Title 7 Part 3400

Title 7 → Subtitle B → Chapter XXXIV → Part 3400

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations e-CFR

Title 7 Part 3400

e-CFR data is current as of May 16, 2019

Title 7Subtitle BChapter XXXIV → Part 3400

Title 7: Agriculture



Subpart D—Annual Reports

§3400.23   Annual reports.

Authority: 7 U.S.C. 450i(c).

Source: 56 FR 58147, Nov 15, 1991, unless otherwise noted.

Editorial Note: Nomenclature changes to part 3400 appear at 76 FR 4806, Jan. 27, 2011.

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Subpart A—General

§3400.1   Applicability of regulations.

(a) The regulations of this part apply to special research grants awarded under the authority of subsection (c) of the Competitive, Special, and Facilities Research Grant Act, as amended (7 U.S.C. 450i (c)), to facilitate or expand promising breakthroughs in areas of the food and agricultural sciences of importance to the United States. Subparts A and B, excepting this section, apply only to special research grants awarded under subsection (c)(1)(A). Subpart C, Peer and Merit Review Arranged by Grantees, and Subpart D, Annual Reports, apply to all grants awarded under subsection (c).

(b) Each year the Director of NIFA shall determine and announce through publication of a Notice 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, research program areas for which proposals will be solicited competitively, to the extent that funds are available.

(c) The regulations of this part do not apply to research, extension or education grants awarded by the Department of Agriculture under any other authority.

[64 FR 34103, June 24, 1999]

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§3400.2   Definitions.

As used in this part:

(a) Director means the Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and any other officer or employee of the Department of Agriculture to whom the authority involved may be delegated.

(b) Department means the Department of Agriculture.

(c) Principal investigator means a single individual designated by the grantee in the grant application and approved by the Director who is responsible for the scientific and technical direction of the project.

(d) Grantee means the entity designated in the grant award document as the responsible legal entity to whom a grant is awarded under this part.

(e) Research project grant means the award by the Director of funds to a grantee to assist in meeting the costs of conducting, for the benefit of the public, an identified project which is intended and designed to establish, discover, elucidate, or confirm information or the underlying mechanisms relating to a research program area identified in the annual solicitation of applications.

(f) Project means the particular activity within the scope of one or more of the research program areas identified in the annual solicitation of applications, which is supported by a grant award under this part.

(g) Project period means the total length of time that is approved by the Director for conducting the research project as outlined in an approved grant application.

(h) Budget period means the interval of time (usually 12 months) into which the project period is divided for budgetary and reporting purposes.

(i) Awarding official means the Director and any other officer or employee of the Department to whom the authority to issue or modify research project grant instruments has been delegated.

(j) Peer review group means an assembled group of experts or consultants qualified by training and experience in particular scientific or technical fields to give expert advice, in accordance with the provisions of this part, on the scientific and technical merit of grant applications in those fields.

(k) Ad hoc reviewers means experts or consultants qualified by training and experience in particular scientific or technical fields to render special expert advice, whose written evaluations of grant applications are designed to complement the expertise of the peer review group, in accordance with the provisions of this part, on the scientific or technical merit of grant applications in those fields.

(l) Research means any systematic study directed toward new or fuller knowledge and understanding of the subject studied.

(m) Methodology means the project approach to be followed and the resources needed to carry out the project.

[56 FR 58147, Nov. 15, 1991, as amended at 76 FR 4806, Jan. 27, 2011]

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§3400.3   Eligibility requirements.

(a) Except where otherwise prohibited by law, any State agricultural experiment station, all colleges and universities, other research institutions and organizations, Federal agencies, private organizations or corporations, and individuals, shall be eligible to apply for and to receive a special research project grant under this part, provided that the applicant qualifies as a responsible grantee under the criteria set forth in paragraph (b) of this section.

(b) To qualify as responsible, an applicant must meet the following standards as they relate to a particular project:

(1) Have adequate financial resources for performance, the necessary experience, organizational and technical qualifications, and facilities, or a firm commitment, arrangement, or ability to obtain such (including proposed subagreements);

(2) Be able to comply with the proposed or required completion schedule for the project;

(3) Have a satisfactory record of integrity, judgment, and performance, including, in particular, any prior performance under grants and contracts from the Federal Government;

(4) Have an adequate financial management system and audit procedure which provides efficient and effective accountability and control of all property, funds, and other assets; and

(5) Be otherwise qualified and eligible to receive a research project grant under applicable laws and regulations.

(c) Any applicant who is determined to be not responsible will be notified in writing of such findings and the basis therefor.

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§3400.4   How to apply for a grant.

(a) A request for proposals will be prepared and announced through publications such as the Federal Register, professional trade journals, agency or program handbooks, the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, or any other appropriate means of solicitation, as early as practicable each fiscal year. It will contain information sufficient to enable all eligible applicants to prepare special research grant proposals and will be as complete as possible with respect to:

(1) Descriptions of specific research program areas which the Department proposes to support during the fiscal year involved, including anticipated funds to be awarded;

(2) Deadline dates for having proposal packages postmarked;

(3) Name and address where proposals should be mailed;

(4) Number of copies to be submitted;

(5) Forms required to be used when submitting proposals; and

(6) Special requirements.

(b) Grant Application Kit. A Grant Application Kit will be made available to any potential grant applicant who requests a copy. This kit contains required forms, certifications, and instructions applicable to the submission of grant proposals.

(c) Format for research grant proposals. Unless otherwise stated in the specific program solicitation, the following applies:

(1) Grant Application. All research grant proposals submitted by eligible applicants should contain a Grant Application form, which must be signed by the proposing principal investigator(s) and endorsed by the cognizant authorized organizational representative who possesses the necessary authority to commit the applicant's time and other relevant resources.

(2) Title of Project. The title of the project must be brief (80-character maximum), yet represent the major thrust of the research. This title will be used to provide information to the Congress and other interested parties who may be unfamiliar with scientific terms; therefore, highly technical words or phraseology should be avoided where possible. In addition, phrases such as “investigation of” or “research on” should not be used.

(3) Objectives. Clear, concise, complete, enumerated, and logically arranged statement(s) of the specific aims of the research must be included in all proposals.

(4) Procedures. The procedures or methodology to be applied to the proposed research plan should be explicitly stated. This section should include but not necessarily be limited to:

(i) A description of the proposed investigations and/or experiments in the sequence in which it is planned to carry them out;

(ii) Techniques to be employed, including their feasibility;

(iii) Kinds of results expected;

(iv) Means by which data will be analyzed or interpreted;

(v) Pitfalls which might be encountered; and

(vi) Limitations to proposed procedures.

(5) Justification. This section should describe:

(i) The importance of the problem to the needs of the Department and to the Nation, including estimates of the magnitude of the problem.

(ii) The importance of starting the work during the current fiscal year, and

(iii) Reasons for having the work performed by the proposing organization.

(6) Literature review. A summary of pertinent publications with emphasis on their relationship to the research should be provided and should include all important and recent publications. The citations should be accurate, complete, written in acceptable journal format, and be appended to the proposal.

(7) Current research. The relevancy of the proposed research to ongoing and, as yet, unpublished research of both the applicant and any other institutions should be described.

(8) Facilities and equipment. All facilities, including laboratories, which are available for use or assignment to the proposed research project during the requested period of support, should be reported and described. Any materials, procedures, situations, or activities, whether or not directly related to a particular phase of the proposed research, and which may be hazardous to personnel, must be fully explained, along with an outline of precautions to be exercised. All items of major instrumentation available for use or assignment to the proposed research project during the requested period of support should be itemized. In addition, items of nonexpendable equipment needed to conduct and bring the proposed project to a successful conclusion should be listed.

(9) Collaborative arrangements. If the proposed project requires collaboration with other research scientists, corporations, organizations, agencies, or entities, such collaboration must be fully explained and justified. Evidence should be provided to assure peer reviewers that the collaborators involved agree with the arrangements. It should be specifically indicated whether or not such collaborative arrangements have the potential for any conflict(s) of interest. Proposals which indicate collaborative involvement must state which proposer is to receive any resulting grant award, since only one eligible applicant, as provided in §3400.3 of this part, may be the recipient of a research project grant under one proposal.

(10) Research timetable. The applicant should outline all important research phases as a function of time, year by year.

(11) Personnel support. All personnel who will be involved in the research effort must be clearly identified. For each scientist involved, the following should be included:

(i) An estimate of the time commitments necessary;

(ii) Vitae of the principal investigator(s), senior associate(s), and other professional personnel to assist reviewers in evaluating the competence and experience of the project staff. This section should include curricula vitae of all key persons who will work on the proposed research project, whether or not Federal funds are sought for their support. The vitae are to be no more than two pages each in length, excluding publications listings; and

(iii) A chronological listing of the most representative publications during the past five years shall be provided for each professional project member for whom a curriculum vitae appears under this section. Authors should be listed in the same order as they appear on each paper cited, along with the title and complete reference as these usually appear in journals.

(12) 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 Grant Application Kit identified under §3400.4(b) of this 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 is allowable under applicable Federal cost principles and can be identified as necessary for successful conduct of the proposed research project. No funds will be awarded 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. All research project grants awarded under this part shall be issued without regard to matching funds or cost sharing.

(13) Research involving special considerations. A number of situations encountered in the conduct of research require special information and supporting documentation before funding can be approved for the project. If such situations are anticipated, the proposal must so indicate. It is expected that a significant number of special research grant proposals will involve the following:

(i) Recombinant DNA molecules. All key personnel identified in a proposal and all endorsing officials of a proposed performing entity are required to comply with the guidelines established by the National Institutes of Health entitled, “Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules,” as revised. The Grant Application Kit, identified above in §3400.4(b), contains forms which are suitable for such certification of compliance.

(ii) Human subjects at risk. Responsibility for safeguarding the rights and welfare of human subjects used in any research project supported with grant funds provided by the Department rests with the performing entity. Regulations have been issued by the Department under 7 CFR Part 1c, Protection of Human Subjects. In the event that a project involving human subjects at risk is recommended for award, the applicant will be required to submit a statement certifying that the research plan has been reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board at the proposing organization or institution. The Grant Application Kit, identified above in §3400.4(b), contains forms which are suitable for such certification.

(iii) Laboratory animal care. The responsibility for the humane care and treatment of any laboratory animal, which has the same meaning as “animal” in section 2(g) of the Animal Welfare Act of 1966, as amended (7 U.S.C. 2132(g)), used in any research project supported with Special Research Grants Program funds rests with the performing organization. In this regard, all key personnel identified in a proposal and all endorsing officials of the proposed performing entity are required to comply with applicable provisions of the Animal Welfare Act of 1966, as amended (7 U.S.C. 2131 et. seq.) and the regulation promulgated thereunder by the Secretary of Agriculture in 9 CFR parts 1, 2, 3, and 4. In the event that a project involving the use of a laboratory animal is recommended for award, the applicant will be required to submit a statement certifying such compliance. The Grant Application Kit, identified above in §3400.4(b), contains forms which are suitable of such certification.

(14) Current and pending support. All proposals must list any other current public or private research support, in addition to the proposed project, to which key personnel listed in the proposal under consideration have committed portions of their time, whether or not salary support for the person(s) involved is included in the budgets of the various projects. This section must also contain analogous information for all projects underway and for pending research proposals which are currently being considered by, or which will be submitted in the near future to, other possible sponsors, including other Departmental programs or agencies. Concurrent submission of identical or similar projects to other possible sponsors will not prejudice its review or evaluation by the Director or experts or consultants engaged by the Director for this purpose. The Grant Application Kit, identified above in §3400.4(b), contains a form which is suitable for listing current and pending support.

(15) Additions to project description. Each project description is expected by the Director, members of peer review groups, and the relevant program staff to be complete in itself. However, in those instances in which the inclusion of additional information is necessary, the number of copies submitted should match the number of copies of the application requested in the annual solicitation of proposals as indicated in §3400.4(a)(4). Each set of such materials must be identified with the title of the research project as it appears in the Grant Application and the name(s) of the principal investigator(s). Examples of additional materials may include photographs which do not reproduce well, reprints, and other pertinent materials which are deemed to be unsuitable for inclusion in the proposal.

(16) Organizational management information. Specific management information relating to an applicant shall be submitted on a one-time basis prior to the award of a research project grant identified under this part if such information has not been provided previously under this or another program for which the sponsoring agency is responsible. Copies of forms recommended for use in fulfilling the requirements contained in this section will be provided by the agency specified in this part once a research project grant has been recommended for funding.

[56 FR 58147, Nov 15, 1991, as amended at 80 FR 81738, Dec. 31, 2015]

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§3400.5   Evaluation and disposition of applications.

(a) Evaluation. All proposals received from eligible applicants in accordance with eligible research problem or program areas and deadlines established in the applicable request for proposals shall be evaluated by the Director through such officers, employees, and others as the Director determines are uniquely qualified in the areas of research represented by particular projects. To assist in equitably and objectively evaluating proposals and to obtain the best possible balance of viewpoints, the Director shall solicit the advice of peer scientists, ad hoc reviewers, or others who are recognized specialists in the research program areas covered by the applications received and whose general roles are defined in §§3400.2(j) and 3400.2(k). Specific evaluations will be based upon the criteria established in subpart B §3400.15, unless NIFA determines that different criteria are necessary for the proper evaluation of proposals in one or more specific program areas, and announces such criteria and their relative importance in the annual program solicitation. The overriding purpose of such evaluations is to provide information upon which the Director can 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.

(b) Disposition. On the basis of the Director's evaluation of an application in accordance with paragraph (a) of this section, the Director will

(1) Approve support using currently available funds,

(2) Defer support due to lack of funds or a need for further evaluations, or

(3) Disapprove support for the proposed project in whole or in part.

With respect to approved projects, the Director will determine the project period (subject to extension as provided in §3400.7(c)) during which the project may be supported. Any deferral or disapproval of an application will not preclude its reconsideration or a reapplication during subsequent fiscal years.

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§3400.6   Grant awards.

(a) General. Within the limit of funds available for such purpose, the awarding official shall make research project 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. The date specified by the Director as the beginning of the project period shall be no later than September 30 of the Federal fiscal year in which the project is approved for support and funds are appropriated for such purpose, unless otherwise permitted by law. 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 2 CFR part 20 (part 3015 of this title).

(b) Grant award document and notice of grant award—(1) Grant award document. The grant award document shall include at a minimum the following:

(i) Legal name and address of performing organization or institution to whom the Director has awarded a special research project grant under the terms of this part;

(ii) Title of project;

(iii) Name(s) and address(es) of principal investigator(s) chosen to direct and control approved activities;

(iv) Identifying grant number assigned by the Department;

(v) Project period, which specifies how long the Department intends to support the effort without requiring recompetition for funds;

(vi) Total amount of Departmental financial assistance approved by the Director during the project period;

(vii) Legal authority(ies) under which the research project grant is awarded to accomplish the purpose of the law;

(viii) Approved budget plan for categorizing allocable project funds to accomplish the stated purpose of the research project grant award; and

(ix) Other information or provisions deemed necessary by the Department to carry out its granting activities or to accomplish the purpose of a particular research project grant.

(2) Notice of grant award. The notice of grant award, in the form of a letter, will be prepared and will provide pertinent instructions or information to the grantee that is not included in the grant award document.

(c) Categories of grant instruments. The major categories of grant instruments shall be as follows:

(1) Standard grant. This is a grant instrument by which the Department agrees to support a specified level of research effort for a predetermined project period without the announced intention of providing additional support at a future date. This type of research project grant is approved on the basis of peer review and recommendation and is funded for the entire project period at the time of award.

(2) Renewal grant. This is a document by which the Department agrees to provide additional funding under a standard grant as specified in paragraph (c)(1) of this section for a project period beyond that approved in an original or amended award, provided that the cumulative period does not exceed the statutory limitation. When a renewal application is submitted, it should include a summary of progress to date under the previous grant instrument. Such a renewal shall be based upon new application, de novo peer review and staff evaluation, new recommendation and approval, and a new award instrument.

(3) Continuation grant. This is a grant instrument by which 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. It involves a long-term research project that is considered by peer reviewers and Departmental officers to have an unusually high degree of scientific merit, the results of which are expected to have a significant impact on the food and agricultural sciences, and it supports the efforts of experienced scientists with records of outstanding research accomplishments. This kind of document will normally be awarded for an initial one-year period and any subsequent continuation research project grants will also be awarded in one-year increments. The award of a continuation research project grant to fund an initial or succeeding budget period does not constitute an obligation to fund any subsequent budget period. A grantee must submit a separate application for continued support for each subsequent fiscal year. Requests for such continued support must be submitted in duplicate at least three months prior to the expiration date of the budget period currently being funded. Such requests must include: an interim progress report detailing all work performed to date; a Grant Application; a proposed budget for the ensuing period, including an estimate of funds anticipated to remain unobligated at the end of the current budget period; and current information regarding other extramural support for senior personnel. Decisions regarding continued support and the actual funding levels of such support in future years will usually be made administratively after consideration of such factors as the grantee's progress and management practices and within the context of available funds. Since initial peer reviews were based upon the full term and scope of the original special research grant 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.

(4) Supplemental grant. This is an instrument by which the Department agrees to provide small amounts of additional funding under a standard, renewal, or continuation grant as specified in paragraphs (c)(1), (c)(2), and (c)(3) of this section and may involve a short-term (usually six months or less) extension of the project period beyond that approved in an original or amended award, but in no case may the cumulative period of the project, including short term extensions, exceed the statutory time limitation. A supplement is awarded only if required to assure adequate completion of the original scope of work and if there is sufficient justification of need to warrant such action. A request of this nature normally does not require additional peer review.

(d) Obligation of the Federal Government. Neither the approval of any application nor the award of any research project grant shall commit or obligate the United States in any way to make any renewal, supplemental, continuation, or other award with respect to any approved application or portion of an approved application.

[56 FR 58147, Nov. 15, 1991, as amended at 79 FR 75997, Dec. 26, 2014]

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§3400.7   Use of funds; changes.

(a) Delegation of fiscal responsibility. The grantee may not delegate or transfer in whole or in part, to another person, institution, or organization the responsibility for use or expenditure of grant funds.

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

(2) Changes in approved goals, or objectives, shall be requested by the grantee and approved in writing by the Department prior to effecting such changes. In no event shall requests for such changes be approved which are outside the scope of the original approved project.

(3) Changes in approved project leadership or the replacement or reassignment of other key project personnel shall be requested by the grantee and approved in writing by the Department prior to effecting such changes.

(4) Transfers of actual performance of the substantive programmatic work in whole or in part and provisions for payment of funds, whether or not Federal funds are involved, shall be requested by the grantee and approved in writing by the Department prior to effecting such changes, except as may be allowed in the terms and conditions of the grant award.

(c) Changes in project period. The project period determined pursuant to §3400.5(b) may be extended by the Director without additional financial support for such additional period(s) as the Director determines may be necessary to complete or fulfill the purposes of an approved project. Any extension, when combined with the originally approved or amended project period shall not exceed three (3) years (the limitation established by statute) and shall be further conditioned upon prior request by the grantee and approval in writing by the Department, unless prescribed otherwise in the terms and conditions of a grant award.

(d) Changes in approved budget. The terms and conditions of a grant will prescribe circumstances under which written Departmental approval will be requested and obtained prior to instituting changes in an approved budget.

[56 FR 58147, Nov. 15, 1991, as amended at 64 FR 34103, June 24, 1999]

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§3400.8   Other Federal statutes and regulations that apply.

(a) The Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) issued guidance on Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards at 2 CFR part 200 on December 26, 2013. In 2 CFR 400.1, the Department adopted OMB's guidance in subparts A through F of 2 CFR part 200, as supplemented by 2 CFR part 400, as the Department's policies and procedures for uniform administrative requirements, cost principles, and audit requirements for federal awards. As a result, this regulation contains references to 2 CFR part 200 as it has regulatory effect for the Department's programs and activities.”

(b) Several other Federal statutes and/or regulations apply to grant proposals considered for review or to research project grants awarded under this part. These include but are not limited to:

2 CFR part 200—Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards.

2 CFR part 180 and Part 417—OMB Guidelines to Agencies on Government-Wide Debarment and Suspension (Nonprocurement) and USDA Nonprocurement Debarment and Suspension.

7 CFR part 1c—USDA Implementation of the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects.

7 CFR 1.1—USDA Implementation of Freedom of Information Act.

7 CFR part 3—USDA Implementation of OMB Circular A-129 Regarding Debt Collection.

7 CFR part 15, subpart A—USDA Implementation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

7 CFR part 3407—NIFA procedures to implement the National Environmental Policy Act.

29 U.S.C. 794, section 504—Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and 7 CFR part 15B (USDA implementation of statute), prohibiting discrimination based upon physical or mental handicap in Federally assisted programs.

35 U.S.C. 200 et seq.—Bayh-Dole Act, controlling allocation of rights to inventions made by employees of small business firms and domestic nonprofit organizations, including universities, in Federally assisted programs (implementing regulations are contained in 37 CFR part 401).

[79 FR 75997, Dec. 19, 2014]

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§3400.9   Other conditions.

The Director may, with respect to any research project grant or to any class of awards, impose additional conditions prior to or at the time of any award when, in the Director's judgment, such conditions are necessary to assure or protect advancement of the approved project, the interests of the public, or the conservation of grant funds.

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Subpart B—Scientific Peer Review of Research Grant Applications

§3400.10   Establishment and operation of peer review groups.

Subject to §3400.5, the Director will adopt procedures for the conduct of peer reviews and the formulation of recommendations under §3400.14.

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§3400.11   Composition of peer review groups.

(a) Peer review group members will be selected based upon their training and experience in relevant scientific or technical fields, taking into account the following factors:

(1) The level of formal scientific or technical education by the individual;

(2) The extent to which the individual has engaged in relevant research, the capacities in which the individual has done so (e.g., principal investigator, assistant), and the quality of such research;

(3) Professional recognition as reflected by awards and other honors received from scientific and professional organizations outside of the Department;

(4) The need of the group to include within its membership experts from various areas of specialization within relevant scientific or technical fields;

(5) The need of the group to include within its membership experts from a variety of organizational types (e.g., universities, industry, private consultant(s)) and geographic locations; and

(6) The need of the group to maintain a balanced membership, e.g., minority and female representation and an equitable age distribution.

(b) [Reserved]

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§3400.12   Conflicts of interest.

Members of peer review groups covered by this part are subject to relevant provisions contained in Title 18 of the United States Code relating to criminal activity, Department regulations governing employee responsibilities and conduct (part O of this title), and Executive Order 11222, as amended.

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§3400.13   Availability of information.

Information regarding the peer review process will be made available to the extent permitted under the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552), the Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. 552a), and implementing Departmental regulations (part 1 of this title).

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§3400.14   Proposal review.

(a) All research grant applications will be acknowledged. Prior to technical examination, a preliminary review will be made for responsiveness to the request for proposals (e.g., relationship of application to research program area). Proposals which do not fall within the guidelines as stated in the annual request for proposals will be eliminated from competition and will be returned to the applicant. Proposals whose budgets exceed the maximum allowable amount for a particular program area as announced in the request for proposals may be considered as lying outside the guidelines.

(b) All applications will be carefully reviewed by the Director, qualified officers or employees of the Department, the respective peer review group, and ad hoc reviewers, as required. Written comments will be solicited from ad hoc reviewers when required, and individual written comments and in-depth discussions will be provided by peer review group members prior to recommending applications for funding. Applications will be ranked and support levels recommended within the limitation of total available funding for each research program area as announced in the applicable request for proposals.

(c) No awarding official will make a research project grant based upon an application covered by this part unless the application has been reviewed by a peer review group and/or ad hoc reviewers in accordance with the provisions of this part and said reviewers have made recommendations concerning the scientific merit of such application.

(d) Except to the extent otherwise provided by law, such recommendations are advisory only and are not binding on program officers or on the awarding official.

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§3400.15   Review criteria.

(a) Subject to the varying conditions and needs of States, Federal funded agricultural research supported under these provisions shall be designed to, among other things, accomplish one or more of the following purposes:

(1) Continue to satisfy human food and fiber needs;

(2) Enhance the long-term viability and competitiveness of the food production and agricultural system of the United States within the global economy;

(3) Expand economic opportunities in rural America and enhance the quality of life for farmers, rural citizens, and society as a whole;

(4) Improve the productivity of the American agricultural system and develop new agricultural crops and new uses for agricultural commodities;

(5) Develop information and systems to enhance the environment and the natural resource base upon which a sustainable agricultural economy depends; or

(6) Enhance human health.

In carrying out its review under §3400.14, the peer review group will use the following form upon which the evaluation criteria to be used are enumerated, unless pursuant to §3400.5(a), different evaluation criteria are specified in the annual solicitation of proposals for a particular program.

Peer Panel Scoring Form

Proposal Identification No.
Institution and Project Title

I. Basic Requirement:

Proposal falls within guidelines? _____ Yes _____ No. If no, explain why proposal does not meet guidelines under comment section of this form.

II. Selection Criteria:

   Score 1-10Weight factorScore X weight factorComments
1. Overall scientific and technical quality of proposal10
2. Scientific and technical quality of the approach10
3. Relevance and importance of proposed research to solution of specific areas of inquiry6
4. Feasibility of attaining objectives; adequacy of professional training and experience, facilities and equipment5
Summary Comments

(b) Proposals satisfactorily meeting the guidelines will be evaluated and scored by the peer review panel for each criterion utilizing a scale of 1 through 10. A score of one (1) will be considered low and a score of ten (10) will be considered high for each selection criterion. A weighted factor is used for each criterion.

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Subpart C—Peer and Merit Review Arranged by Grantees

Source: 64 FR 34104, June 24, 1999, unless otherwise noted.

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§3400.20   Grantee review prior to award.

(a) Review requirement. Prior to the award of a standard or continuation grant by NIFA, any proposed project shall have undergone a review arranged by the grantee as specified in this subpart. For research projects, such review must be a scientific peer review conducted in accordance with §3400.21. For education and extension projects, such review must be a merit review conducted in accordance with §3400.22.

(b) Credible and independent. Review arranged by the grantee must provide for a credible and independent assessment of the proposed project. A credible review is one that provides an appraisal of technical quality and relevance sufficient for an organizational representative to make an informed judgment as to whether the proposal is appropriate for submission for Federal support. To provide for an independent review, such review may include USDA employees, but should not be conducted solely by USDA employees.

(c) Notice of completion and retention of records. A notice of completion of review shall be conveyed in writing to NIFA either as part of the submitted proposal or prior to the issuance of an award, at the option of NIFA. The written notice constitutes certification by the applicant that a review in compliance with these regulations has occurred. Applicants are not required to submit results of the review to NIFA; however, proper documentation of the review process and results should be retained by the applicant.

(d) Renewal and supplemental grants. Review by the grantee is not automatically required for renewal or supplemental grants as defined in §3400.6. A subsequent grant award will require a new review if, according to NIFA, either the funded project has changed significantly, other scientific discoveries have affected the project, or the need for the project has changed. Note that a new review is necessary when applying for another standard or continuation grant after expiration of the grant term.

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§3400.21   Scientific peer review for research activities.

Scientific peer review is an evaluation of a proposed project for technical quality and relevance to regional or national goals performed by experts with the scientific knowledge and technical skills to conduct the proposed research work. Peer reviewers may be selected from an applicant organization or from outside the organization, but shall not include principals, collaborators or others involved in the preparation of the application under review.

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§3400.22   Merit review for education and extension activities.

Merit review is an evaluation of a proposed project or elements of a proposed program whereby the technical quality and relevance to regional or national goals are assessed. The merit review shall be performed by peers and other individuals with expertise appropriate to evaluate the proposed project. Merit reviewers may not include principals, collaborators or others involved in the preparation of the application under review.

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Subpart D—Annual Reports

§3400.23   Annual reports.

(a) Reporting requirement. The recipient shall submit an annual report describing the results of the research, extension, or education activity and the merit of the results.

(b) Report type and content. Unless otherwise stipulated, grant recipients will have met the reporting requirement under this subpart by complying with the reporting requirements as set forth in the terms and conditions of the grant at the time of award.

[64 FR 34104, June 24, 1999]

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