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Promoting UT research collaborations with NOAA ATDD


The University of Tennessee System is announcing a call for proposals for a Research Seed Program to promote research collaborations with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division (ATDD) Proposals are due October 18, 2018. This program offers funds intended to help generate more compelling grant submissions, initiate new intellectual directions for our faculty, and foster new relationships across departments, colleges, or centers and with NOAA ATDD researchers. A key consideration is the likelihood that the project will attract new externally funded research, either from NOAA or other federal funding agencies. NOAA ATDD has committed to provide funding for their researchers who collaborate and partner with UT faculty.

An ideal project would apply for external funding and begin to generate manuscripts for publication within 16 months after the inception of the project.  This multiple investigator funding mechanism aims to promote interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaborative teams. Teams with seed funding which generate preliminary results and gain experience working jointly have proven more successful when they later compete for external multi-investigator and/or center grant awards.

Type of Award

This grant will enable a team of one or more UT, Knoxville, UT Space Institute, UT Institute of Agriculture faculty, and NOAA ATDD researchers to obtain initial results or data to prepare for external funding opportunities.

NOAA ATDD will provide similar support to their researchers.

Applicants may request a two-year project period. This grant has a maximum budget for year one of $70,000 and a total budget over two years that may not exceed $125,000.


  • Teams must be comprised of one or more UT/UTSI/UTIA faculty with one or more researchers from NOAA ATDD
  • PI’s must be eligible to apply for external funding

Funding and Period of Performance

The total University of Tennessee budget cannot exceed $70,000 for 1 year or $125,000 for two years.

Research Topics

Eligible applicants should collaborate with NOAA ATDD researchers. NOAA is expected to provide support to their researchers to work on the project at a scale similar to the funding provided by the University of Tennessee System.

Eligible applicants should focus research on one of the following topics:

  1. Global Weather and Climate Modeling

A major effort within NOAA is the creation and validation of a new technologically advanced global weather forecasting system, referred to as the Next Generation Global Prediction System (NGGPS).  In collaboration with scientists at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, ATDD is currently involved in this effort through a project to develop simulated global aerosol distributions for the NGGPS.  Future research in this area could involve the development of enhanced surface-atmosphere exchange process modules for aerosols and trace chemical species; enhancement of the chemical computational performance for long-term, global predictive simulations; enhancement of primary aerosol emissions inputs (e.g., dust, wildfires, marine organic aerosols).

  1. Reactive Nitrogen Measurements and Modeling

Nitrogen has been increasingly added to the environment over the years, resulting in serious air and water quality problems. ATDD’s air chemistry program seeks to understand the complex processes that drive the release of reactive nitrogen to the air and the fate of these compounds when they return to the Earth.  Collaborative field and modeling studies with UT could collect data over different types of land (agricultural, coastal, and forest) to produce estimates of how much nitrogen enters the air, what factors affect its release, how much deposits back to land in an ongoing cycle, and the effects on vegetation, soil, and surface water.

  1. Boundary Layer Observations and Simulation

Over the last few years, ATDD has participated in several field experiments to improve understanding of boundary layer (BL) processes related to near-surface weather and the development of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.  Ongoing participation in the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment-Southeast (VORTEX-SE) and the Land Atmosphere Feedback Experiment (LAFE) is providing insightful data that are being analyzed and used in numerical simulations to diagnose BL structures that are important for severe weather forecasting. Observation platforms for this work include flux towers, weather balloons, and small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS).

  1. Forest Ecosystem Interactions with Weather and Climate

ATDD currently conducts long-term eddy covariance flux measurements of CO2, H2O vapor, momentum and energy surface-atmosphere exchange over a mixed hardwood forest in East Tennessee.  These measurements help advance scientific understanding of the complex interactions between ecosystem functions and weather and climate. Additional measurements and/or modeling studies could be used to explore additional interactions between the forest ecosystem and weather or climate.

Projects that fall outside of these four topics will be returned without review.

Use of Funds

Funds may be used for any activity directly related to the conduct of the research: salaries and benefits for research trainees (postdocs, students), some travel, research supplies, equipment/facility recharge, etc. Travel to federal agencies and proposer workshops are strongly encouraged and are likely to be an important element in order to successfully obtain interdisciplinary research funding.  Funds for travel are limited to federal agencies, proposer workshops, and other related visits. Funds will be available almost immediately after awards are announced and will be provided to awardees on a cost reimbursable basis.  Reimbursement requests may be submitted to ORE periodically as significant amounts are expended. Funds may not be used for faculty salary, course buyouts, administrative staff, seminar speakers, or conferences. Consultant costs may be considered under certain circumstances.  Project seed grants will be awarded in two phases: recipients will be awarded 50% of funds to initiate the project, with the remainder made available upon completion and approval of a brief mid-term report on project status. All funds must be expended by the end of the 12-month or 24-month project period unless an extension is approved by the AVCRD and the contributing College/Departments.

NOAA ATDD researchers will work through a similar process for use of funds, to be determined by NOAA ATDD prior to the award.


The internal proposal submittal deadline is October 18, 2018. Estimated date for notice of award is November 8, 2018, and the project will have a start date of no later than December 1, 2018.

Application Format

Online submission will include completion of the form as well submitting the following documents:  External Funding Strategy, Research Plan, Quad Chart, Budget, Current and Pending Support, and CVs

  1. Online Application Form 
  2. External Funding Strategy– No more than three pages: PI(s) should attempt to identify at least one agency that they have not received funding from in the past.  [Word or Acrobat Format]Strategy should address the following questions:
    • What specific funding opportunity will be targeted for subsequent funding? Specific program? 
    • Who is the intended Program Manager/Officer? 
    • What correspondence or interaction has been made or is planned with the Program Manager/Officer or federal agency (include emails and a description of interaction when possible). 
    • What is the proposed timeline and target deadline (if applicable) for applying for external funding?
    • Related review criteria: Sustainability and External Funds and Advances the PI’s Research Agenda

Projects that do not indicate a specific opportunity will be returned without review.

  1. Research Plan– No more than four pages, single-spaced, 12-point font with one-inch margins. [Word or Acrobat Format] Note: References are not included in the 4-page limit. Proposals should include the following sections:
  • Project Period: State whether you are requesting a one-year or two-year project period. If two years, summarize the rationale for your request.
  • Objectives and Significance. State concisely the goals of the proposed research and summarize the expected outcome(s), including the impact that the results of the proposed research will have on the research field(s) involved. Explain the importance of the problem or critical barrier to progress that the proposed project addresses. Describe the scientific premise for the proposed project. (Related review criteria: Merit and Significance)
  • Current State-of-the-Art and Approach. Briefly explain the current state-of-the-art. Describe your overall strategy, methodology, and analyses to be used to accomplish the objectives of the project. Describe the experimental design and methods proposed and how they will achieve robust and unbiased results. Point out scientific challenges and limitations; quantify whenever possible; start broad but most importantly, get down to the root cause of the challenge you are trying to overcome and how you will approach it – detail is helpful. (Related review criteria: Feasibility and Approach)
  • Innovation/Differentiator. Highlight the innovative nature of your proposal by differentiating it from the current state-of-the-art. Point out how and why your research should overcome the challenges and limitations you stated in (b) State-of-the-Art. Be specific and quantify when possible. What’s new about your approach? Is it a first? What specifically differentiates your proposed research from your peers’ research at other institutions?  How might it revolutionize research and advance your field? Why hasn’t it been done before and what leads you to believe that now is the optimal time (ex. an observation, a recent discovery, or a breakthrough in your lab)?(Related review criteria: Innovation and Differentiators)
  1. Quad chart– One page (see quad chart example template) [PowerPoint Format]
  2. Budget with breakdown of cost categories [Excel Format]
  3. Current and Pending Support for PI and senior personnel (see PI Current and Pending Support List template) [Excel Format]
  4. CVs– No more than two pages per individual investigator [Word or Acrobat Format]
  5. Department/College/Other Unit willingness to cost-share append email or letter from all Department Heads (Departments), Associate Deans for Research (College), and/or leaders of other university units who are committing cost-share to the project.

Review Process

Proposals will be reviewed by UT/UTSI/UTIA faculty, staff, and NOAA staff.  Deans and/or department heads of the PI and co-PI’s may also be asked for input on the importance of the project for their college or department. Evaluations will be based on these major criteria:

  1. Merit and Significance: Will the proposed advance research in the field? Does it challenge the current state of art? Will it overcome a barrier to advancing research in this field and broaden the horizon for future research? Is this a major question or problem?
  2. Feasibility and Approach: Are the research plans, methods, and analyses proposed appropriate? Will the methods and analyses achieve the objectives of the project? Are adequate resources (expertise, tools, equipment) included in the proposal?
  3. Innovation and Differentiators: Does the proposal leverage new theories, tools, or applications that will advance the field? Will the proposed project shift the current paradigm in the field? Are technical or intellectual innovations included in the proposal? Does the PI leverage individual or institutional differentiators? (Criteria double-weighted in review.)
  4. Sustainability and External Funds: Does the project align with the funder identified? Is it reasonable to expect that in addition to alignment, funds will be available in the future (i.e. targeted program is not sun setting and is of continued interest to the funder)? Is the PI viable from target funder’s perspective? Is there potential alignment with other funders not mentioned in the proposal? (Criteria double-weighted in review.)
  5. Advances the PI’s Research Agenda: How important is this seed grant to the success of the PI’s research agenda?

ORE Programming Requirements

Awardees are required to work with a staff member from the AVCRD Funding Strategy Planning Program.  Awardees should also take part in at least one of the AVCRD workshops or training sessions during the period of performance.

Progress Tracking and Reporting

It is expected awardees will submit at least one external proposal based on the research.  Awardees are required to submit both a brief interim report (template provided to awardees) to release the remaining 50% of the funds and a final project report within 60 days of the award period end. Awardees requesting a two-year project period will be closely reviewed after 12 months to ensure adequate progress is being made on the project. The final project report should include the results of the research, new funding targets identified during the process, efforts underway to obtain external funding, and efforts to generate publications. Lack of timely reporting may result in exclusion from future award opportunities. PI’s are responsible for tracking expenses associated with award.

NOAA ATDD researchers will be expected to provide similar reporting on the progress of the project to NOAA ATDD. Teams should work together to ensure accuracy and consistency in reporting on the progress of the research.

For more information or questions, please contact AVCRD@utk.edu.