Proposal deadline: Friday, March 24, 2023, at 11:59 PM (Central U.S. Time)
This is a Request for Proposals (RFP).
This RFP is issued solely for information and planning purposes to accomplish market research and to identify institutions capable of performing the services described in this request. This request for information does not commit the Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense DHS Center of Excellence (CBTS) or the Government to contract for any supply or service. Responders are solely responsible for any preparation, information or administrative costs incurred in response to this RFP.
Deadline and Submission Information
Proposals must be received by Friday, March 24, 2023, at 11:59 PM (Central U.S. Time). Proposals must be submitted to CBTS at CBTS@ag.tamu.edu in PDF format. Direct all questions regarding this RFP to the main CBTS email address at CBTS@ag.tamu.edu.
CBTS Mission and Goals
The CBTS mission is to enhance cross border screening and supply chain defense against known and unknown threats through research, education, and innovative applications of emerging technologies. The goal of CBTS is to work in collaboration with DHS and other partners to develop public research projects that expand our understanding of threats and to enhance capabilities to support operations designed to counter threats and secure our Nation.
Expected Project Stage of Development
For this request the identification of a Technology Readiness Level does not apply as the primary project deliverables are the systematic mapping of existing and ongoing research, the development of conferences, and the publication of conference proceedings.
Background and Goals
Over the past few decades, a great deal of research has addressed critical food and agricultural defense/security issues, including assessments of vulnerabilities, and the development of defenses against and responses to intentional and unintentional disruptions in food and agricultural production. The significant consequences (e.g., nutritional insecurity, political instability, pressure on populations to migrate out from food secure regions, etc.), and economic impacts of these disruptions have attracted interest from a broad array of public and private institutions. Unfortunately, the breadth of the issues, fluctuations in topical interest and funding levels, and the restraint with which some studies and findings have been shared all contribute to an incomplete mapping of the body of work in these areas. This makes it difficult for funding agencies and researchers to build on earlier findings, avoid funding studies of issues already examined, but siloed elsewhere, and recognize where actual knowledge gaps may exist. The primary goal of this RFP is to support the systematic mapping of the available research literature and information about ongoing research projects related to food and agricultural security issues [James et al. in Environmental Evidence (2016) 5:7 DOI 10.1186/s13750-016-0059-6 serves as an example of an overview of the application of systematic mapping methodologies].
This RFP seeks to:
1) fund efforts that will systematically map information about existing and ongoing food and agricultural defense/security threat research, including but not limited to intentional and unintentional domestic introductions of
- a) pathogens, pests, or other factors affecting plants or crops;
- b) pathogens or pests affecting agriculture livestock;
- c) the physical viability and resilience of agricultural production systems (e.g., seed, chemical, machinery, and fertilizer markets), food processing, packaging, storage, transportation, and marketing systems;
- d) safety of food for human or animal consumption; and
- e) the domestic and global consequences of food and agricultural defense/security events on vulnerable populations, political stability, and the economic and public health impacts on communities/nations.
The RFP further seeks to
2) fund the use of information systems needed to systematically map and layer research efforts across food and agricultural security issues, and to identify potentially important gaps in our understanding of food and agricultural security threats, vulnerabilities and consequences. Finally, the RFP seeks to fund
3) the development and execution of a series of conferences designed to review the academic, federal, state, and industry information gathered, and to produce conference proceedings that present key findings and identify possible gaps in the existing body of research.
RFP Review Purposes
As researchers and teams develop their proposals, they should be aware that CBTS reviews aim to:
- Identify investigators and institutions interested in gathering and cataloging information and collaborating with subject matter experts about research on food and agricultural security issues.
- Assess the capacity of investigators and institutions to identify, collect, prioritize, and curate information about research on food and agricultural security issues and their experience and ability to foster collaborations that aid the identification of research efforts.
- Determine the extent to which funding may limit the depiction of research information or the number of areas addressed under the broad classification of food and agricultural security research; and
- Evaluate the capacity of investigators and institutions to develop and execute a conference or series of conferences designed to convey the information gathered and suggest paths for greater information sharing.
Food and Agricultural Security Categories
The range of threats and issues examined under food and agricultural defense/security research is extensive, but for the purposes of this call are categorized within three basic areas: 1) Natural/unintentional; 2) Intentional; and 3) Consequential.
Natural/unintentional threats and issues
These include the introduction or expansion of pests, infectious diseases entering food and agricultural systems accidentally through trade, travel, wildlife movement, habitat encroachment, climatic shifts (e.g., water availability), unintended disruptions caused by market actions, or other natural means/vectors. These studies may often address threats and vulnerabilities, and the direct consequences of given events as well as impacts of prevention and mitigation efforts.
Intentional threats and issues include introductions or expansions of pest and infectious disease and other disruptions entering food and agricultural systems through purposeful actions of state or non-state actors designed to harm production, or health and welfare of their targets. These studies may often address threats, vulnerabilities and assessments of the capacity for intentional actions, the subsequent direct consequences of the actions, and the impacts of prevention and mitigation efforts.
Consequential issues build off the direct impacts of unintentional and intentional events to capture the cascading effects and the subsequent repercussions of intentional and unintentional food and agricultural defense/security events. These consequences may arise during an event or outbreak, as direct and indirect casualties, resulting from mitigation efforts, or subsequent impacts that imperil the economic and public health in affected communities. These assessments may include humanitarian and political tensions and consequences, food insecurity, and up and down-stream economic impacts.
Potential Information Sources and Contributors
Many individuals and institutions are involved as funders, creators, assemblers, and users of assessments of food and agricultural defense/security risks, vulnerabilities, and threats. The following list is not exhaustive, but features major resources from which information may be collected and through which subject matter experts should be sought:
Potential Federal Sources
DHS – Science and Technology:
• Silicon Valley Innovation Program
• Probabilistic Analysis for National Threats Hazards and Risks
National Laboratories and Facilities:
• National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center
• Plum Island Animal Disease Center
• Chemical Security Analysis Center (CSAC)
Food, Agriculture, and Veterinary Defense Program
Office of University of Programs – Centers of Excellence:
• E.g., Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense, Food Protection and Defense Institute, Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases, Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases, and Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Threats and Emergencies
DHS – Office of Health Security
• Food and Agriculture Resilience Program
DHS – Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction
U.S. Department of Energy – National Laboratory Partnerships with DHS
• E.g., Pacific National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory
U.S. Department of Agriculture
• E.g., National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, Economic Research Service, National institute for Food and Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspections Service, and the Agricultural Research Service
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
• Food and Drug Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce
U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Department of Interior
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Potential State, Academic, and Industry Groups
American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials
National Association of State Departments of Agriculture
National Plant Board
New England States Animal Agricultural Security Alliance
Southern Agriculture and Animal Disaster Response Alliance
Intertribal Agriculture Council
Academic institutions and associations
Please use your proposals to illustrate how you expect to address following topics in a project that does not exceed 24 months:
- Identify which area or areas you will examine. For example, 1) food defense/security research, 2) agricultural defense/security research, or 3) consequences of food and agricultural security events.
- It is unlikely that successful proposals will propose to address all three areas.
- Explain how you will work with federal, state, private industry, association, and academic collaborators to identify information on food and agricultural defense/security research. This will include approaches for collecting and reporting information about successes and hurdles faced by the investigators contacting relevant agencies, organizations institutions and individuals.
- Describe how you will document systematic outreach efforts with respect to persons and offices contacted, responses by persons and offices, follow-up information exchanges; potential to serve as subject matter experts or stakeholders for given research areas, and contributions to the conferences or proceedings.
- Explain how you will collect data on research projects with respect to stage of investigation, project objectives and limitations, study period, existing and forthcoming reports, seminars, and peer-reviewed publications, data management information, and other information needed to assess the quality and applicability of each research project evaluated.
- Explain how you will develop a comprehensive plan for gathering, documenting, storing, and maintaining research project information.
- Explain your approach for determining the scope of research areas reviews and subsequent information gathering and documentation techniques needed to prioritize research areas and, if necessary, limit the scope of a conference and proceedings.
- Explain procedures for establishing and securing information systems and the database infrastructure necessary for the collection, curation, validation, and reporting of information used to categorize, depict, diagram, portray, and summarize efforts across federal, state, academic, and industry to study food and agricultural security issues.
- Describe how you will collaborate with stakeholders to determine the number of conferences needed, for planning, and conducting conferences, and for preparing resulting publications that summarize conference findings across the full range topics.
- Discussion of roles and the assignment of those roles should be brief, but sufficient to clarify responsibilities
- Describe how you and your institutions will implement, and document efforts to ensure conferences and proceedings and employment associated with the development of the conferences are conducted in non-discriminatory environments for all persons regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other classification protected by federal, state, or local laws.
- Describe how you will establish clear timelines for deliverables, and institute periodic updates where you will report on progress toward and problems affecting the accomplishment of the project’s goals and objectives.
- Plans for information search strategies for collecting and screening relevant research project information.
- Documentation about the creation of publicly accessible content about research on food and agricultural security issues. This applies to the curation of the project information examined to create conferences and conference proceedings.
- Documentation about the creation and implementation of conferences.
- Conferences may be virtual or hybrid (virtual and in-person) events that are open to the public.
- Present conference cost estimates in relation to the accomplishment of specific requirements or outreach aspirations.
- Agendas and outlines for conferences with speakers and panels defined.
- Conference Execution
- Creation, review, publication of conference proceedings
Proposal Format and Submission Deadline Requirements
The proposals must meet specific content, formatting, deadlines, and page limit requirements. CBTS will reject proposals that do not address project requirements, or do not follow formatting, and page limit requirements. Proposals arriving after the submission deadline will not receive funding consideration.
Proposal Format (20-page maximum)
Proposal coversheet (1-page)
a. List all key personnel with contact information.
b. Abstract of proposal’s key steps toward accomplishing the goals of the project
c. Suggested location(s) for conferences and virtual capacity (if planned)
In a separate appendix that does not count against the proposal’s page limit include bio-sketches (2-page maximum per person) for each primary investigators (note expected percent FTE on project) that highlight experience and any relevant publications.
Proposal body (18-pages)
a) Identify how the proposed effort will achieve the objectives outlined in the Proposal Objectives section.
b) Identify expected outcomes and milestones over the course of the project as they relate to the Project Deliverables section.
c) Describe the information systems used to identify, collect, maintain, analyze, and curate the information collected to create the conferences and conference proceedings.
d) Describe conference space facilities and capacity to deliver in-person and virtual experiences.
e) Describe procedures for assessing the success of the project using the SMART framework – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
f) Describe experience planning and executing projects of similar scope, subject matter focus, and complexity.
g) Describe the role of undergraduate and graduate students on the project.
Budget with brief narrative by category (1-page) (max. $250,000/per year for up to two years)
a) Salaries and benefits
b) Data and related contracts
e) Conference facilities
f) Indirect costs
All proposals must be single-spaced, use an 11-point or greater font, use 1-inch margins, and include page numbers.
Proposal Scientific Quality Reviews
CBTS and DHS reviews of proposals use the following questions to assess the merits of each proposal. CBTS will organize a Proposal Review Panel composed of subject matter experts, who will review the scientific merit of submitted proposals. CBTS will screen its potential reviewers for potential conflicts of interest prior to the initiation of reviews. Reviewers will evaluate proposals based on the following criteria and apply the weighting factors as indicated to determine their overall ranking of each proposal.
Scientific Merit and Originality/Innovation (35%)
a) Does the proposal clearly focus on achieving the goals listed in the Proposal Objectives section?
b) To what extent are the proposed activities expected to effectively achieve the Proposal Objectives?
c) Does the proposal outline a path to meet the Project Objectives within an appropriate timeline? Does the proposal propose a path for presenting Project Deliverables in a timely manner over the life of the project?
Proposed Approach/Methods and Risks (25%)
a) Does the proposal use appropriate approaches/methodologies, and highlight and significant risks associated with the proposed approaches?
b) Are the methods appropriate and sufficient to conduct the information gathering efforts and preconference outreach tasks needed to contact and recruit contributions from major research investigators and projects?
c) Has the team defined metrics and milestones appropriate for the stated goals?
d) Are data collection, integration and information security approaches appropriate?
e) Does the proposal demonstrate a viable plan for developing substantial and working linkages with the research community examining food and agricultural security issues?
f) Does the proposal provide an appropriate platform and clear path to transitioning information through a conference or conferences and resulting conference proceedings?
Qualification of Personnel (15%)
a) Does the team have the qualifications to conduct and complete the proposed work?
b) Does the team demonstrate the ability to deliver products that meet the proposed objectives and deliverables within their proposed budget and schedule?
c) Are undergraduate/graduate education aspects included in this proposal?
Budget and Schedule (10%)
a) Are the costs appropriate and reasonable?
b) Is the budget proportional to the work performed and the resources used?
c) Does the proposal demonstrate an ability to deliver within the proposed budget and on schedule?
Facilities and Equipment (15%)
a) Are the conference facilities and information systems adequate to achieve proposed objectives and deliverables?
Conversion of Proposal Ideas into Project Work Plans
If CBTS selects a proposal for funding, CBTS will ask the authors to prepare a project workplan. CBTS will share workplan requirements with the authors. As needed, DHS OUP S&T may ask CBST to seek additional scientific merit reviews for workplans.
Funding and Agreement Terms and Conditions
If funding is available, CBTS will fund up to three projects through cooperative agreements with CBTS. Successful projects may be funded up to $250,000 per year to accomplish systematic mapping, conduct conferences and write a complete annotated summary of food and agriculture defense/security research (2-year maximum period of performance). CBTS is responsible for administering funding to all projects within its portfolio. Successful proposal teams need to agree to the terms and conditions of the cooperative agreement between DHS and Texas A&M University (TAMU). All awardees and sub-awardees must meet all DHS – TAMU Cooperative Agreement Terms and Conditions.
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