Project Development
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   How Projects Are Developed in the SA-CESU   

For Federal Agency If you are with a federal agency that is a partner in the Southern Appalachian CESU, click here. (If your agency is not listed in the Partner Directory, then your agency is not officially part of the Southern Appalachian CESU. See 'How to Join the SA-CESU' to make your agency a partner in this CESU)
For Non-Federal Entity If you are with a university, research association, NGO, tribe, state agency, or other non-federal entity that is a partner in the Southern Appalachian CESU, click here. (If you are not certain that your organization is a partner in this CESU, then check the Partner Directory.)

  Project Development    

First, understand that the Southern Appalachian CESU is a virtual consortium of universities, research associations, and research labs that joined in agreement to provide research, technical assistance and education to the federal partners in the SA-CESU. The federal partners fund the projects. The SA-CESU itself does not fund projects.

While the concept of the SA-CESU is similar to other networks, one of the main objective of the SA-CESU is to simplify the bureaucratic contracting process that - under other agreements - has a tendency to stifle collaboration and discourage participation. The SA-CESU cooperative agreement is the easiest, fastest, and friendliest way to do business with the federal government.

How does someone find out about opportunities with the SA-CESU?

There are three good sources of information:

  1. This website. Check the News/Events section.
  2. The SA-CESU Director or the host contact person at the host university (see Non-Federal Partner Directory). The host university coordinates CESU meetings that also provide information about the CESU.
  3. The federal agency representatives for the SA-CESU (see Federal Partner Directory). The SA-CESU federal representatives can help by either establishing contacts with a federal unit, facilitating discussion, or relaying research needs.

And what if I have a good idea or solution to an agency problem?

Herein lies one of the most significant and innovative features of a Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit. Due to the results-oriented mission of the SA-CESU, a partner can now propose a solution, fill a research void, or supply training or technical assistance without waiting on a Request for Funding (RFP). By establishing solid relationships with SA-CESU federal agency partners, a productive researcher is now able to initiate change and "sell" a good idea if it can meet the resource demand of a federal agency.

The key to tapping into agency funding for SA-CESU projects is to become acquainted with the research needs of a federal agency. This cannot be overstated. Collaboration with a federal agency is the key. Each federal agency has sources of funding for CESU type projects. Before contacting a federal unit with your research idea, be aware that the federal unit will want to know how your idea will address their research needs before they will agree to collaborate with you. That is why it is imperative that you become acquainted with the research needs of a federal agency.

How does a person become involved in a SA-CESU project?

Partners can become more involved by becoming more visible and by actively communicating their interests.

  1. A good first step is a very detailed faculty webpage. It is very common for the Principal Investigators of SA-CESU projects to be located from a search of a partner website for specific research interests. Insert keywords and professional jargon into the webpage that will facilitate a "hit" from a search.
  2. Secondly, ensure that your research interests, skills and capabilities are submitted to the SA-CESU Expert Database.
  3. Third, contact the federal agency representatives and make them aware of your skills and abilities. Ask to be included on mailing lists of Requests for Proposals (RFPs) or related CESU information.
  4. Fourth, actively communicate interest by contacting agency resource managers and make them aware of your skills and abilities. Tell the resource manager that your organization is part of the SA-CESU.
  5. Lastly, remember it is not just what you know, but who you know and who knows you. Many projects begin when an agency representative or a resource manager recommends someone he or she knows. Effective networking is crucial!

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  Federal Agency Project Protocols  
(USGS has very different protocols than described below.)

  1. Develop a project description (also called Statement of Work or Scope or Work) that contains at a minimum the following information: Project title.
    1. Key officials (federal unit representative and contracting officer, the cooperator’s contact information)
    2. Simple budget that shows amount not to be exceeded and 17.5% overhead to cooperating non-federal SA-CESU partner.
    3. Tasks to be performed with outcomes and schedules.
    4. Project start date and ending date.
    5. Statement of substantial involvement.

    Check with your federal representative in the SA-CESU for other agency specific information (see Partner Directory). A generic Statement of Work is available in the SA-CESU File Drawer. There are no SA-CESU forms that must be filled out and submitted.

  2. Verify that your project is appropriate for the Southern Appalachian CESU agreement. Your federal representative (see Partner Directory) can give approval for appropriateness. If the project meets a cultural science, social science, biological science and/or physical science need, or benefits the cooperator, then the project is usually appropriate for the CESU agreement. A generic Review of Appropriateness is available in the SA-CESU File Drawer.

  3. Inform your agency’s contracting officer that your will be using the SA-CESU agreement for an upcoming project. If you are cooperating with another federal agency, then an Interagency Agreement is required instead of the SA-CESU agreement. Agency specific paperwork may be required at this step.

  4. A Purchase Request must be developed for the project. This process varies across agencies, so consult your CESU federal representative or agency contracting officer for the correct process.

  5. The non-federal partner, or cooperator, must also approve the project. For a university, this typically involves submitting the project description developed in #1 above as a proposal through the university’s appropriate approval channels. This is typically a Grants and Research office. The cooperator must initiate and follow through with this process. A signed proposal must be sent by the university to your agency contracting officer. Non-university partners have an equivalent approval process that varies by the organization. The objective is that the cooperator’s employer acknowledges and approves the participation of the cooperator in the project.

  6. Contracting protocols stipulate that the technical merit of the proposal is verified for appropriate expertise, methodology and cost. This is done by the federal representative or the agency contracting officer. Some agencies do not require this technical review of the proposal. A generic Technical Review is available in the SA-CESU File Drawer

  7. Your agency may require additional federal forms with the proposal from the cooperator, such as an SF-424 (Word) (PDF). Ask your CESU federal representative or agency contracting officer for the correct forms needed and supply them to your cooperator.

  8. Your contracting officer then processes a Task Order or Modification to the SA-CESU Agreement utilizing the Purchase Request and the signed proposal. The contracting officer awards the partner, obligates the funding and distributes the Task Order. A COTR is designated as well.

  9. Once the cooperator receives official documentation of the award, the project can begin.

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