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Webinar on the youth STEM initiatives grants and contributions program

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Uploaded on October 21, 2021

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Webinar on the youth STEM initiatives grants and contributions program

2021-10-21 - Webinar on the financing awarded by the Canadian Space Agency for the development, promotion and

delivery of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives for youth hosted by

Janice Cudlip, Lead, Youth STEM Initiatives, and

Iulian Martin, Program Officer.

(Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

Transcript

Janice Cudlip: We’re pleased to provide this presentation for you and answer your questions about the Grants and Contributions program at the Canadian Space Agency.

My name is Janice Cudlip. I am the Lead for the Youth STEM Initiatives team at the Canadian Space Agency, and I’m joined with my partner Iulian Martin who is the Program Officer for the Youth STEM Initiatives’ team, and we’re here to answer your questions about our upcoming announcements of opportunity.

We’ll quickly go over how the webinar will go. So, we’ve planned to cover broadly:

  • what youth STEM initiatives are for the Agency,
  • the CSA’s Grants and Contributions program,
  • the announcements of opportunity and submission of proposals,
  • our evaluation, selection and award process,
  • the agreements’ management, results, and closure,
  • and then we’ll have our Q&A period.

And we hope to have significant amount of time to address all of your questions.

If we don’t get a chance to cover everything, we will collect the questions and provide a response on the CSA website.

So, if you’ve just joined us, could you please mute your microphones for the duration of presentation. That would be good. Thank you.

Okay. So, let’s talk about the youth STEM initiatives. Canada’s Space strategy has five pillars, and the one that concerns us most here is the objective to inspire the next generation of Canadians to reach for the stars. Space has this unique ability to inspire youth across all genders, cultures, and communities, to pursue an interest in studies in science, technology, math, and engineering, and so, our approach is to engage with, in partnerships with organizations across the country, to reach thousands of youth each year.

Canada is going to the Moon, and as a Lunar Gateway project partner, Canada is contributing a Canadarm3 and programs to advance exploration, research, and development, for a total of two billion dollars over 24 years.

At CSA, we have a number of mechanisms for achieving broad goals, and - if you wouldn’t mind turning off your microphone please, that’d be great. - We collaborate with organizations through the sharing of work, making in-kind contributions to make things happen. We can establish contracts to have services performed or goods produced, and we can use grants and contributions to support projects designed and delivered by others to advance awareness and learning.

So, we have G&Cs supporting research and development focused on post-secondary institutions and students, and we have funding opportunities for initiatives with youth in kindergarten to grade 12, or CEGEP first year in Quebec, and that’s what our focus is today. It’s on the awareness and learning portions of our Grants and Contributions Program.

So, our concentration for our activities, because our funding comes from the Lunar Gateway project commitment with international partners, is to focus on Moon exploration, and we have five streams of work that I’ll just briefly describe here.

Commanding a Rover, because rovers are a vital part of our advanced exploration teams, they help us gather a lot of information by making observations, and they’re equipped with scientific instruments. So, there are many aspects to lunar rover missions, development, and planning, and our goal here is to expand youth understanding of what’s involved in such a mission, the challenges that lie ahead, and to involve them in an experience that will motivate them to pursue STEM disciplines. And we also want to put them in the driver’s seat of new rovers.

The Space Brain Hack is a problem-solving opportunity on challenges that CSA experts are also tackling and, each year, the challenge will be different. The youth and educators will be able to choose how deep into the subject matter they wish to go to develop their solutions. That’s coming shortly this fall.

The Healthy Mind and Body stream of work is going to focus on growing food, and staying healthy in unique locations, and we’re thinking of ahead to the needs of Indigenous astronauts on the lunar base.

Canada is known around the world for its space robotics, and the challenges of more distant orbiting stations and bases means that we need those robotics to function more autonomously, and to be enabled by machine learning. So, that’s our Robots and AI stream of work. And then, the Junior Astronauts Campaign, which is now complete. It gave kids a chance to see many aspects of astronaut training beyond flying spaceships, and to learn about different space careers.

So, this is the five streams of work we’re doing under the Lunar Gateway funding for youth STEM initiatives. I’ll now pass over to my colleague Iulian Martin to explain to you the Grants and Contributions Program at CSA.

Iulian Martin: Thank you, Janice. Hello everyone. So, my name is Iulian Martin, I am a Project Officer with the Canadian Space Agency, and I will do an overview of the Grants and Contributions Program at CSA. As Janice already mentioned, to achieve our objectives, we are using different mechanisms, different ways to achieve the objectives.

So, through contracts, it’s acquiring goods or services for which we’re responsible, for which the CSA is responsible to an agreement in delivering of a good or a service to a third party. So, we sign a contract when we want something that CSA is responsible for, and/or we should deliver a service or a good to a third party.

For the transfer of payments, which is the grants and contributions mechanism, when you sign an agreement, we don’t… this will not result in the acquisition by the Government of Canada of any goods or services, but this one is a key instrument in furthering the policy and objectives and priorities that the Government of Canada has, and the CSA. So, these are two mechanisms, the contracts and the transfer of payments.

Now, between the grants and contributions, the difference between grants and contributions, it’s about the risk. If we do a risk evaluation for the initiatives, and based on the… amongst others, the level of funding for each project, the experience of the recipients that we target, and many others, we will decide on the level of the risk, and decide if it will be a grant and/or a contribution.

For the lower risk, we’ll award grants. For the high risk, we’ll award contributions. There are some differences between the two in managing the agreements. Mainly for the grants, we’ll put up front some funding, depending on the needs of course, and opposite for the contributions, we reimburse the cost after the expenditure has been made, and based on the invoices.

So, there are some other differences, but it’s mainly about the risk. The global… the class-granting contribution program at CSA targets on three areas: it’s research, space awareness, and space learning. For the research, it’s more for universities and industry. We are now focusing on space awareness, and all of our initiatives fall under space awareness, under this element of the program.

So, the program manages, or it gives us at the Agency all the terms and conditions that we need to receive, and to receive the proposals. There are the objectives and expected outcomes that we have to follow, to target in all of our initiatives: the eligibility for the recipients, project and costs, and application’s requirements and assessment grade criteria. I’ll come back a little bit later on each one.

So, this is the program that let’s say we need to follow, all the rules within the CSA. How we make this happen? It’s mainly via announcements of opportunities that are more or less calls for projects, calls to submit the projects, which is a competitive process. So, we call for the proposals and then, we receive proposals, evaluate, and decide on the selected projects. Occasionally, very rarely, we can use… we can receive unsolicited proposals, but this is very, very rare.

So, I already mentioned announcements of opportunities, or “AOs”. This is the main mechanism that we use to announce the opportunities, the funding opportunities that we offer. So, for this announcement of opportunity, we call, we ask for projects, and there is a limited time to apply. So, we open, and there is an opening date and a closing date, and in this announcement of opportunities, there are very well-defined objectives of the initiative, that within the objectives of the program, of the G&C program, Grants and Contributions Program, we define a specific objective for each initiative, and we… this in the announcement of opportunities.

Also, in the announcement of opportunity, there are the eligibility criteria for recipients, for projects, and for costs. As Janice already mentioned, for eligibility criteria for recipients, for the STEM initiatives, we target schools, elementary or secondary schools, post-secondary schools, and not-for-profit organizations. And all these organizational institutions should be established and operate in Canada. So, for this initiative, we don’t have funding opportunities for international organizations or for individuals.

Regarding the eligibility of the project, we, in the announcement of opportunity, we give all the details regarding what subject the project should have in order to be eligible. As Janice already mentioned, for the moment, in this moment, we focus all our initiatives on Moon exploration and Gateway, because we are… our funding is coming from this program. So, we follow these objectives. All our projects are oriented to the Moon exploration, Gateway, and robotics.

In the announcement of opportunity, it’s also the available funding per year, the total available funding, and the available funding per year. That’s of course, it depends on the availability of the funding at one moment, but we are presenting the funding that we want to invest in specific initiatives.

The evaluation criteria and the scoring are also usually very detailed described in the announcement of opportunity. There are the criteria, and then, there are the definitions for each criteria. For each criteria, we link a score, a minimal and maximum score, so based on that, our evaluators will assess the application, and we’ll score based on the application.

In the announcement of opportunity, there is always an application form that should be filled in by those who want to submit. This one is the official document that is requesting the funding, and it should be found… it should be signed by the legal authorized representative of the organization.

That’s one of the reasons that we reject automatically the application. If there is no application signed, it’s rejected without any other consideration. So, please be sure that when you submit the application, the application form is signed by the duly authorized representative. And now we are, the Canadian Space Agency is accepting at this moment the electronic signatures. That means the signatures that are hand-written and then scanned, or an electronic signature, but we don’t accept only to type the name of the duly authorized representative. So, it should be a signature, not typing only the name.

So, I remind you that in any moment, you can ask questions on chat, and we’ll answer at the end.

So, this is the announcement of opportunity. Now, the proposal that each organization should submit in order to be considered for funding. Usually, a proposal should be based on an application form that we already talked about, and the project description. The project description, we recommend to follow the structure of the evaluation criteria.

So, in application form, it’s already recommended, and we show the structure for project descriptions that we’d like to see. It will help a lot the evaluators to find, let’s say, for benefits to Canada, which is one of our objectives, to see exactly where the evidence is that will contribute to the evaluation, and to not try to find evidence for the criteria in all of the application.

Another recommendation will be to address all the evaluation criteria in as many details as possible. That means you need to address all the definitions, to approach all the definitions of the criteria, and try too to provide evidence, and our recommendation is to target the maximum score for each criteria.

Another, let’s say, recommendation that we have, it’s regarding the Canadian space content. All the activities that we want to develop and that we’ll fund should be, should have a Canadian space content, but not only like at the declaration level. We had applications let’s say, the space Canadian content will be adapted, or will be included. We want a clear description of the activity, and how the Canadian space content will be included and will be applied to the activity.

So, another… Do not assume that the evaluators know anything about your organization, project or activity. So, it does matter, and it’s just I’m sure, for a lot… not all of you… it’s a reminder. The proposals will be evaluated based on what is written, and what is received by the evaluators.

And the high chances that they will not know what your organization is doing, or what experience your organization has, or the expertise, and so on. So please, do not assume, and give us as many details as possible, regarding all the evaluation criteria.

Submit the CVs with relevant information. I know that sometimes, it’s time-consuming just to redo the CVs for each application, but we would like to see in the CVs the relevant information to the project. So, try to keep it not very long CVs. That would be very appreciated by all of our evaluators.

Questions and answers, during the announcement of opportunity openings, we answer questions from the proponents. We recommend, strongly recommend, to consult regularly the Q&A section of the announcement of opportunity, especially before the submission, because there are… there may be important clarifications that can be added to the AO, and that can be very helpful for your application. It can make the difference for your application too. So, please, consult regularly the Q&A section, and ask questions of course, that’s the first thing. Ask questions. If it’s something that’s not clear in the AO, or it’s not understandable for you, please send us the question.

Now, regarding the questions and answers, we will not communicate directly with the proponents during our AO opening. So, if you submit a question, don’t expect to get the answer by email. We will publish all the answers, the questions and answers on site, on the website of announcement of opportunities, in the Q&A section. Why we’ll do that? Of course, it’s to avoid any appearance of undue or unfair advantage that we’re not even aware of if we’re sending a direct message to the proponent. Even for what we are considering unimportant things, but could create an advantage. So, that’s why we are not sending an answer directly to the proponent. We’ll publish for everyone on the website.

The other side, we know that this is a… that it takes time to prepare the answer, to get it all done, and then to publish. So, that’s why you will see in the AOs, we have about 10 days before the end date of the AO, we have let’s say a deadline for submitting the app… the questions, sorry. So, we will not answer the questions after a date, a certain date before the deadline. It’s just to be sure that we’ll have time to prepare the answer, publish, and the proponents can have access to the answer.

So, that’s the proposal. This slide, it’s the proposal’s submission. Since last year, we receive… the organizations may submit electronic proposals, and it’s currently also recommended because of COVID workplace restrictions. We still keep the mail, so anyone who wants to submit by email, it is a way to submit. It’s not a problem. We put… we will mention it in all AOs, so for the moment, the decision is to keep the mail. If someone wants to submit a hard copy, it’s not a problem.

For the electronic submission, we, in this moment, it’s in two steps. So, the first step is an account creation for our platform, for our secure platform, which is not done automatically. So, there are some… In previous AOs, some proponents expected to have a confirmation of an account creation done immediately. When they hit the button “done” to get the confirmation with the ID and the password, it’s not the case for this platform. We need to see first that it’s not a robot, and then to put your details in our database, and then, we do it manually, the confirmation of the account.

The submission is done through a secure platform. That is done just because we want to handle the documents, to protect information and ideas. So, it’s done in a totally secured platform, and only the person from the CSA who is responsible for the AO can see the information in the proposals.

The announcements of receipt are also not automatically issued. When you upload the proposal, you will not receive automatically a confirmation that everything is good. The system will acknowledge that it’s done, but you will not receive by email, or you will not have any let’s say proof that it’s done correctly. We try to do it as soon as possible from our part, so that you get the confirmation, and everything is okay, and that we received your application, but again, we will ask you to, if you want to submit a proposal, to do it let’s say a couple of days before, or do not wait at least until five minutes before the deadline. Because if it’s exactly before the deadline, we will not be able to confirm that everything is okay, that the proposal has been received. And additionally, technical issues may occur. So again, don’t wait until the last moment.

So, at the moment, in this moment, the system allows the submission after the exact deadline, but we are working to close, effectively, the deadline as per the AO. So, don’t wait, the message is don’t wait until the last minute, and everything will be okay.

Now, I will go to the evaluation, selection, and the award process. The process is more or less for all AOs, but of course, there are some differences, specific steps for each AO. Usually, the evaluation process is done in three steps. The first one is the eligibility assessment. So, we evaluate the eligibility of the project, of the recipient, if all the costs are okay, and only proposals that are eligible will be considered for evaluation based on criteria.

So, the second step is the evaluation done by the evaluators based on the evaluation criteria, and after this step, it’s the ranking, it’s the score ranking, and we may take into consideration other priorities of CSA or the Government of Canada, especially for specific groups like girls, Indigenous youth, Indigenous or youth from socio-economically disadvantaged communities, or members of a visible minority.

So, in the final decision, we take also these priorities, but these are all mentioned, should be mentioned in the AO. So… but I am giving you an example. And based on that, the selection that I recommended, the projects that are recommended for funding are approved internally, and we issue a communication to all the proponents, both if they have been selected or not.

For the evaluation feedback, we can provide you… but we can provide to all those who submitted proposals a feedback evaluation. It’s upon request at this moment, but we’re working to do it systematically. So, it will be in the form of a report that will give you the information, we say what important information that would help you to improve the next applications.

For those who have been selected for funding, it’s mandatory to have a grant or a contribution agreement before any transfer of payment, and when the agreement comes into force, and it’s signed by both parties, that’s considered the start of the project, and from that date, the recipient can charge the expenses against the project… against the project’s budget. So, we will not pay expenditure that has occurred before the date of the signature, or before the date of the project start.

In the agreement, there are several clauses: intellectual property, payments’ calendar, ethics, and so on. We have more like a standard agreement that we use, and it’s signed electronically also. So, we accept now to sign all the papers, all the agreements, based on electronic signatures.

For the reporting, requirements for the reporting will be specified in the AO in an agreement. What we would like, it’s to have from those who will develop activities to have the lessons learned from the activities delivered to youth. That’s just for us to be able to improve our activities, our AOs, and to be sure that we are aligned with the latest developments in youth, and youth education.

Of course, we’ll ask for the reports on project advancement and performance indicators. We have some performance indicators that we have to report on: number of activities, number of youths involved in the activities, how many girls, and so on. So, we are now in the process of revising all the performance indicators, so we’ll be make… we’ll be communicating with the selected recipients.

One other thing, it’s department… we named it departmental collaboration, and that’s understanding the situation where the collaboration between a federal department, and the grants and contributions recipient, may be acceptable. So, if we, let’s say the CSA, we are funding the project, we are not normally allowed to work on the project, and that’s because we have to follow some principles like transparency and separation. There should be a clear separation between the group that issued the transfer of payment, so who was funding the project, and the group that collaborates with the recipient. So, that’s why in this departmental collaboration, let’s say, does not allow us to automatically be involved in the projects funded through the grants and contributions.

It is possible, so it is possible to involve one of our experts in a project, but that will require an additional agreement, what we named the department of collaboration, and several conditions should be made in order for this to happen. So, before having an idea of a project, or if you want to involve the CSA, try to understand this departmental collaboration, and inform us as soon as possible. You can make a requirement on this collaboration, even in your proposal, and we will discuss based on the… let’s say on the principles of this departmental collaboration.

Of course, some of you already know that CSA is offering several services through Communications and Public Affairs. For the public, the proponents will have access, and the recipients of the grants will have the same rights, and the same access to the same services CSA is providing, like access to speakers, or information regarding the programs, the space program, so a CSA program. So, the access to these services are there for everyone, so we’ll not restrict, but there will not be any advantage to be taken that you are funded by the CSA.

So, I think that makes an overall of the G&C program at the CSA.

Janice Cudlip: Thanks for taking the time to be here and pose your questions. We’re really glad to have you and to… Hopefully, we’ve cleared everything up – You’re welcome Marianne – for the presentation and answering questions. That’s what we’re here to do, and we really hope you have great ideas, super time preparing your proposals, and we can’t wait to see what you have in mind.

So, thanks for joining us!

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