Video Transcript: Funding Opportunities for Publicly Funded Crime Labs, Fiscal Year 2017

This webinar will inform the audience of the changes to three programs available for publicly funded forensic laboratories and introduce a new program for FY 2017. Changes to existing programs will be highlighted and presenters will discuss the background and goals of the solicitations, recommendations for successful applications, application expectations and requirements, the review process, and the application checklist. There will also be time for questions and answers at the end of the webinar.

Solicitations discussed include:

Speaking in this video:

  • Frances Scott, Ph.D., Physical Scientist
  • Luther Schaeffer, Physical Scientist
  • Mary Jo Giovacchini, National Criminal Justice Reference Services

Transcript

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to today’s webinar. NIJ FY 2017 Funding Opportunities for Publicly Funded Crime Labs hosted by the National Institute of Justice.

So, at this time, I am going to turn it over and I would like to introduce Frances Scott, Physical Scientist at NIJ, and Luther Schaeffer, Physical Scientist at NIJ.

FRANCES SCOTT: Today, we’ll be discussing five funding opportunities available this fiscal year through the NIJ.These are:

  • the Research and Evaluation for the Testing and Interpretation of Physical Evidence in Publicly Funded Forensic Laboratories
  • the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants Program
  • both Formula and Competitive, the DNA Capacity Enhancement and Backlog Reduction Program
  • the Forensic DNA Laboratory Efficiency Improvement and Capacity Enhancement Program.

The first program I’d like to talk to you about is the Research and Evaluation for the Testing and Interpretation of Physical Evidence in Publicly Funded Forensic Laboratories. This solicitation posted on December 29th and will close on February 27th, 2017. In this portion of the webinar, we’ll be going over the following, the background and purpose of the solicitation, its goal, application, expectations, and requirements, the review process, and the application checklist.

Many of you may be familiar with the Research and Development in Forensic Science for Criminal Justice Purposes Solicitation. This solicitation focuses on research into, among other things, emerging methods and instrumentation for eventual use in Forensic Science. The current solicitation differs from that--from that solicitation in that the focus is on the current processes for handling physical evidence in actual forensic laboratories. This solicitation is specifically targeted for you, the forensic science practitioner.

This is the third year of this solicitation and it underwent significant revisions last year. Over the past two years of funded awards, over 30% of applications have been selected for award. This is an almost 10% higher funding rate than the traditional R and D solicitation. This solicitation offers a venue for varied applied proposals that may not fare as well in the traditional R and D applicant pool. This solicitation is intended to improve the testing and processing of physical evidence. This is research into the process of the testing, not necessarily the underlying science of the testing. Applications should address an issue in the operation of a forensic science laboratory.

The most recent publicly available forensic science operational needs as discussed by our technology working group may be found on nij.gov and are linked in the solicitation. The current posted needs are from our Fall 2016 meeting. You may find these needs useful in preparing your application. However, you may also identify and address a need not currently captured.

There are two goals for this solicitation and applicants must address one of these goals.

The first goal seeks to improve existing laboratory processes through scientific research and development. Improvements could be to efficiency, through time or cost savings, or reliability. For example, an applicant could determine what acceptance criteria from a spectra or IR would result in an acceptable rate of accuracy, or research the best schema to use for routine drug screening. The results of such research could benefit the entire community.

The second goal seeks to compare emerging methods with existing laboratory practices, again, to determine if the emerging methods improve reliability, efficiency, or cost savings. This could benefit other labs who could then make an informed decision as to whether to commit to a new instrument or method.

I know there were several registration questions you may have elected to answer regarding what types of NIJ funding you have applied for within the last five years.

We now have another polling question. For those who have not applied for research funding in the past, I would like to--you to answer the polling question that I hope is being presented or is going to be shortly presented, which is, what is the biggest reason you have not applied for funding?

We understand there are challenges to conducting research in Public Labs. The primary mission of publicly-funded forensic laboratories is processing case work. We are aware that few such labs have dedicated research divisions. In addition, to avoid supplanting existing lab personnel generally must perform research work in overtime. But, forensic lab practitioners are in the best position to know the problems facing them in their processes.

A few highlights from this solicitation. A post-doctoral fellow is recommended, but any scientist with a strong research background, who does not have a casework requirement, would be appropriate. This also provides one avenue to address the NCFS recommendation that post-doctoral projects be funded to facilitate translation of research into forensic science practice. For example, a well-mentored student either graduate or under-graduate, or an experienced scientist returning to the lab on a part-time basis could perform the majority of the research work reducing the possibility of delay due to existing personnel’s time being taken up by the ever increasing caseloads we know many of you face. This recommendation was first introduced last year and two-thirds of the awards made last year included a post-doctoral fellow.

A second recommendation is regarding case sample. In order to provide strong, translatable research, every effort should be made to validate the research by using actual casework samples. If this is not possible, proposals should include a detailed description of how realistic samples will be generated.

And now a word about what will not be funded. As noted in the solicitation, proposals primarily to purchase equipment, materials, software, or supplies, or to contract or purchase training, validation, or other services that will complete the majority of the proposed research project will not be funded. However, the purchase of equipment is not summarily prohibited. A budget may include these items if they are necessary to conduct research, development, demonstration, evaluation, or analysis. The purchase--if the proposal makes a good case that, for example, the purchase of an emerging piece of instrumentation will allow the applicant to perform comprehensive comparison of this instrumental method to existing methods, and disseminate the results of this evaluation to the community at large such that their purchases and policies could be impacted, the purchase of such equipment might be considered allowable. On the other hand, if the proposal is for effectively a pass-through, requesting that an outside vendor perform validation of an existing piece of instrumentation where the purchase request is not contained with the--within the framework of a strong research proposal, the proposal would likely be deemed unresponsive to the solicitation under the “what will not be funded item” reference.

What are the expected deliverables for awards under this solicitation? NIJ expects that scholarly products such as peer-reviewed journal articles and presentations at appropriate scientific conferences will result from awards under this solicitation. NIJ hopes that by funding research within public forensic labs, other labs may benefit immediately from this very concrete, translatable research in their own processes. The strength of this research lies in disseminating the results to the forensic science community at large.

What should an application include? There are five basic minimum requirements. They are the program narrative, the budget detail worksheet, the budget narrative, proof of Forensic Laboratory Accreditation, and CVs of key personnel. If any of these elements is missing, a proposal will not move on to peer-review. Please see the solicitation for guidance and details on each of these items. There are other attachments that should be included with an application such as the SF-424, project abstract, and human subjects and privacy documentation which is required for all research projects whether human subjects are involved or not. While these are not critical elements, failure to include these items may result in a less favorable review or delay in releasing funds if rewarded. Please carefully review the “what an application should include” section when preparing your application.

MAN: [INDISTINCT]

FRANCES SCOTT: Let’s talk a little more about the review process.

After the solicitation closes, all applications will receive a preliminary review. Applications will be evaluated to determine if they have been submitted by an eligible type of applicant, whether they are responsive to the scope of the solicitation, and whether the five basic minimum required elements have been included.

All applications that passed the preliminary review will be reviewed by three external peer-reviewers with both practitioner and researcher experience. This will include both an individual review and a consensus review during which the three reviewers will discuss the merits and limitations of each proposal.

Applications are also internally reviewed by NIJ scientific staff and leadership, and all funding decisions are ultimately at the discretion of the NIJ Director.

As you can see, proposals are evaluated according to six criteria, each of which carries a different weight based on its importance. These criteria are the Statement of the Problem which has a weight of 10%, the Project Design and Implementation which, as the most important element, has a weight of 50%, the Potential Impact at 20%, Capabilities and Competencies at 20%, and Budget, and Plan for Dissemination to Broader Audiences. You’ll notice that the budget and plan for dissemination to broader audiences are unscored elements. While do they not factor into the total overall score, reviewers will comment on these elements and these items will be considered when making funding recommendation.

The application checklist can be found on pages 36 and 37 of the solicitation. Please carefully review the checklist when preparing your application.

As a reminder, if you have submitted questions, we will answer them during the Q and A section at the end of this webinar, but please feel free to continue to submit them as they come up in your head and we will answer them all at the end.

Now, I’d like to turn it over to Luther Schaeffer to discuss the funding opportunities in DNA available this year.

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: Is this a [INDISTINCT] question? Hello, everyone. My name is Luther. I’m going to be discussing with you the DNA Programs that we have, both Capacity Enhancement Backlog Reduction and the Efficiency Improvement and Capacity Enhancement Program which is new for this--new for this year.

Overview of what we’re going to be discussing today, the CEBR Program. We’re going to discuss its background and goals, any changes and notes to the 2017 Solicitation, and we’ll review the application requirements. Many of you are familiar with the solicitation, and so we don’t expect anything to jump out at you. What we are going to be going over in more detail is the EICE Program. And that’s, again, that’s the Efficiency Improvement and Capacity Enhancement Program. We’ll go over its background and goals, an overview of the purpose areas of which there are four, and the applications requirements, as well as the review process because this is going to be a competitive solicitation. And then, after all of that, we’ll end up going through a couple recommendations for your applications to either or both of these programs.

The first program that we’re going to go over is the CEBR Program. This solicitation was posted on the 11th of January and--which was yesterday, and it will end up closing on March 13th of this year. The background of this is it’s been running in its current form since the Fiscal Year of 2011. Although similar solicitations have been held since 20--I mean, 2004 all the way through 2010.

This solicitation is a formula solicitation, which means the funds are given out to States by a set formula which is derived from the part one violent crimes reported, the part one property crimes reported, and the overall population of the state as of your last census. The minimum aggregate that will be awarded to each state awarding authority is $150,000. The total awarded to the state is then divided at the state’s discretion amongst the eligible crime labs, state and city county, et cetera.

The goals of this solicitation are to assist state and local governments with existing crime labs, DNA crime labs to increase the capacity of forensic and database labs and to direct--for direct analysis of forensic DNA and DNA database samples, to increase your sample throughput, to decrease your sample turnaround time, or reduce the overall number of forensic DNA and DNA database samples that are awaiting analysis.

For the allowable expenses, there is one change of note which is the change from five percent to an eight percent cap on training and travel. You should understand though is that we will be looking more closely at this than we have in the past, and that although AAFS, Promega, and other conferences have been approved, they do--are not considered as training program and that you should consider the number of people attending, and keep your costs reasonable.

There have been no changes in the non-permitted expenses since last year. However, we’d like you to take note that Rapid DNA technology is approved for a limited use in labs. So, please make sure to read up on this and this--if you’re thinking about requesting Rapid DNA equipment for funds, for personnel, or supplies to validate the equipment for your award--on your award. The purchase of the equipment of technologies that haven’t been approved for use by NDIS includes the Rapid DNA instrumentation and proposing to be used in any way that’s not compatible with the FBI’s addendum to the QAS for Rapid DNA Analysis.

One thing of note is the last bullet point on the expenses that aren’t permitted is that you cannot use this to fund work that is funded under another federal award. It’s not meant to be a supplement to any other federal award program.

And your application requirements for this program are your SF-424, your project abstract, please keep it between 250 and 400 words. I’d like you to please take care in the preparation of your project abstract, these blurbs may be shared with the general public, and they describe the details of your particular project, and they should be pretty well-polished. Your program narrative which include your eligibility statements, as well as your Baseline Backlog Data, budget detail worksheets and your narrative, as well as the following attachments which is the applicant disclosure for high-risk status, the Proof of Forensic Lab Accreditation, Certification of Non-supplanting, declaration that the Lab Charges a Fee for DNA Testing Services, and the applicant disclosure of pending application.

I would like to also note that this solicitation is posted for--through Grants Management System, GMS, as was in years previous. And the reason I am making you aware of that is because the next program that we’re going to be discussing is posted on grants.gov.

We’re going to change our discussion over to the EICE Program. This was also posted yesterday, January 11th and it will close also on March 13th, 2017. And this is a new program. The funds going to--are going to be awarded through a competitive process. This was originally--this solicitation came about after discussions with community and some regional labs, the city and county labs that conveys that they weren’t able to obtain enough funding through their state and the CEBR Program to do full projects or purchases full piece of equipment. They were looking for a way to apply for a larger amount of fund and this is the result. This will allow all eligible labs to apply for projects up to $750,000.

And the eligibility is the same as the Capacity Enhancement Backlog Reduction Program. Your lab must be accredited, has to participate in NDIS directly or through an agreement through another lab. And it must perform external audits as per QAS established by the FBI.

Joint applications will be accepted, however, only one eligible entity is allowed to be the applicant.

And if you are applying under Purpose Area 2, which we will discuss a little--a little bit later in this presentation, a 25% match is an eligibility requirement.

The goals of the solicitation is the program has two main objectives. And you’ll notice that the first objective includes other forensic evidence, this is not a typo. Under this solicitation, an applicant can request funds for projects that include efficiency improvements in non-DNA sections that will ultimately result in decrease DNA turnaround times or increased capacity for DNA evidence analysis. What is meant by other forensic evidence will be clarified a couple of slides later.

The other objective is to decrease your turnaround time process to process and analyze DNA evidence.

The overview of the program. Projects must align with one of four purpose areas. And to put them simply, they are Multidisciplinary Analysis of Evidence, Building and Improving of Laboratory Infrastructure, and once again, this is the one that requires the 25--at least the 25% match, and Implementation and Validation of Process Efficiency Projects, and the fourth purpose area is Special Projects. This is just a catchall and we will discuss this once--in a little bit further down the line.

Applicants may and/or encouraged to submit multiple applications, but you can only submit one per purpose area. And you must clearly denote which purpose area your application pertains to. So, with that, let’s discuss your purpose areas.

The first purpose area, the Multidisciplinary Analysis of Evidence. The overall objective of this area is to assist labs with completing entire cases that involve requests for analysis in DNA and at least one other forensic section. Some project examples are request for equipment in a non-DNA discipline with a demountable goal of decreasing DNA turnaround time. Hiring additional personnel over time or supplied to complete non-DNA analysis on cases that also include DNA analysis request and request for equipment that will allow non-DNA analysis be less destructive to biological material and thus provide higher quality results for DNA analysis.

Purpose Area 2 is the Building and Improving Laboratory Infrastructure. The objective is to allow agencies to incorporate new technologies or expand their operations by providing assistance to build or improve both physical or--and/or IT infrastructure. The major stipulation of this purpose area is that proposals submitted under this area must have a 25% match minimum. If you wish to include a cash match higher than 25%, it will be looked upon more favorably in the application review. The cash match is to ensure an agency buy in to the project. So, a LIMS system for example or Capital Improvement Project doesn’t simply get implemented without any support or maintenance by the applicant’s agency. The max award per solicitation is $750K and it’s subject to availability of funds. Some examples of projects would be the construction or renovation of facilities designed to increase the capacity of the DNA unit, implementation of a LIMS or other record case management system, or renovation or installation of an evidence storage facility to aid in evidence tracking.

Purpose Area 3 is the Implementation and Validation of Process Efficiency Project. This is to allow agencies to implement process improvements as recognized by process efficiency studies. The purpose area isn’t designed to research the potential improvements. If you want to research these improvements, please submit your application to, as we discussed prior, the Research and Evaluation for Publicly Funded Laboratories. This purpose area will either fund a process improvement or efficiency study, or it will allow a lab to purchase and implement a technology and process needed to improve DNA turnaround time and throughput. Project examples are creation of a second or third shift in forensic labs, contract with an outside vendor to perform a process improvement or efficiency study, or implementation of DNA technology and equipment that will increase capacity and efficiency in the forensic DNA process, implementation of a technology or equipment that will increase capacity in a non-DNA forensic analysis.

And now, we’re on to the fourth purpose area. This is the Special Projects. This is a catchall for the odd bits that don’t fit neatly into the previous three purpose areas. Some specific examples I can give you are the implementation of a new DNA technology designed to increase the amount of genetic information obtained from compromised samples, human remains, or previously tested samples with inconclusive results, or identification and remedy of gaps and lawfully owned DNA database sample, or the preparation of a database lab as needed for enactment of expanded DNA database legislation.

And now, we’ll go on to what will not be funded. Applications that do not clearly identify with one of the four purposes areas, applications for assistance in non-DNA disciplines that do not demonstrate how the project will positively impact the turnaround time capacity or quality of DNA analysis, application for the sole purpose of analyzing casework samples in non-DNA disciplines without DNA analysis request that do not provide a justification that includes in stated benefits for capacity enhancements or turnaround time improvements in the DNA unit.

I’d encourage you to please see the solicitation for more information if you have any questions about these, and I will harp on this quite a few times, please read these solicitations thoroughly before drafting your application.

Specific expenses that aren’t allowed are listed in solicitation. Work that is funded under another federal award. Once again, this will not be funded. This is not a supplementary grant, co-mingling of funds between programs or project to project are unacceptable. Application submitted under this program, they must be separate and distinct from projects awarded under any other capacity enhancement program, or public lab, or any program project.

Special note on the Performance Measures. The solicitation contains DNA-specific performance measures. If awarded, recipients will be required to submit the performance measure for their own program. If your project has a main focus outside the DNA section, these metrics will be provided to NIJ with every semi-annual report. For more information, please see the solicitation.

Your Application Requirements. Your Basic Minimum Requirements, the BMR, are the following, you must include your program narrative, your budget detail worksheet, and your budget narrative, and the following Appendices and Attachments which is the Proof of Forensic Lab Accreditation and CVs of key personnel on the project. Other application requirements are your SF-424, the project abstract, and once again, please have these polished, this is what could be sent out to the general public, and people read them, and are--may generate interest in your project. The following Appendices and Attachments, the disclosure of high-risk status, certification of non-supplanting, disclosure of pending applications, and list of key personnel.

How these applications are going to be reviewed? There will be first an internal scan for your BMR requirements. Those of you who do not meet these BMR will be eliminated. They will then move into external review by appropriate peer reviewers. There will be three reviewers per application. And it will then move on to internal review by NIJ, and all funding decisions made will be at the discretion of the NIJ Director.

The following are Selection Criteria, Statement of the Problem, Description of the Issue are--accounts for 10% of the overall score, Project Design and Implementation is 40%, Expected Outcomes and Potential Impact 25%, Capabilities and Competencies 15%, Plan for Collecting the Data Required for this Solicitation’s Performance Measures 10%, and your Budget is unscored. That doesn’t mean that it’s not looked at. The budget will be taken into account by the program managers and the peer reviewers when they look for allowability, reasonableness, and overall value.

Recommendations for the General DNA. For both programs, please read these solicitations. Both of them should be read if you intend to apply. And once again keep in mind, if you do apply to both solicitations you must have distinct projects. They are not to be co-mingled and they are to be standalone.

A few notes for the Capacity Enhancement Backlog Reduction Program. Two things to think about is consider how--if your lab can increase your DNA efficiency and capacity while reducing your backlog, or simply using your CEBR program funds for the specific goal of capacity enhancement.

And for the Efficiency Improvement and Capacity Enhancement Program, please read the solicitation because it’s a new one, it’s competitive, so everything is going to be looked over more carefully. I’d like you to think about a project that could increase the overall efficiency and capacity of your lab, and that will positively impact your DNA analysis. And then, finally consider how it is different from you CEBR Project, Coverdell Project, or your public labs project. And with that, I would like to once again turn it over to Frances Scott.

FRANCES SCOTT: Thanks, Luther.

The final presentation within this webinar, we’ll discuss the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Program.

As before, we’ll discuss the purpose of these solicitations, changes to them, application expectations and requirements, the review process, and the application checklist.

Also, I just wanted to note that these solicitations, plural posted on the 10th, Tuesday, and they will close on March 10th, 2017.

This solicitation is intended to provide funds to address six purposes. Three of these purposes are new this year. The first is to improve the quality and timeliness of forensic science and medical examiner, coroner’s office services to eliminate a backlog in the analysis of forensic science evidence. Specifically called out for the first time this year are the disciplines of impression evidence, digital evidence, and prior evidence. To train, assist, and employ forensic laboratory personnel to eliminate backlog. And the three new purposes this year which are to address emerging forensic science issues such as statistics, contextual bias, and uncertainty of measurements, and emerging forensic science technology such as high throughput automation, statistical software, and new types of instrumentation. To educate and train forensic pathologists, and to fund medicolegal death investigation systems to facilitate accreditation of medical examiner and coroner offices, and certification of medicolegal death investigators.

Some significant changes to this solicitation are as a results of the newly enrolled Justice For All Act reauthorization bill. For example, the three new purpose areas just mentioned are from this bill. In addition, the bill requires a new split of funds between formula and competitive. Previously, formula funds accounted for 75% of available funds and competitive for 25%. Now, formula funds will account for 85% of available funds and competitive awards will make up 15% of the available funds. In addition, the bill enacts a new minimum award amount. Previously, the minimum amount awarded to a state was 0.6% of the available funds. Under the new bill, this amount is increased to one percent of available funds.

Finally, there is a new certification required. In previous years, four certifications have been required. The new bill adds a fifth regarding forensic science laboratory accreditation. This certification requires each applicant to submit a certification that any forensic science laboratory system in the state, including any laboratory operated by a unit of local government within the state, that will receive any portion of the grant amount, whether directly or through a sub-grant, either is accredited or is not so accredited but will or will be required any legally binding and enforceable writing to use a portion of the grant amount to prepare and apply for such accreditation not more than two years after the date on which a grant is awarded under the FY 2017 Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants Program. So to sum up, you either must be accredited, and that goes for every lab that is going to receive any of these moneys, or you have to assert in a legally binding and enforceable way that you will use funds to seek certification within two years.

Other changes to the program have been implemented this year to eliminate any possible errors during submission and ease the internal and peer review processes. Most importantly, the program has been split into two solicitations, one for the formula funds and one for the competitive award. Please note that submission to these solicitations is through two different systems.

Application for the formula portion will be made through the Grants Management System or GMS, as usual. As a reminder, only states are eligible to apply for this funding though they are asked to consider the needs of all laboratories within their state when preparing their application.

Applications for competitive funds by both states and units of local government will be through Grants.gov.

Detailed information about how to apply for each can be found in their respective solicitations.

What should an application include? For competitive applications, there are four critical elements or basic minimum requirements. These are the program narrative, the budget detail worksheet, budget narrative, and the five Coverdell Statutory certifications. An applicant may combine the budget narrative and the budget detail worksheet in one document. However, if an applicant submits only one document, it must contain both narrative and detailed information. This is an area where some applicants stumble, so please carefully review the solicitation to ensure you are meeting the requirements for these elements. In addition, there are other items that should be included in an application, such as an SF-424, a project abstract, proof of forensic laboratory accreditation if applicable, et cetera. While failure to include these elements may not exclude an application from further review, it may negatively impact the review or cause delays in the release of funds if a project is selected for funding.

Please carefully review the solicitation to determine you have included all elements that an application should include.

As previously noted, there are five required Coverdell certifications. They are Certification as to Plan for Forensic Science Laboratories, either Application from a State or Application from a Unit of Local Government, the Certification as to Generally Accepted Laboratory Practices and Procedures, the new Certification as to Forensic Science Laboratory System Accreditation, the Certification as to Use of Funds for New Facilities, and the Certification as to External Investigations. Applicants sometimes think that they should only include the certifications relevant to the project they propose. For example, they might think they do not have to include the Certification as to Use of Funds for New Facilities if they do not plan on building or renovating facilities. This is not correct. If any of the five certifications are not included, an application will unfortunately not proceed to further review.

A note on the External Investigations Attachment, please remember that all applicants are to provide the name or names of the existing government entity or entities that is the subject of the certification. Please make sure to use the template included in the solicitation and fill out all portions to avoid an unnecessary delay.

What expenses are allowable under this program? Personnel, computer equipment, laboratory equipment, supplies/consumables, accreditation expenses, education, training, and certification, facilities, and administrative expenses with a few caveats.

There are four items specifically called out that will not be funded. These include expenses other than those listed above including expenses for general law enforcement functions or non-forensic investigatory functions, cost for any new facility that exceeds the limits described in the solicitation, recipient administrative expenses either direct or indirect that exceed 10% of the total grant amount, and the last item which has been added since last year’s solicitation, the use of funds for the purchase and/or lease of vehicles, such as crime scene vans.

For applicants to the Formula solicitation, states that satisfy the specific requirements outlined in the Formula solicitation may expect to be awarded base funds determined in accordance with the Coverdell Law.

Competitive applications will undergo the following review process. First a preliminary review will be done checking that each application is submitted by an eligible type of applicant, responsive to the scope of the solicitation, and includes the four critical elements, again, program narrative, budget detail worksheet, budget narrative, and all five Coverdell Statutory certifications.

Those applications that pass the preliminary review will undergo external review by a Standing Review Panel. Two reviewers per application will independently review each application followed by an in-person SRP meeting to discuss each application.

Applications will also be given an internal review by NIJ scientific staff and leadership, and all funding decisions are at the discretion of the Assistant Attorney General for OJP.

External peer reviewers will review competitive applications based on the following criteria which are weighted based on the importance of the item. They are Description of the Issue, 15%, Project Design and Implementation 15%, Capabilities and Competencies, 10%, Budget, 25%, Impact/Outcomes and Evaluations, 30%, and Other, which is the Discussion of the Part I Violent Crime Data at five percent. Please review the solicitations for detailed information regarding each criterion.

Finally, the Application Checklist is found on pages 38 and 39 of the competitive solicitation. Please review the checklist carefully when preparing your application.

And now we will open the floor for the Question and Answer portion of the webinar. Please remember to submit your question via the Q&A panel, not the chat, and make sure it is directed to all. Also, if you have additional questions after the Webinar, please contact NCJRS using the contact information here. And with that, I will give the floor to Mary Jo so that we can begin with the question.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: I’m going to start with a general answer to a couple of questions that we’ve received. The slides, the recorded Webinar, as well as the transcript will be available and posted to the NIJ website, Nij.gov, in approximately 10 business days. Everyone that registered for the event will receive an email with this information and the email will contain direct link to each item that I mentioned. So now we’ll begin with the other questions that we received.

Mary JO GIOVACCHINI: To CEBR, can DNA labs apply for funds on a national level rather than a state level? Particularly labs serving nationwide agencies whose local and--whose local and state level labs do not provide the needed services, STR, mtDNA, for unidentified remains and missing persons.

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: For CEBR solicitation, the total allocated to the states will be divided up amongst the eligible regional labs. Each regional lab will then directly--or, well, apply directly to NIJ for their portion of the state fund. And the EI-CE solicitation, all eligible laboratories can apply directly to NIJ for awards up to the maximum allowed by the solicitation which is $750,000.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Will the testing of facts still be allowed under CEBR Grant if we are also a SAK-DANY site?

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: Yes, as long as the funds are kept separate. You--once again, you can’t commingle your funds amongst programs or awards.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Can you please confirm whether outsourcing DNA casework to a vendor lab can be handled with a procurement contract or if it’s now considered a sub-award based on a discussion under information on proposed sub-award in the FY2017 CEBR solicitation?

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: I’m going to ask that you please submit this questions through NCJRS after the webinar. We need to gather more information on your topic.

FRANCES SCOTT: It looks like there’s a question, “Can your laboratory submit more than one application for research and evaluation?” Yes, you can submit more than one application as long as they’re independent proposals, you may submit as many--I’m guessing this is related to the first solicitation, the Research and Evaluation for Publicly Funded Labs. Yes, you submit as many independent applications as you wish.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Can a catch--cash match be with salary or does it have to be in the purchase of an item? Sorry, I’m new to cat--cash matches.

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: More information on cash matches can be found on the OJP Financial Guide and in the solicitation on page 16. As per the solicitation, an applicant must identify the source of the minimum 25% non-federal portion of the total project cost and how it will use match funds. Recipients must satisfy this match requirement with cash only.

If you still have questions, please submit your question through the NCJRS.

I’d like to take one second to clarify something that was also brought up regarding the declaration that the lab charges a fee, we just want to make note that it’s whether or not your lab charges a fee, it’s a declaration of whether or not your lab charges a fee and it’s required even if your lab doesn’t charge. I just want to make sure that was clarified as I had stipulated on one of the slides.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Another specific question, “If a new instrument is need to deal with the expanded loci requirement, will the proposal fall under Area 2 or Area 4 since it’s am increasing capacity of an improved DNA technology?”

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: We’re unable to answer the scopes specific questions during this Webinar. However, once you read through the solicitation, you’ll most likely find the answer to your question. If you still have concerns, please submit them through NCJRS. Thanks.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: How can we obtain a solicitation for DNA Capacity Enhancement and Backlog Reduction Program? GMS has the action to apply online, but how do I print the solicitation? That could--that can be obtained through the nij.gov website. If you go to that website, click on the Funding tab and Current Funding, you’ll see links to all the available solicitations. And…

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: What time are--is the question from? Just so we can find it.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: That…

FRANCES SCOTT: That question?

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Yes. That was at 2:04 P.M.

Every--why the increase in funding to the Formula program versus the Competitive program for the Coverdell Grant?

FRANCES SCOTT: Because that is how congress enacted the bill. We have no control over that. That’s the statutory--what was set by statue.

Mary Jo, there’s a few questions that are over here that were not directed to…

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Yeah, I don’t…

FRANCES SCOTT: Can I just read…

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Yes. Just a reminder, when you’re submitting your questions, if you could please submit them to all presenters? That way, everybody can see what’s coming through,

FRANCES SCOTT: One question was, to review the scoring percentage again, again since there are different scoring percentages for each of the solicitation, I would ask that you review the scoring percentages. They are in each of the solicitations.

It was mentioned that for DNA, EI, and CE grants that applicants must propose their own project-specific performance measures. Is this the case for all projects areas?

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: Yes.

FRANCES SCOTT: So yes seems to be the answer. If the--right.

Is outsourcing backlogs and allowable expense under the Coverdell Competitive Program? Yes. Please review the solicitation, but yes.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Is one single applicant permitted to submit multiple applications under the current Coverdell Competitive Program?

FRANCES SCOTT: Yes, however only one award will be made to each agency under the Coverdell Competitive Program. That means if you submit multiple applications, you are in effect competing against yourself.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: I work in an ME Office. We outsource our DNA cases to be analyzed and there has a -- there was a huge backlog. We are not a laboratory and we do not perform the testing ourselves. Do we qualify for applying for the DNA-related grant to reduce the outsource backlog?

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: If you could please submit this question through NCJRS. Thank you.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Will extensions be granted for the CEBR Grants for FY2016 and FY2017?

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: This is a post-award question. Please contact your grants manager if it becomes necessary.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: If a laboratory does not conduct DNA analysis that handles evidence that will be sent to a DNA lab, can they apply for funding to expedite the analysis of evidence?

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: Please review the solicitation for eligibility requirements. If you’re still not clear, please submit your question through NCJRS.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Our department is trying to decide if we are eligible applicants for equipment and training through the Coverdell. We have a crime scene lab, but not a forensic. We are an accredited agency.

FRANCES SCOTT: As long as you are able to make all five certifications appropriately, then you should be an eligible applicant. However, please review the solicitation carefully, and if you still have questions about your eligibility, please submit that specific question through NCJRS and we’ll be able to get you a more focused answer.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: If a state is applying for only the noncompetitive Coverdell funds, do they still have to apply for the--for the base fund amount or can they apply for the one percent minimum for small population states?

FRANCES SCOTT: So as you know, I’m guessing this is someone who has been in the situation before, you can apply for the one percent minimum if you are a small population state and you know that you are not applying for a competitive fund. However, as you know, there is usually some changing that happens, but yes, I agree, that would get you closer to your final award amount then applying for the base fund amount.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Why did NIJ elect to make all the closed dates of the application so close together?

FRANCES SCOTT: That’s a great question. Because we wanted to make this webinar as efficient as possible, and we wanted to give you all of the funding opportunities that are available to you at the publicly-funded lab, and unfortunately, we had to have all of the solicitations out before we could give you a webinar on them so that has resulted in several of them being very close together both in posting and then the close date is then set within our leadership of how long we’re allowed to keep them open.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Can you address the types of training allowed with CEBR and those that are not?

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: Generally, allowed trainings are ones that are for the forensic biology and DNA personnel, and that directly impact their ability to work in your lab. For more specific questions, please talk to your grant manager or submit your question through NCJRS.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: How does the research and development solicitation differ from the testing and evaluation solicitation?

FRANCES SCOTT: So I think you’re talking about the Research and Development for Criminal Justice Purposes, and the research, this one that we talked about today, Research and Evaluation for the Testing and Processing of Physical Evidence in Publicly-Funded Laboratories. The R and D solicitation is broader. It is open to many more eligible entities. In fact, we had a webinar on that yesterday in which we discussed the fact that 70% of our awards under that solicitation are made to academic institutions. This, on the other hand, is directed only to publicly-funded forensic laboratories, so it means that you’ve got a smaller pool that you’re fishing in. As well as I mentioned in the beginning of that portion of the webinar, this solicitation is specifically looking at how we process physical evidence. It is not intended for basic science-type questions, it’s not even really intended for applied science questions per se. It is more directed at very specifically looking at the ways in which you currently process physical evidence and see what improvements might be made to those processes.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Historically, states have submitted applications for all agencies for the Coverdell Competitive Grant. Should each agency within the state now apply separately?

FRANCES SCOTT: So that is a function of how each state chooses to do their competitive award. A state may still apply for the Coverdell Competitive Award and they may apply for all of their agencies. However, this now would allow a state agency to apply separately. The SAA still must submit the application if it is a state agency, but if it is a local agency they may apply directly. If that doesn’t answer your question, please submit your question to NCJRS so that we can get the details of it and give you a more precise answer.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Will the testing of SAKs still be allowed under CEBR Grant if we are also an S--SAKI-DANY site? We already--yeah, we already addressed this question.

Will the new EI-CI solicitation have a two-year timeframe and would the grant start on January and end in December versus the old federal budget fiscal year October through September?

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: Once again, please refer to the solicitation and read it thoroughly. These will be 36 months period of performance and it will begin in January of 2018.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: If personnel hire using grant moneys, can the award cover more than one year of salary?

FRANCES SCOTT: So it depends on which solicitation you’re referring to. Coverdell has a one-year in period of performance. I’m looking at my DNA CEBR has a two-year period of performance. EI-CE…

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: It is three years.

FRANCES SCOTT: …is up to three years and the research and evaluation is whatever appropriate time necessary to conduct the research and evaluation.

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: And once again--oh, I guess it shouldn’t have…

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Will there be any extensions allowable for EI and CI programs?

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: Once again, please, this is a post-award question. If it becomes necessary, you can talk to your grant manager when the time is appropriate.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Let me just check and see if we have any questions floating around that I’ve missed.

FRANCES SCOTT: We have a new one. Are winning applications available for viewing?

FRANCES SCOTT: The application is not. However, the abstract are made public on nij.gov. Also, as Luther mentioned several times, if you are awarded, your abstract is used for a variety of purposes, including a report to congress. So, please do make sure that you write those abstracts with an eye to them being publicly facing.

FRANCES SCOTT: If a local agency gets a Coverdell Competitive Award, does that affect the amount of the maximum amount the state can apply for under the formula grant? No. If the local agency is the entity that receives the competitive award, that does not impact the maximum amount the state can apply for. So, if Fairfax County here in Virginia--in Virginia applies, that does not impact how the State of Virginia’s minimum--maximum amount is determined.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: One moment, please.

FRANCES SCOTT: Can you read the question?

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Uh-oh. Where is it? Will testing of the facts be allowable under the CEBR Grant if we’re also a SAKI-DANY site?

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: And the answer is yes, as long as your funds are kept separate, you cannot commingle your funds amongst programs.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: All right. I think there’s some of that that just popped up. Okay. Let me see the chat box. [INDISTINCT] if you’re asking questions in the chat box, can you please resubmit them to the Q&A panel?

FRANCES SCOTT: Can a local unit of government apply for the Coverdell…

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: The Science Improvement Grant.

FRANCES SCOTT: Thank you. I’ve never seen FSiGP before.

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: Neither have I. I love it.

FRANCES SCOTT: If the latent print department is not housed in the crime lab? That’s a fairly detailed question. I would advise you to review the solicitation carefully, and if you still have a question about whether you’re eligible, please do submit that to NCJRS where we can give that question a little more consideration. We’re just looking in the chat box to see if there are questions that have been…

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: There’s one in the box.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Yes.

FRANCES SCOTT: Did we answer, do we have to use the PDF budget document for our applications? It is not as user-friendly as the Excel version previously used.

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: NIJ encourages applicants to use OMB’s PDF budget document as previously [INDISTINCT] Excel budget document will not be accepted. You can make your own Excel budget worksheet as long as it covers all of the same categories as the PDF-sample budget document. Please review the solicitation for more information and if you do have any questions.

FRANCES SCOTT: Another question is in reference to medicolegal training for corners. Will the guidelines set by DOJ/ABMDI be used as the standard for training? Will this be covered by this grant? Please hold on one second. So those will not be used as a standard for training and training is covered by this grant.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: There’s another question. Can money be used for training if that training spans two years i.e. October to March?

FRANCES SCOTT: For which solicitation is this in reference?

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: The individual that asked that question, if you would like to identify the specific solicitation that you’re referring to, we will hopefully get you an answer.

FRANCES SCOTT: Are there any requirements for the SAA to include local agencies for the Formula Coverdell? We are the only local government lab and have been told that we are unable to apply for the Formula Grant. We encourage the states to--and as I mentioned in the webinar and as in the solicitation, we encourage states to consider the needs of all labs within their state with submitting the Formula Coverdell application. However, we have no authority to require them to do so, so unfortunately that is up to your SAA.

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: We got an answer on the previous question, which is Coverdell.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: The--yeah, the solicitation will be for the Coverdell Grant.

FRANCES SCOTT: So Coverdell Awards, as directed in the solicitation, are to begin on January 1st. We understand that this is the change. However, that change was made last year and so awards are for one year from January 1st to December 31st of 2018.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: And we addressed the question about the training, right?

FRANCES SCOTT: Yes. The medicolegal training.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: No, the [INDISTINCT] for two years.

FRANCES SCOTT: that was just one that she was just asking about.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Oh, that’s right. Sorry.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: At that time--at this time, it appears that we do not have any outstanding questions that have not…

FRANCES SCOTT: There’s one in the chat. Will all questions and answers be available for later review? If so, which website?

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Everything will be available on NIJ website. The questions and answers will not be available as a separate document. However, there will be a transcript, so you can look at the transcript and you’ll be able to see each question as they came through as well as the answers that were given.

FRANCES SCOTT: And one more. Will medicolegal death investigators not proficiency-tested be counted toward--it looks like that question got cut off, so the participant who asked that question could resubmit it.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: The--while we’re waiting for that one to come through, there’s another question. If our state JRS has always handled the dissemination of Grant Coverdell, will they continue to do that like the past--in the past?

FRANCES SCOTT: I’m not sure--when you say the dissemination. If you mean the application for the Coverdell Grant, that is within your state. It is still the state SAA. If that’s JRS for you, then that’s who should be applying on behalf of the state. If you are a local lab, then you’re eligible to either have your SAA apply for you through the competitive or to--for you to apply directly for Competitive funds.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Is [INDISTINCT] allowed for EI and CE award for DNA units only or is permissible for non-DNA units too?

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: It is also permissible for non-DNA units as well.

FRANCES SCOTT: I think we got the rest of the question. Will medicolegal death investigators not proficiency-tested be counted toward the number of proficiency tested personnel within your agency so that I can provide individual agency allocations to you? As in the past, pathologists will count as .5% or .50.

FRANCES SCOTT: That sounds like a pretty detailed question. Can you please submit that to NCJRS so we can give it further consideration?

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Another question. How is the SAA selected or appointed?

FRANCES SCOTT: I don’t know. I believe that’s for each state, that’s individual to each state. We don’t have any insight into that, we don’t select them.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Since…

FRANCES SCOTT: That was the rest of the question about since medicolegal death investigators’ not [INDISTINCT]

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Right. I believe that would be the last question then. Give everybody a few seconds here. All right. If there are no further questions, then that would conclude this webinar. On behalf of the National Institute of Justice, I would like to thank you very much for joining us. We hope you found this very helpful and we look forward to your applications.

FRANCES SCOTT:Thank you.

LUTHER SCHAEFFER: Thank you.

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Date Created: January 25, 2017