Below are answers to frequently asked questions about our current funding calls. Each call is unique and as a result the most commonly asked questions will be unique too. If you have a question that has not been answered, email Chris Skinner! We will provide an answer to you via email and then update this page so everyone else is up to date.

Sustainability Metrics FAQ

Can we shuffle PIs on these grants?
Members of the team who were co-PIs or key personnel on the planning grants can assume the role of PI if the team realizes this is their best path forward. Members who were NOT members of the planning grants cannot join the team as PIs.

Can I do a rebudget?
No, rebudgets are not allowed on the planning grants.

Why is the PI minimum effort 6%?
In an effort to ensure work performed in reflective on time allocated, we have a minimum of 6% effort for PIs. This 6% effort translates to 2.4 hours/week on this project and also includes the mentorship of the postdoctoral fellow that is included in the award. Mentoring an early career scientist is an important part of these grants and adequate time allocation is critical to ensuring their mentorship is sufficient. PIs, in consult with their Chair, can request additional funding for themselves to buy out some time as long as the 6% minimum is met.

Why do I have to hire a postdoctoral fellow?
The requirement of a postdoctoral fellow is a deliberate effort and decision by the FSRC and ARS. Because the sustainability metrics grants are fundamentally an effort to advance the initial framework from our two institutions, we expect collaboration and coordination throughout the grant cycle. The postdoctoral fellows are expected to have a role in this facilitation to help form cohesion and collaboration among and between projects. This is based on our Dairy Science postdoc cohort, which has proven to have great success in fostering a collaborative environment across their projects with both UVM and ARS scientists. Our vision for the metrics grants is that we will hire the post-docs s as a cohort, so that they start working as a team from the outset.  We anticipate that they will design their survey tools together, discuss which indicators each will collect together, and meet regularly all the way through the research process.  That way we will ensure that we are indeed collecting data across entire food systems, and that integration of those data sets will happen.
If the first two years go well, the option to fund the post docs for a third year is always open.

Who will review our applications?
The review process is TBD, but tenatively the applications will be reviewed by members of the UVM FSRC, UVM faculty not affiliated with any projects, and scientists who experts in the broad fields of agriculture, food, and sustainability. Members of the USDA's ARS team at UVM may provide insights as well.

Will working with other teams be looked on favorably?
The nature of this work is collaborative. We fully support teams to work together.

What happens if we are working with another team that is not funded but we are?
This is very possible. It may be wiser to wait until after the winners are determined to form collaborative teams across projects. As a reminder, the postdoctoral fellows will act as links between the projects.

Can you clarify what the following items mean in the RFP: standardized ways to assess these tradeoffs, and determine how tradeoffs influence the metrics that could be used in their project and proposed data ontology?
On the tradeoffs, we are looking for how projects are thinking about tensions between metrics, and how we might actually be able to assess those tradeoffs in ways that are more than just observational or anecdotal.  This could be a way of standardizing units of analysis for example, or at least ratios across metrics as an example.

On the data ontology, this is the set of terms and formal naming and definitions of different data collected.  One of the things we anticipate with these projects, both within a single project, and especially across projects, is that there will be discrepancy on terms and definitions. How will your team work to define terms, especially across areas and disciplines?  This is also an important outcome for the broader goal of this work, which is not to fund individual projects only, but to move towards the advancement of a framework of metrics and indicators that can be applied in food systems across scales, dimensions, etc.

Can I include references in my proposal? If I do, does a reference page count in my page limit?
You can include references and the reference page will NOT count against your limit.

If we have a post doc start in late fall/winter of 2024 (let’s say around January to coincide with the beginning of the spring semester), then our post doc will span two years, but will be represented in all three budget years (6 mos each in years 1 and 3, 12 mos in year 2).  The reason this timing works for the team is because it gives the post doc two full growing seasons to gather data.  Beginning the project 7/1 cuts into the growing season by about two months.
Is this ok with the FSRC team as long as we describe this in our proposals/justifications?  If the post docs go well for the first two years, what would the process be for continuing for a third year, and should we be budgeting that possibility in?  Just concerned because the FAQ says no rebudgets and I’m not sure how folks would be able to continue a post doc without planning for some funding.

Yes, that is fine.

Are folks allowed to budget computer costs into their budgets? 
Computers for postdocs is an allowable expense.

Is there any estimate when the decision about which proposals will be awarded?  I know the start date is 7/1/23, but if Post-Docs are to begin at or near the start of Year 1, the teams are concerned if they will have ample time to recruit and hire someone.
We hope to make decisions by 1 April.

Do key or non-key personnel need to show effort on my project?
UVM requires a minimum of 1% effort on sponsored projects.  The effort can be direct or as uncommitted cost share, that is paid from a department or non-sponsored funding.


What geographic scope are you hoping for?
Vermont should be the first focus, but broadly we are hoping for the winner to engage with the broad New England region

Can we wiggle with the budget a little bit?
Yes, you have 10% wiggle room with the $200K award. You must detail what you will spend money on in your budget document.

Can we do virtual meetings four our listening tour?
Virtual formats cab leave out some important groups of people—especially in rural states including a large amount of low-income, older, and underserved communities who may have internet speed and access issues. So we would prefer in-person events when possible. However, do we understand that sometimes virtual options work the best for a given audience. As an FYI, the expectation is for these workshops to engage ~400 people