Large Systems Research Grants
ATTENTION: When applying for this grant, please refer to the guidelines in the Call for Proposal and carefully follow the application procedures.
The increasing cost of fuel, fertilizer and other inputs based on non-renewable resources and increased pressures on land, air and water resources by growing populations means we need to continually find ways to adapt our grants programs to these changing conditions. One urgent need that has evolved is the continuation of systems research over longer periods of time than our traditional grant programs normally support. This is particularly true in the area of sustainable agriculture where the interrelationships among various system components are often subtle and may surface only as time allows effects of these relationships to evolve to measurable levels. In addition, interpretations based on short term research can be misleading. SARE has been remarkably successful at providing farmers and ranchers with a tool kit that helps reduce the environmental impacts of agriculture. However, our quality of life mandate has been less successful. We have sought to fund projects that apply systems-based research techniques to the study of sustainable agriculture. These research techniques are based on the recognition that agricultural systems are complex and that interactions among components determine how the system performs. Successfully applying a systems approach to research however is not only expensive but requires a longer time frame than the usual two-or three-year grant cycle.
One of the challenges in conducting systems research is obtaining sufficient funding to keep the research team and research infrastructure together over the many years needed to obtain useful and meaningful long-term systems research results. Moreover, as systems research teams analyze and assess results over time, new questions arise that need to be integrated into the long-term systems research protocol and be investigated.
Because of the long-term, research-oriented approach required for systems research, outcome expectations for the Large Systems Research Grant program have been designed to assure effective, appropriate results. Each proposal should have defined research outcomes that contribute in a specific way to the pool of knowledge about sustainable agriculture and systems design. Specific performance targets that include the adoption of new farm practices are not required for systems research projects. However, achievement-of-knowledge outcomes (such as published research findings) are still required.
Large Systems Research Grants are designed to assure research capacity in addition to gaining a near-term result to a specific research question. They are also designed to improve the opportunities for teams to engage in interdisciplinary activities. This ongoing process of research design followed by research activities, analysis and redesign does not fit standard short-term modes of funding common in many grant programs. The Southern Region SARE Program—through its Large Systems Research Grant--hopes to address that funding gap.
Who can apply?
Large Systems Grants are strictly for full systems research teams that have had successful research projects but need long-term support to build on the infrastructure in place. The goal of these grants are to provide long-term funding to continue to utilize the expertise built up from past R&E grants, or some funding sources other than SSARE. These grants help to build capacity at 1890 universities so that they can compete for larger systems projects.
What activities are eligible?
Research activities that not only keep the research team and infrastructure together over time but that also allow the teams to analyze and assess results over time, integrating new questions that arise into the long-term research protocol. To determine allowable costs for the funding, refer to the USDA-NIFA Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circulars, A-21: Cost Principles for Educational Activities, and A-110: Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Agreements With Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals, and other Non-Profit Organization. Refer to additional grant regulations on the USDA website.
These grants are designed to establish long-term capacity rather than gaining a near-term result to a specific research question. We believe that the lack of long term funding is often a barrier to the full development and understanding of systems of agricultural production. More evidence of the ability of the project to leverage funding from other sources is important in successfully competing for these grants, in addition to leveraging the findings of past R&E, PDP, or other grants to extend their impact more widely and deeply. Long-term grants should also enable successful systems projects to continue to compete for other SARE grants. Thus, receiving a long-term grant will not disqualify a systems project from competing for other SARE grants.
What is the funding range and time limits for these grants?
Project maximum is $100,000 per year for three years with opportunity for additional three-year renewals.