Biodiversity and Ecosystem Processes in Human-Modified Tropical Forests Announcement of Opportunity - Call for Expressions of Interest

Call closes at 16:00 BST (GMT+1) on Thursday 16th August 2012. Further information about the call is available at: www.nerc.ac.uk/research/programmes/forests/events/ao.asp

1.0 Summary

NERC invites Expressions of Interest for a major new collaborative five-year research programme on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Processes in Human Modified Tropical Forests. The aim of the programme is to carry out site studies in Sabah, Malaysia, and Brazil that significantly improve our understanding of the links between biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles in tropical forests. The Brazilian part of the programme will be delivered in partnership with the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP).

This Announcement of Opportunity calls for Expressions of Interests to deliver one or more of the following 5 programme goals. The site study in Sabah will address Goals 1-4, and the site study in Brazil will focus on Goal 5.

  1. Improve understanding of the role of biodiversity in major forest biogeochemical cycles (C, N & P) through the integration of experimental and observational data with models linked through up-scaling studies to explore the potential regional impacts of environmental change;
  2. Explore the spatial correlations between ecosystem function in terms of biogeochemical cycles and the distribution of species of conservation concern;
  3. Critically assess the potential of forest management and policy options (e.g. REDD+) to protect both key ecosystem functions (biogeochemical cycles) and biodiversity;
  4. Develop and test new technological capability for sustainable long-term observations of biogeochemical cycling that may be deployed as a legacy of the programme across a range of tropical environments; and
  5. Explore whether the methodologies and approaches adopted by the programme at the Sabah site can provide insights into comparable biodiversity and ecosystem function issues in contrasting tropical locations.

The study site for Goals 1 to 4 will be based in the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems[1] (SAFE) research platform, which is part of The Royal Society’s South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP). Up to £6.4m of NERC funding is available for this component of the programme.

The Brazil-based part of the programme, Goal 5, will be jointly funded by NERC and FAPESP and has been allocated funding of up to £3.2m (£1.6m from NERC and R$5m from FAPESP)[2].

Expressions of Interest will be reviewed by an Assessment Panel and used to select the individuals / teams to be invited to a workshop on the Thursday 27thSeptember 2012. The purpose of this workshop is to discuss the scope of the programme, agree the format of full bids, and to explore how the various components of the programme can be integrated. The workshop will also provide teams with the opportunity to meet with representatives from SAFE, FAPESP and NERC.

The specification for full proposals will be issued shortly after the workshop.Participation in the workshop and submission of full proposals to the programme will be limited to applicants who were successful at the Expression of Interest stage.

Expressions of Interest to deliver the Sabah-based Goal/s are invited from UK researchers eligible for funding from NERC. Expressions of Interest to deliver the Brazil-based element of the programme are invited from partnerships involving researchers eligible for funding from NERC and FAPESP. This call closes at 16:00 BST (GMT+1) on Thursday 16th August 2012.

2.0 Background

Tropical forests are hotspots of terrestrial biodiversity. The loss, fragmentation and degradation of these forests are drivers of global biodiversity loss and have important implications for the global climate system; uncertainty in how the tropical biosphere will respond to global change is one of the major constraints on predicting the climate of the end of this century and therefore in assessing threshold values of greenhouse gas emissions that may avoid dangerous climate change.

Significant knowledge gaps exist, particularly with respect to the role biodiversity plays in regulating biogeochemical cycles in tropical forests (including biosphere-atmosphere interactions) and the links between these processes and species of conservation concern. The latter is a key component of the UN-REDD+ Programme[3], an extension of the UN’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) programme, that goes beyond deforestation and degradation to include biodiversity conservation, the sustainable management of forests, and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

Developing the science requires integrated observations and modelling linked to gradients in forest modification (loss, fragmentation, degradation) and derived land-uses (e.g. agriculture); and this is the focus of the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Processes in Human-Modified Tropical Forests research programme.

This integration is challenging. Tropical biodiversity is poorly described compared with temperate regions. Above-below ground interactions will play a key role in regulating biogeochemical cycles. While tropical plants above ground are routinely censused, other key biodiversity groups such as soil organisms and consumers are not. This means that there is a need for basic assessments (distribution, abundance, community composition) of these important groups as well as links with measurements of their functional roles. These assessments are labour intensive and technically demanding. Furthermore, there are major challenges in bringing state-of-the-art observational science associated with biosphere-atmosphere interactions into the field. For these reasons, the Human-Modified Tropical Forests programme aims to focus the majority of its detailed observations and measurements on a single site, i.e. within the SAFE platform.

The aim is to develop a programme that supports a detailed single site study, in Sabah, Malaysia, that significantly improves our understanding of the links between biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles in tropical forest; but also enables parallel studies in other tropical forest biomes in Brazil.

Sabah Field Site

The SAFE Project aims to understand the impacts of forest on biodiversity and ecosystems. Located in the rainforests of Malaysian Borneo, the experiment consists of three interconnected projects. The first of these examines ecological changes along a gradient of forest modification, scrutinising differences in how the ecosystem functions and the species that survive in a forest as it becomes lightly logged, heavily logged, fragmented and eventually converted into an oil palm plantation. The second project relies on experimentally designed forest fragments to investigate how the spatial structure of a landscape can mediate or exacerbate the ecological impacts of logging. The third project is focused on the role of forest remnants in protecting waterways, investigating how changing the width of the riparian vegetation that shelters permanent streams impacts the quality of water emerging from forests and plantations.

The SAFE website[4] has full details of the SAFE experiment, including information on the logistical issues and costs associated with working at SAFE.

Brazil Field Sites

NERC and FAPESEP will consider applications to carry out research in any human modified tropical forests in Brazil, providing it can be clearly demonstrated that the selected site will enable the aims and objectives of the programme to be met and is undertaken in partnership with FAPESP’s Biota and/or Global Climate Change Programmes.[5],[6] Existing infrastructure[7] that could be utilised includes the FAPESP BIOTA Programme’s Atlantic Rainforest site that consists of 16 1ha Plots where biodiversity and biogeochemical data is being collected, including species distribution, soil composition, forest biomass and long term carbon balance studies are being carried out, both in pristine and human altered forests. The Large-scale Biosphere-Atmosphere (LBA[8]) experiment also supports study sites that encompass a range of forest types (primary, secondary, degraded, pastures and plantations) in Manaus (State of Amazon), Santarém (State of Pará) and Porto Velho (State of Rondônia). Research based in other human-modified tropical forests in Brazil, being developed in partnership with FAPESP’s Biota and/or Global Climate Change Programmes, is also eligible for funding, provided it can be clearly demonstrated that the proposed work addresses the objectives of the programme.

3.0 Scientific Scope

The Human-Modified Tropical Forest programme has five overarching goals:

  1. Improve our understanding of the role of biodiversity in major forest biogeochemical cycles (C, N & P) through the integration of experimental and observational data with models linked through up-scaling studies to explore the potential regional impacts of environmental change;
  2. Explore the spatial correlations between ecosystem function in terms of biogeochemical cycles and the distribution of species of conservation concern;
  3. Critically assess the potential of forest management and policy options (e.g. REDD+) to protect both key ecosystem functions (biogeochemical cycles) and biodiversity;
  4. Develop and test new technological capability for sustainable long-term observations of biogeochemical cycling that may be deployed as a legacy of the programme across a range of tropical environments; and
  5. Explore whether the methodologies and approaches adopted by the programme at the Sabah site can provide insights into comparable biodiversity and ecosystem function issues in contrasting tropical locations.

Goals 1-4 will be addressed as part of a detailed programme of observations and measurements using the SAFE research platform in Sabah, Malaysia. The SAFE experiment is part of The Royal Society’s South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP[9]) and its primary sponsor is the Sime Darby Foundation. The research site consists of a gradient in forest modification – old growth forest, logged forest and intensive (oil palm) agriculture, with experimental forest fragments and riparian forest strips of various sizes created within a landscape that has been converted from logged forest into oil palm plantations. It includes, therefore, an intact forest ecosystem, fragmented and degraded forest, and derived land-uses. This is important because many tropical forest areas are now forest-agriculture landscapes, and recent work, including that supported by NERC, has shown how important it is to understand the changes in biogeochemical cycles caused by forest modification. SAFE has existing data and infrastructure that are relevant to the programme, including above ground plant census and biomass data, forest carbon data, a flux tower for measuring biosphere-atmosphere gas exchange, and instrumentation measuring nutrients and water.

It is envisaged that Goal 1 will focus specifically on above-below ground interactions. It will partly draw on existing SAFE data but will also need to involve new assessments of key biodiversity groups, particularly soil organisms and consumers. The opportunity exists to nest biodiversity removal treatments (or other perturbations) within the main forest modification gradient/experimental treatments to explore the functional role of specific biodiversity groups. Biodiversity assessment data will be combined with measurements of various nutrient pools and gas exchange with the atmosphere to explore functional relationships. These data will be used as the basis for developing novel approaches for modelling biogeochemical cycles that incorporate fundamental ecological interactions. EO-derived data on surface properties and processes will be combined with the in situ data and models to explore the potential regional impacts of environmental change (e.g. land cover change) on biodiversity and ecosystem function.

Goal 2 will involve combining data from Goal 1 with other SAFE datasets on animal and plant biodiversity that describe the distribution and abundance of taxonomic groups (e.g. vertebrates) of high conservation value. An important factor in the success of UN-REDD+ is the extent to which forest conservation for carbon stocks also protects forest biodiversity and other ecosystem functions and vice versa. This in turn depends on the spatial congruence between major biogeochemical cycles and species of conservation concern across scales, but the integrated science required to address these issues is poorly developed. Goal 2 will address this issue and test the key assumption of UN-REDD+ that ecosystem function and biodiversity of conservation value co-vary in space in relation to land cover change.

Forest protection and restoration measures have the potential to affect a wide range of critical ecosystem functions as well as forest biodiversity, but the full range of potential ecosystem impacts is rarely considered. This is important because, for example, there may be trade-offs between key ecosystem functions and/or forest biodiversity. Addressing these issues requires the integration of observations from forest restoration/degradation studies with process-based models that allow scenarios to be explored over a range of spatio-temporal scales. This is the aim of Goal 3 and achieving it will involve the integration and application of the work done within Goals 1 and 2. A significant outcome of this work will be to promote the application of the science being developed in the programme to forest management and policy issues of interest to decision makers.

Goal 4 will be met using ambitious new approaches to low-intensity (electrical, manpower, cost etc.) biogeochemical exchange measurements (e.g. CO2, H2O, isoprene, aerosol fluxes, N and O3 deposition). The concept is for the development of new technology to be embedded within the programme so that it is tightly coupled to research drivers and may be tested against current state of the art. This goal will create a long-term technological legacy for the programme.

Goal 5 will explore how the approaches and methodologies used in the Sabah-based part of the programme can be applied to comparable biodiversity and ecosystem function issues in other tropical forest biomes in Brazil. This research will be undertaken in partnership with FAPESP’s Biota and/or Global Climate Change Programmes.[12],[13] It is envisaged that this work will utilise the existing FAPESP-funded infrastructure, such as that in the Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil and the LBA sites in the Amazon region. Research based in other human-modified tropical forests from other regions of Brazil, being developed in partnership with FAPESP’s Biota and/or Global Climate Change Programmes[5],[6], is also eligible for funding, provided it can be clearly demonstrated that the proposed work addresses the objectives of the programme.

4.0 National Capability

NERC has significant infrastructure and expertise in its Research Centres, which it encourages applicants to incorporate into projects where appropriate. The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology[14] (CEH), National Centre for Earth Observation[15](NCEO), and National Centre for Atmospheric Sciences (NCAS) have existing capabilities in tropical forest research that could contribute to the programme,. Applicants are invited to discuss their proposed research with the National Capability providers to explore opportunities for synergy and added value, and contact details are given below.

CEH has on-going work on genetic diversity, local adaptation and evolution in tropical forest trees; and interests in the conservation and effects of fragmentation on forest tree mating systems, fitness and resilience, and in use of forest tree species in tropical agriculture. For further information contact Stephen Cavers (scav@ceh.ac.uk).

CEH’s remote sensing activities include observations of the phenology, canopy chemistry and photosynthetic efficiency in forests, for further information contact France Gerard (ffg@ceh.ac.uk). CEH also participates in the Center for Tropical Forest Science[16] (CTFS), a global network of forest research plots and scientists dedicated to the study of tropical and temperate forest function and diversity, which includes sites in Sabah and Brazil; the CEH contact point is Jill Thompson (jiom@ceh.ac.uk).

The Role of Biodiversity in Climate Change Mitigation in Latin America (ROBIN) European Framework 7 project includes CEH National Capability. The project supports work at 3 sites in the Para Region of Brazil, each site covering a gradient of forest degradation from pristine forest through to agricultural land, and the aim is to study the interactions between biodiversity, ecosystem processes and the delivery of ecosystem services, especially carbon storage, in multi-functional landscapes. For further information contact Terry Parr (twp@ceh.ac.uk).

NCEO has on-going work using satellite data to study the dynamics of tropical woodlands and the impact of fires on forests, and is combing satellite and ground-based data to understand the dynamics of tropical peatlands. NCEO has also produced, and made freely available, software to enable the use of radar images to study humid tropical deforestation. For further information contact Prof. Shaun Quegan (s.quegan@sheffield.ac.uk).

NCAS has on-going research in the measurement and modelling of biogeochemical cycles and land-atmosphere exchange. Of particular relevance here are the staff and instrumentation needed for the measurement of chemical and physical fluxes between atmosphere and forest. Many of these technologies have previously been deployed on the ground in both Sabah and Brazil and also from overflying aircraft for wide areas survey. The contact point for observing NC within NCAS is Prof. Alan Blyth (alan@env.leeds.ac.uk).

Applicants may also apply to NERC for access to any of the NERC-supported scientific services and facilities. For some of these facilities access is provided free to the user, subject to peer-review and prioritisation of applications to ensure that the highest quality science is supported. In other cases, the facilities are not operated by NERC and are funded on a pay-as-you-go basis. Further information on NERC’s Services & Facilities, including details of how to access the facilities, is available on the NERC website[17].

If the proposed research is likely to make use of any of NERC’s National Capability applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss their requirements with the relevant provider before submitting the Expression of Interest to ensure that the proposed work is feasible and that, where applicable, all relevant costs are included.

5.0 Expressions of Interests - Requirements

The research commissioned through the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Processes in Human-Modified Tropical Forests programme must ultimately be undertaken by an integrated community of researchers working together to deliver all five goals. At the Expressions of Interest stage, NERC is inviting applicants to propose how this integration will be achieved. Options range from commissioning two large consortia (one focussed on all aspects of the Sabah-based work and one for the Brazil-based research) to integration post-award of separate teams focussed on delivering on one or more of the goals. The preferred mechanism(s) for achieving the programme’s goals will be explored with the programme’s applicants at the September workshop and will be set-out in the specification for full proposals.

5.1 Expressions of Interest—Goals 1 to 4 (Sabah, Malaysia)

The main study site for Goals 1 to 4 will be the SAFE research platform in Sabah, Malaysia, although it will be possible for elements of the work to be based elsewhere in Sabah where it can be demonstrated that this is the best approach to achieve the strategic objectives of the programme.

Up to £6.4m of NERC funding is available for the Sabah-based element of the programme. Applicants can submit an Expressions of Interest addressing one or more of Goals 1-4. An indication of the amount of funding NERC expects to award to each goal is given below, however applicants bidding to deliver 2 or more of the goals can propose a different split of funding if desired. The indicative budget for Goals 1-4 is:

  • Goal 1 - £3.3m
  • Goal 2 - £0.75m
  • Goal 3 - £0.75m
  • Goal 4 - £1.6m

In the Expressions of Interest applicants must set out their vision for the Goal or Goals they plan to address, explaining how their proposed approach will deliver the Goal(s). They must also explain how their work can or would be integrated with that of others to deliver the programme’s strategic aims and maximize the impact of the research. This includes links to the team delivering the Brazil-based elements of the programme (Goal 5).

Applicants are also asked to outline how they would structure and manage the programme of work, including:

  • what the proposed management structure could be (note that a programme manager and a data coordinator will be required);
  • how the project team could be assembled;
  • evidence of ability to lead and manage a large interdisciplinary research programme, or a component thereof;
  • a summary of the expected usage of the SAFE research site and logistics, e.g. accommodation and field laboratory requirements;
  • expected data management requirements;
  • expected use of NERC’s National Capability, including NERC’s services & facilities;
  • requirements for capital items; and
  • justification of the resources requested.

A Pathways to Impact Plan is not required at the Expressions of Interest stage, although applicants should provide some indication of the potential impact they envisage from their proposed research in their vision statement. Further information on Pathways to Impact is available on the NERC website[18]. A full Pathway to Impact Plan will be required at the full proposal stage.

NERC has agreed that the projects it supports will comply with the requirements SAFE places on researchers working on the SAFE site[19], including the following.

  • Data sharing: SAFE requires researchers to deposit a copy of all data they generate from working at the SAFE Project into a centralized database. The data should be accompanied by a completed metadata form to aid the interpretation of data. The SAFE Project data policy and the protocols SAFE use for creating metadata in the appropriate format are available on the SAFE website.
  • Research outputs: Researchers will inform SAFE of any scientific outputs they generate, including all published papers, theses, conference presentations and media coverage. For all written outputs, an electronic copy should be submitted to the SAFE project archive.
  • Sampling regimes: As far as possible, the sampling design of the projects should conform to that of the central project. This central project design has a nested structure that allows for the fact that different ecological patterns and processes will operate at different spatial scales and should therefore be observed at different spatial scales.
  • SAFE Approval Process: NERC-funded researchers will be subject to the SAFE approval process. SAFE will require a proposal from each researcher outlining their research and proposed methodologies, and the relevant form is available on the SAFE website[20]. These proposals will not be required until applicants have confirmation that the funding from NERC has been secured. The proposals will be assessed by the SAFE Advisory Committee and posted on the SAFE website to provide incoming researchers with an overview of current and planned research. Note that NERC will not fund research that duplicates current and planned work at SAFE.

Each researcher working in Sabah requires a research access license from the Sabah Biodiversity Centre. Applications for research permits need to be made 6 months before the fieldwork is due to start to ensure that they are processed in time and this should be factored into the project planning. Further information on the permits and permissions required to work at SAFE will be given at the programme workshop.

Applicants are strongly advised to discuss their proposed research with SAFE before submitting the Expression of Interest to ensure that:

  • the proposed research is logistically feasible and doesn’t duplicate existing and/or planned SAFE projects; and
  • all the relevant costs, e.g. for equipment and logistical support, are included in the proposed budget.

The contact details of the SAFE Management team are available athttp://www.safeproject.net/personnel/management-team/ and applicants are advised to contact the SAFE Science Director, Dr. Rob Ewers (r.ewers@imperial.ac.uk), in the first instance.

5.2 Expressions of Interest—Goal 5 (Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest)

NERC and FAPESP will consider proposals to carry out research in any human modified tropical forest in Brazil providing it can be clearly demonstrated that the research will contribute to the delivery of Goal 5 and the objectives of the programme as a whole. In particular, proposals that utilise existing FAPESP-funded infrastructure are encouraged; this includes the Biota Programme’s research platform in the Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil[21] and the sites supported by the LBA experiment[22]. As far as possible the approaches adopted should follow those being used at the SAFE site[23] to enable comparison studies to be carried out. Up to £3.2M is available to deliver this component of the programme (£1.6m from NERC and R$5m from FAPESP)[24]. This call is only open to joint UK-Brazil applications; NERC will provide up to £1.6m of funding to eligible UK-based researchers and FAPESP will provide up to R5m to eligible São Paulo State-based researchers.

In the Expressions of Interest applicants must set out their vision for the Goal 5, explaining how the proposed approach will deliver the aims of the Goal. They must also explain how their work can or would be integrated with that of others to deliver NERC and FAPESP’s strategic objectives for the programme as a whole and maximize the impact of the research. This includes links to the team(s) delivering Goals 1 – 4 of the programme.

As for Goals 1 – 4, applicants are also asked to outline how they would structure the programme of work and its management, including:

  • what the proposed management structure will be (note that a programme manager and a data coordinator will be required);
  • evidence of ability to lead and manage a large interdisciplinary research project;
  • a summary of the expected usage of the Biota Programme’s Atlantic Rainforest infrastructure, if applicable;
  • expected data management requirements, note that data will have to be submitted to both the relevant NERC data centre (the Environmental Information Data Centre) and the Biota Programme’s database;
  • expected use of NERC’s National Capability, including NERC’s services & facilities;
  • requirements for capital items; and
  • a justification of the resources requested.

A Pathways to Impact Plan is not required at the Expressions of Interest stage, although applicants should provide some indication of the potential impact they envisage from their proposed research in their vision statement. Further information on Pathways to Impact is available on the NERC website[25]. A full Pathway to Impact Plan will be required at the full proposal stage.

6.0 Application process

The Expression of Interest should use the template provided (www.nerc.ac.uk/research/programmes/forests/events/documents/tropical-forests-eoi-form.doc) and comprise:

  • a vision for the programme which outlines the research that will be undertaken and how it will advance our understanding of the role of biodiversity in major forest biogeochemical cycles, clearly stating which Goal(s) are being addressed and how;
  • a project plan that explains the preferred project management structure and demonstrates how this structure will enable the delivery of an integrated programme;
  • a justification of the resources required; and
  • a track record outlining the relevant experience of the individual members of the project team, including a statement on the PIs ability to lead the project.

Expressions of Interest must be completed in single-spaced typescript of minimum font size 11 point, Arial font. References can be presented in a smaller font size provided it is sufficiently clear to ensure good quality reproductions. Applicants referring to websites should note that referees may choose not to use them. Any proposal which does not use the template provided, comply with these specifications or exceeds the stated word limits will be rejected prior to peer review. Applicants should avoid the use of colour graphs or pictures, which NERC cannot guarantee will be reproduced in colour for referees.

The Expression of Interest should be submitted by the lead Principal Investigator. Note that projects expected to be submitted as a joint application at the full proposal stage need only submit one Expression of Interest that sets out their vision for the whole project.

The closing date for submission of the Expression of Interest is 16:00 BST (GMT+1) on Thursday 16th August 2012. Applications received after this date will not be accepted.

Applications should be sent via email to Dr Chloe Onoufriou attropicalforests@nerc.ac.uk.

Eligibility

Applications to deliver Goals 1 – 4, and the UK contribution to Goal 5, are open to individuals and organisations eligible for NERC research grant funding, i.e. applicants based in UK Higher Education Institutions, NERC Research Centres and Independent Research Organisations approved by NERC. Please refer to the NERC Research Grants Handbook[26] for details. Potential applicants should contact NERC well in advance of the submission deadline if they have any queries concerning their eligibility. Individuals are limited to involvement in no more than two Expressions of Interest submitted to this call; and only one of these may be as the lead Principal Investigator.

Brazilian researchers requesting funding from FAPESP for proposals to deliver Goal 5 must be from higher education and research organisations, public or non-profit, in the State of São Paulo. Applicants should note that unlike NERC, FAPESP does not award grants to institutions, but direct to researchers.

Individuals are limited to involvement in no more than two Expressions of Interest submitted to this call; and only one of these may be as the lead Principal Investigator.

Costing of Proposals

The Expressions of Interest should summarise the resource requirements anticipated for the whole project. For applicants interested in Goal 5, this should include both the NERC and FAPESP funded elements.

Details of the costs UK researchers can claim are given in the NERC Research Grants Handbook.

All costs requested from FAPESP should be eligible under the general rules and procedures for FAPESP Thematic Projects Research Awards[27]. In the particular case of this FAPESP/NERC programme, researchers who are already Principal Investigators (Coordinators) of ongoing Thematic Projects at FAPESP will be eligible to submit proposals.

Please note that at the full proposal stage the costs for UK and Brazilian researchers will be dealt with separately. Costs for UK-based researchers will be included in the Je-S[28] form, and São Paulo based researchers will be asked submit a FAPESP Research Proposal Form and Consolidated Budget Spreadsheet[29]

Studentships

Projects may include requests for studentships. If studentships are requested, the number and scope of the PhD projects should be justified in the Expression of Interest and the appropriate resources to support student training and development included in the budget.

Further information on UK-based project studentships can be found in the NERC Research Grants Handbook.

FAPESP will support all types of studentships available for Thematic Projects, provided the associated costs are eligible under the general rules and procedures for FAPESP research grants.

Capital

UK-based researchers should note that capital provision to the Research Councils has been reduced by around 50% for the current spending review period, and as a result NERC has revised its policy on funding capital items, details are available on the NERC website[30].

Whilst NERC will make best endeavours to meet capital requests we do not expect to be able to fund more than a minor fraction of any capital equipment. In most cases, the maximum NERC will fund is 50% of any capital items, and applicants will need to provide evidence that the remaining funding has been secured. Only in exceptional circumstances will NERC fund more than the 50% level, and applicants should discuss in advance with NERC any cases requiring a commitment of this type to receive feedback on whether it is worthwhile proceeding.

Data Management

An estimate of the costs for the delivery of the data management activities in association with the NERC Designated Data Centre and the SAFE or BIOTA Programme databases, where applicable, must be included in the Expression of Interest. A Data Management plan is not sought at this stage, but will required at the full bid stage.

UK applicants are invited to discuss their requirements with the Environmental Information Data Centre[31] before submitting their application.

The Workshop

The Expression of Interests will be used to select the groups to be invited to aworkshop on September 27th 2012 at Imperial College, London.

The purpose of the workshop is to:

  • explore options for structuring the programme and integrating its various components; this could include linking management structures, and researchers, including students, working in both Sabah and Brazil;
  • brief applicants of the logistical issues and costs associated of working at SAFE;
  • brief applicants on the infrastructure available from FAPESP;
  • brief applicants on the potential NERC National Capability contributions to the programme;
  • explore the knowledge exchange opportunities associated with a programme and identify possible Pathways to Impact; and
  • discuss and agree format of the full bids.

A Science@SAFE workshop, where updates on the development of the SAFE site and results from current projects will be presented, will be held on September 26th2012 at Imperial College, London. This meeting is open to all, and applicants to the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Processes in Human Modified Tropical Forests are encouraged to attend. See http://www.safeproject.net/workshop/ for further information.

Following the programme workshop a call for full proposals will be issued. Participation in the workshop and full bid stages of the programme will be limited to the applicants who were successful at the Expression of Interest stage.

7.0 Assessment Process

All the eligible Expressions of Interests received will be reviewed by an Assessment Panel to shortlist those project teams that will be invited to the programme workshop. The assessment criteria to be used for the Expressions of Interest stage are as follows:

  • Research Excellence;
  • Fit to Programme Objectives; and
  • Track Record / ability to lead the project.

Applicants will be informed in early September 2012 if they are to be invited to the programme workshop.

Feedback on the successful and unsuccessful Expressions of Interest will be provided on request.

NERC and FAESP joint applications

The Research Councils UK (RCUK), which includes NERC, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with FAPESP to encourage and support UK-Brazil collaborations. This MoU provides for a Lead Agency Agreement[32]whereby for this programme NERC will receive and assess collaborative proposals from eligible applicants from both countries on behalf on both organisations. FAPESP nominated experts will be involved with the peer review and decision-making process throughout.

8.0 Contacts

UK researchers requiring further information, including on the application and assessment procedures, should contact Dr. Chloe Onoufriou at NERC (email:tropicalforests@nerc.ac.uk, telephone: 01793 411 603).

São Paulo State researchers requiring further information should contact Alexandre Roccatto at FAPESP (email: fapesp-nerc-tropical-forests@fapesp.br).

The contact details of the SAFE Management team are available at http://www.safeproject.net/personnel/management-team/ and applicants are advised to contact the SAFE Science Director, Dr. Rob Ewers (r.ewers@imperial.ac.uk), in the first instance.


[1] See http://www.safeproject.net/ for details of the SAFE project

[2] The intention of the funding partners is to provide roughly equivalent contributions toward this work package. Total funds available in UK Pounds Sterling are ca. £3.2 million. Due to fluctuation in exchange rates total available UK funds are approximate. To ensure parity with UK funds, up to R$5 million is available from FAPESP to support Brazilian researchers.

[3] http://www.un-redd.org/AboutREDD/tabid/582/Default.aspx

[4] http://www.safeproject.net/

[5] See http://www.fapesp.br/en/4662 for further information on the Biota Programme

[6] See http://www.fapesp.br/en/4485 for further information on the Global Climate Change Programme

[7] For further information on FAPESP’s Atlantic Rainforest infrastructure, seehttp://www.biotaneotropica.org.br/v12n1/en/abstract?article+bn01812012012and related references, or http://www.fapesp.br/biota/biota_joly.pdf

[8] http://www.lbaeco.org/lbaeco/sites.htm

[11] http://www.searrp.org/

[12] See http://www.fapesp.br/en/4662 for further information on the Biota Programme

[13] See http://www.fapesp.br/en/4485 for further information on the Global Climate Change Programme

[14] http://www.ceh.ac.uk/

[15] http://www.nceo.ac.uk/

[16] http://www.ctfs.si.edu/

[17] http://www.nerc.ac.uk/research/sites/facilities/

[18] http://www.nerc.ac.uk/funding/application/pathwaystoimpact.asp

[19] http://www.safeproject.net/working-at-safe/

[20] http://www.safeproject.net/working-at-safe/submitting-proposals/

[21] For further information on FAPESP’s Atlantic Rainforest infrastructure, seehttp://www.biotaneotropica.org.br/v12n1/en/abstract?article+bn01812012012and related references, or http://www.fapesp.br/biota/biota_joly.pdf

[22] http://www.lbaeco.org/lbaeco/sites.htm

[23] See http://www.safeproject.net/experiment/ for details of the SAFE protocols

[24] The intention of the funding partners is to provide roughly equivalent contributions toward this work package. Total funds available in UK Pounds Sterling are ca. £3.2 million. Due to fluctuation in exchange rates total available UK funds are approximate. To ensure parity with UK funds, up to R$5 million is available from FAPESP to support Brazilian researchers.

[25] http://www.nerc.ac.uk/funding/application/pathwaystoimpact.asp

[26] The handbook is available athttp://www.nerc.ac.uk/funding/application/researchgrants/

[27] See http://www.fapesp.br/176 for further details

[28] https://je-s.rcuk.ac.uk/JeS2WebLoginSite/Login.aspx

[29] Details on the application process for FAPESP researchers are athttp://www.fapesp.br/en/5339

[30] See http://www.nerc.ac.uk/funding/news/researchgrants.asp for details of NERC’s capital funding policy

[31] http://www.nerc.ac.uk/research/sites/data/terrestrial.asp

[32] Seehttp://www.rcuk.ac.uk/international/funding/collaboration/Pages/RCUKFAPESPmou.aspx for further information