Washington State's Agricultural Experiment Station

Agricultural Research Center

Emerging Research Issues for Washington Agriculture
FY-2014 Internal Competitive Grant Program


A Unified Industry-Based Agriculture Initiative funded by the Washington Legislature in the 2007-09 biennium provided $1 million per year for an internal competitive grants program to address emerging issues facing Washington’s agricultural industries. The program funded $1.7 million dollars of research from 2007-2010; abstracts of the funded proposals are available at http://arc.wsu.edu/info/eri/summaries.html and http://arc.wsu.edu/info/eri/summaries-2013.html. The grants program was structured to provide greater responsiveness to emerging research and outreach needs of state agricultural industries. As one measure of its success, projects related to the funded proposals were successful in attracting over $22 million of external support for related projects, over $11 million of which has been or will be spent in Washington.

The program is a focused effort by the Agricultural Research Center to deal with emerging researchable issues that face Washington’s agriculture and environment.  It is intended to provide seed money to generate preliminary data that ultimately can be used to leverage new support from competitive funding programs and/or from corporations. Thus, proposals that bring together a novel research team or work toward establishing a proof of concept are encouraged. It is also intended to provide funding for taking new directions that will fill fundamental knowledge gaps and otherwise enhance our capacity to address significant issues facing Washington Agriculture and not for supplementing currently funded projects. If a proposal might appear to have some overlap with currently funded grants, the proposal must include an explanation of the novelty of the project and the need for funds in the context of current support so that reviewers can evaluate the overlap.

Time line for the 2014 calendar year grant program:
Sept 20, 2013              RFP issued
Oct  21, 2013              Proposals due to ARC Administrative Office
 (electronic submission to ARCGrants@wsu.edu)
Jan 6, 2014                  Anticipated announcement of awards

What is an emerging issue?
The CAHNRS Kitchen Cabinet provided the following guidance when it was asked to identify emerging issues for Washington’s agricultural industry:

  • An emerging issue is a topic where research-based information will be needed in the near future and where WSU research activity is currently under-invested.
  • Priority should be given to issues that are not commodity specific, and hence, commodity commission or industry funds may not be targeted to address the issue.
  • The research should position WSU to take a leading regional and national position as the topic is recognized as being of regional or national importance.

Subject to the criteria articulated by the Kitchen Cabinet and the concept that these grants will provide seed money to support projects that can be leveraged to obtain additional external support, we will consider projects in any area. In line with developing CAHNRS priorities, proposals are especially welcomed in the area of water usage and functional foods. Last year, with input from CAHNRS administrators (associate deans, chairs, and directors), we developed the following areas of research emphasis and these remain valid for this year’s program.

  • Retention, enhancement or restoration of soil productivity
  • Responding to challenges posed by novel pests and pathogens, including exotic species or species expected to be a greater problem because of changing environmental conditions or production practices.
  • Decreasing the need for water or fertilizers by improving the efficiency of applying these inputs or developing more use-efficient crops and cropping systems
  • Developing automation and mechanization to enhance the efficiency, safety, and economic sustainability of food production and processing systems.
  • Increasing water and air environmental quality as part of sustainable agricultural production systems.
  • Improving agricultural and environmental practices at the urban-rural interface.
  • Decreasing the chemical or microbiological contamination of food.
  • Decreasing childhood or adult obesity through behavioral change.
  • Developing biofuel, bioenergy, and associated bioproduct economies for Washington.
  • Improving the understanding and application of knowledge about functional foods aimed at increasing health and nutrition.
  • Developing production, marketing, and distribution systems to support emerging regional and local food systems.
  • Developing new or improved mechanisms (i.e., criteria or indicators) for assessing sustainability of practices, production systems, and/or industries. 

Who is eligible to apply? The lead PI must be a faculty member in a CAHNRS department or hold an ARC faculty appointment in another college. Research professor track faculty members are eligible to be lead PIs but associates in research, post-doctoral associates, adjunct faculty, and courtesy faculty members are not.

What will be the duration of the grants?
The maximum duration is 2 years, starting January 1, 2014. Proposals can be written for 1 year. Initially, funding will be provided only for the first year but to facilitate supporting graduate students, the first year budget can run through June 30, 2015. For a second year of funding, a proposal, which can be identical to the initial proposal, must be submitted at the following year deadline and may be approved, if:

  1. satisfactory progress toward the originally proposed objectives is documented;
  2. applications for significant alternative sources of competitive non-university funds have been submitted through the CAHNRS Office of Research/ARC; and
  3. adequate funds are available. A budget must be submitted for the second year of support.

What funding amounts will be permitted?
Grants may be funded up to $80,000 over the possible two-year life of a project, with funding for the first year limited to $50,000. Efficiency in using resources will be an important element of the review process. That is, proposals will be evaluated based upon projected impact per dollar of funds invested; therefore, the minimum amount essential to accomplish the objectives of the project should be requested. Partial funding may occur, depending on the review process and funds available.

Note on Accountability
We have an obligation to the Washington Legislature, and to the industry groups that worked to secure these funds, to be accountable for their use. To that end, we will be looking closely at the adherence of the proposals to the Emerging Issues criteria discussed above and to the proposal’s explicitly stated objectives, outputs, and outcomes. PIs who have had previous ERI funding must include a brief summary of their accomplishments as a result of the previously funded project.

What criteria will be used to evaluate proposals?

  • Ability of the project to address one or more of the emerging issues (25 points)
  • The proposal should clearly address at least one of the emerging issues listed above or articulate why the subject of the proposal should be considered to be an Emerging Issue.
  • The rationale and significance of the problem must be clearly articulated, including how our stakeholders might benefit from completion of the proposed project and what existing information gaps will be filled (the researchable questions). Intended output products such as expected publications, meetings, websites, etc. should be identified.
  • The anticipated outcome(s) must be clearly stated. What behaviors, practices, policies, etc. will be changed in Washington if the research project is funded and the work gets done?
  • The anticipated impact(s) must be clearly stated. What will be the net result of the outcomes (1c) in terms of social, economic, and/or environmental benefits to specific audiences in Washington and to society more broadly? In other words, when the proposed research is applied, how will this affect profitability, environmental sustainability and/or quality of life of the people of Washington? Some projects may have substantial projected impacts outside of Washington but there must be a local impact.
  • Appropriate research methodologies and approaches (25 points)

      The proposals will be reviewed to evaluate whether the approach and methodology, as articulated, are sufficient to accomplish the stated objectives.

  • Clearly outlined extension outcomes (10 points)

      Not all projects will complete the discovery and validation of new knowledge. However, it is important that this research be undertaken with a public outreach goal and have outcomes for Washington. Thus, whether completed within the time frame of the project or through subsequent years of effort, the extension component of the proposal must be explicitly stated and described briefly; e.g., website development/ posting of research results, incorporation into existing extension educational programs, etc. The desired outcomes of the extension effort must be clearly stated (refer also to 1.c. above)

  • Interdisciplinary, team-based approach to address the issue(s) (10 points)

      Not all emerging issues are interdisciplinary in nature; but for the many that are, it is important to describe the multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary components of the project. The formation of teams to address the emerging issues is strongly recommended.

  • Faculty capacity to successfully complete the project (10 points)

      The researchers listed for the project should be actively involved in the project and have a documented history of research productivity that is appropriate for the research being proposed. The specific role of each faculty member listed on the proposal must be explicitly and clearly articulated and the output depending on each faculty member’s effort must be stated. 

  • Ability of project to catalyze future extramural support (10 points)

      Anticipated competitive extramural grant applications that will be facilitated by the use of these funds must be explicitly stated in the grant proposal (agency, program, application deadline). Requests for second-year funding must be accompanied by documentation that competitive extramural grant application(s) have been submitted.

  • Contributions to graduate education (10 points)

      In support of one of the most broadly identified benchmarks at WSU and in CAHNRS, faculty are encouraged to support Ph.D. graduate students through this program, recognizing that funding beyond one year (up to a maximum of two) is not guaranteed and the faculty member and/or department must be willing to continue to the support of the student beyond the duration of this grant program’s support.

Note the following definitions of targeted deliverables:

  • Outputs can be products such as journal publications, web-based information, other publications, presentations, workshops, seminars, or other tangible items, activities, or events
  • Outcomes are new or modified behaviors, practices, or policies in Washington that result largely from the efforts and outputs of a project or program.
  • Impacts are the expected or potential social, economic and/or environmental benefits to specific audiences and the broader society that could be attributed to a project.

Summary of 2014 Awards-here


Summary of 2013 Awards-here


Archived Record of Past Years click here...

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