University Research Development Program

U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia

Program Office:  Public Diplomacy Section, U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia
Funding Opportunity Title: University Research Development Program
Announcement Type: Grant
Funding Opportunity Number: DOS-GEO-22-GR-010-032122

Deadline for Applications: May 1, 2022
AECCA 250,000.00

ELIGIBILITY

Eligibility is limited to U.S. non-profit/non-governmental organizations subject to 501 (c) (3) of the tax code, U.S. and Georgian universities, and educational institutes.

Applicants must have a demonstrated expertise in teaching research and academic writing skills; in mentoring researchers (in preparing an article/thesis/dissertation); in teaching academic English vocabulary. Knowledge of the Georgian higher education system and established relationships with Georgian universities and educational organizations will be favorably considered.

As the project is intended to improve research capabilities at the Georgian universities – including by having participants share their gained knowledge with students – researchers at national science institutes and think tanks who do not teach at universities will not be eligible to be beneficiaries of this project.

Cost Sharing or Matching 

This program does not require cost sharing, however, in-kind contributions will be favorably considered.

CONTACT INFORMATION

  1. For questions relating to Grants.gov, please call the Grants.gov Contact Center at 1-800-518-4726.
  2. On program requirements of this solicitation, contact Public Diplomacy Section, U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, at e-mail: TbilisiGrants@state.gov (Preferred method of communication). 

 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Public Diplomacy Section (PDS) of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia is pleased to announce an open competition for assistance award through this Request for Proposals (RFP) for a University Research Development Program. The Public Diplomacy Section invites the U.S. and Georgian universities and educational institutes to submit proposals for a one- to a two-year project to improve the standards of Georgian academic research in Georgian universities and to encourage greater interaction between Georgian and American academic researchers.

The project is meant to enhance the research and academic writing skills of Georgian scholars – Ph.D. candidates and their mentors — through teaching research methods, methodology, and statistics through online and in-person exchange visits; mentor Ph.D. candidates to develop manuscripts; facilitate the publication of Georgian scholarly research articles/papers in peer-reviewed journals and/or a conference presentation, and raise Georgian scholarship to international standards. Priority research areas are economics, business, health sciences, computer sciences, and STEM fields.  Applicants are encouraged to include teaching academic English vocabulary in the program.

The direct beneficiaries of this program will be young Georgian academics, primarily doctoral-level faculty members who teach and mentor Ph.D. students and candidates, Ph.D. students/candidates (graduating level) with research projects in progress; and the indirect beneficiaries will be their Georgian host universities. PDS will award up to $250,000 for this one-to-two-year project.

Applicants must provide information on how the University Research Development Program beneficiaries will be selected, with a preference competitive selection from a broad range of Georgian universities;   any potential incentives for participation in and completion of the program (i.e. course credits for Ph.D. candidates as negotiated with the academic’s host university and/or stipends for professors) or disincentives for unsuccessful performance during the program (expulsion from the program).

BACKGROUND

Since regaining independence, Georgia has implemented important and successful educational reforms. The Georgian academy no longer suffers from the kind of rampant corruption that was prevalent in the early days of independence, and strict accreditation and other standards have led to the closing of numerous questionable institutions.  Nevertheless, the Georgian higher education system is still heavily influenced by Soviet models which have deteriorated over time, particularly in the area of research. Georgian scholars publish at a very low rate in comparison to some post-Soviet countries, and they have not yet made the leap, for the most part, to publish in Western or international journals, much less to adopt a system of blind peer-review for Georgian journals.  This is becoming more and more of an obstacle for Ph.D. candidates who are required to publish in international academic journals in order to obtain their degrees. Evidence-based qualitative and quantitative research, and academic writing in conformance with Western standards, debate, peer review, and other skills are still largely missing.

The University Research Development Program will enable Georgian academics to adopt internationally accepted research skills, to pass these skills on to their students, and thereby increase the research capacity of Georgian universities across the board.  A focus on research methods, methodology, statistics, and academic writing will help Georgian Ph.D. candidates prepare research for publication in Georgian and international peer-reviewed journals and/or participate in scientific conferences.

Pending the availability of funds, the project will award approximately $250,000 for a one- to a two-year project to defray the costs of conducting training (coursework and/or workshops) with qualified American and Georgian trainers; ongoing assessment of the competencies and skills developed by project participants; ongoing advising and mentoring on research topics and papers; communication costs; international travel costs; honoraria; translation and printing costs of research papers (as needed); English instruction; etc.

For more background information on Georgian universities and their research capacity please see:

III. GOAL AND OBJECTIVES

The project is meant to enhance the research and academic writing skills of Georgian scholars – Ph.D. candidates and their mentors — through teaching research methods, methodology, and statistics through online and in-person exchange visits; mentor Ph.D. candidates to develop manuscripts; facilitate the publication of Georgian scholarly research articles/papers in peer-reviewed journals and/or a conference presentation, and raise Georgian scholarship to international standards. Priority research areas can be selected from the following fields: economics, business, health, computer sciences ad STEM fields.  Applicants are encouraged to include teaching academic English vocabulary in the program.

The direct beneficiaries of this program will be young Georgian academics, primarily doctoral-level faculty members who teach and mentor Ph.D. students and candidates, Ph.D. students/candidates (graduating level) with research projects in progress; and the indirect beneficiaries will be their Georgian host universities.

The project has the following specific objectives: 

A: To improve the research practice of advanced Ph.D. students and Ph.D. candidates with research projects in progress.

  • To train the program beneficiaries in research methods, methodologies, and statistics including coursework and/or workshops in quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, evidence-based research, statistical and comparative analyses, etc.
  • To train them in academic writing, to include proposal design, bibliography preparation, APA style, research grant application writing, and scholarly article/thesis/dissertation writing.

B:  Build a culture of academic advising and mentorship among doctoral-level faculty; assist faculty to upgrade existing research teaching modules to the international level.

To guide faculty to improve oversight and/or coaching of Ph.D. candidates throughout the process of preparing an article/thesis/dissertation for publication, conference presentations, and/ or for defense.

C:  To hone academic English skills of university professors and Ph.D. candidates.  The grantee should identify the criteria by which the English-language instructor(s) will be selected.

Expected Results 

The program is intended to improve the quality of university research: to enhance research and academic writing skills of Georgian scholars – Ph.D. candidates and their mentors — through teaching research methods, methodology, and statistics through online and in-person exchange visits; mentor Ph.D. candidates to develop manuscripts; facilitate the publication of Georgian scholarly research articles/papers in peer-reviewed journals and/or a conference presentation; hone academic English skills of doctoral-level professors and Ph.D. candidates, and raise Georgian scholarship to international standards.

Funding Priorities

The Public Diplomacy Section (PDS) seeks to fund an effective, creative, and sustainable project to improve the research capacity of Georgian universities. An organization with prior international experience implementing similar University research projects will be favorably considered.

APPLICATION AND SUBMISSION INFORMATION

Award Period: One to two years upon Applicant’s program design.
Award Amount: $250,000 is available for this grant program.
Application Submission Process:  Applicants must submit proposals electronically on grants.gov. or by e-mail to TbilisiGrants@state.gov.
Application Deadline: All applications must be submitted in electronic form in addition to or instead of the hard copies on or before May 1, 2022, 11:59 p.m. eastern time. 

Applications submitted after 11:59 p.m. will not be eligible for consideration. If not, receipt of application is not confirmed within two days, please contact Nino Gagua at the above e-mail address.

Telegraphic or fax applications are not authorized for this RFP and will not be accepted. The total size of each attachment should not exceed 3 MBs. Every page of the proposal must be numbered. The application must have a table of contents. Large graphic files are discouraged. The format of any attachments must be in Microsoft Word, Excel, or PDF. RAR files will not be excepted. The attached files should be printable on US letter size paper (8½ X11”.)

Application Content:  Applicants must follow the RFP instructions and conditions contained herein and supply all information required.  Failure to furnish all information or comply with stated requirements will result in disqualification from the competition.  Applicants must set forth full, accurate, and complete information as required by this RFP.  The penalty for making false statements in proposals to the USG is prescribed on 18 U.S.C.1001.

Section 1 – Application for Federal Assistance (SF-424):

This form can be downloaded from the sidebar titled: Additional Resources.

Please note, that SF424 forms do not open in any internet browsers (chrome, internet explorer, etc). Please make sure to download the forms on your device, open via Adobe Acrobat and click “enable all features”.

Section 2 – Executive summary (maximum 2 pages):  

The executive summary is limited to 300 words in length.  It must provide a summary of the identified need, proposed activities, and expected results.

Section 3 – Project Goals/Implementation Plan (maximum 15 pages):

The applicant must specify the proposed activities that will be undertaken to achieve the goals and objectives of this RFP. The proposed activities should be described in sufficient detail to show how objectives and goals will be met. The narrative should be brief, concise, and provide a clear description of what the Applicant proposes to do, where, why, when, how, and by whom.

This section should also include a detailed plan of online and in-person training courses and exchanges visits, a number of beneficiaries, and structured monitoring and evaluation plan or matrix that will demonstrate how success will be measured against objectively verifiable performance indicators. The matrix should also include sources/means for verification, risks and assumptions for goals and objectives, and expected results and activities.

Section 4 – Organizational Capability (maximum 2 pages):

Applications must include a clear description of the applicant’s organizational and management structure, and previous experience with similar projects. In addition to information about the organization as a whole, this section must also identify the proposed management structure and staffing plan for the proposed project. Describe any partnerships, consortia or coalitions arranged between the applicant and the beneficiary organization(s).

Section 5 – Appendices:

The proposal submission must include the two appendices listed below:

  1. Budget (Required) – the budget must identify the total amount of funding requested, with a breakdown of amounts to be spent in the following budget categories: personnel (salary, wages, honoraria); fringe benefits if any; international travel of American instructors and Georgian beneficiaries; materials; equipment, if any; supplies; office /classroom rental; Georgian participants costs, if any (stipends, etc.); other direct and indirect costs, etc.. Include a budget breakdown by line items with an accompanying budget narrative that provides in detail the total costs for implementation of the program your organization is proposing.  In addition, a summary of the budget must be submitted using Standard Form SF-424A. This form can be found online at:

http://aopefa.a.state.gov/Content/documents/SF424A-V1.0.pdf

http://aopefa.a.state.gov/Content/documents/SF424Instructions.pdf

Applicants that have a Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement with the U.S. Government should submit the latest copy.

  • Resume (Required) – a resume, not to exceed 3 pages in length, must be included for the proposed key staff person, such as the Project Director.  If an individual for this type of position has not been identified, the applicant may submit a one-page position description, identifying the qualifications and skills required for that position, in lieu of a resume.
  • Letters of Intent (Optional) – Public Diplomacy Section (PDS) of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia recommends that U.S. applicants identify in advance the Georgian partner and beneficiary organization(s) and recommends submitting letters of intent together with the proposal. The letters must identify the type of relationship to be entered into (formal or informal), the roles and responsibilities of the Applicant and beneficiary(s) in relation to the proposed project activities, and the expected result of the cooperation.  Please note that these are not letters of support, and should only be included for those organizations that will play an active role in the project, including those that receive financial support through the project budget.

AWARD SELECTION CRITERIA

 

Evaluation Criteria:  Applicants should note that the following criteria (1) serve as a standard against which all proposals will be evaluated, and (2) serve to identify the significant matters that should be addressed in all proposals.  The USG will award grants to the applicants whose offers represent the best value to the USG on the basis of technical merit and cost.

Each application will be evaluated by a review committee of the Department of State and Public Diplomacy Section, U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, and other experts, as deemed appropriate.  The evaluation criteria have been tailored to the requirements of this RFP.

  • Program Strategy and Approach,  and Implementation Plan (50 points): Applicants should demonstrate a. Understanding of the issue; clear definitions of the program, and a vision of what will be accomplished at the end of the agreement; b. Clarity of proposed objectives; c. Technical soundness of approach, including clarity in scope and focus of activities to be carried out; feasibility of achieving results and objectives; d. Detailed analysis of potential obstacles, risks, and problems that could be encountered during the project implementation; e. Knowledge of Georgian academic research environment and optimum utilization of Georgian universities; f. Clarity of expected achievements/outcomes of the project, and a brief description of the proposed monitoring and evaluation plan.

The review panel will be viewing the implementation plan in terms of how well it addresses the overall relevance of the goals and objectives, the feasibility of the proposed activities and their timeline for completion, and the extent to which the impact of the project will continue beyond the conclusion of the funding period.

  • Organizational Capability (30 points): Proposals should demonstrate the applicant’s ability to develop and implement a university research program. Applicants must demonstrate how their managerial, programmatic, and technical capacity and past experience will enable them to achieve the stated goals and objectives; and provide a strategy to ensure the smooth and effective implementation of program activities. In addition, applicants should describe how they will collaborate with a Georgian partner organization(s) to meet the project goals.
  • Appendices (20 points): 
  • Budget:  Costs shall be evaluated for realism, control practices, and efficiency. The review committee must determine that the costs paid for this award are reasonable, allowable, and allocable to the proposed project activities.  This will consist of a review of the budget to determine if the overall costs are realistic for the work to be performed, if the costs reflect the applicant’s understanding of the allowable cost principles established by OMB Circular A-21 and if the costs are consistent with the program narrative.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/circulars_a021_2004

http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr;sid=da0fd6f5ca4807cea49d4792239d6505;rgn=div5;view=text;node=2%3A1.1.2.10.4;idno=2;cc=ecfr

    • Resume: The review committee will consider the appropriateness of the selected project director in view of the role and responsibility that person will play in guiding the project through implementation to completion.  Position descriptions submitted in lieu of a resume will be reviewed for the appropriateness of the qualifications and skills identified.
    • CVs for trainers (Preferred)
  • Letters of Intent from cooperating Georgian universities (Optional): Please provide any available letter(s) from any U.S. or Georgian partner organizations, including universities, regarding their intention to partner in this project.

AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION

Award Notices:  The grant award shall be written, signed, awarded, and administered by the Grants Officer.  The Grants Officer is the Government official delegated the authority by the U.S. Department of State Procurement Executive to write, award, and administer grants and cooperative agreements.  The assistance award agreement is the authorizing document and will be provided to the Recipient through mail.  Organizations whose applications will not be funded will also be notified in writing.

Anticipated Time to Award:  Applicants should expect to be notified of the final decision within 90 days after the submission deadline.  Following this the Public Diplomacy Section (PDS) of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia staff will provide information at the point of notification about the requirements for the final application, which may include revisions to the activities.  The final applications will not be subject to further competition but must incorporate any suggested changes made by the Public Diplomacy Section (PDS) of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Applicants should be aware that there may be a delay between the time that applications are submitted, and awards are made.  Successful applicants can expect to receive their first tranche of grant funds no later than October 1, 2022. This delay is primarily due to the extensive clearance process that must be undertaken prior to grant awards being made.

Issuance of this RFP does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the Government, nor does it commit the Government to pay for costs incurred in the preparation and submission of proposals.  Further, the Government reserves the right to reject any or all proposals received.

  • Reporting Requirements:  Grantees are required to submit quarterly program progress and financial reports throughout the project period.  Progress and financial reports are due 30 days after the reporting period.  Final programmatic and financial reports are due 90 days after the close of the project period.  Progress reports at a minimum should be submitted via electronic mail to an address to be provided in the award.

VII. DISCLAIMER

If a proposal is selected for funding, the Department of State has no obligation to provide any additional future funding in connection with the award.  Renewal of an award to extend the period of performance is at the total discretion of the Department of State.

NOTE:
Applicants may send program-related questions to Nino Gagua at gaguan@state.gov by April 15, 2022. The answers will be posted on grants.gov as an amendment within two weeks.