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Citizen Science Competitive Funding Program

The CitSci Fund

A picture of a Forest Service employee and small child looking a plants in a wooded area.The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is pleased to announce a competitive funding opportunity for citizen science projects. All USFS units and partners are invited to apply for up to $25,000/project. 

The CitSci Fund is a collaborative approach to resource management – each project will have one USFS Project Lead and one Partner Project Lead, and demonstrate how volunteers are meaningfully involved. The CitSci Fund directly supports USFS National Priority #3: Promoting shared stewardship by increasing partnerships and volunteerism.

 

CitSci Fund Awardees 

2018 Awardees

 

Request for Proposals

Project applications are due January 31, 2018 by 11:59 pm ET.

For questions, email: FSCCS@fs.fed.us.

 

Links for More Information

 

Our Goals

  • Inspire new and enhance existing citizen science projects in the Forest Service
  • Demonstrate the value of citizen science for delivering Agency mission results by:
    • Increasing collection and analysis of usable data and information
    • Enhancing collaboration between units, partners and the public
  • Model a learning organization approach that will benefit those interested in citizen science

 

Project Criteria

  • Can be on any topic: biological, social, cultural, economic, etc.
  • Must have a genuine scientific/management outcome and address two or more of the following USFS citizen science objectives:
    • Provide meaningful public engagement, learning opportunities, and follow up
    • Proactively engage youth, minority, and/or low-income communities
    • Establish, strengthen, and sustain strategic and innovative partnerships and collaboration
    • Manage data and data quality, apply open data principles, and seek opportunities for data sharing with partners and the public
    • Utilize innovative applications and technologies
  • Describe how the project will add value to resource management and/or research, increase efficiency, and/or reduce operating costs to the agency.
  • Project must take place on National Forest System lands or data and information collected must be used to meet a USFS information need.
  • Identify a Forest Service Project Lead and a Partner Project Lead. The partner must be able to receive funds through a financial instrument (e.g. a partnership agreement) with the Forest Service unit.
  • Projects must engage volunteers over a period of time - single event projects will not be accepted.

 

Updates to Documents

On the first page of the Instructions, there is a numbered list of objectives.  Number 2 is missing. Is there a missing objective, or just a mis-numbered list?

The list is mis-numbered, there is no missing objective. We are working to update the Instructions with this correction and provide the updated version to this webpage. The updated form will be titled Instructions for submitting your proposal 2.0.

In the Proposal Form, the very first question, PROJECT SUMMARY, has a description to briefly describe available data and those being acquired that will benefit the project. It is the exact same question and wording as part b of the PROJECT DESIGN. Is this a mistake or should I respond to this question twice?

The Project Summary should be just that, a brief description and overview of the project. There shouldn’t be any additional detail under the heading. We are working to update the form with this correction and provide the updated version to this webpage. The updated form will be titled Proposal Form 2.0.

 

FAQ

What is the definition of a citizen science project?

A citizen science project is any activity where volunteers (a person who donates time and talent to advance the mission of the Forest Service for no compensation) are involved in the scientific process in various ways, including formulating research questions, creating and refining project design, conducting scientific experiments, collecting and analyzing data, developing technologies and applications, making discoveries, and solving problems. With good training and quality assurance processes in place, anyone can be a citizen scientist and contribute meaningful data and information to the Agency.

Will the CitSci Fund be available every year?

That is our goal. Based on the outcomes, peoples’ experiences with the program, and available funds, we hope to continue the CitSci Fund in the future. 

Does the project’s Forest Service lead have to be based on a National Forest or can other Forest Service mission areas have that role?

All Forest Service personnel qualify as a USFS Project Lead. This includes mission areas outside of the National Forest System including Research & Development, State & Private Forestry, International Programs, Business Operations, Job Corps Centers, etc.

Does the entire project need to be on National Forest System lands? No, the project does not necessarily have to be on  National Forest System lands (i.e., National Forest, National Grassland/Prairie, National Monument operated by the Forest Service). The project either needs to take place on National Forest System lands or provide a Forest Service information need as determined by the Forest Service unit and in collaboration with the partner.

Where can I find Forest Service information needs?

This question is not easily answered on a national level, so ask the Forest Service unit you are interested in working with what their needs are and if your project would meet those needs. The Forest Service information need is determined by the Forest Service Project Lead/unit. The goal of the information need requirement is that the project help the Forest Service fulfill some kind of information gap in the agency whether that be research based, land or resource management based, or some other form of data/science that helps inform Agency decisionmaking or research. We would like projects to be able to demonstrate how the newly acquired information will be used by the Agency.

Will there be a preference for citizen science efforts that will take place on Forest Service land over projects on other land units, such as National Park Service (NPS) land?

The key is if the project is meeting Forest Service information needs. If the project is only serving NPS information needs, then the project would not meet the CitSci Fund criteria. It would qualify, however, if, for example, the project is adjacent to Forest Service land and is part of a landscape-scale collaboration.

Can the funds be used over multiple years?

We would prefer to see projects implemented (volunteers engaged in addressing the information need) within at least a year and a half of the project receiving funds to be able to measure the outcomes of this funding year. However, we understand that project development and implementation timelines (for example, seasonality of field work) are unique to each project. This is why we are ensuring flexibility in the program with agreements with partners in place that demonstrate how the funds will be utilized and in what time frame. We will be reviewing these on a case-by-case basis and consulting with project leads to make sure that the projects are implemented in a timely way, that makes sense for the information need. 

Are there restrictions on leveraging these funds with other partners’ funds? Can we make this a multi-way agreement with multiple sources of funding?

The inclusion of other funds is encouraged because we want these projects to succeed and have the most resources and capacity as possible. The minimum requirement is that there needs to be one Forest Service Project Lead and one Partner Project Lead. In the case that multiple sources of funding and partners are part of an agreement, we will work with the projects to make sure that we understand the funding mechanisms the unit and partners have decided to use. Please describe what funds you will have, how you will use the funds, and which partners are involved in your project proposal. 

How can the funds be used? 

Below is a list of items that funding can be used towards. Please consult with your Forest Service Project Lead to clarify which costs are appropriate based on the financial instrument being used. 

  • Staff/personnel costs including volunteer or project coordinator (e.g. project planning, coordination and evaluation)
  • Recruitment and outreach for volunteers
  • Development and printing of training and educational materials (e.g. cost to print field manuals, protocol documents, datasheets, etc.)
  • Project-specific supplies and materials (e.g. measurement equipment, tablets, software, etc. not large expenses like vehicles, computers and major lab equipment)
  • External project evaluation and evaluation of program impacts on volunteers (e.g., learning, conservation attitudes)
  • Data quality measures/evaluations
  • Travel costs for FS and partner project team members
  • Costs for volunteer trainings (e.g. facility fees)
  • On-site costs (e.g. transportation, portable restrooms)
  • Postage/shipping (e.g. costs to mail volunteers water sample bottles and other supplies)
  • Analysis of samples (e.g. water quality samples sent to a lab)

Regarding the allowable costs under the program, does this program allow or cap the overhead costs? Are facilities and administration costs allowable?

For any question about the specifics of allowable expenses, please talk to your Forest Service Project Lead identified in your project proposal. Because they are the unit that will be working directly with the partner on the project, they will be the ones to determine the appropriate financial instrument to deliver the funds to the partner organization and how the funds may be spent. They will also be the ones administering the financial instrument and making sure funds are being spent properly over the course of the project.

Please keep in mind that any entity wanting to do business with the federal government must register in the System for Award Management (www.sam.gov) and have a data universal number system (DUNS) number. More information can be found here.

We would like to provide a wage to accepted students as opposed to having volunteers. Is this within the scope of CitiSci Funding Program? If not, would an alternative to wages be giving a stipend to accepted students?

Providing citizen scientist participants with wages would not be an acceptable use of funds. However, a stipend may be. Keep in mind that by definition, citizen scientists are volunteers (a person who donates time and talent to advance the mission of the Forest Service for no compensation). A weekly stipend or some money to defray some costs to the students (such as food, lodging, travel) is okay. For example a "Field Rate" Per Diem may be issued to volunteers who are lodging at a campsite or using their own personal camping or recreational vehicles while on assignment. Funds may be used to purchase food for volunteers if the volunteer will be working in an area where access to normal sources of food supplies and/or meals is not available or reasonably accessible. Service Participants engaged through a Partnership Agreement, may receive a stipend for food, lodging, and travel if it is written within the agreement. Please consult with your Forest Service Project Lead to clarify which costs are appropriate based on the financial instrument being used. Learn more about our Volunteer program here: https://www.fs.fed.us/working-with-us/volunteers

Are there any restrictions to who can be a partner to the US Forest Service for this program?

There is no restriction for who can partner with the US Forest Service for this program. Please keep in mind that any entity wanting to do business with the federal government must register in the System for Award Management (www.sam.gov) and have a data universal number system (DUNS) number. More information can be found here. Learn more about Partnerships here: https://www.fs.fed.us/working-with-us/partnerships

Is there a required match of funds by partners? Are volunteer hours considered a match?

The 20% match that was mentioned in the Webinar is not required as part of the program, but may be required depending on the agreement in place with the Forest Service unit. The specifics of the agreement are intended to be decided by the partner and the Forest Service unit. Volunteer hours should not be considered a match.

Is it acceptable for an organization to submit multiple proposals?

Yes, as long as each project is unique – in other words, there should be a different methodology or information goal for each project.

Does the Forest Service unit need to be the one to submit the proposal?

Either the Forest Service Project Lead or the Partner Project Lead can submit the proposal to FSCCS@fs.fed.us. The proposal must have contacts for both Project Leads and the appropriate leadership approvals on the final page of the application.

Is there a minimum amount of money to request?

No, there is no minimum amount to request. The $25,000 cap was made with long-term projects in mind. 

Does a one-time event fit the criteria?

No, if your project is a one-time event, it will not qualify for the CitSci Fund.

Do volunteer stewardship activities fit the criteria for citizen science?

No, stewardship activities like volunteers building trails or planting trees will not qualify for the CitSci Fund. The volunteers must be taking part in the scientific process, such as collecting data.

Will the Citizen Science Toolkit that is described in the Instructions be available?

The Forest Service Citizen Science Toolkit supplements and complements the Federal Citizen Science Toolkit and clarifies the 2017 Crowdsourcing and Citizen Act for the Agency. It is currently being drafted. Once the project selections have been made in February, we will provide the draft to those project leads. Our hope is that they will be able to use it to develop a refined project plan, and that their experiences as they implement their projects will inform and help us to improve the toolkit. At the time that we have a more developed toolkit, we hope to share it broadly. 

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