REQUEST FOR RESEARCH PROPOSALS
THE MICROSOFT RESEARCH - FAPESP INSTITUTE FOR IT RESEARCH

MICROSOFT RESEARCH-FAPESP INSTITUTE FOR IT RESEARCH

 

Public selection of proposals for research in Information Technology and Communications

1 Background

There has been growing recognition that the power of computing and information technology must be, and can be, extended beyond its traditional user base to reach people who until now have not had access to such technology. Being digitally connected has become ever more critical to economic, educational, and social advancement. The goal of this research funding initiative is to generate new knowledge that will contribute to expand the capabilities of computing technology to better serve social and economic challenges of underserved communities, both rural and urban. (The term "Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D)" is also often used in the academic research community to describe this same goal.)

Information and Communication Technologies must be affordable, accessible, and relevant. Novel approaches in computing technology have the potential for great impact in a range of areas, including education, healthcare, and economic development. The relevance that research projects can have in this area is significant, since there are difficult technological problems to be solved to realize that vision; such as work in last-mile networking infrastructures, creating intuitive user interfaces, developing low-cost computing devices, and creating relevant applications in areas such as healthcare, education, and economic development.

Research that can contribute to bring universal and participative access to knowledge by the Brazilian citizen is one of the four Grand C hallenges that were identified by the Brazilian Computer Society (SBC) in 2006 (http://143.54.83.4/ArquivosComunicacao/Desafios_ingles.pdf)

According to SBC: "This problem concerns, therefore, extending computational systems to all Brazilians, respecting their diversity and differences. This challenge gains new proportions in the Brazilian scenario, where there are large socio-economic, cultural and regional differences, as well as unequal opportunities of access to technology and knowledge. Moreover, we are living a moment of media convergence (e.g., Internet, TV, cell phones) whose bottleneck is, undoubtedly, the possibility of universal access. The 2003 census conducted by the IBGE (the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics - Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatá­stica) reported 32.1 million functional illiterates, defined as those over 15 years old with less than four years of schooling (26% of the population). Moreover, according to the same source, 24.5 million people (14.5% of the population) have some kind of physical handicap. Government, universities and private companies should search for technological solutions, of social impact, to decrease these differences and instill citizenship values in our society."

To overcome this enormous challenge it is necessary to foster research that can lead to scientific and technical advances in ICT. Such research may be in the field of Computer Science and Engineering, but it might also require collaboration between Computer Science and Engineering and other fields such as Health Sciences, Psychology, Linguistics, Anthropology, Sociology, Economy, Geography and Design.

Amongst relevant research themes that can contribute to enhance the access to information and knowledge, SBC underscores the following (these are mentioned as inclusive examples, since this Call for Research Proposals also looks for other perspectives and themes):

  1. Interfaces and human-computer interaction, oriented to diversified and heterogeneous populations;
  2. Electronic Government, not only in Web service offerings (including health and education), but including the possibility of citizens participation in knowledge generation and sharing, debating topics that affect them;
  3. Systems for continued learning;
  4. Research about communities of practice;
  5. Research on networked communities in underserved areas;
  6. Design and development of new hardware and communications infrastructure;
  7. Experimentation with human-centered content, and content modeling, taking into account social dynamics and socially aware systems;
  8. Creation of back-office systems - the internal infrastructure needed to provide services to citizens, which can include long-term processes, involving several entities and thus issues of interoperability;
  9. Creation of the necessary infrastructure for allowing the citizen to interact with the processes conducted in the back-office ;
  10. Development of supple mechanisms and structures for retrieval and storage of the content continuously generated by the user communities;
  11. Design and implementation of flexible and extensible ontological structures, to allow interoperability across knowledge domains and interactions among people of different vocabularies and cultural practices;
  12. Creation of e-learning platforms to allow efficient integration of communication tools to be used in electronic learning;
  13. Definition of means to ensure the appropriate administration of copyrights and of intellectual property in general, so as to allow a wide variety of experiments in knowledge production, administration and use; and
  14. Design and construction of new devices to support universal accessibility - e.g., helping physically handicapped users to fully interact with software and hardware systems.
  15. To this list FAPESP and Microsoft Research consider it important to add:

  16. Development of applications related to health care delivery and management and education.



2 Request for Academic Research Proposals

There are multiple scientific and technological c hallenges in making progress with respect to advancing ICT research in the state of Sao Paulo for applications in health, education, economy, etc. With this request for proposals, Microsoft Research and FAPESP will support academic research in specific technologies with a keen interest in multidisciplinary approaches to these research issues. The objective of the academic research projects must be to advance the state-of-the-art of technologies relevant to ICT c hallenges.

Projects will be reviewed specifically for the merit of the following research goals:

  1. Creative new infrastructures, form factors, and applications of mobile devices (which include mobile phones or embedded devices. An example in this area is the use of cell phones as a computing platform to deliver health services. Systems and applications may be created to bridge connections between medical experts and underserved communities that have little or no access to quality healthcare.)
  2. Improve connectivity, particularly in environments without existing network infrastructures or with intermittent availability to networking and power. Challenges in wireless networks would be a relevant theme in this category.
  3. Design appropriate user interfaces addressing challenges in literacy and for novice users of technology.
  4. Focus on relevant technology application advancements, taking into account the technology issues described in the three points above, which will provide benefits in such areas as health, education, and commerce.

It must be emphasized that creativity and novel approaches are always encouraged:

  • What are the technology components that would need to be developed to meet the needs of underserved communities?
  • How can low-cost and highly available connectivity be provided over a wide area? How can we reach the last mile? more efficiently?
  • How can networks be effective for serving social and economic concerns, such as healthcare, education, agriculture, and commerce?
  • New users may often have little education or may be completely new to computing devices. What are effective user interfaces for these communities?

The Foundation for the Support of Research in the State of São Paulo and Microsoft Research make public this Request for Research Proposals and invite researchers associated to Institutions of Higher Education or Research, public or private, in the State of São Paulo, to present research proposals within the scope of the Agreement between FAPESP and Microsoft, according to the following specifications.



3 Objectives

The objective of this FAPESP/Microsoft Research Request for Proposals is to identify, select and support world-class fundamental research in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) that is geared towards addressing social and economic development needs of in the State of Sao Paulo.

The supported research would fit in Pasteur's Quadrant and as such would explore fundamental research questions, but with developmental goals in mind. Pasteur's Quadrant is a classification for research projects created by Donald Stokes which describes projects that, simultaneously, are fundamental for the advancement of knowledge and are relevant for immediate applications.

Pasteur's Quadrant was named after Louis Pasteur whose work exemplifies both advancement of science and results providing great social benefit.

 

The FAPESP - Microsoft Research collaboration intends to support research into the use of technologies, such as cell phones, wireless technologies, and applications, that make computing affordable, accessible, and relevant.


4 Eligibility

Conditions of eligibility listed below will be strictly adhered to, so please read them carefully. Proposals not meeting all these criteria will not be considered.

  1. Proposals should be submitted by researchers from higher education and research organizations, public or non-profit, in the State of São Paulo.
  2. Proposals that are incomplete, inaccurate, request funds in excess of the maximum award available, or are otherwise not responsive to the terms and conditions of this RFP will, at the sole discretion of the Joint Steering Committee for the FAPESP-Microsoft cooperation, be excluded from consideration.
  3. Proposals should evidence a commitment to make all results arising from a funded project (including all intellectual property in those results) broadly available by either: (i) dedicating such results to the public domain; or (ii) making the results available under a non-restrictive license that allows modification and redistribution without any significant restrictions or conditions, such as the BSD license available at http://www.opensource.org/licenses/bsd-license.php.


5 Research proposals characteristics

Proposals should target some or all of the following research goals:

  1. Novel and Creative Solutions: The intention of the project is not to enable incremental engineering projects with a known outcome, but rather to explore and invent new technologyand knowledge that will benefit underserved communities. FAPESP and Microsoft Research encourage bold, novel, and unconventional approaches to the core science and technology c hallenges in this area.
  2. Immediate Relevance: FAPESP and Microsoft Research are seeking academic research projects that are highly complimentary to a broad community need. Goals should be specific, measurable, and results-oriented with tangible metrics
  3. Potential for Economic Impact: An ideal project will have the potential of sustainability beyond the timeframe of the proposed funding. Projects with direct economic impact offer far greater incentive for regional stakeholders to learn and support new technologies.
  4. Dissemination and Communication:Research results should be widely communicated through relevant scientific communities using established academic channels, such as international conferences and refereed journals. All funded projects should result in a detailed Web presence and relevant conference publications or presentations. Other channels for community development include regional workshops, graduate seminars, and curriculum components such as courses or course materials.
  5. Pilot Deployment: The goal of this request for proposal is to advance the state of the art of technologies. The development of pilot projects is highly encouraged but not a strict requirement.


6 Funds

The total amount available under this request for proposals (RFP) is US$ 500,000.00 (USD). It is anticipated that around 5 proposals will be selected, with individual values in the range of $50,000.00 - $150,000.00. The appropriateness of the requested funding amount in relation to the proposal goals and qualification of the proposing team is a primary review consideration. In addition, FAPESP and Microsoft Research reserve the right to propose lower funding levels for projects.


7 Presentation of proposals

Proposals should consider a duration of at most two years and should be presented containing:

  1. FAPESP MS Form, available at www.fapesp.br/chamadas/ms/form.doc;
     
  2. FAPESP Curricular Summary for the PI and each co-PIs.
     
  3. Research Proposal: proposals should be submitted in two versions, one in English and the other in Portuguese. The proposal should cover items from c.1) to c.6) below in no more than 20 pages, using font size 12 and double spacing. Please address the sections listed below, from c.1) to c.6) under separate numbered headings:

    • c1. Problem Statement: What is the problem addressed by the proposal and why is it important? What is the potential contribution to the field of the project if successful? Cite relevant work in the field as appropriate.
    • c2. Expected outcomes: What will be created or produced as a result of the proposed project? How will the results of this project be disseminated to others?
    • c3. Scientific and technical c hallenges and the ways and means to overcome them: describe the scientific and technical c hallenges that the project will overcome to reach the proposed goals. Describe the methods and means that will be used for this. Cite references that can help the reviewers to ascertain that such c hallenges were not yet overcome (or were not overcome in an adequate way) and that they can be overcome with the methods and means proposed in the project.
    • c4. Schedule: When is the project to be completed? What milestones will be used to measure progress of the project and when will they be completed? If the project described is part of a larger ongoing research program, estimate the time for completion of this project only.
    • c5. Dissemination and Evaluation: How will the results of this project be evaluated (if appropriate), and how will they be disseminated to others? Under what general license terms will the results be made available?
    • c6. Other Support: Including other contributions to this project (cash, goods, or services), if any, but not including such things as use of university facilities otherwise provided on an ongoing basis. Note that authors of winning proposals will be required to present an original letter on university/institution letterhead signed by the institution director certifying the commitment of any additional or matching support described in the proposal.

    In addition, each proposal must add as annexes documents related to the item below, if applicable (this item is not included in the 20 pages limit mentioned above) :

    • c7. Work plan for the requested fellowships: the proposed budget may include costs for Scientific Initiation, Master or Post-Doctoral fellowships, which must have a duration equal or less than the duration of the proposed project. For each requested fellowship a work plan with less than two pages (12 point font size, double spacing) must be submitted together with the research proposal. This work plan must include: Title for the Fellowship Project, Summary, and Description of the plan. It is not necessary to nominate the holder of the fellowship. If the proposal is approved the Principal Investigator will have the responsibility to organize a public selection process to select the appointees for the fellowships through an internal merit review process.


  4. Requested budget description

    (Spreadsheets available at http://www.fapesp.br/chamadas/ms/planilhas):

    • d1. A Consolidated Budget Request, classified by types of expense;
    • d2. Capital and equipment expenses in Brazil;
    • d3. Capital and equipment expenses from abroad;
    • d4. Consumables acquired in Brazil;
    • d5. Consumables acquired abroad;
    • d6. Services acquired in Brazil;
    • d7. Services acquired abroad;
    • d8. Per diems and transportation expenses
    • d9 Fellowships

All proposals and any communication related to them must be sent in envelopes addressed to:

Chamada de Propostas de Pesquisa FAPESP-Microsoft Research
FAPESP
Rua Pio XI, 1500, Alto da Lapa
05468-901 - São Paulo -SP

No proposals will be accepted by any other means.


8 Analysis and selection of the submitted proposals

All received proposals adherent to the terms of this Request for Proposals will be analyzed

The selection process will use a merit review and comparative analysis. These will use reviewer's reports and the FAPESP's Area and Adjunct Committees, following the criteria used for the selection of Regular Research Grants selected by FAPESP, plus the Joint Steering Committee for the FAPESP-Microsoft cooperation.

Researchers participating in any submitted proposal will not take part in the analysis and selection process.

All proposals will be analyzed and selected using the following criteria:

  1. Adherence to the terms of this RFP
  2. Novelty and Ambition of the proposed academic research project, as it relates to the goals of this RFP.
  3. Qualification of the research project, in the specification of clear goals, of the challenges to be overcome and the scientific, technical and material means and ways for this, in relation to the state-of-the-art in the field.
  4. Engineering diligence , including interface definitions, testing methodology, and plans for experimental deployment.
  5. Adequate existing institutional infrastructure, offered by the hosting institution.
  6. Qualifications of principal investigator and his team, including previous history of work in areas relevant to this RFP, successful completion of previous funded projects, teaching awards, and publications, all of those items being demonstrated in the Curricular Summaries of the principal investigators.
  7. Ability to complete the project , including the adequacy of resources available, institutional support, reasonableness of timelines, and number and qualifications of identified contributors; value, which encompasses the efficient use of requested resources and funding.
  8. Potential for wide dissemination and use of intellectual property created, including specific plans for publications, conference presentations, web sites, as well as plans to distribute content in multiple formats or languages.
  9. Formation of new researchers and professionals , as a result of the execution of the project.


9 Schedule

Launching of the RFP at FAPESP Web site April 10th
Last date for receiving proposals June 11th
Publication of results of the analysis and selection process August 27th

10 Project duration

The selected projects will have duration of up to 24 months.

11 Announcement of results

The results of the selection process will be announced in FAPESP's Web Site at http://www.fapesp.br and by communication to the proponents.

12 Cancellation of the award

The award might be canceled by FAPESP, in the event of justifiable cause, on the basis of evaluation by the Scientific Director of FAPESP. Cancellation does not preclude other measures that might be deemed necessary.

13 Awarding, Follow-up and Evaluation

For the selected proposals there will be a FAPESP Award Term, which will be signed by the Principal Investigator and by the authority in charge of the hosting institution

Results must be demonstrated in Scientific Reports, as well as Expense Demonstration, according to the specified in the FAPESP Award Term.

14 Operational Matters

If your proposal is selected, there will be a Term of Agreement to be signed by you, by FAPESP and by your Institution, regarding the rights and obligations of each part. This is similar to the standard FAPESP Term of Agreement, with some modifications to allow for the compromises of the FAPESP - Microsoft cooperation. The full Term of Agreement can be found here. The main points of the Term are:

  1. The concession of support for a project by FAPESP does not create any type of labor relationship between the researchers involved in the project and FAPESP.
  2. The timing and amounts of funds disbursement will be mutually agreed upon between you and FAPESP.
  3. Funds will be held in a joint account and may only be used for the research project.
  4. Any equipment or materials you wish to acquire to assist you in your research will be subject to standard Brazilian laws and concession of use requirements.
  5. You are required to provide FAPESP with half-yearly progress reports. These reports will be shared with the joint FAPESP/Microsoft steering committee.
  6. In order to allow for adequate Intellectual Property protection, you will notify and obtain approval from FAPESP prior to publication of any details about the research project.
  7. FAPESP and your institution will work together to obtain timely protection for any Intellectual Property generated by the project and to allow for the publication of scientific results.
  8. You will acknowledge FAPESP and Microsoft's support in any publication or press release regarding your research project.
  9. The Term will have to be signed by you and by a legal representative from your institution.

14.1 Intellectual Property Rights

  1. According to Brazilian law your institution is the owner of any intellectual property you create as a result of the research project.
  2. You and your institution are responsible for safeguarding that intellectual property.
  3. If you and Microsoft engage in any joint research activities, your institution and Microsoft will jointly own any inventions.
  4. In consideration of the funding being provided, you will grant to both FAPESP and Microsoft a non-exclusive, royalty free license to any intellectual property arising from the funded research project.
  5. If the research project results in patentable inventions, you must notify FAPESP so that Microsoft can decide if it wants to engage with you for an exclusive license. Terms of that exclusive license (fees, etc.) will be mutually agreed upon. You will retain the right to use the technology for research and teaching purposes.
  6. If your institution receives royalties for technology created as a result of the research project, FAPESP will receive a percentage of those royalties. This will be documented by a separate agreement.


14.2 Intellectual Property Limitations

  1. If you wish to use any pre-existing materials in the research project, you must obtain adequate rights from the owner so that you can grant the licenses to FAPESP and Microsoft as stated above.
  2. You may not subject the research project to the terms of an "Excluded License". This does not mean that you cannot use "open source" technology in your research project but that you may not use it in a fashion that might subject the project to the terms of an Excluded License (which might eliminate the ability to patent the technology or negotiate an exclusive license).

15 Information and clarification

Please send any questions to chamada_fapesp_microsoft@fapesp.br. Please put "RFP FAPESP-Microsoft" in the subject line of your e-mail message to ensure a prompt and proper response.