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 182 / Wednesday, September 20, 2006 / Rules and Regulations eligible to apply for and receive a competitive grant under this part, provided that the applicant qualifies as a responsible grantee under the criteria set forth in paragraph (b) of this section. * * * * * (d) Agricultural Research Enhancement Awards. In addition to paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of this section, the following eligibility requirements apply to Agricultural Research Enhancement Awards for research projects (Program reserves the right to specify funding limitations and administrative requirements each year in the program solicitation): (1) Postdoctoral Fellowships. In accordance with Section 2(b)(3)(D) of the Act of August 4, 1965, as amended, individuals who recently have received or will soon receive their doctoral degree may submit proposals for postdoctoral fellowships. The following eligibility requirements apply: (i) The doctoral degree of the applicant must be received not earlier than January 1 of the fiscal year three years prior to the submission of the proposal and not later than nine months after the proposal due date; * * * * * (2) New Investigator Awards. Pursuant to Section 2(b)(3)(E) of the Act of August 4, 1965, as amended, Project Directors who are beginning their research careers, do not have an extensive research publication record, and have less than 5 years of post-graduate, career-track research experience, may submit proposals as new investigators. Applicants may not have received competitively-awarded Federal research funds beyond the level of pre or postdoctoral research awards or USDA NRICGP seed grants. (3) Strengthening Awards. * * * * * (ii) Research Career Enhancement Awards, Seed Grants, and Strengthening Standard Research Project Awards. The following eligibility requirements apply to Research Career Enhancement Awards, Seed Grants, and Strengthening Standard Research Project Awards: (A) The Project Director listed on the Application For Funding must be from a small or mid-sized institution that is not among the top 100 universities and colleges for receiving Federal funds for science and engineering research as specified in the annual program solicitation or must be from an institution located in a USDA-EPSCoR state. (B) Every investigator listed on the Application For Funding must have an appointment at a degree granting institution. VerDate Aug<31>2005 18:46 Sep 19, 2006 Jkt 208001 5. Amend § 3411.4 by revising paragraphs (a) introductory text, (a)(4), (a)(5), (c)(3) introductory text, (c)(7) introductory text, (c)(8), (c)(11), and (c)(13) to read as follows: I § 3411.4 How to apply for a grant. (a) Program solicitations will be prepared and announced through publication on the government-wide funding opportunities Web site (http:// www.grants.gov) as early as practicable each fiscal year. It will contain information sufficient to enable all eligible applicants to prepare competitive grant proposals and will be as complete as possible with respect to: * * * * * (4) Deadline dates for receipt of proposal packages; (5) Submission addresses; * * * * * (b) * * * (c) Format for grant proposals. * * * * * (3) Project Description. The specific aims of the project must be included in all proposals. The text of the project description may not exceed 18 single- or double-spaced pages and must contain the following components: * * * * * (7) Personnel support. To assist peer reviewers in assessing the competence and experience of the proposed project staff, all personnel who will be involved in the proposed project must be identified clearly. For each Project Director involved, and for all senior associates and other professional personnel who expect to work on the project, whether or not funds are sought for their support, the following should be included: * * * * * (8) Budget. A detailed budget is required for each year of requested support. In addition, a summary budget is required detailing requested support for the overall project period. A copy of the form which must be used for this purpose, along with instructions for completion, is included in the NRICGP Application Kit identified under § 3411.4(b) of the part and may be reproduced as needed by applicants. Funds may be requested under any of the categories listed, provided that the item or service for which support is requested may be identified as necessary for successful conduct of the proposed project, is allowable under applicable Federal cost principles, and is not prohibited under any applicable Federal statute or regulation. It should be noted, for example, that section 2(b)(7) of the Act of August 4, 1965, as amended, prohibits the use of funds PO 00000 Frm 00005 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 54897 under this program for the renovation or refurbishment of research spaces, purchases or installation of fixed equipment in such spaces, or for the planning, repair, rehabilitation, acquisition, or construction of a building or facility. Also, section 2(b)(8) of the Act of August 4, 1965, as amended, requires that all grants, except equipment grants authorized by section 2(b)(3)(D) of the same Act, awarded under this part, shall be used without regard to matching funds or cost sharing. Equipment grants may not exceed 50 percent of the cost of the equipment to be acquired. Equipment grant funds also may not be used for installation, maintenance, warranty, or insurance expenses. Indirect costs are not permitted on equipment grants, conference grants, or postdoctoral fellowships. According to the limit included in the annual program solicitation, a postdoctoral fellowship applicant may request and receive a reasonable institutional allowance. * * * * * (11) Additions to project description. Each project description is expected by the Administrator, the members of peer review groups, and the relevant program staff to be complete. However, if the inclusions of additional information is necessary to ensure the equitable evaluation of the proposal (e.g., photographs which do not reproduce well, reprints, and other pertinent materials which are deemed to be unsuitable for inclusion in the text of the proposal), the number of copies submitted should match the number of copies of the application requested in the program solicitation. Each set of such materials must be identified with the name of the submitting organization, and the name(s) of the Project Director(s). Information may not be appended to a proposal to circumvent page limitations prescribed for the project description. Extraneous materials will not be used during the peer review process. * * * * * (13) National Environmental Policy Act. As outlined in CSREES’s implementing regulations of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) at 7 CFR part 3407, environmental data or documentation for the proposed project is to be provided to CSREES in order to assist CSREES in carrying out its responsibilities under NEPA. These responsibilities include determining whether the project requires an Environmental Assessment or an Environmental Impact Statement or whether it can be excluded from this E:\FR\FM\20SER1.SGM 20SER1 54898 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 182 / Wednesday, September 20, 2006 / Rules and Regulations requirement on the basis of several categorical exclusions listed in 7 CFR part 3407. In this regard, the applicant should review the categories defined for exclusion to ascertain whether the proposed project may fall within one or more of the exclusions, and should indicate if it does so on the National Environmental Policy Act Exclusions Form provided in the NRICGP Application Kit. * * * * * I 6. Revise paragraph (a) of § 3411.5 to read as follows: rwilkins on PROD1PC63 with RULES § 3411.5 Evaluation and disposition of applications. (a) Evaluation. All proposals received from eligible applicants and received in accordance with deadlines established in the annual program solicitation shall be evaluated by the Administrator through such officers, employees, and others as the Administrator determines are uniquely qualified in the areas represented by particular projects. To assist in equitably and objectively evaluating proposals and to obtain the best possible balance of viewpoints, the Administrator shall solicit the advice of peer scientists, ad hoc reviewers, and/ or others who are recognized specialists in the areas covered by the applications received and whose general roles are defined in §§ 3411.2(j) and 3411.2(k). Specific evaluations will be based upon the criteria established in § 3411.15, unless CSREES determines that different criteria are necessary for the proper evaluation of proposals in one or more specific program areas, or for specific types of projects to be supported, and announces such criteria and their relative importance in the annual program solicitation. The overriding purpose of these evaluations is to provide information upon which the Administrator may make informed judgments in selecting proposals for ultimate support. Incomplete, unclear, or poorly organized applications will work to the detriment of applicants during the peer evaluation process. To ensure a comprehensive evaluation, all applications should be written with the care and thoroughness accorded papers for publication. I 7. Amend § 3411.6 as follows: I A. Revise paragraph (a), paragraph (b) heading, (b)(1)(iii), (b)(1)(iv), (d) introductory text, (d)(2), and (f). I B. Remove and reserve paragraph (b)(2). § 3411.6 Grant awards. (a) General. Within the limit of funds available for such purpose, the awarding official shall make grants to those VerDate Aug<31>2005 18:46 Sep 19, 2006 Jkt 208001 responsible, eligible applicants whose proposals are judged most meritorious in the announced program areas under the evaluation criteria and procedures set forth in this part. All funds granted under this part shall be expended solely for the purpose for which the funds are granted in accordance with the approved application and budget, the regulations of this part, the terms and conditions of the award, the applicable Federal cost principles, and the Department’s federal assistance regulations. (b) Grant award document. (1) * * * (iii) Name(s) and address(es) of Project Director(s) chosen to direct and control approved activities; (iv) Identifying grant and proposal numbers assigned by the Department; * * * * * (d) Funding mechanisms. The two mechanisms by which grants shall be awarded are as follows: * * * * * (2) Continuation grant. This is a funding mechanism whereby the Department agrees to support a specified level of effort for a predetermined period of time with a statement of intention to provide additional support at a future date, provided that performance has been satisfactory, appropriations are available for this purpose, and continued support would be in the best interests of the Federal government and the public. This kind of mechanism normally will be awarded for an initial one-year period, and any subsequent continuation project grants will also be awarded in one-year increments. The award of a continuation project grant to fund an initial or succeeding budget period does not constitute an obligation to fund any subsequent budget period. Unless prescribed otherwise by CSREES, a grantee must submit a separate application for continued support for each subsequent fiscal year. Decisions regarding continued support and the actual funding levels of such support in future years usually will be made administratively after consideration of such factors as the grantee’s progress and management practices and the availability of funds. Since initial peer reviews are based upon the full term and scope of the original application, additional evaluations of this type generally are not required prior to successive years’ support. However, in unusual cases (e.g., when the nature of the project or key personnel change or when the amount of future support requested PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 substantially exceeds the grant application originally reviewed and approved), additional reviews may be required prior to approving continued funding. * * * * * (f) Current Research Information Service (CRIS). For each project funded, instructions will be sent to the grantee for the completion of CRIS Forms AD– 416, ‘‘Research Work Unit/Project Description-Research Resume’’ and AD– 417, ‘‘Research Work Unit/Project Description—Classification of Research.’’ Grant funds will not be released until the completed forms are received electronically via CRIS. 8. Revise paragraph (b)(1) of § 3411.7 as follows: I § 3411.7 * * Use of funds; changes. * * * (b) Change in project plans. (1) The permissible changes by the grantee, Project Director(s), or other key project personnel in the approved grant shall be limited to changes in methodology, techniques, or other aspects of the project to expedite achievement of the project’s approved goals. If the grantee and/or the Project Director(s) is uncertain whether a particular change complies with this provision, the question must be referred to the Administrator for final determination. 9. In the list of statutes in § 3411.8, revise the fifth and tenth statutes listed. I § 3411.8 Other Federal statutes and regulations that apply. * * * * * 7 CFR part 3015—USDA Uniform Federal Assistance Regulations, implementing OMB directives (i.e., Circular Nos. A–21 and A–122) and incorporating provisions of 31 U.S.C. 6301–6308 (formerly, the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act of 1977, Pub. L. 95–224), as well as general policy requirements applicable to recipients of Departmental financial assistance; * * * * * 7 CFR part 3407—CSREES procedures to implement the National Environmental Policy Act; * * * * * Dated: September 5, 2006. Colien Hefferan, Administrator, Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service. [FR Doc. E6–15568 Filed 9–19–06; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–22–P E:\FR\FM\20SER1.SGM 20SER1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 71, Number 182 (Wednesday, September 20, 2006)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 54894-54898]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E6-15568]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, USDA

7 CFR Part 3411

RIN 0524-AA32


National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program--
Revisions to Administrative Provisions

AGENCY: Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, 
USDA.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: The Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension 
Service (CSREES) is updating and making technical corrections to the 
administrative provisions for the National Research Initiative 
Competitive Grants Program (NRICGP). In addition, CSREES is revising 7 
CFR 3411.3(d), the ``Eligibility requirements'' for NRICGP Postdoctoral 
Fellowships, New Investigator Awards, and Strengthening Awards, and 7 
CFR 3411.4(c)(8), the Agency instructions to applicants preparing 
project budgets for NRICGP conference grants and postdoctoral 
fellowships. CSREES anticipates the changes to the eligibility 
requirements will increase the impact of the Agricultural Research 
Enhancement Awards, while the changes to the budget instructions will 
facilitate additional conference and postdoctoral fellowship awards.

DATES: Effective date: September 20, 2006.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gail McLean at (202) 401-6060 or via 
electronic mail at gmclean@csrees.usda.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Overview

    The Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service 
(CSREES) revises the administrative provisions for the National 
Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program (NRICGP), which was 
authorized in section 2(b) of the Act of August 4, 1965, as amended by 
section 1615 of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 
1990 (FACT Act), (7 U.S.C. 450i(b)). Some of the revisions are mere 
technical corrections, including updates to the Agency's name. Other 
revisions reflect the Agency's developing capabilities to exchange 
proposal and grant data electronically. Finally, CSREES is 
substantively revising the eligibility requirements for Agricultural 
Research Enhancement Awards (7 CFR 3411.3(d)) and the Agency's 
instructions to applicants preparing project budgets for NRICGP 
conference grants and postdoctoral fellowships (7 CFR 3411.4(c)(8)).
    CSREES published a Proposed Rule (71 FR 32479, June 6, 2006) on 
this topic and received three comments from the public by the August 7, 
2006 deadline. The Agency is not revising the Proposed Rule based on 
these comments. Two of the comments supported the proposed changes, 
agreeing they would create additional flexibility for, and increase the 
competitiveness and continuity of funding at small and minority serving 
university research programs. The third comment was an expression of 
concern that the Agency might fund illegal aliens with NRICGP funds, 
which the Proposed Rule neither suggests nor encourages.
    The Agricultural Research Enhancement Awards are intended to help 
institutions develop competitive research programs and to attract 
scientists to research in agriculture, food, and environmental 
sciences. To increase the impact of the Agricultural Research 
Enhancement Awards, CSREES is changing the eligibility requirements for 
Postdoctoral Fellowships, New Investigator Awards, and Strengthening 
Awards. Anticipated impacts include, (1) for Postdoctoral Fellowships, 
improved funding continuity and potentially more postdoctoral 
scientists entering into an agricultural research career; (2) for New 
Investigator Awards, improved project design and increased probability 
of a successful agricultural research program; and (3) for 
Strengthening Awards, improved research project continuity and more 
incentive for researchers to stay at USDA-Experimental Program for 
Stimulating Competitive Research (EPSCoR) or small/mid-sized 
institutions. The revisions to Agency instructions regarding the 
preparation of project budgets apply narrowly and should optimize the 
use of NRICGP funds for scientific meetings and for postdoctoral 
researchers.

Postdoctoral Fellowships

    Previously, provisions indicated a postdoctoral fellowship 
applicant should not have received a doctoral degree before January 1 
of the fiscal year three years prior to the submission of the proposal 
and not later than June 15 of the fiscal year during which the proposal 
is submitted (7 CFR 3411.3(d)(1)(i)). In the past, NRICGP proposal 
submission dates were grouped together and occurred within an 
approximate range of three to four months. As a result, applicants had 
similar amounts of time from the date they submitted their proposals 
until they were notified of awards. This was important because 
applicants used the time to arrange for postdoctoral positions and 
ensure continuity of funding for their postdoctoral research.
    Now, however, NRICGP proposal submission dates are spread 
throughout the year. The old provisions put at a disadvantage 
postdoctoral fellowship applicants to NRICGP programs with proposal 
submission dates that are later in the fiscal year than the doctoral 
degree cutoff date of June 15. In order to ensure the availability of 
their awards, applicants to these programs may wait a year between 
receiving their doctoral degrees and applying for the postdoctoral 
fellowships. The gap in funding can result in postdoctoral researchers 
leaving agricultural research because they cannot find a laboratory 
with sufficient funding to support them during this interim.
    CSREES is revising the provisions for NRICGP postdoctoral 
fellowships to base cutoff dates for receipt of doctoral degrees on 
proposal due dates for specific NRICGP programs. This change adds 
equity to the process and allows applicants sufficient time to make 
arrangements for financial support of their postdoctoral research prior 
to graduation. In doing so, it should further the engagement of the 
best and brightest young scientists in agricultural research.

New Investigator Awards

    The previous provisions required that, in addition to the Project 
Director, all co-Project Directors must meet NRICGP New Investigator 
Award eligibility requirements (7 CFR 3411.3(d)(2)). When evaluating 
the scientific merit of a proposal, reviewers frequently suggest that 
New Investigators work with established investigators. Established 
investigators can provide valuable expertise on scientific subjects and

[[Page 54895]]

experimental methods that New Investigators need for successful 
research projects. The interaction between New Investigators and 
established investigators can be more than simple collaboration and 
require sharing of funds and significant interaction. The previous 
eligibility requirements for New Investigator Awards inhibited, if not 
prevented, these close relationships. CSREES is revising the 
eligibility requirements for New Investigator Awards so that they apply 
to Project Directors only. As the Project Director, the New 
Investigator maintains the primary responsibility for the research and 
the funding.
    Previously, applicants were ineligible for New Investigator Awards 
if they had received competitively awarded Federal research funds 
beyond the level of pre-or postdoctoral research awards (7 CFR 
3411.3(d)(2)). As a result, CSREES was not able to make New 
Investigator Awards to former recipients of NRICGP seed grants. NRICGP 
seed grants are relatively small awards that enable investigators to 
collect preliminary data they can use to prepare standard research 
grant applications. Seed grant eligibility is limited to faculty with 
appointments at (1) small and mid-sized degree-granting institutions 
that are not in the top 100 most successful institutions; and (2) 
degree-granting institutions eligible for USDA-EPSCoR funding. CSREES 
is revising the NRICGP New Investigator Award provisions so that former 
recipients of NRICGP seed grants are eligible to apply for these funds. 
By allowing investigators who received seed grants to remain eligible 
for New Investigator Awards, CSREES hopes to increase the chances that 
beginning scientists will achieve funding and continuation of 
agricultural research projects.

Strengthening Awards

    According to the previous eligibility requirements for Research 
Career Enhancement Awards, Seed Grants, and Strengthening Standard 
Research Project Awards, no investigators on the Proposal Cover Page 
may have received a USDA NRICGP competitive research grant within the 
last 5 years (7 CFR 3411.3(d)(3)(ii)(A)). CSREES is removing this 
restriction so that investigators from eligible institutions can apply 
for these types of Strengthening Awards regardless of having received 
NRICGP awards in the past. The Agency believes this will increase the 
likelihood that investigators at institutions in EPSCoR states, and 
those at institutions with small to mid-sized enrollment, will have the 
funding stability necessary for successful agricultural research 
programs. Often researchers from these institutions have difficulty 
renewing strengthening awards. Although their projects have important 
scientific merit, they tend to be limited in size and scope due to, for 
example, teaching commitments, equipment access, and smaller numbers of 
students and postdoctoral researchers. Thus, these proposals do not 
compete well against projects from larger research institutions that 
have more resources and personnel. This change will improve funding 
continuity and provide incentives for established researchers to stay 
at EPSCoR or small/mid-sized institutions. In doing so, it will 
strengthen the institutions and the future of agricultural research 
through increased opportunities for students to participate in active, 
successful agricultural research projects.
    The previous provisions required that, in addition to the Project 
Director, all co-Project Directors must meet NRICGP Strengthening Award 
eligibility requirements (7 CFR 3411.3(d)(3)(ii)(B)). As with a similar 
restriction placed on New Investigators, this requirement unnecessarily 
hampers close relationships between investigators who can provide 
expertise needed to successfully complete a project. CSREES is revising 
the eligibility requirements for these types of NRICGP Strengthening 
Awards so that they apply to Project Directors only.

Indirect Costs--Conference Awards and Postdoctoral Fellowships

    CSREES is adding language to 7 CFR 3411.4(c)(8) that prohibits 
indirect costs for conference awards and postdoctoral fellowships. 
Previously, CSREES restricted conference awardees' recovery of indirect 
costs to 20% of total Federal funds, as provided in Section 709 of the 
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and 
Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006 (Pub. L. 109-97). Conference 
awards support meetings that bring together scientists to identify 
research needs, update information, or advance an area of research. 
Typically, these awards are modest. They rarely exceed $10,000, but are 
recognized as integral to research efforts. Where grantees incur 
administrative costs relative to sponsoring such conferences 
(especially in off-site locations), the Agency believes the 
administrative costs are negligible.
    In accordance with its fiscal year 2006 Request for Applications 
(RFA) for NRICGP (available at http://www.csrees.usda.gov/funding/rfas/
nri_rfa.html), CSREES allowed postdoctoral fellowship awardees to 
request an institutional allowance (not to exceed $2,400 per year) or 
indirect costs within the $125,000 maximum award limit. Postdoctoral 
fellowship applicants primarily request funds for salary support, 
although they are allowed to request other expenditures (e.g., 
supplies, travel, and publication) if they properly justify them. These 
awards allow postdoctoral researchers to develop independent research 
projects they can take with them to career-track positions. 
Postdoctoral fellowships play an important role in attracting and 
supporting beginning researchers in agricultural sciences. For 
postdoctoral fellowships, CSREES will continue to indicate in its 
annual NRICGP RFA a maximum institutional allowance, and, in accordance 
with revised administrative provisions, the Agency will make this 
allowance available to awardees in lieu of indirect costs.

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995--Information Collection

    Under the provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 
U.S.C. chapter 35), the collection of information requirements 
contained in this Final Rule have been approved (OMB Approval No. 0524-
0039).

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    USDA certifies that this Final Rule will not have a significant 
impact on a substantial number of small entities as defined in the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act, Public Law 96-354, as amended (5 U.S.C. 
601, et seq.) because it is a Federal assistance program, not a 
regulatory regime, and the majority of awards will be made to colleges 
and universities that do not qualify as small entities.

Executive Order 12866

    This rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12866 and has 
been determined to be nonsignificant as it will not create a serious 
inconsistency or otherwise interfere with an action planned by another 
agency; will not materially alter the budgetary impact of entitlement, 
grants, user fees, or loan programs, or rights and obligations of the 
recipients thereof; and will not raise novel legal or policy issues 
arising out of legal mandates, the President's priorities, or 
principles set forth in this Executive Order. This rule will not have 
an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or adversely 
affect in a material way the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, 
the environment, public health, or safety, or State, local, or tribal 
governments or communities.

[[Page 54896]]

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    Pursuant to Title II of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 
(Pub. L. 104-4), the Department assessed the effects of this rulemaking 
action on State, local, and tribal government, and the public. This 
action does not compel the expenditure of $100 million or more by any 
State, local, or Tribal governments, or anyone in the private sector. 
Therefore, a statement under Section 202 of the Unfunded Mandates 
Reform Act of 1995 is not required.

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act

    This rule is not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2), the Small 
Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. This rule:
    (1) Does not have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million 
or more;
    (2) Will not cause a major increase in costs or prices for 
consumers, individual industries, Federal, State, or local government 
agencies, or geographic regions; and
    (3) Does not have significant adverse effects on competition, 
employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of 
U.S.-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises.

Executive Order 12988

    This rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil 
Justice Reform. In accordance with the Executive Order: (1) All State 
and local laws and regulations that are in conflict with this rule will 
be preempted; (2) no retroactive effect will be given to this rule; (3) 
no administrative proceedings are required before bringing any judicial 
action regarding this rule.

Executive Order 13132

    In accordance with Executive Order 13132, this rulemaking does not 
have sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a 
Federalism Assessment. The policies contained in this rule do not have 
any substantial direct effect on policymaking discretion of the States, 
on the relationship between the national government and the States, or 
on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various 
levels of government. Nor does this rule impose substantial direct 
compliance costs on State and local governments.

Executive Order 12372

    For the reasons set forth in the Final Rule Related Notice for 7 
CFR part 3015, subpart V (48 FR 29115, June 24, 1983), this program is 
excluded from the scope of the Executive Order 12372 which requires 
intergovernmental consultation with State and local officials. This 
program does not directly affect State and local governments.

Executive Order 13175

    The policies contained in this rulemaking do not have tribal 
implications and thus no further action is required under Executive 
Order 13175.

List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 3411

    Agricultural research, Grant programs--agriculture, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements.


0
For the reasons stated in the preamble, the Cooperative State Research, 
Education, and Extension Service amends 7 CFR 3411 to read as set forth 
below:

PART 3411--NATIONAL RESEARCH INITIATIVE COMPETITIVE GRANTS PROGRAM

0
1. The authority citation for part 3411 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: Sec. 2(i) of the Act of August 4, 1965, as amended (7 
U.S.C. 450i(i)).

Subpart A--General

0
2. Revise paragraph (a) of Sec.  3411.1 to read as follows:


Sec.  3411.1  Applicability of regulations.

    (a) The regulations of this part apply to competitive research 
grants awarded under the authority of section 2(b) of the Act of August 
4, 1965, as amended by section 1615 of the Food, Agriculture, 
Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (FACT Act), (7 U.S.C. 450i(b)), for 
the support of research to further the programs of the Department of 
Agriculture and to improve research capabilities in the agricultural, 
food, and environmental sciences in the following categories: Single 
investigators or coinvestigators in the same disciplines; teams of 
researchers from different disciplines; multidisciplinary teams for 
long-term applied research problems; multidisciplinary teams whose 
research has the eventual goal of technology transfer and education 
capacity through the acquisition of special research equipment and 
improvement of teaching and education, including fellowships; single 
investigators or coinvestigators who are beginning their research 
careers; and, faculty of small and mid-sized institutions not 
previously successful in obtaining competitive grants under this 
subsection. In accordance with Public Law 104-127, within the 
Department of Agriculture, the Secretary established the National 
Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory 
Board (NAREEEAB) to provide overall guidance to the Research, Education 
and Economics mission area on policies and priorities related to 
programs, including NRICGP. In addition to the stakeholder listening 
sessions NAREEEAB sponsors, CSREES receives stakeholder input on 
policies and priorities related to NRICGP from multiple sources 
including scientific societies; the National Research Council of the 
National Academy of Sciences; producers, processors, industry; the 
land-grant university system; non-governmental organizations; and other 
federal agencies; and through international coordination. The 
Administrator of CSREES shall determine and announce, through 
publication of a notice on the CSREES Web site (http://
www.csrees.usda.gov), the government-wide funding opportunities Web 
site (http://www.grants.gov), or in such publications as the Federal 
Register, professional trade journals, agency or program handbooks, the 
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, or any other appropriate means, 
high-priority research areas and categories for which proposals will be 
solicited and the extent that funds are made available therefore.
* * * * *

0
3. Revise paragraphs (a) and (c) of Sec.  3411.2 to read as follows:


Sec.  3411.2  Definitions.

* * * * *
    (a) Administrator means the Administrator of the Cooperative State 
Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) and any other 
officer or employee of the Department of Agriculture to whom the 
authority involved may be delegated.
* * * * *
    (c) Project Director means a single individual who is responsible 
for the scientific and technical direction of the project, as 
designated by the grantee in the grant application and approved by the 
Administrator.
* * * * *

0
4. Amend Sec.  3411.3 by revising paragraphs (a), (d) introductory 
text, (d)(1) introductory text, (d)(1)(i), (d)(2), and (d)(3)(ii) to 
read as follows:


Sec.  3411.3  Eligibility requirements.

    (a) For research projects, except where otherwise prohibited by 
law, State agricultural experiment stations, all colleges and 
universities, other research institutions and organizations, Federal 
agencies, private organizations or corporations, and individuals shall 
be

[[Page 54897]]

eligible to apply for and receive a competitive grant under this part, 
provided that the applicant qualifies as a responsible grantee under 
the criteria set forth in paragraph (b) of this section.
* * * * *
    (d) Agricultural Research Enhancement Awards. In addition to 
paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of this section, the following eligibility 
requirements apply to Agricultural Research Enhancement Awards for 
research projects (Program reserves the right to specify funding 
limitations and administrative requirements each year in the program 
solicitation):
    (1) Postdoctoral Fellowships. In accordance with Section 2(b)(3)(D) 
of the Act of August 4, 1965, as amended, individuals who recently have 
received or will soon receive their doctoral degree may submit 
proposals for postdoctoral fellowships. The following eligibility 
requirements apply:
    (i) The doctoral degree of the applicant must be received not 
earlier than January 1 of the fiscal year three years prior to the 
submission of the proposal and not later than nine months after the 
proposal due date;
* * * * *
    (2) New Investigator Awards. Pursuant to Section 2(b)(3)(E) of the 
Act of August 4, 1965, as amended, Project Directors who are beginning 
their research careers, do not have an extensive research publication 
record, and have less than 5 years of post-graduate, career-track 
research experience, may submit proposals as new investigators. 
Applicants may not have received competitively-awarded Federal research 
funds beyond the level of pre or postdoctoral research awards or USDA 
NRICGP seed grants.
    (3) Strengthening Awards.
* * * * *
    (ii) Research Career Enhancement Awards, Seed Grants, and 
Strengthening Standard Research Project Awards. The following 
eligibility requirements apply to Research Career Enhancement Awards, 
Seed Grants, and Strengthening Standard Research Project Awards:
    (A) The Project Director listed on the Application For Funding must 
be from a small or mid-sized institution that is not among the top 100 
universities and colleges for receiving Federal funds for science and 
engineering research as specified in the annual program solicitation or 
must be from an institution located in a USDA-EPSCoR state.
    (B) Every investigator listed on the Application For Funding must 
have an appointment at a degree granting institution.

0
5. Amend Sec.  3411.4 by revising paragraphs (a) introductory text, 
(a)(4), (a)(5), (c)(3) introductory text, (c)(7) introductory text, 
(c)(8), (c)(11), and (c)(13) to read as follows:


Sec.  3411.4  How to apply for a grant.

    (a) Program solicitations will be prepared and announced through 
publication on the government-wide funding opportunities Web site 
(http://www.grants.gov) as early as practicable each fiscal year. It 
will contain information sufficient to enable all eligible applicants 
to prepare competitive grant proposals and will be as complete as 
possible with respect to:
* * * * *
    (4) Deadline dates for receipt of proposal packages;
    (5) Submission addresses;
* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (c) Format for grant proposals.
* * * * *
    (3) Project Description. The specific aims of the project must be 
included in all proposals. The text of the project description may not 
exceed 18 single- or double-spaced pages and must contain the following 
components:
* * * * *
    (7) Personnel support. To assist peer reviewers in assessing the 
competence and experience of the proposed project staff, all personnel 
who will be involved in the proposed project must be identified 
clearly. For each Project Director involved, and for all senior 
associates and other professional personnel who expect to work on the 
project, whether or not funds are sought for their support, the 
following should be included:
* * * * *
    (8) Budget. A detailed budget is required for each year of 
requested support. In addition, a summary budget is required detailing 
requested support for the overall project period. A copy of the form 
which must be used for this purpose, along with instructions for 
completion, is included in the NRICGP Application Kit identified under 
Sec.  3411.4(b) of the part and may be reproduced as needed by 
applicants. Funds may be requested under any of the categories listed, 
provided that the item or service for which support is requested may be 
identified as necessary for successful conduct of the proposed project, 
is allowable under applicable Federal cost principles, and is not 
prohibited under any applicable Federal statute or regulation. It 
should be noted, for example, that section 2(b)(7) of the Act of August 
4, 1965, as amended, prohibits the use of funds under this program for 
the renovation or refurbishment of research spaces, purchases or 
installation of fixed equipment in such spaces, or for the planning, 
repair, rehabilitation, acquisition, or construction of a building or 
facility. Also, section 2(b)(8) of the Act of August 4, 1965, as 
amended, requires that all grants, except equipment grants authorized 
by section 2(b)(3)(D) of the same Act, awarded under this part, shall 
be used without regard to matching funds or cost sharing. Equipment 
grants may not exceed 50 percent of the cost of the equipment to be 
acquired. Equipment grant funds also may not be used for installation, 
maintenance, warranty, or insurance expenses. Indirect costs are not 
permitted on equipment grants, conference grants, or postdoctoral 
fellowships. According to the limit included in the annual program 
solicitation, a postdoctoral fellowship applicant may request and 
receive a reasonable institutional allowance.
* * * * *
    (11) Additions to project description. Each project description is 
expected by the Administrator, the members of peer review groups, and 
the relevant program staff to be complete. However, if the inclusions 
of additional information is necessary to ensure the equitable 
evaluation of the proposal (e.g., photographs which do not reproduce 
well, reprints, and other pertinent materials which are deemed to be 
unsuitable for inclusion in the text of the proposal), the number of 
copies submitted should match the number of copies of the application 
requested in the program solicitation. Each set of such materials must 
be identified with the name of the submitting organization, and the 
name(s) of the Project Director(s). Information may not be appended to 
a proposal to circumvent page limitations prescribed for the project 
description. Extraneous materials will not be used during the peer 
review process.
* * * * *
    (13) National Environmental Policy Act. As outlined in CSREES's 
implementing regulations of the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969 (NEPA) at 7 CFR part 3407, environmental data or documentation for 
the proposed project is to be provided to CSREES in order to assist 
CSREES in carrying out its responsibilities under NEPA. These 
responsibilities include determining whether the project requires an 
Environmental Assessment or an Environmental Impact Statement or 
whether it can be excluded from this

[[Page 54898]]

requirement on the basis of several categorical exclusions listed in 7 
CFR part 3407. In this regard, the applicant should review the 
categories defined for exclusion to ascertain whether the proposed 
project may fall within one or more of the exclusions, and should 
indicate if it does so on the National Environmental Policy Act 
Exclusions Form provided in the NRICGP Application Kit.
* * * * *

0
6. Revise paragraph (a) of Sec.  3411.5 to read as follows:


Sec.  3411.5  Evaluation and disposition of applications.

    (a) Evaluation. All proposals received from eligible applicants and 
received in accordance with deadlines established in the annual program 
solicitation shall be evaluated by the Administrator through such 
officers, employees, and others as the Administrator determines are 
uniquely qualified in the areas represented by particular projects. To 
assist in equitably and objectively evaluating proposals and to obtain 
the best possible balance of viewpoints, the Administrator shall 
solicit the advice of peer scientists, ad hoc reviewers, and/or others 
who are recognized specialists in the areas covered by the applications 
received and whose general roles are defined in Sec. Sec.  3411.2(j) 
and 3411.2(k). Specific evaluations will be based upon the criteria 
established in Sec.  3411.15, unless CSREES determines that different 
criteria are necessary for the proper evaluation of proposals in one or 
more specific program areas, or for specific types of projects to be 
supported, and announces such criteria and their relative importance in 
the annual program solicitation. The overriding purpose of these 
evaluations is to provide information upon which the Administrator may 
make informed judgments in selecting proposals for ultimate support. 
Incomplete, unclear, or poorly organized applications will work to the 
detriment of applicants during the peer evaluation process. To ensure a 
comprehensive evaluation, all applications should be written with the 
care and thoroughness accorded papers for publication.

0
7. Amend Sec.  3411.6 as follows:
0
A. Revise paragraph (a), paragraph (b) heading, (b)(1)(iii), 
(b)(1)(iv), (d) introductory text, (d)(2), and (f).
0
B. Remove and reserve paragraph (b)(2).


Sec.  3411.6  Grant awards.

    (a) General. Within the limit of funds available for such purpose, 
the awarding official shall make grants to those responsible, eligible 
applicants whose proposals are judged most meritorious in the announced 
program areas under the evaluation criteria and procedures set forth in 
this part. All funds granted under this part shall be expended solely 
for the purpose for which the funds are granted in accordance with the 
approved application and budget, the regulations of this part, the 
terms and conditions of the award, the applicable Federal cost 
principles, and the Department's federal assistance regulations.
    (b) Grant award document.
    (1) * * *
    (iii) Name(s) and address(es) of Project Director(s) chosen to 
direct and control approved activities;
    (iv) Identifying grant and proposal numbers assigned by the 
Department;
* * * * *
    (d) Funding mechanisms. The two mechanisms by which grants shall be 
awarded are as follows:
* * * * *
    (2) Continuation grant. This is a funding mechanism whereby the 
Department agrees to support a specified level of effort for a 
predetermined period of time with a statement of intention to provide 
additional support at a future date, provided that performance has been 
satisfactory, appropriations are available for this purpose, and 
continued support would be in the best interests of the Federal 
government and the public. This kind of mechanism normally will be 
awarded for an initial one-year period, and any subsequent continuation 
project grants will also be awarded in one-year increments. The award 
of a continuation project grant to fund an initial or succeeding budget 
period does not constitute an obligation to fund any subsequent budget 
period. Unless prescribed otherwise by CSREES, a grantee must submit a 
separate application for continued support for each subsequent fiscal 
year. Decisions regarding continued support and the actual funding 
levels of such support in future years usually will be made 
administratively after consideration of such factors as the grantee's 
progress and management practices and the availability of funds. Since 
initial peer reviews are based upon the full term and scope of the 
original application, additional evaluations of this type generally are 
not required prior to successive years' support. However, in unusual 
cases (e.g., when the nature of the project or key personnel change or 
when the amount of future support requested substantially exceeds the 
grant application originally reviewed and approved), additional reviews 
may be required prior to approving continued funding.
* * * * *
    (f) Current Research Information Service (CRIS). For each project 
funded, instructions will be sent to the grantee for the completion of 
CRIS Forms AD-416, ``Research Work Unit/Project Description-Research 
Resume'' and AD-417, ``Research Work Unit/Project Description--
Classification of Research.'' Grant funds will not be released until 
the completed forms are received electronically via CRIS.

0
8. Revise paragraph (b)(1) of Sec.  3411.7 as follows:


Sec.  3411.7  Use of funds; changes.

* * * * *
    (b) Change in project plans. (1) The permissible changes by the 
grantee, Project Director(s), or other key project personnel in the 
approved grant shall be limited to changes in methodology, techniques, 
or other aspects of the project to expedite achievement of the 
project's approved goals. If the grantee and/or the Project Director(s) 
is uncertain whether a particular change complies with this provision, 
the question must be referred to the Administrator for final 
determination.

0
9. In the list of statutes in Sec.  3411.8, revise the fifth and tenth 
statutes listed.


Sec.  3411.8  Other Federal statutes and regulations that apply.

* * * * *
    7 CFR part 3015--USDA Uniform Federal Assistance Regulations, 
implementing OMB directives (i.e., Circular Nos. A-21 and A-122) and 
incorporating provisions of 31 U.S.C. 6301-6308 (formerly, the Federal 
Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act of 1977, Pub. L. 95-224), as well 
as general policy requirements applicable to recipients of Departmental 
financial assistance;
* * * * *
    7 CFR part 3407--CSREES procedures to implement the National 
Environmental Policy Act;
* * * * *

    Dated: September 5, 2006.
Colien Hefferan,
Administrator, Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension 
Service.
 [FR Doc. E6-15568 Filed 9-19-06; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-22-P