The NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) Weather Program Office (WPO) Data Assimilation (DA) Consortium Competition solicited collaborative proposals from this notification valued at a total of approximately $7 million over three years beginning in FY2024 primarily to (1) establish a multi-university consortium to advance DA research and education, and (2) develop a long-term strategic partnership between the consortium, NOAA, and the broader weather enterprise in advancing DA methodology to improve numerical weather predictions using the Unified Forecast System (UFS). The DA Consortium awardees will be announced in Spring 2024.
The grant opportunity for the DA Consortium can be viewed here. Additional FAQs about the competition have been posted below.
FAQs – DA Consortium Competition
Question: Is there a template of support letters for institutions outside of NOAA?
Answer: No, there is no template. Please use a format of your choice but keep the letter within one page.
Question: A program priority in the NOFO is to include collaborative scientist and student exchange opportunities focused on data assimilation with one or more of the UK Met Office Academic Partnership (MOAP) universities leveraging the upcoming Transatlantic Data Science Academy (TDSA). How should we accomplish this objective?
Background information on TDSA can be found at https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/press-office/news/weather-and-climate/2023/transatlantic-data-science-ties-strengthened.
Please note that the Met Office will not be able to confirm how the Transatlantic Data Science Academy project for the Met Office will link to NOAA proposals until they conclude the bid selection process for UK Universities. The Met Office anticipates that the successful university will engage with NOAA and its partners in planning opportunities and further engagement at some point in November/December 2023, although this date is uncertain. The Met Office is keen to explore students visiting; however for now they cannot make any commitments.
In the proposal, a separate paragraph can be included to list intended topics that can benefit from collaboration with TDSA and student exchange opportunities to engage TDSA. PIs of the successful DA consortium can contact Ms. Zorica Jones (zorica.jones AT metoffice.gov.uk) and Dr. George Pankiewicz (george.pankiewicz AT metoffice.gov.uk) to solidify the plan once the proposal is selected.
Question: A program priority in the NOFO is to Include collaborative scientist and student exchange opportunities focused on data assimilation with one or more of the UK Met Office Academic Partnership (MOAP) universities leveraging the upcoming Transatlantic Data Science Academy (TDSA). Who is the POC to explore ways to accomplish this objective?
Answer: Please contact Ms. Zorica Jones (zorica.jones AT metoffice.gov.uk) and Dr. George Pankiewicz (george.pankiewicz AT metoffice.gov.uk) for information on TDSA.
Question: I was recently informed that requesting letters from NOAA collaborators may cause conflict of interest. However, the NOFO says “any federal employee listed on the title page… must provide a letter of endorsement…“. Could you clarify the expectation on letters of support?
Answer: The proposed projects can plan to collaborate with NOAA labs and centers without listing them as collaborators.
Question: How should we deal with the potential government shutdown. Do you expect the deadline for the proposal submission to be extended? How should we prepare for the shutdown?
Answer: In the event of a lapse of appropriations, we will provide further information as available, through this page or grants.gov.
Question: The FAQ states that “EPIC can be an unfunded collaborator as determined by the eligibility information section.” How do we include EPIC as the unfunded collaborator?
Answer: In the proposal, a separate paragraph can be included to list proposed tasks, timeline, and proposed support from EPIC software engineers that if the proposed tasks can benefit from EPIC collaboration. The EPIC team can work with the successful DA Consortium to solidify the plan once the proposal is selected.
Question: Is it okay for us to coordinate our DA training sessions with planned EPIC UFS training to limit venue and travel costs?
Answer: Hosting joint training courses with planned EPIC UFS training is appropriate. Again, in the proposal, a separate paragraph can be included to list proposed tasks, timeline, and proposed support from EPIC software engineers that if the proposed tasks can benefit from EPIC collaboration. The EPIC team can work with the successful DA Consortium to solidify the plan once the proposal is selected.
Question: My institution does not intend to lead a proposal, but rather to collaborate with an institution that is taking the lead. Can you provide guidance?
Answer: This is an open competition. There is not a pre-identified leading institution for this competition. Any institution that is interested in proposing can either form its own team or join another team. The program office is not able to provide guidance on how the teams are formed or direct PIs to specific teams.
Question: Can we use consortium funding to support MOAP/TDSA faculty/scientists to come to the consortium for a visit? The solicitation says NOAA can not fund foreign institutions. If we budget some funds to support MOAP/TDSA to come to the consortium for a visit and give seminars, does this count as “NOAA funding foreign institutions” and therefore violating the rules?
Answer: This choice is at the PI’s discretion. NOAA cannot transfer funds to foreign institutions. Invitational travel, however, is allowed.
Question: Is JCSDA an eligible organization to be financially supported by the consortium proposal?
Answer: JCSDA’s eligibility is determined by the eligibility information section in the NOFO.
Question: Given that it is a requirement that the successful consortium collaborate with EPIC, what would be the standard partnership structure between EPIC and the consortium?
Answer: As stated in program priorities section, a successful DA consortium is expected to establish, clarify and improve research to operations (R2O) and operations to research (O2R) priorities and processes, including, but not limited to: determining DA components in UFS releases; a clearly defined plan to implement innovative DA research as part of the UFS; and hosting joint training courses using UFS applications working with the Earth Prediction Innovations Center (EPIC). EPIC can be an unfunded collaborator as determined by the eligibility information section.
Question: Our consortium would like to organize training courses on data assimilation.
Would this coordinated effort be something EPIC would be interested in collaborating on in the future?
Answer: As stated in Program Priorities, proposed joint training courses with EPIC are welcome and will be evaluated against the Evaluation Criteria in section V of the NOFO. The EPIC team can work with the successful DA Consortium team to solidify the plan once the proposal is selected.
Question: Will EPIC provide any High-Performance Computing (HPC) resources for training and code development purposes? If not, could you recommend a suitable platform or HPC resource, especially if multiple universities wish to collaborate on the same project?
Answer: No. The NOFO allows computing resources to be included as part of the proposal.
Question: : Will a portion of the NOAA’s $8M go to EPIC so that EPIC can support the selected consortium team?
Answer: EPIC does not receive funds as part of NOAA’s $8M. However, EPIC can be an unfunded collaborator of the successful DA Consortium(s).
Question: How does EPIC plan to participate in joint workshops and training courses involving UFS (Unified Forecast System) applications while working with universities and JCSDA (Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation)?
Answer: As stated in the NOFO Section B Program Priorities items 4 and 5) DA Consortium may host joint training courses using UFS applications working with EPIC and JCSDA as appropriate.
Question: Would it be possible for EPIC to provide a Letter of Support to our Data Assimilation (DA) consortium proposal team?
Answer: No; this would be a conflict of interest.
Question: The call announcement includes the following requirement: Address challenging DA issues key to improve next-generation UFS short range (i.e. Rapid Refresh Forecast System (RRFS) or Hurricane Analysis and Forecast System (HAFS)), medium range (i.e. Global Ensemble Forecast System (GEFS)), and subseasonal to seasonal models (i.e. Seasonal Forecast System (SFS)) toward improved forecast skill. Could you kindly clarify whether the scope of a consortium proposal can focus on one particular system, such as the GEFS or RRFS?
Answer: Program priorities are to address challenging DA issues to improve one or more of the next-generation UFS short, medium and subseasonal to seasonal models.
Question: We are considering the composition of the consortium and whether it would be appropriate to propose collaboration primarily with one of the laboratories (EMC, GSL, and PSL). Alternatively, would it be advisable to include all three laboratories in the consortium?
Answer: As stated in the Program Priorities a successful university consortium application shall combine expertise across a range of DA disciplines and methodologies by closely collaborating with NOAA Laboratories and Centers that are significantly involved in DA. The choice of NOAA institutions will depend on the nature of the proposed DA priorities.
Question: One of our collaborating universities, while not listed in the link (https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/edlite-minorityinst.html) provided in NOAA funding announcement, is recognized as an MSI on the NASA MSI list (link: https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/edu_nasa_msi_list_2022_2023.pdf). Given that the NOAA link includes MSI lists only up until 2023, would it be acceptable to utilize the NASA 2022-2023 MSI list to establish the MSI status of our collaborating university for this proposal?
Answer: As stated on the Department of Education (DE) website, none of the lists is necessarily a complete listing of all colleges and universities that might fall within a particular category of institution. Institutions not included in the lists may be proposed if a clear case for their qualifications as an MSI is included in the proposal, using the definitions linked in the DE website.
Question: How many universities do you envision to be in the consortium?
Answer: Two or more.
Question: Regarding step 8 (collaboration with UK Met Office Academic Partnership) of the call, we are considering the inclusion of scientists from MOAP universities as Co-Is. Could you provide guidance on whether such an inclusion would be encouraged and beneficial for our proposal’s success?
Answer: Choice of institutions is open to your discretion and strategy for a successful consortium. Note however that NOAA is not able to fund foreign institutions.
Question: The announcement noted that NOAA’s $8M is going to EMC, GSL and PSL. We were wondering if more information is available. What are the main tasks supported by the funding in each group?
Answer: EMC, GSL and PSL will be a) increasing the effort to optimize and increase the data assimilated, b) advancing new algorithms and methods in DA, c) engaging with the institutions and students in the DA Consortium, d) engaging with the Transatlantic Data Academy and e) engaging with the JCSDA.
Question: Could you provide guidance on how interested PIs can join such an effort and if there is a leading institution? Is there a way to include our academic partners in this consortium?
Answer: There is no pre-identified leading institution.
Question: The NOFO includes explicit language that NOAA-affiliated Cooperative Institutes (CIs) cannot be funded (Page 8 of the NOFO). If a university that a CI is affiliated with receives funding as part of a Consortium, could they then “employ” some of our Data Assimilation experts to assist on parts of the effort?
Answer: This is determined by university policies. CI employees cannot receive funding via pre-existing CI grants or collaborative agreements.
Question: One of the requirements states “A minimum of 20% of the overall project budget must be used to support students and postdoctoral scientists from minority serving institutions”. Does the “support” here include those beyond the direct salaries support to the students and postdocs? For example, if a faculty in a partner university budgets 0.5 month salary to co-advise a student in the minority serving institution, would that faculty’s requested salary be counted as supporting the student in the minority serving institution? I’d assume the answer would be yes, but I would like to confirm this.
Answer: The 20% may be used by faculty salary within MSI’s needed to advise students and postdocs. It may not be used for a partner university faculty salary. The expectation is that by far the largest portion of the funding go to support the students and postdocs themselves.
Question: Can industry or private sector companies be a part of the consortium?
Answer: Commercial organizations can be part of the consortium as unfunded collaborators.
Question: Are you envisioning this multi-university consortium to consist of several university co-PIs (> 2) with one lead PI?
Question: Are you also envisioning this consortium to include DA research and teaching for a range of disciplines (i.e., air quality/composition, weather, hydrology, climate)?
Answer: As stated in the Program Priorities section of the NOFO, we solicit a comprehensive program to educate and train the next generation DA workforce, spanning a balanced set of graduate students and postdoctoral trainees. The consortium should be to address challenging DA issues key to improve next-generation UFS short range (i.e. Rapid Refresh Forecast System (RRFS) or Hurricane Analysis and Forecast System (HAFS)), medium range (i.e. Global Ensemble Forecast System (GEFS)), and subseasonal to seasonal models (i.e. Seasonal Forecast System (SFS)) toward improved forecast skill.
Question: Will this be mostly directed towards further developing and implementing UFS with JEDI? Is there flexibility in developing ensemble-based algorithms and applications?
Answer: As in the NOFO, the aim is to “address challenging DA issues key to improve next-generation UFS”. In line with the Priorities for Weather Research, the projects will … 1: Promote the Use and Assimilation of Existing Observations, 2: Develop Advanced Data Assimilation Methods, Capabilities and 3: Address Observation Gaps and Use and Assimilation of New Observations.
Question: The announcement noted that NOAA’s $8M is going to EMC, GSL and PSL. . Will this portion be used to support consortium students’ visit at NOAA?
Answer: The $8M to NOAA covers potential engagement with the institutions and students in the DA Consortium,
Question: Will a portion of the $8M to NOAA be used to support JCSDA to provide help (e.g. Q&A) when the consortium students use JEDI for data assimilation research?
Answer: NOAA’s $8M does not include funding to JCSDA.
Question: One of the solicitation requirements is to develop joint training with EPIC. Who would be the point of contact in EPIC that we should reach out during the proposal development to develop the joint training?
Answer: Potential PIs are encouraged to contact the EPIC program office at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions on EPIC during the proposal development process. Responses to any questions will be published as part of this Frequently Asked Questions webpage, which will be updated when new questions are received.
Question: Why are the awards only limited to two with so much funding. Are there any potential targeted applicants?
Answer: The NOFO calls for multi-university consortiums rather than individual small proposals. There are no targeted applicants.
Question: Do you foresee NOAA soliciting proposals similar to NOAA-OAR-WPO-2024-2007893 in the near future?
Answer: Future funding opportunities will be determined by funding availability in future years.
Full applications must be received by 5:00 pm Eastern Time (ET) on October 13th, 2023.