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Special Call for Proposals: Quick Response Research in U.S. Territories

The U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are subject to various natural hazards threats and have experienced multiple disasters in recent years. Devastating hurricanes, typhoons, flooding, earthquakes, and landslides have caused widespread destruction and ongoing disruption, and now the COVID-19 pandemic has further stretched healthcare and emergency response networks.

While there has been increased attention to the challenges facing the U.S. territories, there is still much to be learned about the social and public health impacts of disasters throughout these regions. It is also vital that research help identify the actions that are needed to more effectively prepare for and respond to their consequences.

With this in mind, the Natural Hazards Center—with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Science Foundation—is issuing a special call for proposals for public health and social science research in the inhabited U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Proposals may focus on one specific territory or may offer comparisons across territories and other regions.

This special call is designed to support quick response research to increase understanding of public health preparedness and response needs and actions in recent disasters. Available funds will support 12 to 24 awards in the amount of $25,000 to $50,000 each. Successful applicants will have clear implications for understanding and improving public health in the U.S. territories and beyond. To that end, proposals must include a plan to return results to locally-affected communities and to advance public health research that is culturally relevant, ethically informed, and scientifically rigorous.

Proposals are due by 5:00 p.m. MDT on Monday, September 28, 2020. All proposals will be evaluated simultaneously after the submission deadline. Award announcements will be made no later than October 30, 2020. The first draft of a report is due no later than April 16, 2021. All other research activities and project deliverables should be completed by no later than October 30, 2021.

Proposal Topics

We encourage proposals that focus on emerging issues and topics of concern relevant to the inhabited U.S. territories, including, but not limited to:

1) Mass Care and Sheltering:

  • preparing for a surge in sheltering needs in response to specific or compound hazards

  • public health partnerships with community groups for coordination of mass care, including alternatives to shelters, such as pop-up camps, that may arise organically

  • integration of public health support services for vulnerable populations in shelter settings

2) Public Health Services:

  • changes in access to public health services in the post-disaster period

  • the role of hospitals, health clinics, pharmacies, and other health systems in preventing or reducing the exacerbation of chronic or infectious disease that have public health implications

  • psychological support for adults, children, and/or emergency workers who have experienced a public health disaster

  • public health disaster mortality reporting, particularly in the review of death certificates that can be examined to determine how traditional means of reporting direct and indirect deaths compare with statistical models or approaches

  • cultural competence in public health research and service provision

  • public health recovery efforts, such as capacity building, knowledge gained/lessons learned, or impact on physical and healthcare infrastructure

3) Public Health, Education, and Schools:

  • public health disaster impacts on education in U.S. territories for school-aged children or college students that may influence educational achievement, including graduation rates and other outcomes of interest

  • effectiveness of educational standards and guidelines for displaced students to reduce disruption in the education cycle and improve graduation rates

4) Compound Hazards and Cascading Disasters:

  • impact of cascading disasters on the public health system and its ability to address other public health challenges, such as identification, spread, and control of vector-borne diseases such as Zika or dengue

  • status of and health impacts on response and recovery workers, many of whom have been deployed following hurricane, flooding, landslide, and earthquake sequences with little respite

  • ability of the population to prepare for future compound natural hazards events

Proposals will not be limited to these areas; however, these areas of investigation are encouraged based on reports from the territories regarding some of the most pressing research needs. Moreover, projects are sought that use a convergence research framework that is problem-focused and solutions-based and interdisciplinary in nature.

While proposals may explore co-occurring disasters in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this opportunity aims to support projects that explore a broader spectrum of natural hazard risks. Therefore, proposals focused solely on COVID-19 are not eligible for this opportunity.

Program Eligibility

The lead researcher, as designated in the proposal, must be from an academic institution based in a U.S. state or territory. Other research co-leads, research assistants, or local collaborators do not have to be affiliated with a university or located in a U.S. state or territory—they cannot, however, serve as the project research lead and primary award recipient.

Applicants from the five inhabited U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are encouraged to apply for funding. All applicants are encouraged to collaborate with the large community of scholars, public health practitioners, and community leaders in the U.S. territories to leverage existing resources and advance ongoing activities.

How the Funding Will Be Issued

Award funding will be provided to the lead researcher and/or research co-leads, research assistants, or other local collaborators in the form of a fellowship. These payments will be sent directly to the award recipients as designated in the budget to cover research-related expenses or time dedicated to data collection, analysis efforts, or research dissemination.

The funding can be distributed across team members as designated by the research lead (for example, 50% of the award sent to the lead, 25% to the co-lead, and 25% to a local collaborator). No more than five recipients can be designated for any one award.

Award funding will be processed after proposals are accepted and awards are announced. To receive the award funding, the designated recipients will need to return:

  • One copy of a completed and signed funding agreement, to be issued upon approval to designated recipients of the award funds. The information for payees will be filled out on the form.

  • A W-9 or W-8BEN for all payment recipients (W-9 is for U.S. citizens or permanent residents; W-8BEN is for non-U.S. citizens).

This fellowship award funding will NOT be sent directly to a university or other institutions, and there are no indirect costs associated with these funds. These payments will be made to an individual or individuals and then distributed or applied to research-related expenses as decided by the research leads. The recipients of these awards will be solely responsible for all tax ramifications.

Please note, for award recipients who are non-U.S. citizens, the payment process may take longer and will require additional paperwork. All payments made to Visa holders are submitted through the International Tax Office at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Proposal Requirements

  • Project Title

  • Researcher Name(s) and Affiliation(s)

  • Full Abstract: Limit 500 words.

  • Brief Abstract: Limit 100 words; to be posted on the Natural Hazards Center website. See examples of the format here.

  • 3-5 Keywords

  • Thematic Area: Proposals must focus on at least one of the thematic areas identified in the special call for proposals, and may focus on multiple thematic areas.

  • Geographic Focus: Proposals must focus on at least one inhabited U.S. territory, and may focus on multiple territories or compare a territory to another place.

  • Disciplinary Focus: A 250-word statement indicating whether the proposal involves a single discipline or is interdisciplinary in nature. Note that single discipline proposals are eligible for awards in the $25,000 range, while researchers seeking funding up to the $50,000 level must demonstrate how the research is advancing convergence-oriented research.

  • Proposal: The proposal should be uploaded as a PDF. The proposal should be a maximum of 8 pages, not including references, budget, or budget justification, and include the following content:

    • A brief statement on Intellectual Merit—describing the potential of the proposed activity to advance knowledge—and Broader Public Health Impacts—describing the potential of the proposed activity to benefit society and/or public health practice through the achievement of specific, desired public health applications.

    • Research Question(s)

    • Literature Review: This should demonstrate the authors’ knowledge of the area of research being proposed as well as state the gaps that this research will fill.

    • Research Design: This should include the data collection plan, research location(s), sampling strategy and expected number of participants, procedures, measures, data analysis plan, and research timeline. The proposal should also specify the natural hazard threat(s) and/or disasters of interest and identify whether the project involves the collection of perishable data.

    • Ethics Statement: A description of how the researcher(s) will ensure the ethical conduct of research for the benefit of the communities where they work.

    • Dissemination Plan: A plan for returning data and/or results to locally-affected people and/or communities no later than the project end date of October 30, 2021.

  • References: The list of references should be complete, consistently formatted, and uploaded as a separate PDF.

  • Budget and Budget Justification: The budget and budget justification, which should be no longer than 3 pages in length and uploaded as a PDF, should provide a breakdown of anticipated expenditures within the predetermined range (in this case, $25,000 to $50,000 maximum). Proposals less than $25,000 will be accepted, but proposals over $50,000 will be returned without review.

    • Please carefully read the “How the Funding Will Be Issued” statement included above in the special call, as it provides details for how many investigators can be included in the budget and clarifies how and when the award funds will be issued.

    • Funding should be used for expenses associated with the proposed research project. Funds may be dedicated to fieldwork expenses, the purchase of research equipment or datasets, for payments to researchers or collaborators, payment for translators or other team members, participant compensation, and/or research dissemination activities. In terms of budget needs for field equipment, please consider exploring options available through the NSF-supported RAPID facility before making requests.

    • Overhead and indirect costs are not allowed.

  • Supporting Documents for Students: Master's and PhD students are welcome to apply for this special call for funding. If a student is listed as the lead researcher they will need to submit:

    • A statement explaining qualifications and ability to implement the proposed methods, a plan for managing a research team (if applicable), and a timeline for completing the proposed work during their degree program.

    • A letter of support from an academic advisor or committee member.

  • Human Subjects Approval Letter: An official letter from the applicant’s human subjects committee approving the research, or waiving the need for approval, will be required before an award is activated. The proposal may be submitted before human subjects committee approval is obtained, but we recommend that approval be sought as early as possible. If a human subjects committee approval letter is not sent with your proposal, please include a short statement about your plans for meeting this requirement. Data collection may not begin until a letter of approval or waiver from a university is submitted to the Natural Hazards Center.

The above information and associated documents should be submitted through our online form. Please do not submit proposals directly to the Natural Hazards Center team. Emailed proposals will be returned without review.

Proposals are due by 5:00 p.m. MDT on Monday, September 28, 2020. Late proposals will not be accepted.

Additional Award Requirements

All award recipients, including the research lead and any collaborators, are required to:

  • Complete the available CONVERGE Training Modules and review the CONVERGE Extreme Events Research Check Sheets before funds will be issued.

  • Complete an online data publication session, hosted by CONVERGE in partnership with DesignSafe, by no later than February 1, 2021.

  • Submit a final 10-page, single spaced, report summarizing the research from this special funding call. The report is due by April 16, 2021. Formatting guidelines will be provided by the Natural Hazards Center. Upon acceptance, the report may be included in an edited compilation to be published on the Natural Hazards Center website.

  • Participate in an online forum designed to share key research findings and lessons learned from disaster research in the U.S. territories. The forum will be held by no later than October 1, 2021, and will be hosted by the Natural Hazards Center, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Science Foundation.

Questions?

Please contact Jennifer Tobin, Deputy Administrator of the Natural Hazards Center, at haz.research.awards@colorado.edu, with any questions.


Acknowledgements

The Quick Response Research award program is a National Science Foundation supported initiative that provides fellowship awards to help eligible researchers collect perishable data after a disaster (NSF Award #1635593). This Special Call for Quick Response proposals is made possible through supplemental funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF, CDC, or Natural Hazards Center.