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Frequently Asked Questions
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   Frequently Asked Questions about CESUs   
  1. Why is the CESU Network necessary?

    Many of the elements of a Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (CESU) and the CESU Network currently exist in other organizations. However, there is no multi-agency, university-based, broadly interdisciplinary, and ecosystem-oriented system currently providing scientific research, technical assistance, and education to Federal resource managers. The CESU Network complements existing Federal research programs, and is an innovation in the delivery of Federal science. Such an innovation is necessary to increase agency coordination, share scarce resources and valuable expertise, and deal with the broad and complex problems associated with resource management in the 21st century.


  2. Is the CESU Network a Department of the Interior effort?

    The CESU concept was initiated in discussions between the Biological Resources Division of the USGS and the National Park Service. The potential of CESUs to serve resource management and environmental agencies throughout the Federal government quickly became apparent. The DOI Science Board took an active interest in the CESU concept soon after, and encouraged DOI agencies to consider participating. Additional agencies outside the DOI are now involved, and the CESU Network is a multi-agency (13 Federal Agencies) and interdepartmental effort.


  3. So, who is the lead Federal Agency of the National CESU Network?

    There is not a lead agency of the CESU network. The CESU network is administered bya National Council of the 13 federal agencies that have joined the program. A National CESU Director and a Deputy Director help lead the National Council but are not affiliated with any single agency.


  4. How many CESUs are in the Network?

    Seventeen CESUs make up the nationwide network. The first four CESUs were established in 1999. Three to four were added each year after that. The newest and final CESUs were established in 2003. There are no plans to add anymore CESUs to the network.


  5. How were CESUs selected and located

    The CESU National Council developed criteria for selection of the CESUs. A Request for Proposals was widely distributed, and interested universities submitted brief proposals. Participating agencies and the selected universities then worked together to establish a CESU.

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  6. What is the contract relationship in a CESU?

    A cooperative agreement is the contract relationship in a CESU (termed a joint venture agreement for the Forest Service). All CESUs were formed with identical cooperative agreements which allow federal units to utilize any CESU with equal ease and equal conditions. All projects in a CESU are modifications or task orders of the cooperative agreement.


  7. How long do CESU cooperative agreements last?

    CESU cooperative agreements are good for five years. A process for renewing CESU cooperative agreements has been developed and activated.


  8. What is the overhead cost in a CESU cooperative agreement?

    The overhead cost cannot exceed 17.5%. This is a stipulation in the cooperative agreement that all private sector partners have agreed to.


  9. Can a Federal unit utilize any CESU or just the one it is located in?

    A Federal unit (e.g. a Refuge) can utilize any of the 17 CESUs in the Network that the agency has joined. Some federal agencies (BLM, NPS, USGS, NRCS) have joined all the CESUs which allows these agencies to call on the expertise and skills within any CESU for any project. Many Federal units utilize the CESU they are located in because they are familiar with and confident in the expertise and skills that exist at a nearby University.


  10. Is a Federal Representative in a CESU paid in part by the host university or the CESU?

    No. The Federal Representative is a federal employee that receives no outside salary funding. Representatives from all the federal agencies within the CESU are grouped at the host university which promotes the collaboration and synergism needed for the CESU. The responsibilities of the Federal Representative extend to all their agency units that utilize the CESU.

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  11. If a Federal Agency joins a CESU, does it relinquish control of positions or funds?

    No. Personnel duty-stationed at a CESU report to their agency, and funds are administered by the agency. Agencies may collaborate and share resources on activities that meet mutual needs.


  12. Can there be more than one Federal Representative from a single agency at a CESU?

    Yes. A Federal Agency can assign as many personnel to a CESU as appropriate to their mission, needs, and available resources. For example, the Desert Southwest CESU has two NPS CESU Coordinators.


  13. Can a Federal Agency join any CESU at anytime?

    Yes. Agencies can decide to join any CESU in the Network at anytime. However, a Federal Agency must commit a representative and a one-time ‘entrance fee’ of $10,000 to each CESU that it joins.


  14. Must a Federal Agency be involved in every CESU?

    No. Agencies can elect to be involved in only those CESUs that meet their needs and available resources.


  15. How does a Federal unit find a CESU principal investigator to conduct a project?

    There are three ways. One is by going to the partner university website (or calling the university). Second is to ask the Federal Representative to do the search for you. Third is to search the skills databases on some of the CESU websites.

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  16. How do CESUs affect existing cooperative programs between Federal Agencies and universities?

    The establishment a CESU cooperative agreement does not alter existing arrangements or cooperative agreements. By augmenting those programs and relationships, CESUs create additional opportunities for interdisciplinary and multi-agency research and technical assistance.


  17. Why switch from an existing cooperative agreement with a University to the CESU cooperative agreement?

    Do not switch if your existing cooperative agreement has 17.5% or less overhead cost, allows you to use expertise from any of the University departments, institutes, and branch campuses, is broad enough in scope to fit any changes that might occur in project, and/or does not expire soon.


  18. How are partner universities involved?

    Partner universities significantly expand the capability and resources of a CESU. A partner university may provide unique facilities, expertise or access to research materials. Through cooperative agreements, projects at partner institutions can be efficiently contracted and conducted.


  19. Can a private sector partner join any CESU at any time?

    Yes, this is common. The University of Florida is a partner in three CESUs. A private sector partner joining a CESU is conditional upon the unanimous approval of all current partners within the CESU. There are no fees or dues for a private sector partner to pay upon becoming a member of a CESU.


  20. How can I learn more about the CESU Network?

    For more information, use the National CESU website.

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  21. What resources exist to inform private sector of current opportunities within the Southern Appalachian CESU?

    This information is shared in a number of ways. This website for the CESU is a good source, although it may not be current for all the federal agencies in the CESU. Second sources are e-mail notifications that are sent out by the federal representatives on an irregular basis. These notifications typically contain requests for proposals, internship opportunities, and grant sources. The SA-CESU host university conducts annual meetings also provide information about the CESU.


  22. How can a faculty member in a partner university become more involved in SA-CESU projects?

    There are four ways. Faculty can become more involved by becoming more visible and by actively communicating their interests. A faculty member can increase visibility by displaying a very detailed faculty webpage. It is very common for CESU project PIs to be located from web searches of university partner websites for specific research interests. Be specific about research interests and research keywords that would facilitate a hit from a search. Second, ensure that all faculty research interest, skills and capabilities are submitted to the skills database contained on this website. The skills database is routinely searched by the federal agencies for expertise. Thirdly, actively communicate interest by contacting the Federal Representative for the SA-CESU and make the representative aware of your skills and abilities. A complete listing of the Federal Representatives is located on this website. Ask the Federal Representative to be included on any mailing list of Requests for Proposals or related CESU information. Lastly, actively communicate interest by contacting a Federal unit (e.g. a National Park) and make the resource manager aware of your skills and abilities. Tell the resource manager that your university is part of the SA-CESU. The Federal Representative at the CESU can help you identify Federal units that may be appropriate for your research interest.


  23. Can a faculty member in a partner university submit a proposal to the SA-CESU?

    The Southern Appalachian CESU itself does not fund projects. The CESU is a virtual network of universities, research organizations and associations that are positioned to provided federal agencies useable knowledge in a timely fashion.

    For most federal agencies, the submission of an unsolicited research proposal by a university researcher is usually unsuccessful. This is not because the federal agency is uninterested, it is because the agency has very few discretionary funds to hand out. Budgets are tight on federal units. Emergency situations and unexpected maintenance usually eat up all discretionary funds. Visitors are literally ‘loving’ the federal sites to pieces.

    The SA-CESU is intended, however, to promote cross-discipline and multi-partner projects. A university researcher could approach the SA-CESU host or director with such a proposal (or pre-proposal). If the CESU accepted the merit of the proposal, the federal reps within the CESU may be able to allocate some funding, but the proposal would probably have to go out for private sector competitive funding. The benefit would be that the proposal would have the support of the SA-CESU and its associated federal agencies.


  24. How can a faculty member find out if a personal or departmental research interest would benefit, and hence, receive the support of a participating federal agency?

    Very easily. Contact the Federal Representatives at the SA-CESU and/or talk directly with the resource managers at a nearby Federal unit(s). This is commonly done. All part of the active communication already addressed above. The Federal Representatives at the CESU is aware of most research needs on associated Federal units, plus the representative can ‘smooth the way’ for the researcher in discussing a research interest with a Federal unit(s). It cannot overemphasize the importance of becoming acquainted with the resource issues and needs of a Federal unit(s) of interest. This is a foundational block in building a research program with a federal agency.


  25. What are the distinctly personal advantages of staying informed of SA-CESU developments?

    Universities that are part of the SA-CESU have an inside track on federal projects. The feds that have joined the SA-CESU network have agreed to use the universities within the CESU as almost sole source research providers. This agreement grows stronger each year as old research contracts expire and are renewed only with the SA-CESU partners. All this points to more and more federal projects being laid at the doorstep of the SA-CESU universities. The advantage to the faculty member is three fold. One, the SA-CESU removes the need to invest large amounts of effort and time in writing proposals in the hopes of funding. Become visible and actively communicate and the projects will come to faculty researchers. Second, the SA-CESU offers long term relationships with several federal agencies. The feds are in the CESU for the long haul. And they network the names of productive university researchers. The SA-CESU is part of a national network, meaning that BLM in Nevada may want to tap into skills and capabilities of a university researcher in Tennessee. This is not uncommon. It comes from the feds querying each other about "who is out there" that has some specific expertise. Third, the SA-CESU connects a researcher, in a very personal way, with a Federal unit. The researcher will come to know the ‘story’ of the Federal unit. In doing so, the Federal unit becomes more that an attraction to visit, it becomes something of personal value – an experience never forgotten.


  26. Is there an established system of documenting university involvement in current or past projects in the SA-CESU?

    Yes. Every project is recorded by the host with the attendant information of project value, PI, CESU partner and such. Most of this information is on this website. The host can provide current information upon request.

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