Internal Deadline: Friday, May 26, 2023, 5pm PT
LOI: September 2, 2023
External Deadline: October 2, 2023
Award Type: Grant
Estimated Number of Awards: 12
Anticipated Award Amount: Applications may request a budget for direct costs of up to $2 million dollars for each year. Applications may propose a project period of up to 5 years.
Who May Serve as PI: Standard NIH requirements.
Process for Limited Submissions
PIs must submit their application as a Limited Submission through the Research Initiatives and Infrastructure (RII) Application Portal: https://rii.usc.edu/oor-portal/. Use the template provided here: RII Limited Submission Applicant Template
Materials to submit include:
- (1) Two-Page Proposal Summary (0.5” margins; single-spaced; font type: Arial, Helvetica, or Georgia typeface; font size: 11 pt). Page limit includes references and illustrations. Pages that exceed the 2-page limit will be excluded from review. You must use the template linked above.
- (2) CV – (5 pages maximum)
Note: The portal requires information about the PIs in addition to department and contact information, including the 10-digit USC ID#, Gender, and Ethnicity. Please have this material prepared before beginning this application.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) invites qualified investigators from domestic institutions of higher education to submit an application for a Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center grant. SRP legislation, under the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986, allows NIEHS the flexibility to create university-based Centers to conduct scientific research to address the wide array of scientific uncertainties facing the national Superfund program. The complex problems related to sites impacted by hazardous substances require the expertise of multiple biomedical research (BMR) and environmental science and engineering (ESE) disciplines. Applicants responding to this Notice of Funding Opportunity Announcement (NOFO) are expected to design a research Center that integrates BMR (e.g., toxicology, epidemiology, mechanistic studies) with ESE (e.g., remediation, geosciences, ecological sciences). The goal of a NIEHS SRP Center is to improve public health by supporting integrative, multidisciplinary research incorporating the following: responsiveness to mandates; problem-based, solution-oriented research; relevance to SRP and Superfund; innovation; and integration.
Responsiveness to Mandates: SARA Section 311(a) “Hazardous Substances Research and Training,” authorizes NIEHS to create a basic research and training program for the development of:
1) advanced techniques for the detection, assessment, and evaluation of the effect of hazardous substances on human health;
2) methods to assess the risks to human health presented by hazardous substances;
3) methods and technologies to detect hazardous substances in the environment; and
4) basic biological, chemical, and physical methods to reduce the amount and toxicity of hazardous substances.
To accomplish these mandates, Centers are expected to assemble interdisciplinary research teams with expertise in BMR as well as ESE to advance scientific knowledge using innovative and integrated approaches. Moreover, the SRP’s fourth mandate reinforces the program’s problem-solving mission; whereby, the research generated by SRP Centers would lead to strategies to prevent exposure and/or develop intervention strategies to improve public health. Centers are also expected to facilitate transfer of research findings through coordinated data management and analysis; engage communities with prevention/intervention strategies; share findings to broader audiences; and train the future generation of scientists.
Problem-based, Solution-oriented Research Theme: As an integrated research program, SRP Centers can tackle complex biomedical and environmental science and engineering issues identified by applicable end-users, bringing a mechanistic understanding to solve some of the vexing problems associated with Superfund. Applicants are expected to design Centers that will contribute to solving a scientific problem (or set of problems) related to SRP’s mandates: health effects, risk, detection, and remediation/mitigation of hazardous substances.
Relevance to SRP and Superfund: Given SRP’s broad mandates, it is important for interdisciplinary teams to work together to foster research that addresses relevant exposure pathways. Ultimately, problem-solving research seeks to find answers to inform real-life exposures – both in terms of understanding health implications as well as developing remedies for these exposures. For example, basic research generates mechanistic knowledge upstream of its application, but this research should be contextualized in terms of its relevance to environmental exposures. Furthermore, there is an expectation that interdisciplinary teams have considered multiple vantage points in devising their research approach – showing evidence of crosstalk between health, environmental, and exposure research expertise. For these reasons, applicants should assemble teams to address research challenges within a given mandate area, contaminant, or exposure scenario that may have the greatest potential for supporting the SRP’s goal of protecting human health and the environment from the impact of hazardous substances.
The SRP also considers the diverse research and information needs of its end-users as important criteria for determining relevance. SRP end-users include the Superfund programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, https://www.epa.gov/superfund) and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR, https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov). In addition, agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (https://www.noaa.gov), U.S. Geological Survey (https://www.usgs.gov), U.S. Department of Defense (https://www.defense.gov), and the U.S. Department of Energy (https://www.energy.gov) are important end-users of research and technology to manage and mitigate sites impacted by hazardous substances. In addition, the National Science Foundation (https://www.nsf.gov) and other NIH Institutes and Centers (https://www.nih.gov/institutes-nih/list-nih-institutes-centers-offices) may provide valuable opportunities to promote and leverage the findings of SRP research. The SRP also considers as important end-users state, local, and Tribal governments, and communities impacted by hazardous substances. The SRP’s ultimate goal is to protect human health by providing a rigorous scientific basis for effective decision-making by these end-users. Consequently, SRP-funded research is expected to provide fundamentally sound science, while providing data, information, and knowledge to minimize risk and remediate sites impacted by hazardous substances. Therefore, investigators should seek input from end-users mentioned above during application development and identify critical issues for which fundamental science is needed.
Moreover, Centers are expected to demonstrate the following:
Innovation: The SRP strives to push the boundaries of science using the newest technologies and challenging current scientific paradigms. The SRP firmly supports multi-disciplinary research, through the synthesis and extension of disciplinary boundaries that adapt technologies and approaches from one field and apply them to other fields to solve challenging environmental health problems. Forward-looking or ‘‘anticipatory’’ research is critical to identify and address future end-user needs. This may include utilizing cutting-edge research tools or devising more sustainable solutions to address issues associated with hazardous substances.
Integration: Addressing the complex challenges posed by environmental contamination requires an integrated, multidisciplinary approach. The SRP considers integration of a Center’s projects and cores as an important way to target complex problem(s) relevant to the SRP’s mandates. A Center should demonstrate evidence of synergy between its projects and cores – including interaction between biomedical and environmental science and engineering disciplines. Through effective interactions of its components, the Overall Center should demonstrate a systems approach to problem-solving. In addition, the research emanating from the Center and the interaction between the projects and cores should be incorporated into sustainable solutions that consider environmental, social, and economic issues, using a systems approach.
To achieve a broad and sustained impact, SRP Centers are expected to include the following:
Research Projects: Collectively, the Center’s research projects (maximum of six) should represent a range of basic and applied research that contributes to the problem-based, solution-oriented goal of the Center. The Center’s central problem should be addressed by the contributions of these projects and each project should have the necessary biomedical and/or environmental science and/or engineering expertise to address the central problem.
Biomedical Research (BMR) Projects: A minimum of two (maximum of four) BMR projects are required and should address biomedical or human health-related implications of hazardous substances. This includes but is not limited to: toxicology studies, epidemiology, mechanistic studies, genetic susceptibility, computational toxicology, biomedical engineering, preclinical/clinical intervention, or efficacy of prevention studies. Each BMR project should clearly contribute to the overall Center objective, providing a clear step towards identifying solutions to the Center’s identified problem. Projects should be hypothesis-driven or product-oriented research.
Environmental Science and Engineering (ESE) Projects: A minimum of two (maximum of four) ESE projects are required and should address environmental science or engineering implications of hazardous substances. These projects are integral to the protection of human health through predicting, detecting, and preventing exposures. ESE projects include, but would not be limited to: remediation, geochemistry, ecology, civil/environmental engineering, geology, microbiology, fate and transport studies, hydrogeology, and detection sciences. Each ESE project should clearly contribute to the overall Center objective, providing a clear step towards identifying solutions to the Center’s identified problem. Projects should be hypothesis-driven or product-oriented research. The SRP recognizes the importance of new ESE approaches to reduce the amount and toxicity of hazardous substances in the environment. Fostering the development of novel remediation approaches – through designing new remediation platforms or assessing the efficacy of these platforms – is an important contribution in accelerating the cleanup of hazardous substances and preventing exposures. For this reason, all applicants are required to include at least one ESE project that supports SRP’s fourth mandate “basic biological, chemical, and physical methods to reduce the amount and toxicity of hazardous substances.”
(Please see the “Suggested Research and Activities” document for more information about research areas of interest to the SRP: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/centers/srp/assets/docs/srp_funding_opps_suggested_research_and_activities_508.pdf).
Administrative and Research Translation Functions: The SRP requires an Administrative Core in each SRP Center grant application. This core leads the Center, maintains the organization of the Center, and ensures that the projects and cores are being supported to achieve the Center’s goals. In addition, the SRP is committed to fostering translation of scientific accomplishments to support its mandates and defines research translation as “communicating and facilitating the use of research findings emanating from the Center in the manner most appropriate for their application and the advancement of research objectives.” Therefore, all applicants are required to include research translation as a key function of the Center’s Administrative Core to facilitate and coordinate communication of the results, accomplishments, and implications of the Center’s research to end-users, including NIEHS SRP staff, to other SRP Centers, and other applicable end-users in a context that makes the research applicable to the target audience. Additionally, the SRP Strategic Plan (https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/centers/srp/about/strat_plan/index.cfm) highlights the importance of project specific research translation (PSRT); therefore, the Administrative Core has the critical role in assisting project leaders in translating their research outcomes and activities to appropriate audiences and ensuring the accurate and timely use of products and sharing of findings.
Data Management and Analysis: The SRP acknowledges that integration of data from a broad range of scientific disciplines will be critical to understanding and breaking the link between exposures and disease. In addition, proper data stewardship is needed to ensure that data is treated as a valuable research asset. To support NIH data sharing policies (https://grants.nih.gov/policy/sharing.htm) and promote best principles so data is Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR), all applicants are required to have a Data Management and Analysis Core (DMAC). The primary purpose of the DMAC is to support the management and integration of data assets across the Center. In addition, the DMAC should support and facilitate the management of data assets, irrespective of dataset size. The DMAC should also establish, coordinate, and monitor processes for data management and analysis and work closely with project/core leaders to ensure high data quality throughout the entire lifecycle of the data. The DMAC also has a coordinating role to work with project/core leaders to identify opportunities for integrating project/core-generated data with other existing datasets. The DMAC should also foster and enable the interoperability of data between BMR and ESE projects, accelerating the impact of the Center’s research.
Community Engagement: The SRP views Community Engagement as an effective way to inform and advance science for public health protection. In addition, the SRP considers the individuals and communities affected by hazardous substances as key end-users and recognizes the opportunity for SRP Center research and activities to achieve positive public health benefits through multi-directional interactions between the Center and impacted communities. Therefore, all applicants are required to include a Community Engagement Core (CEC). The purpose of the CEC is to ensure multi-directional communication between the CEC and the community and to direct best practices and activities in community engagement for prevention and/or intervention – thereby providing potential solutions to communities to reduce or mitigate the impact of hazardous substance exposure. For the purposes of this NOFO and to be consistent with its mandates, CEC activities should address prevention/intervention defined by SRP’s fourth mandate as “basic biological, chemical, and physical methods to reduce the amount and toxicity of hazardous substances.” Through exposure prevention and intervention, the CEC empowers impacted communities to be full participants in decisions to reduce the amount and toxicity of hazardous substances whether in their homes, their schools, their community, and/or their environment. The CEC activities should also complement the research strengths and problem-solving goals of the Center.
Training: The SRP regards research and training as vital components to the development of the next generation of environmental health science professionals. Therefore, the SRP requires applicants to include a Research Experience and Training Coordination Core (RETCC) to coordinate graduate and postdoctoral level multi-disciplinary research experiences and training in fields related to BMR and ESE research. (Note: SRP mandates specify graduate level training (e.g., Masters, PhD., Post doc); therefore, the SRP defines “trainees” within the program as graduate students and post-doctoral researchers that perform research/activities that are supported by the Center.) The RETCC should reflect the multi-disciplinary nature of the overall research effort of the Center by enhancing cross-training of trainees in disciplines not traditionally linked with the university graduate structure. For instance, trainees pursuing degrees in the ESE areas should be encouraged to understand how their research fits into the context of BMR and vice versa for BMR trainees. (Note: While undergraduates are recognized as a part of the research continuum and allowed to participate in RETCC activities, the RETCC should direct its opportunities for training, integration, and professional development among the graduate and post-doctoral level trainees within the Center.)
Applicants are encouraged to refer to the SRP’s 2020-2025 Strategic Plan (https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/centers/srp/about/strat_plan/index.cfm) which describes and defines the objectives and goals of the SRP in order to address its mandates. In addition, the SRP Mandates are provided on the following website: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/centers/srp/about/index.cfm. Applicants are encouraged to refer to the NIEHS 2018-2023 Strategic Plan: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/about/strategicplan/2018-2023_theme3/index.cfm.
Visit our Institutionally Limited Submission webpage for more updates and other announcements.