The Program has adopted several program parameters, which will define the scope and scale of activities supported by the Program. Additional detail and requirements will be included within the specific federal funding opportunities issued by the Program. The parameters outlined here are intended to provide a high-level view of the Program.
Subsections of Section 1604 of the RESTORE Act specify the types of Gulf of Mexico research activities and species that can be funded under this section of the Act.
- Marine and estuarine research, ecosystem monitoring, and ocean observation
- Data collection and stock assessments
- Pilot programs for fishery independent data and reduction of exploitation of spawning aggregations
- Cooperative research
- Eligible fish species include all marine, estuarine, and aquaculture species in State and Federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico
Subsection 1604(b)(4)(d) states that priority shall be given to integrated, long-term projects that:
- Build on, or are coordinated with, related research activities and
- Address current or anticipated marine ecosystem, fishery, or wildlife information needs.
The Act also stipulates activities that are not eligible under this program. The funds provided may not be used:
- for any existing or planned research led by NOAA, unless agreed to in writing by the grant recipient;
- to implement existing regulations or initiate new regulations promulgated or proposed by the NOAA; or
- to develop or approve a new limited access privilege program for any fishery under the jurisdiction of the South Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic, New England, or Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils.
The RESTORE Act stipulates that Program funds be expend “with respect to the Gulf of Mexico”. To provide geographic boundaries for the Program, the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem is defined as the ocean basin bounded by the United States along its northeastern, northern, and northwestern edges; Mexico on its southwestern and southern edges; and Cuba on its southeastern edge. The Gulf of Mexico is connected to the Caribbean Sea through the Yucatan Channel between Mexico and Cuba and connected to the Atlantic Ocean through the Florida Straits between Cuba and the United States. This definition of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem includes the estuarine and marine environments of the basin’s continental shelf and its deep water environments. International, federal, and state waters are encompassed within this defined area. In addition to supporting research conducted in the Gulf of Mexico, the Program will also support research on processes that impact the Gulf of Mexico in a direct, significant, and quantifiable way, which includes processes in the watersheds draining into the Gulf of Mexico and coastal terrestrial areas that provide habitat for important wildlife species.
The RESTORE Act does not specify an end date for the Program, but the Program will end when the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund is fully expended.
Initial funding for the NOAA RESTORE Science Program (derived from funds deposited into the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund as part of the settlement with Transocean) is expected to support an active program over a period of seven to ten years. If additional funds are deposited into the Trust Fund as a result of settlements with, or judgments, against other parties deemed responsible by the courts for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the lifetime of the Program will be extended.
As stipulated in the Act, priority shall be given to integrated long-term projects. “Integrated” is defined here as cross-disciplinary and may link observations, monitoring, modeling, and field/laboratory research. Proposals for projects supporting the long-term priorities may be supported for up to 3-years, with potential for merit-based renewal. Shorter-term awards may be required to support Program execution or initial investments in our short-term priorities.
Eligibility for Funding Opportunities
- Eligible applicants are institutions of higher education; other nonprofits; state, local, and Indian Tribal Governments; commercial organizations; and U.S. Territories that possess the statutory authority to accept funding for this type of research.
- Federal agencies that possess the statutory authority to accept funding for this type of research are eligible.
- NOAA RESTORE Science Program funding opportunities will not be used to hire and fund the salaries of any permanent Federal employees, but may fund travel, equipment, supplies, and contractual personnel costs associated with the proposed work.
- Foreign researchers may apply for sub awards through an eligible US entity.
- Principal investigators are not required to be employed by an eligible entity that is based in one of the five Gulf of Mexico States (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas); however, principal investigators that are not from Gulf of Mexico-based eligible entities are encouraged to collaborate with partners from a Gulf of Mexico-based eligible entity.
The NOAA RESTORE Science Program will generally use peer-reviewed competitive approaches (e.g., federal funding opportunities) to advance the Program’s long-term research priorities and rely most heavily on grants and/or cooperative agreements when making awards. The Program may also use other mechanisms, including contracts, to ensure the flexibility needed to do the work required and involve appropriate partners.
Peer Review Process
The Program will apply the rigorous, competitive, peer-review process established by NOAA’s Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research to select research projects that will be funded by grants or cooperative agreements. This review process, which utilizes mail and/or panel peer-reviews, is extensive, well-documented, and as transparent as possible. To avoid conflicts of interest in the selection of funded research, independent reviews will be performed by scientific peers not affiliated with institutions that propose projects (NOAA Policy on Conflicts of Interest for Peer Review).
Recognizing the inherent complexity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and the diversity of disciplines and expertise that will be required to advance current understanding and support long-term sustainability of the ecosystem, the Program encourages collaborative efforts. The Program particularly encourages partnerships with scientists located in the Gulf of Mexico.
The NOAA RESTORE Science Program maintains strict adherence to the principles of scientific integrity as defined in the NOAA Administrative Order on Scientific Integrity (NAO 202-735D). NOAA RESTORE Science Program staff and scientists funded by the Program are responsible for abiding by the principles contained in the NAO.
Data and Information Sharing
Eligible applicants awarded funding under the NOAA Restore Science Program will be required to comply with NOAA’s Administrative Order on Management of Environmental Data and Information (NAO 212-15), which states that environmental data are to be managed based upon a lifecycle that includes developing and following a data management plan. Environmental data and information collected and/or created under an awarded grant/cooperative agreement will be made visible, accessible and independently understandable to users in a timely manner (typically no later than two (2) years after the data are collected or created) free of charge or at minimal cost that is no more than the cost of distribution to the user, except where limited by law, regulation, policy or by security requirements.