Canadian participation in the NASA Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Participating Scientist Program

Announcement of Opportunity

Notice of intent deadline: March 4, 2011

Application deadline: March 31, 2011


The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) would like to extend Canada's scientific participation in NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission by supporting the opportunity presented by the the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Research Announcement entitled MSL Participating Scientist Program (Solicitation: NNH10ZDA001N-MSLPSP).

Details regarding the NASA Research Announcement and the MSL mission can be found at:

The NASA MSL is a flagship class mission that is planned for launch to Mars in 2011. CSA is contributing the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) investigation led by Principal Investigator Ralf Gellert (University of Guelph).

This mission presents a significant opportunity to advance scientific knowledge of Mars, one of the priorities of the CSA Exploration Program. It is also an opportunity for Canadian researchers and Highly Qualified Personnel to gain experience in planetary science operations. Mars science operations is an area where CSA has identified a need to build capacity in Canada to support future Exploration activities, including Canadian participation in an international Mars Sample Return mission. For this reason, CSA particularly invites proposals from scientists who have not previously participated in Mars missions and are eligible per section 2.0.

1.1. Objectives of the Announcement of opportunity (AO)

This AO is the mechanism through which the CSA will make available grants to scientists at Canadian universities who are selected by NASA through the NASA Participating Scientist research opportunity described above, who are eligible per section 2.0 and who meet CSA selection criteria.

More specifically, this AO aims:

  • To enhance the scientific return from the MSL mission by broadening participation in the mission, augmenting the existing MSL science team to include new investigations that broaden and/or complement the funded Principal Investigator (PI)-led investigations, thus maximizing the contribution of MSL to the future exploration and scientific understanding of Mars.
  • To increase the number of scientists supporting daily mission operations. Participating Scientist proposals can include investigations that are instrument specific or multi-instrument in nature and, in all cases, must include both science analysis and an operational component (commitment to participate in daily operations) in order to be considered. Because the intention is to enhance and broaden the scientific return, as well as increasing the number of scientists supporting daily operations, investigations submitted by MSL PIs and Co-Investigators (Co-I) will not be considered.

The key results for CSA expected from selected proposals are

  • increased output of scientific knowledge associated with Canada's participation in NASA's MSL
  • increase to the supply of scientists with PhDs in Canada who also have experience in planetary surface operations

Proposals are invited using data from any of the ten MSL instruments as described in the NASA solicitation.

Please read the following guide thoroughly before submitting your application. It has been prepared to assist Applicants through the application process and it outlines important elements including mandatory criteria for eligibility and the selection process.

In the event of any discrepancies between this AO and the individual funding agreements governing a project or projects, the latter document(s) will take precedence.

1.2. Contact Information

To obtain further information, please contact:

Alain Ouellet
Head, Planetary and Astronomy missions
Canadian Space Agency
6767 Route de l'Aéroport
Saint-Hubert, Quebec, J3Y 8Y9

2. Criteria for eligibility

2.1. Eligible Projects

In order to be eligible, proposed applicants must meet the requirements outlined in NASA Research Announcement NNH10ZDA001N-MSLPSP (MSL Participating Scientist Program).

In addition, research activities must be linked to the CSA's priorities ('Canadian Scientific Priorities for the Global Exploration Strategy') and to the CSA Class Grant & Contribution Program objectives and strategic outcomes described in the Program Overview on the CSA Website.

Due to the nature of this AO, proposals from a single PI are required, however the involvement of graduate students supporting the PI in the proposed research activities and science operations is actively encouraged.

2.2. Eligible Recipients

For this AO, only Canadian universities are eligible.

3. Funding

3.1. Available Funding and Duration

The maximum funding per project per year available through this AO is $50,000.

It is anticipated that up to four awards will be made for a duration each of 4 and a half years, beginning in November 2011.

Funding will depend on CSA budget availability.

3.2. Confirmed Funding

Each applicant is required to identify confirmed funds from all other sources of funding in their application. For projects requiring funding from other funding organizations that amounts to more than 25% of funds in relation to the total project cost, proof that those funds have been confirmed must be submitted with the proposal. In the absence of such confirmation from other sources of funding, the CSA may not award a grant.

3.3. Eligible Costs

Eligible costs are direct expenses associated with the delivery of the approved project and that are required to achieve the expected results of the project. Expenses will be covered subject to the Applicant signing a grant agreement with the CSA.

Eligible costs can include one or a combination of the following:

  • access fees;
  • accommodation and meal allowances;
  • acquisition, development and printing of materials;
  • acquisition or rental of equipment including science instrumentation;
  • bursaries;
  • consultant services;
  • cost for carrying out environmental screening and/or impact studies;
  • costs related to obtaining security clearance;
  • data acquisition;
  • data management;
  • laboratory analyses services;
  • licenses and permits fees;
  • materials and supplies;
  • overhead (administrative) costs (not to exceed 20% of eligible costs for universities);
  • participation fees at conferences, committees and events;
  • PST, HST and GST net of any rebate to which the recipient is entitled to and the reimbursement of any taxes for goods and services acquired in a foreign country net of any rebate or reimbursement received in the foreign country.
  • publication and communication services;
  • registration fees;
  • salaries and benefits;
  • training;
  • translation services; and
  • travel.

4. Application Requirements

This is a two step application process.

As a first step, applicants are required to submit a Letter of Intent by 17:00 EST March 4, 2011. This letter must be sufficiently detailed to allow CSA to determine if the projects intends to meet the project eligibility criteria's (section 2). The CSA will then perform an initial screening of Letters of Intent to ensure that they conform to the criteria of eligibility (Section 2). A Letter of Support will then be provided to eligible Applicants by March 15, 2011.

This step will provide applicants with a letter of support from CSA to include in their application to NASA.

In the second step, applicants must submit a completed Application PDF Document - 154 kilobytes (KB) as described below by 17:00 EST March 31, 2011.

The Application must include the following:

  • A completed typed original application form signed by the Duly Authorized Representative;
  • A copy of the complete proposal submitted to NASA in response to NASA solicitation NNH10ZDA001N-MSLPSP
  • A copy of the document(s) confirming the legal name of the Applicant;
  • A copy of the application (identical to the signed paper copy) on a standard electronic media (USB flash drive, CD or DVD);
  • Letters from other funding contributors confirming their contributions (if applicable);
  • Declaration on Confidentiality, Access to Information and Privacy Act form signed by the Duly Authorized Representative; and
  • Environment Assessment Checklist completed and signed by the Duly Authorized Representative.
  • For organizations in Québec, M-30 Supporting documentation form completed and signed by the Duly Authorized Representative;

Any missing supporting document or any incoherence between the requested documents and the information provided within the documents may lead to the rejection of the proposal on that sole basis. Applications must be mailed by post to the CSA at the address below:

Mars PSP Announcement of Opportunity
c/o Alain Ouellet
CSA Exploration
Canadian Space Agency
6767 Route de l'Aéroport
Saint-Hubert, Quebec, J3Y 8Y9

Note: Applications sent by e-mail will not be accepted.

It is the Applicant's responsibility to ensure that the application complies with all relevant federal, provincial/territorial and municipal laws.

5. Selection process

5.1. Initial screening

The CSA will perform an initial screening of the Applications received to ensure that they conform to the criteria of eligibility (Section 2), funding constraint (Section 3) and application requirements (Section 4).

5.2. CSA Evaluation

Only applications that have passed the initial screening process described in Section 5.1 will be considered further. Once the initial screening completed, an evaluation committee will assess screened-in applications according to criteria described in Section 5.5. All of these criteria with weighting are further described in Appendix A and B. The CSA Evaluation will result in applications being categorized as Pass or Fail. While relevance of the science to the MSL mission is important to CSA, this will not be evaluated by CSA but will be done in the parallel NASA evaluation (5.3).

Before a final categorisation is made, CSA program managers may ask for clarification from Applicants or seek input and advice from others, including, but not limited to academia, federal, provincial/territorial and municipal government agencies, etc. Applications with missing information may be at a disadvantage, in comparison with those that are complete and cover all subject items described in Appendix A.

5.3. NASA Evaluation

Selection as a MSL Participating Scientist will be made by NASA on the basis of the NASA solicitation NNH10ZDA001N-MSLPSP. NASA selection of non-US proposals will require a letter of support to indicate availability of non-NASA funding.

5.4. Final decision

NASA and CSA evaluations will proceed in parallel.

CSA grants will be awarded subject to CSA evaluation as described in section 5.2, the ranking from the NASA selection process, and available CSA budget.

5.5. CSA Evaluation Criteria

The following criteria will be assessed. They are further described with weightings in Appendix A.

Benefits to Canada

  • Advancement of knowledge relevant to the CSA Exploration Program.


  • Publication and science dissemination plan
  • Student involvement


  • Quality and experience of the PI


  • Budget and other funding sources

Risk and mitigation strategies

  • Project risks (financial, managerial, environmental and technical) and mitigation strategies

While CSA will supply letters of endorsement to all Applicants who meet the eligibility screening for the Notice of Intent, it is not anticipated that NASA will select more than four scientists from Canada unless these are funded from non-CSA sources, as CSA's letter of endorsement will state CSA's intent to fund up to four.

5.6. Notification and Announcement

Applicants will be notified in writing regarding the decisions related to their application. Successful applications will be announced and posted on the CSA website.

5.7. Service Standards

CSA has set service standards for the timely delivery of the acknowledgement of receipt, funding decision and payment processes.

Acknowledgement: CSA goal is to acknowledge receipt of proposals within 2 weeks of receiving a completed application package.

Decision: CSA goal is to respond to the proposal within 12 weeks of receiving a completed application package or closing date of the Announcement of Opportunity and, to send for signature a grant agreement within 8 weeks after formal approval of the proposal.

Payment: CSA goal is to issue payments within 4 weeks of the successful fulfillment of requirements outlined in the grant agreement.

The achievement of these service standards is a shared responsibility. The applicant must submit all required documentation in a timely fashion. Service standards may vary by Announcement of Opportunity.

6. Privacy notice statement

The CSA will comply with federal Access to Information Act and Privacy Act vis-à-vis applications received under this Component. By submitting your personal information, you are consenting to its collection, use and disclosure in accordance with the following Privacy Notice Statement which explains how Applicant's information will be managed.

Necessary measures have been taken to protect the confidentiality of the information provided by the Applicant. This information is collected under the authority of the CSA Class Grant and Contribution Program to support Research, Awareness and Learning in Space Science and Technology - Research Component, and will be used for the evaluation and selection of proposals. Personal information (such as contact information, biographical information, etc.) included in the rejected proposals will be stored in a Personal Information CSA Bank for 5 years and then destroyed (Personal Information Bank to be registered with Treasury Board Secretariat soon). Personal information included in the successful proposals will be retained along with the results of their proposals for historical purposes. These data are protected under the Privacy Act. According to the Privacy Act, the data linked to one individual and included in the proposal being evaluated can be accessed by the specific concerned individual who has rights with respect to this information. This individual may, upon request, (1) be given access to his/her data and (2) have incorrect information corrected or have a notation attached.

Applicants should note that for all agreements over $25,000, information related to the funding agreement (amount, grant or contribution, name of the recipient and project location) through this Component and the purpose of the funding will be made available to the public on the CSA website.

If you need additional information on privacy matter before sending your proposal, contact Danielle Bourgie, Coordinator, Access to Information and Privacy, at the CSA.

Telephone: 450-926-4866

7. Funding agreement

7.1. Payments

The CSA and the successful Applicants (hereinafter referred to as the Recipients) will sign a funding agreement. This represents a condition for any payment made by the CSA with respect to the approved project.

For grant agreements, payments will be made in a lump sum or in instalments as described in the signed agreement. Grant funding agreements will include a clause stipulating the obligation for the recipients to confirm, once a year in the case of multi-year agreements, their eligibility to this Component and to inform the CSA in writing of any changes to the conditions used in determining their entitlement and eligibility to this Component.

7.2. Conflict of interest

In the funding agreement, the Recipient will certify that any former public office holder or public servant it employs complies with the provisions of the relevant Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Former Public Office Holders and the Value and Ethics Code for Public Servants respectively.

7.3. Intellectual Property

All Intellectual Property that arises in the course of the project shall vest in the recipient.

However, any commitment contained in the proposal to NASA to deliver new data products to NASA as a result of the proposed work, shall also result in the delivery of a copy of such data products to the CSA.

When applicable, the funding agreement will include a provision granting to CSA a non-exclusive, irrevocable, world-wide, free and royalty-free licence in perpetuity to use or sub-licence the use of any such Intellectual Property contained in recipient reports for non-commercial governmental purposes.

7.4. Canadian Environmental Assessment Act

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) obliges all federal departments and agencies to review proposal for potential impacts on the environment. All applications will include information to enable the CSA to assess whether a payment under this component would trigger any information under the CEAA.

The Environmental Assessment Checklist will help the Applicant and the CSA to determine if the CEAA applies to a specific project. This checklist must be completed, signed and attach to the proposal.

7.5. Organizations in Quebec

An organization in Quebec whose operations are partially or fully funded by the province of Quebec may be subject to An Act Respecting the Ministère du Conseil exécutif, L.R.Q., chapter M-30.

Under sections 3.11 and 3.12 of An Act respecting the Ministère du Conseil exécutif, L.R.Q., chapter M-30 (hereinafter referred to as Act) certain entities / organizations, as defined in the meaning of the Act, such municipal bodies, school bodies, or public agencies, must obtain an authorization by the Secrétariat aux affaires intergouvernementales canadiennes du Québec (SAIC), as indicated by the Act, before signing any funding agreement with the Government of Canada, its departments or agencies, or a federal public agency.

Consequently, any entity that is subject to the Act is responsible for obtaining such authorization before signing any funding agreement with the Government of Canada.

Applicants from Quebec must complete, signed and include the M-30 Supporting Documentation PDF Document - 114 kilobytes (KB) Form with their application.