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Strategic University Research Partnerships

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FY19 Research Initiative & Student Research Initiative Concept Guidelines

The deadline for SURP concept paper submission is Monday, December 11, 2017, by 4:00 pm PST

  1. Introduction

    The JPL Strategic University Research Partnership (SURP) Program is soliciting one-page concept papers for the FY 2019 funding cycle. This call is one of the avenues the SURP program uses to strengthen the link between the Laboratory and its most strategically important academic partners

    Arizona State University
    Carnegie Mellon University
    Cornell University
    Georgia Institute of Technology
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Princeton University
    Stanford University
    University of Arizona
    University of California, Los Angeles
    University of Colorado, Boulder
    University of Michigan
    University of Southern California
    University of Texas, Austin

    Responses to the call should identify collaborative research ideas in the forefront of Earth and space science or associated technology development. Proposals should initiate, or significantly strengthen, collaborations in support of JPL’s strategic vision. Concept papers should show how funding will provide benefits to the lab that go beyond the technical accomplishments of the proposed effort, emphasizing the long-term value of the partnership.

    The proposal process for has two steps: A one-page concept paper submission followed by a full proposal submission for approved concepts.

    Proposed activities come in two types:
    1. Research Initiatives are for collaborative basic and applied research. Proposals are for one year only, up to a cap of $100k to be shared between JPL researchers, partner faculty, and students. Research Initiatives must have a JPL PI and a university faculty collaborator. They are encouraged to have one or more students or postdocs, but it is not required.

    2. Student Research Initiatives should also be for collaborative basic and applied research, but with an emphasis on significant student engagement. They can be for up to three years, with a cap of $60k/year, to be shared between JPL and the partner. They can be focused research tasks for individual graduate students, they can be undergraduate and/or graduate student group research projects, or they can support JPL collaboration in university classes. Student Research Initiatives must have a JPL PI, a university faculty collaborator and one or more students. The Student Research Initiative funding cap has been increased this year with the aim of generating research concepts that support half of a graduate student’s time per year over an extended period (up to three years), leading to significantly enhanced research outcomes. Concept papers should describe how undergraduate and/or graduate student involvement would support building a strong partnership based on the faculty’s research interests and alignment with JPL strategic goals. While there are no restrictions on funding levels, provided that they stay within the cap, in the past undergraduate class projects have been funded at the $25k - $35k level, and such projects are still encouraged.

    Additional Elements: Concepts containing additional enhancing elements are strongly encouraged. For instance, we encourage proposers to seek out and highlight contributions from our partners that are synergistic with JPL’s investment. Example contributions may be reduced overhead, in-kind funding of students or faculty, or the provision of unique capabilities. Another way that proposals can be enhanced is by exchange of personnel. While proposed research efforts can include activities to be performed at JPL or at the partnering university, concepts that employ the exchange of personnel, such as students working at JPL under the co-supervision of the JPL PI and University faculty, JPL investigators working at the strategic partner university, or faculty working at JPL (including on sabbatical), are encouraged. A third enhancing element is diversity. The SURP program seeks to be a positive force in creating a more diverse population at JPL. An effective way of doing this is through participation of students from under-represented groups in SURP Initiatives. Proposers are encouraged to make note of any enhancing elements in their concept papers.

    We have identified 14 science and technology areas that are important for JPL's continuing contribution to NASA's future success and for which JPL's leadership is key. SURP concepts should address one or more of these strategic topic areas:

    Please designate only one of the subcategory areas as primary, and if desired a secondary subcategory area. Do not designate a major category area, but only a subcategory. Type the topic area subcategory on the concept paper template.

  2. Program Constraints

    SURP proposals are intended to support collaborations with one or more of the Strategic Partner Universities listed above.

    Additional constraints of the program:

    SURP funds will not be used to:
    • Substitute for or increase funding for any specific tasks that are funded by any other source.
    • Fund projects that will require the addition of non-SURP funds to accomplish the technical goals of the SURP project.
    • Fund general purpose capital expenditures with the exception of acquisition of general purpose equipment that is clearly required for the SURP project and is not otherwise readily available from the Laboratory inventory. (Proposals must contain any capital equipment requests. Equipment not listed in the proposal will not be approved.)

  3. Who Needs to Submit a SURP Concept Paper

    All NEW concepts require a one-page concept paper in response to this call. PIs with ongoing Student Research Initiatives need not submit a concept paper for their renewal proposal. Concepts will be reviewed by JPL line and program managers. The JPL Office of the Chief Scientist and Chief Technologist will approve which concepts will go forward to full proposals, with a Call for Proposals anticipated in January 2018.

    Principal Investigators must be full-time JPL employees and may submit more than one concept paper, however a Student Research Initiative cannot be used to supplement a Research Initiative.

  4. Required Forms

    A one-page concept paper template is provided in on the SURP website.

    On this form you must provide the title of the concept, a list of the investigators with their organization, the FY19 budget, the duration of Student Research Initiatives (1-3 years), the primary and if desired secondary topic area you are proposing in (found in the list above), and a high-level description of the concept that includes 1) The long-term value of the partnership. Emphasis is placed on developing partnerships that support JPLs strategic vision, providing benefits to the lab that go beyond the technical accomplishments of the proposed seed effort. 2) Scope of student involvement 3) Objectives 4) Approach (including major steps) 5) Description of innovation (relative to state of the art) 6) Significant impact on JPL’s technical capabilities for future missions and programs. 7) Any additional elements (as described in A)

    The concept paper should be limited to one-page only.

  5. Electronic Submission of Your Concept Paper

    Once your concept paper template has been completed, access the submissions site to obtain your assigned concept paper number, and then submit your concept paper (with your assigned concept paper number typed on the upper right-hand corner of your concept paper) to the SURP submission site:

    • Instructions for entering information on your concept, obtaining your concept paper number and then submitting the completed concept paper can be found under “Proposal Information” within the SURP web site,
    • You need to obtain your assigned Concept Paper Number prior to submitting your completed file. Your concept paper number will be assigned once you have filled out the required information on the submissions site.
    • After having obtained your assigned concept paper number from the submissions site, enter your concept paper number on the upper right-hand corner of your concept paper file.
    • Follow the instructions to submit your concept paper file to the SURP submission site.

    No Hard-Copies of Your Concept Paper are required.
    IMPORTANT -- We strongly recommend that you submit the concept paper early to allow for potential problems.

  6. Evaluation Process

    Concepts will be reviewed by JPL line and program managers. The JPL Office of the Chief Scientist and Chief Technologist will approve which concepts will go forward to full proposals.

    The principal investigators of the approved concepts will be asked to write and submit a full SURP proposal (the call for proposals is anticipated in January 2018)

    The selection criteria are as follows:
    • Long-term strategic value of the partnership
    • Benefit from student involvement
    • Innovation
    • Merit of the technical approach
    • Strength of the investigation team
    • Alignment with strategic topic areas
    • Impact on JPL capabilities for future missions and programs
    • Cost and schedule realism
    • Possibility of follow-on funding

  7. Debriefing

    Due to the large number of concept papers that are anticipated to be received, it will not be feasible to provide written feedback to each principal investigator. However, proposers are free to contact the SURP office for feedback.