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Canadian participation in the 2015 NASA Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Participating Scientist Program

Announcement of Opportunity

Publication date: April 29, 2015

Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Notices of Intent (NOIs) due: May 14, 2015

Application deadline: June 10, 2015

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. AO Objectives
  3. Eligibility Criteria
  4. NOI – Stage 1
  5. Complete Applications – Stage 2
  6. Evaluation
  7. Funding
  8. Funding Agreements
  9. Privacy Notice Statement
  10. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Announcement of Opportunity Key Information

  • Eligible Recipients: Canadian universities
  • Grants or Contributions: Grants
  • Maximum Amount per Project: $100,000 Footnote 1
  • Maximum Timeframe per Project: 2 years Footnote 1

1. Introduction

The 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 Mars Science Laboratory Participating Scientist Program (Solicitation: NNH15ZDA001N-MSLPSP).

The MSL Curiosity rover landed on Mars in August 2012, with the overall science objective to explore and quantitatively assess a local region in Gale Crater, Mars, as a potential habitat for life, past or present. This mission has been successfully operated for over two years by a large team of scientists and engineers, using an integrated suite of instruments on a rover platform. The CSA has contributed the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) investigation led by Principal Investigator (PI) Ralf Gellert (University of Guelph). A list of the prelanding mission description papers and key postlanding science results published by the science team can be found. NASA MSL has been approved for its first extended mission until September 2017.

This mission presents a significant opportunity to advance scientific knowledge of Mars, one of the priorities of the CSA Exploration Program. The Participating Scientist Program is also an opportunity for Canadian researchers and highly qualified personnel (HQP) to gain experience in planetary science operations. Planetary mission science operations are an area where the CSA has identified a need to build capacity in Canada to support future Exploration activities. For this reason, the CSA is accepting proposals from scientists who have not previously participated in Mars missions and are eligible per Section 3.1, as well as proposals for new investigations from Participating Scientists who were previously selected for the MSL primary mission and remain eligible per Section 3.1.

This Announcement of Opportunity (AO) is consistent with the terms and conditions of the CSA Class Grant and Contribution (G&C) Program to Support Research, Awareness and Learning in Space Science and Technology – Research Component.

Applicants are asked to read the following AO thoroughly before submitting their applications. This AO was prepared to help applicants complete the application process, and outlines key elements, including mandatory criteria for eligibility, details on eligible projects and the selection process. In the event of any discrepancies between this AO and the individual funding agreements governing a project, the latter document(s) will take precedence.

2. AO Objectives

This AO is the mechanism through which the CSA will make grants available to scientists at Canadian universities who are selected by NASA through the NASA Participating Scientist research opportunity described above, who are eligible per Section 3 and who meet CSA selection criteria.

The specific objectives of this AO are set out in Table 1.

Table 1: AO objectives in the context of CSA G&C Program objectives
G&C Program Objectives AO Objectives Immediate Strategic Outcomes
To support information gathering, studies and research related to space. 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 PI-led investigations, thus maximizing the contribution of MSL to the future exploration and scientific understanding of Mars. Increased scientific knowledge associated with Canada's participation in NASA's MSL.
To foster the continuing development of a critical mass of researchers and highly qualified people in Canada in areas relevant to the priorities of the CSA. To increase the number of scientists supporting daily mission operations. Increase to the supply of scientists with PhDs in Canada who also have experience in planetary surface operations.

3. Eligibility Criteria

3.1 Eligible Recipients

For this AO, only Canadian universities are eligible.

3.2 Eligible Projects

In order to be eligible, proposed applicants must meet the requirements outlined in NASA Research Announcement NNH15ZDA001N-MSLPSP (MSL Participating Scientist Program). Proposals are accepted using data from any of the 10 MSL instruments as described in the NASA solicitation.

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.

The PI is expected to be the primary, if not sole, individual contributing to the proposed science and operations. Although not encouraged, proposals may include funded Co-Investigators (Co-I) and/or unfunded collaborators only if they are required to complete the proposed science investigation and are working under the supervision of the PI and co-located at the PI's institution. The participation of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers is encouraged.

All development phases necessary for a project are eligible. Any logical breakdown or combination of these phases can constitute a funded project. However, breaking down a project into numerous phases to obtain more than the maximum grant or contribution is not allowed. Furthermore, even if the maximum funding for one project is not reached, the completion of a funded phase does not automatically guarantee funding of the remaining phases.

3.3 Links to CSA Priorities

In addition to addressing the AO objectives described in Table 1, research activities must be linked to the CSA's priorities as described by the Canadian community document "Canadian Scientific Priorities for the Global Exploration Strategy".

3.4 Links to the Class G&C Program Objectives

Activities must also be linked to the CSA Class Grant & Contribution Program objectives and strategic outcomes described in Table 1.

4. NOI – Stage 1

As a first step, applicants are required to submit a Letter of Intent.

This step will provide eligible applicants with a letter of endorsement from the CSA to include in their application to NASA. The objective of this stage is to verify the eligibility of the applicant and the project.

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

In this first stage, the documentation submitted shall include:

Documents relating to the first step shall be mailed to the CSA at the following address:

Space Exploration Development
Canadian Space Agency
6767 Route de l'Aéroport
Saint-Hubert, Quebec J3Y 8Y9

Documents must be received at the CSA no later than 5:00 p.m. (EDT), May 14, 2015.

4.1 Service Standards – NOI

Acknowledgement: The CSA's goal is to acknowledge receipt of the NOI through an email within five (5) working days of receipt.

Applicants will be notified in writing of decisions about their project by May 27, 2015. Applicants whose projects meet the eligibility criteria will receive the necessary letter of endorsement from the CSA to submit with their proposal to NASA by May 29, 2015, and the necessary documentation to submit a full proposal, or a letter stating that the project is not eligible.

5. Complete Applications – Stage 2

5.1 Required Documentation

The application must include the following:

It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that the application complies with all relevant federal, provincial and territorial legislation and municipal bylaws.

Applications must be mailed to the CSA at the following address:

Space Exploration Development
Canadian Space Agency
6767 Route de l'Aéroport
Saint-Hubert, Quebec J3Y 8Y9

Questions and answers related to this AO will be posted on the CSA website in the Frequently Asked Questions (Section 10).

5.2 Service Standards – Complete Applications

Applicants will be notified in writing of decisions regarding their application. Selected applications will be announced on the CSA website. The CSA has set the following service standards for processing times, acknowledgement of receipt, funding decisions and payment procedures.

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

Decision: The CSA's goal is to respond to the proposal within 26 weeks of the AO's closing date and to send a grant agreement for signature within 8 weeks after formal approval of the proposal.

The CSA's goal is to issue payment within 4 weeks of the successful fulfillment of the requirements outlined in the grant agreement.

Compliance with these service standards is a shared responsibility. Applicants must submit all required documentation in a timely fashion. Service standards may vary by AO.

6. Evaluation

6.1 CSA Eligibility Criteria

6.2 CSA Evaluation Criteria

Applications will be evaluated according to the following criteria. They are further described with weightings in Appendix A.

6.3 CSA Evaluation Process

Only applications that have passed the eligibility assessment listed in Section 6.1 will be given further consideration.

Once the eligibility criteria are confirmed, evaluators will assess the screened applications according to the criteria listed in Section 6.2. Evaluators shall be experts in the fields relevant to the applications and representatives of the CSA.

Before a final decision is made, the CSA's Program Manager responsible for this AO may seek input and advice from other organizations, including (but not limited to) federal, provincial, territorial and municipal government agencies and organizations.

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 the CSA, this will not be evaluated by the CSA but will be done in the parallel NASA evaluation (Section 6.4). To be considered for funding, the application must both pass the CSA evaluation and be selected by NASA. The CSA decision is thus also dependent on the timing of a decision from NASA.

6.4 NASA Evaluation Process

Selection as a MSL Participating Scientist will be made by NASA on the basis of the NASA solicitation NNH15ZDA001N-MSLPSP. This includes evaluation of intrinsic merit, technical consideration of the capability of the rover and the MSL payload to reasonably accomplish the proposed investigation, and consideration of whether the proposed research is complementary to or duplicative of the research already being conducted by the current MSL Science Team members. NASA selection of non-U.S. proposals will require a letter of support to indicate availability of non-NASA funding.

6.5 Final Decision

NASA and CSA evaluations will proceed in parallel.

CSA grants will be awarded subject to the CSA evaluation as described in Section 6.2, the ranking from the NASA selection process, and available CSA budget.

7. Funding

7.1 Available Funding

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

It is anticipated that three (3) Participating Scientist Investigations will be funded under this AO for a duration of two (2) years each, subject to CSA budget availability and approval of annual progress reports.

Selected Participating Scientists are expected to be participating in the mission from October 5, 2015, through September 30, 2017. U.S. export law may delay the start of any participation in operations by nine to twelve months for non-U.S. persons, if the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) does not have existing license authority to share MSL technical information with those persons. Applicants to whom this applies are asked to address this risk in their application, and to demonstrate that their project can be meaningfully advanced in the interim.

The applicant is also asked to plan for the possibility of extension of the Participating Scientist Investigation for an additional two (2) years through to September 29, 2019, subject to CSA approval of a second extension to the MSL mission, CSA budget availability, and approval of annual progress reports. A new MSL Participating Scientist competition may also be required for this second extended mission.

The CSA reserves the right to reject any proposals or reduce the amount of the grants or the contributions at its entire discretion.

Approved proposals will be eligible for a total amount of government assistance (federal, provincial, territorial and municipal) up to 100% of total project costs.

To determine the amount of funding to be allocated, consideration will be given to the availability of CSA funds, the total cost of the project, and the other confirmed sources of funds provided by other stakeholders and the applicant.

Applicants must identify all sources of funding in their applications and confirm this information in a funding agreement if the project is selected for funding. Upon completion of a project, the recipient must also disclose all sources of funding.

7.2 Eligible Costs

Eligible costs are direct expenses that are 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 funding agreement, in the form of a grant, with the CSA.

Eligible costs for grants under this AO are the following:

8. Funding Agreements

8.1 Payments

The CSA and each successful applicant (the recipient) will sign a funding agreement. This is 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 instalments as described in the signed agreement. Grant funding agreements will include a clause stipulating the recipient's obligation to confirm—once a year in the case of multi-year agreements—their eligibility for the G&C Program – Research Component and inform the CSA in writing of any changes to the conditions used in determining their eligibility for this component.

8.2 Audit

The recipient of a funding agreement shall keep proper records of all documentation related to the funded project, for the duration of the project and for six (6) years after the completion date of the project, in the event of an audit. This documentation shall be available upon request.

8.3 Conflict of Interest

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

8.4 Intellectual Property

All intellectual property developed by the recipient in the course of the project shall vest in the recipient.

8.5 Organizations in Quebec

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

Under Sections 3.11 and 3.12 of this Act, certain entities/organizations, as defined in the meaning of the Act, such as municipal bodies, school bodies, or public agencies, must obtain authorization from 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.

Quebec applicants must complete, sign and include the M-30 Supporting Documentation form with their application.

8.6 Performance Measurement

The CSA will ask the recipients to report on certain aspects of their projects such as:

The Participating Scientists shall also provide any annual reports submitted to NASA to the CSA.

The Participating Scientist is requested to provide the CSA MSL Mission Scientist with a copy of publications produced through participation in MSL. As a courtesy, the CSA would also like to be informed in advance of significant press releases or media interest resulting from the work.

9. Privacy Notice Statement

The CSA will comply with the federal Access to Information Act and Privacy Act with respect to applications received. By submitting personal information, an applicant is consenting to its collection, use and disclosure in accordance with the following Privacy Notice Statement, which explains how the 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 G&C 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 and biographical information) included in the rejected proposals will be stored in a CSA Personal Information Bank for five (5) years and then destroyed (Personal Information File no. ASC PPU045). Personal information included in the successful proposals will be kept along with the proposal results for historical purposes. These data are protected under the Privacy Act. According to the Privacy Act, the data linked to an 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 shall 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) will be made available to the public on the CSA website.

For additional information on privacy matters prior to submitting a proposal, please contact:

Access to Information and Privacy
Canadian Space Agency
Telephone: 450-926-4866

10. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

It is the responsibility of the applicants to obtain clarification of the requirements contained herein, if necessary, before submitting an application.

For any questions related to the AO, applicants shall use the following generic email address Questions and answers related to this AO will be posted on the CSA website in the Frequently Asked Questions section of this AO. The CSA will respond to questions received before 5 p.m. (EDT) June 5, 2015.

At any point, applicants are welcome to share with the CSA their comments or suggestions regarding the AO, the program or the process. Applicants may either use the generic email address or the web-based Comments and Suggestions Box.

Question 1: What documents do I need to submit to demonstrate eligibility to section 3.1.

Answer 1: A signed letter from the duly authorized person in your University is sufficient. It should have a brief description of your project and state that the university intends to support your project.

Question 2: I was planning to apply to the NASA MSL Participating Scientist Program as a co-investigator/collaborator on a proposal being led by a US-based colleague that involves a number of co-investigators/collaborators. Does this make me ineligible to apply to the CSA call? Alternatively, should I submit a stand-alone proposal to the NASA call and a companion proposal to CSA?

Answer 2: The CSA AO is for CSA funding for Canadian Participating Scientists, hence requests for funding as a collaborator/ Co-I of a US Participating Scientist proposal will not be eligible. Canadians not requesting funding from CSA can submit proposals directly to NASA.

Question 3: Will the CSA give preference to those scientists who have not previously participated in Mars missions?

Answer 3: No the CSA will evaluate all proposals equally.

Question 4: Do applicants need to submit a proposal for a standalone NASA solicitation? Is this AO from the CSA providing complimentary funding for the same project?

Answer 4: All candidates interested in being selected as a Participating Scientist for NASA MSL must submit a proposal to NASA fulfilling the requirements of NASA solicitation NNH15ZDA001N-MSLPSP.

As noted in the NASA solicitation; 'Proposals from non-US institutions will be considered on a no-exchange-of-funds basis'.

This AO outlines the additional steps required to be considered for funding by CSA. As stated in this AO, CSA requires both the CSA Application form and a copy of the applicant's full proposal to NASA to make a decision on funding.

Question 5: Is this an open or a targeted AO?

Answer 5: This is an open AO.

Appendix A Evaluation Grid Form

Scoring and weights

Each criterion will be rated on a letter scale from A to D, with A being the highest score. A numerical weight is associated with each letter.

1. Benefits to Canada: Advancement of scientific knowledge relevant to the CSA Exploration Program.

Benefits to Canada criterion score

Max. 20
Min. 15

This criterion evaluates the relevance of the investigation to Canadian community Mars exploration objectives as described in the "Canadian Scientific Priorities for the Global Exploration Program" report. It also evaluates to what extent such objectives will be advanced by the investigation, and how the work is anticipated to enhance Canada's reputation for planetary science.

Poor. The investigation does not address Canadian community Mars science objectives and/or will not contribute to advancement of new knowledge. (Score: D=0)

Average. The investigation addresses Canadian community Mars science objectives in a general way and could advance knowledge but is largely derivative of previous work. (Score: C=10)

Good. The probable results are likely to advance knowledge central to Canadian community Mars objectives. The investigation involves novel or original concepts or methods, and/or builds on recent Canadian planetary research advances, as evidenced by a literature survey. (Score: B=15)

Excellent. The probable results are likely to advance knowledge central to Canadian community Mars objectives and have a broad, long-term impact beyond the immediate field of study. The proposal is distinguished by highly novel or original concepts or methods, builds on recent Canadian planetary research advances, and is likely to significantly enhance the reputation of Canadian planetary science in areas of established or emerging strengths, as evidenced by a literature survey. (Score: A=20)

2. Results in terms of science dissemination and contribution to the training of HQP

Results in terms of science dissemination and contribution to the training of HQP criterion score

Max. 35
Min. 20

2.1 Publication and science dissemination plan

This criterion evaluates the applicant's commitment to disseminating results from the mission.

Poor. The proposal does not include reference to planned publications or science dissemination. (Score: D=0)

Average. The proposal indicates one or more likely scientific publications or science dissemination activities. (Score: C=5)

Good. The proposal includes an explicit and realistic scientific publication and science dissemination plan and the applicant demonstrates previous successful science dissemination activities. (Score: B=10)

Excellent. The proposal includes a well-thought-out and structured scientific publications and science dissemination plan that involves novel approaches and that is likely to raise Canada's profile in the mission considerably. (Score: A=15)

2.2 Enhancement of pool of space experts

This criterion evaluates the level of involvement of students and post-docs and the training they will receive to become HQP in areas of Canadian Scientific Priorities and for roles in future Exploration missions.

Poor. No student or post-doc involvement is described in the proposal. (Score: D=0)

Average. One or more students or post-docs will be involved in the project, but there is a lack of details on their level and type of involvement. (Score: C=10)

Good. One or more students or post-docs are involved in the project, and there is a good description on how they will benefit from their participation in the project. Student involvement is important for the success of the project. (Score: B=15)

Excellent. One or more students or post-docs are involved in the project, and there is a detailed description on how they will benefit from their participation in the project. Student involvement is important for the success of the project. They will receive training in a key area of Canadian scientific priority that is relevant to future Exploration missions. The applicant demonstrates a good track record in training students. (Score: A=20)

3. Resources

Resources criterion score

Max. 20
Min. 10

3.1 Quality and experience of the PI and investigation team

This criterion evaluates the qualifications and past performance of the PI and team.

Poor. The PI has limited or no experience and expertise in the field of study. (Score: D=5)

Average. The PI has some experience in the field of study. The PI has some experience in the management and completion of similar projects. (Score: C=10)

Good. The PI has demonstrated experience in the field of study and in managing similar projects, but has not previously been involved in Mars missions. Any Co-Is and collaborators included in the proposal have well-defined roles and are critical to the success of the investigation. (Score: B=15)

Excellent. The PI and any Co-Is and collaborators have extensive experience in the field of study. Any Co-Is and collaborators included in the proposal have well-defined roles and are critical to the success of the investigation. The PI has demonstrated the ability to manage and complete more than two similar projects and has previously been involved in Mars science operations. (Score: A=20)

4. Feasibility

Feasibility criterion score

Max. 20
Min. 7

4.1 Research plan, schedule and budget

This criterion evaluates the appropriateness of the research plan and budget.

Poor. The research plan does not include clear tasks and schedule milestones and/or the budget is missing important information or is inappropriate. (Score: D=0)

Average. The research plan appears reasonable, but some relevant information is missing. Information is provided to justify the budget, but some details are missing or some budget items appear under- or over-estimated. (Score: C=5)

Good. The research plan is well-defined and includes schedule milestones. A clear and well-justified budget is provided which appears appropriate and includes the elements required by the AO. (Score: B=10)

Excellent. The research plan is well defined with clear tasks for which time allocations for team members are provided, schedule milestones, and traceability to the investigation objectives. The budget is detailed, well justified and appropriate and gives high confidence in the budget feasibility of the investigation. For travel items, the people travelling are clearly identified, and convincing rationale for their travel is provided. (Score: A=15)

4.2 Access to other funding sources and resources

This criterion evaluates the confirmed funding and in-kind contribution from the applicants and other organizations. Funding from organizations other than the CSA must be confirmed if it exceeds 25% of the project budget. The application includes letters from funding sources confirming their level of funding.

Poor. There are no funding leveraged or in-kind contributions from the applicant or from other organizations. (Score: D=0)

Average. Funds may come from an organization other than the CSA but have yet to be confirmed. There is in-kind contribution to be provided by the applicant and/or other organizations but such contribution is neither significant nor important for the success of the project. (Score: C=2)

Good. There is some leveraging of funds. The applicant as well as other organizations will provide funds as well as in-kind contribution. Such contribution is important but not necessarily critical for the success of the project. Funds to be provided by other organizations have been confirmed or represent less than 25% of the project budget. (Score: B=3)

Excellent. Leveraging of funds from other organizations is significant. Confirmed funds as well as in-kind contribution are vital for the success of the project. Funds from organizations other than the CSA represent more than 25% and are all confirmed. (Score: A=5)

5. Risk and mitigation strategies - Project risks (financial, managerial, environmental and technical) and mitigation strategies.

Risk and mitigation strategies criterion score

Max. 5
Min. 3

This criterion evaluates key risks associated with the project and the mitigation strategies for each risk. It includes a thorough analysis of the project's financial, technical, managerial and environmental risks.

Poor. The proposal does not identify any key risks or mitigation strategies, or some risks are identified but related mitigation strategies are missing. (Score: D=0)

Average. Some, but not all, key risks and their mitigation strategies are defined. (Score: C=3)

Good. Key financial, technical, managerial, U.S. export law (if applicable) and environmental risks and their mitigation strategies are defined but there are few details on the risk evaluation occurrence probability presented. (Score: B=4)

Excellent. Key financial, technical, managerial, U.S. export law (if applicable) and environmental risks and their mitigation strategies are well described. The risk evaluation occurrence probability is deemed realistic. (Score: A=5)

Evaluation score

Total Max. 100
Total Min. 65

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