RFA Information - FAQs



For this RFA, prospective applicants are encouraged to thoroughly review the following frequently asked questions (FAQs) before submitting an application.

Download Supplemental FAQ Webinar Questions & Answers


Country and Geographic Eligibility

Can I propose research in the LASER PULSE focus region of East Africa in countries other than the priority countries mentioned in the RFA?
Due to limited funding, LASER PULSE will prioritize these competitive awards to the priority countries in the focus region.
As stated in the Call for Application in section 2, LASER PULSE “calls for innovative research – and associated research translation – focused on development challenges within three development sectors of: Basic Education (specifically, social and emotional skills); Food Security (specifically, youth engagement in agriculture); and Water Security (specifically, data and forecasting for water resources) in the context of the three East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Note that research on Basic Education is limited to Kenya and Uganda only”.
Additionally, researchers and practitioners from other regions may be included as collaborators for joint work. (Please refer to Question 2a: Eligibility and Leadership).
Will Concept Notes/proposals for research in countries outside the East Africa region be considered? For example: in Southern Africa, West Africa or Asia?
With limited funding, we limit these competitive awards to the focus region of East Africa.
Are there other opportunities for research funding from LASER PULSE outside of the East Africa region?
Yes, there will be opportunities for funding in other USAID geographic areas of interest in the course of LASER PULSE life. In particular, there will be an opportunity for the West Africa region following an R4D conference in the region in Spring 2020.
How many countries from the region can be involved in one project?
This is up to the lead PI and Co-PIs. This also depends on the ability to achieve the stated research objectives, including management of the project across countries, and ability to have sufficient funds for the proposed research given a maximum budget indicated in the RFA.
Can we work in more than one country?
Yes, a research team can work in more than one country. The focus of this solicitation is East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Basic Education applications are limited to Kenya and Uganda. (Please refer to FAQs Q.1d). The country of interest to a particular research also depends on the research problem that you propose to address.

Eligibility and Leadership

What institutions are eligible to prepare a Concept Note for the call?
As stated in the Call for Concept Notes in section 3.1.3:
Only academic researchers based at Higher Education Institutions (, HEIs (see definition of HEI in Appendix 3) in USAID Interest Countries ( and the United States are eligible to submit a Concept Note. The US lead researchers must have a local research partner. Preference will be given to lead researchers from HEIs in the East Africa region. The researchers must be registered in the LASER PULSE Network. Please click here ( to register in the LASER PULSE Network.
Researchers must collaborate with a research translation partner (e.g., a non-governmental organization (NGO), civil society, the private sector, or a local government entity). The PI is required to provide a Letter of Intent from the partner describing past collaboration experience, if any, and interest for partnership. The letter must be signed by an authorized official from the institution. Co-PI(s) and research translation partner(s) are not geographically restricted but must demonstrate their experience in and/or knowledge of the East African region.
Can an individual submit a Concept Note?
A single lead PI and a single lead HEI must be identified in each Concept Note. There must be a Letter of Commitment/Support from the lead institution and a Letter of Commitment/Support from a development partner institution.
How do I find a translation partner to meet the institutional eligibility requirements?
  1. It is up to the researcher to find a translation partner. We encourage you to use your existing networks to find a development partner collaborator.
  2. Co-PI(s) and research translation partner(s) are not geographically restricted but must demonstrate their experience in and/or knowledge of the East African region.
Can a Higher Education Institution (HEI) in a non-USAID Interest Country be a lead institution?
Higher Education Institutions in the United States can lead but they must collaborate with an eligible research translation partner/development practitioner (e.g., a non-governmental organization (NGO), civil society, the private sector, or a local government entity).
Section 3.1.3 of the RFA states, “Only academic researchers based at Higher Education Institutions, HEIs (see definition of HEI in Appendix 3) in USAID Interest Countries ( and the United States are eligible to submit a Concept Note. The US lead researchers must have a local research partner. Preference will be given to lead researchers from HEIs in the East Africa region.”
Co-PI(s) and research translation partner(s) are not geographically restricted but must demonstrate their experience in and/or knowledge of the East African region.
Can I be a PI or Co-PI on more than one Concept Note in each RFP? Can a home country collaborator be included in more than one concept note?
Yes, you can submit as many Concept Notes as you would like as a PI or co-PI.
Can a researcher in one of the priority countries be a PI?
  1. The lead researcher coordinating the research team and submitting the Concept Note will be considered the Principal Investigator (PI) by LASER PULSE. Researchers and research translation experts from partner institutions may be represented on a research team as a Co-PIs.
  2. For the purposes of this RFA, a Co-PI is defined in section 3.1.3., as “as a key member of the research team (who is not the PI) that also serves as the point of contact for their institution. An institution having more than one team member will specify their designated Co-PI.”
Our team comprises researchers from different countries in the EA region in addition to a US researcher. Would it disadvantage the team if the lead researcher were from the US (other than one of the EA countries)?
No, a research team would not be disadvantaged by virtue of the fact that they have a lead based in the U.S. U.S. higher education institution are eligible to apply. Furthermore, Concept Notes and Full Applications (by invitation only) will be rated, selected, and funded according to how best they meet the two criteria of broader impacts and research merit.
Can we include students in a proposed research project?
Yes. Students can be included in a research project and can be members of a research team.
Are there requirements that potential grantees must have managed a certain number of funds in the past, or must have past performance references?
Yes, there is a specific requirements for past performance as reflected in the evaluation criteria (see RFA Section 4.1- Research Merit).
Organization X is a research and advisory organization that works with academic researchers from across the globe. Can we use one of the academics in our network as the PI?
Yes, you can use the academic researcher from the HEI as the Principal Investigator (PI). Note that the key requirement for this call for Concept Notes is that only academic researchers based at Higher Education Institutions in USAID Interest Countries and in the United States are eligible to submit a Concept Note.
I have read the RFA on education, food security and water security and have read the application provisions. Should a lead researcher from the USA or East Africa make the application?
The lead researcher (PI) must be based at a higher education institution and can be from USA or East Africa. However, a lead researcher from outside of East Africa must partner with a researcher in East Africa.


Is there a requirement for interdepartmental collaboration? Otherwise, should a single department per institution propose a collaboration with a research translation partner?
We encourage inter-departmental or multidisciplinary collaboration within an institution and across institutions. However, each application should have only one lead PI.
Do we need letters of support from all Co-PIs and partner institutions?
Yes, we only require letters of support from the development practitioners institutions i.e. letter of support. Please find a template of a Letter of Support (https:///groups/laserpulse/File:/uploads/Concept_Note_Letter_of_Support_by_Translation_Partner.docx) that must be used at the Concept Note stage and letter of commitment Letter of Commitment (https:///groups/laserpulse/File:/uploads/Full_Application_Letter_of_Commitment_by_Translation_Partner.docx) that must be used at the full application stage.
Do applicants for this funding need a partner in a U.S. university?
For this RFA, collaboration is not limited to partnerships with U.S. universities. Academic researchers from the East Africa region and/or USAID Interest Countries collaborate to submit a Concept Note. Please refer to FAQs Q. 1a and Q. 2a.
If so, how can the LASER PULSE network help applicants to get a partner in Purdue, Indiana or anywhere else over there?
The LASER PULSE Network registration platform has a searchable database to facilitate such demand-driven connections. One must be registered to identify and connect with other researchers. (Please refer to FAQs Q.2a and Q.2c). In the case of practitioners, there are very few registered in the network, thus we ask you to use your connections to identify practitioners.
Will LASER PULSE link the applicants to other researchers in other countries if one required a research partner from another country within East Africa?
See question 3b above.
My understanding is that once registered, applicants can do a Map search on the Network part of the website, and then filter by sector (education). They can then utilize email addresses to contact researchers and have them sign the partnership letter of support. Are those steps that we expect applicants to take, and am I missing anything needed in this process?
Researchers can search the LASER PULSE Network to identify collaborators, mainly researchers. For practitioner, please use your own networks to identify collaborators.
You mentioned that you are “recruiting” practitioners. Other than joining, the network, is there something else that we as a practitioner should do?
LASER PULSE is currently conducting intensive outreach to expand the Network’s practitioner-based membership and encourages practitioners who are not members to register with the Network. In the meantime, we encourage you to reach out to academic researchers in your sector to determine if they are considering submitting a concept note and if you might partner with them.
The RFA, clearly states that only academic researchers based at Higher Education Institutions in USAID Interest Countries and the United States are eligible to submit a Concept Note. However, are there any opportunities for research-oriented international organizations who work in international development area, like IFPRI, to collaborate with researchers at US universities in this call, for example, by serving a subcontractor?
Researchers from research-oriented organizations can collaborate with researchers at U.S. universities but the research must be conducted in the focus region of East Africa and must partner with a researcher in East Africa and must have a translation partner.
Is there a network of Principal investigators (PIs) and practitioners that we can access? (I.e., PIs looking for practitioners and vice versa).
The LASER PULSE Network comprise membership of both researchers and practitioners. However, practitioners are a small proportion within the Network (also, see question 3d and 3e above).

Addressing Gender and other Cross-cutting Themes

The research activities in my Concept Note will impact men, women, and youth equally. How do I address the cross-cutting theme of gender?
All proposals are required to address the relationship between the proposed research and gender.
Prior to developing the Concept Note, please review the gender analysis guidelines in Appendix 2. Concept Notes should clearly reflect that the research team is fully aware of the gender considerations that are relevant for the sectoral focus, and specifically those that have shaped the proposed research study.
Is gender analysis going to be scored?
Gender is an integral part of USAID/LASER PULSE funded proposals. Thus, it is included in the evaluation criteria in section 4.1.

Required Training

I have this RFA call from LASER PULSE but one of the requirements to apply for funding from LASER PULSE is that the PI must have done some training (courses) with LASER PULSE and also be a member. How do I become a member and are the courses mandatory for all the applicants?
All researchers must be registered in the LASER PULSE Network. Please find membership registration details at There are two mandatory courses: research translation and gender inclusion into research. Both are mandatory as follows: 1) for PI only at Concept Note stage, and 2) for all research team members at full application stage (by invitation only).
When is the deadline for undertaking the LASER PULSE courses related to the recently released RFA?
Each PI must complete two LASER PULSE on-line trainings (gender and research translation), prior to submitting a Concept Note. If a Concept Note is selected to advance to Full Application stage, every member of the research team will be required to complete the online training.
The conditions for Concept Note submission state that the applicants must take the gender course. Is this for all research team members or the principal investigator?
Prior to submitting Concept Notes, training on gender and research translation are mandatory for all PIs. During the Full Application stage, all members of the research team must take both the gender and research translation training.

Funding, Indirect Cost Rate and Budget Template

Is there a maximum dollar amount per application?
As stated in the RFA in section 3.1.8: “LASER PULSE will fund 4-6 awards for a period of 12 to 24 months of research and translation. For this RFA we expect to award a total of $1,000,000 in total funding across all awards”.
We do not know what you plan to propose thus cannot set a maximum amount. Also note that the funds are not intended to be for basic/fundamental research or dissemination, both of which can be very costly. Instead the funds are intended for applied/development research that addresses a development challenge.
What indirect cost rate should we use?
Purdue University uses a de minimis rate of 10% of modified total direct costs (MTDC) for sub-awards for indirect costs (IDC). A request for a higher indirect cost rate must have documented justification, such as an established NICRA. Indirect costs charged to your sub-awards are limited to the first U.S. $25,000.
Regarding the indirect cost, what if our institution requires indirect cost other than 10%?
To request a higher IDC rate, the institution must provide documentation on an established NICRA rate above the 10%. See answer to previous question above.
Is the 10% IDC also related to the indirect costs on our project sub-awards (from the host institution)? Does it relate to the IDC rate for the host institutions direct costs?
In granting awards to lead institutions, Purdue University, allows 10% IDC or the established NICRA rate on MTDC, with IDC on sub-award amounts from the lead to other institutions limited to the first $25,000 of that sub-award. The IDC rates charged by sub-awardees to the lead institution are negotiated between the lead institution and the sub-awardee institution.
Do I need to submit the Concept Note through my institution’s official representative with financial authority? Do they need to sign off on the budget?
Each institution has its own regulations governing budgeting and related financial authorization. From Purdue University’s LASER PULSE perspective, if permitted by the applicant institution, the signature on the Concept Note budget may be that of the PI. However, the signature on the full proposal budget must be that of an official institutional representative with financial authority.
Is there an upper limit (ceiling) on the amount of money we can ask for?
LASER PULSE will fund 4 to 6 awards for a period of 12 to 24 months of research and translation. (Please refer to FAQs Q.5a).
Could you please clarify if 4 to 6 awards means each application can request only up to 250K over a 2-year period of research and translation?
Please refer to FAQs Q.5a.
If successful, can the funds to be delivered to the translation partner or is it only the PI from HEI?
Purdue University will contract directly with each partner involved in the research translation activities.

Research Translation

How does LASER PULSE define “research translation?”
LASER PULSE defines research translation as, “an iterative co-design process among academics, practitioners, and other stakeholders in which research is adapted for use and intentionally applied to a development challenge.”
Are applicants required to focus on specific types of translation products? Additionally, is there a specified number or products or a threshold that determines successful research?
Section 1.3 of the RFA states that: translated research should result in a tangible product, such as a gadget/tool/device, multimedia product, or IT platform; a policy brief or recommendation that leads to changes in legal, constitutional, funding, accountability, feasibility, or implementation mechanisms; or a practice recommendation, such as new agricultural production or processing methods, education curriculum, guidebooks, technical manuals, training modules, and planning tools.
Applicants are encouraged to focus on specific types of translation products as outlined in the LASER PULSE research translation overview and training module. For more details, please click here (
LASER PULSE also recognizes the need for creative and innovative approaches to research development and translation and welcomes new ideas. Peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, abstracts, and traditional methods-focused posters are not considered as translated products. Products must be tailored to an audience and adapted for use by an end-user.
There are no restrictions on how many and/or specific number of products required; however, a proposed product (policy, or practice) should align with the scope of the research. In some cases, a single, well-developed product with an audience, and communication strategy is sufficient. In others, the project team might need to explore multiple channels at multiple levels.
How do I anticipate what translation and dissemination will look like at the end of the project?
Planning and budgeting processes for translation and communication start at the beginning (when research activities commence). In fact, you can make much headway before your research has been completed. Work with your local partners to map out stakeholder group/s and figure out who you need to target. Some research on whom your audiences comprise will be beneficial in helping you figure out what their preferences and needs are. You can even engage them directly in your research process and provide updates as your research progresses.
How do I anticipate the budget for translation and dissemination?
As you plan and design your research project, please consider what costs will go into this. Do you need a dedicated staff member to manage and implement this process? Do you need a specialist to work with you on design and content? What experience do your partners have with budgeting for translation and dissemination? What materials do you anticipate producing and how much would those cost to produce, print, and distribute? Does the product that you are planning on have costs associated with it? Do you need to factor in travel to support dissemination? Consider these questions among your team to make sure you can accurately plan and budget for your translation and dissemination expenses.
There is a possibility that my research is cross-sectoral. Which research initiative do I select?
It will be categorized on the basis of the sector in which the research is most intense.
However, cross-sectoral research will be reviewed favorably.
Kindly give me examples of translation partners for a food processing value chain approach in the scenario of youth in agriculture. 2) If it were a multiple approach, would a project such as in 1 above use several translation partners? 3) Can a government entity with various departments addressing 1 and 2 above take the role of translation partner and involve the departments or divisions concerned?
Please refer to the research translation on-line training. Examples of translation partners include: private sector, government institutions, civil society, and non-governmental organizations (see section 1.3 in the RFA). You will need at least one translation partner. Note: One must obtain a letter of support from the translation partner.
I am curious as to whether you give priority for research translation partners since a large data needed for the water security sector is for digitization of historical information, e.g. water and precipitation monitoring data. Do you prioritize government partners?
No. LASER PULSE does not prioritize the government as a partner on water security application. The major requirement is for a research team to collaborate with at least one translation partner and government is just one type of a translations partner. (For additional examples of translational partners, please refer to RFA Section 1.3).
Can one engage more than one translation partner?
Yes. A research team can engage more than one translation partner. However, LASER PULSE requires at least one translation partner. Please note that we will need a letter of support from each translation partner for submitted concept note.
Can a government agency be considered as a practitioner or translation partner?
Yes. Consider a government agency as a practitioner or translation partner. Please refer to RFA Section 1.3.
Would universities count as scaling partners? For instance, if you wanted to work with youth on curriculum building?
If scaling partner is synonymous with translation partner per LASER PULSE requirement, then universities do not qualify as translation partners. For examples of translation partner, please See FAQs Q.6 and RFA Section 1.3)
Besides NGOs, are community-based organizations (CBOs) and private sector companies considered as translation partners?
Yes. CBOs and private sector companies are considered as translation partners (Please refer to RFA Section 1.3).

Types of Research Initiatives

There is a possibility that my research is cross-sectoral. Which research initiative do I select?
It will be categorized on the basis of the sector in which the research is most intense. However, cross-sectoral research will be reviewed favorably.

Letter of Support

To whom (or which office) do we address the completed Letter of Intent?
The completed Letter of Intent should be from the research translation partner to the project PI. The letter must be signed by personnel authorized to make a commitment on behalf of the institution.
Similarly, the only organizations whose resources are contributing towards cost-share should describe these resources in the letter. Be sure to provide the dollar value of the cost-share in the paragraph detailing these resources.
The guidelines require that translation partners provide a Letter of Support. Our role on the project would be research support (including prototype development, etc), and the translation partner will be an East Africa based organization. As we are not a translation partner, is the assessment that institution does not need to provide a Letter of Support correct?
You will need a letter of support from the East African based translation partner i.e. a development practitioner/institution that will help to ensure that the research is relevant and can be utilized to address a specific development challenge (see FAQs 3b).
The Concept Note also needs a support letter. We are planning to have a concept note that will involve our university, two ministries, and a private sector actor; should we have letters of support from all institutions or just from the lead research institution (i.e., our university?
Please note that there is NO requirement for a partnership letter for researchers. Instead, you need a letter of support from a research translation partner (development partner). Please refer to FAQs Q.8.
Do you need a letter of collaboration from each of the collaborators, if there is more than one collaborator?
At the Concept Note phase, each PI must submit at least one letter of support from a translation partner. During Full Application Phase, each translation partner in the research team must submit letters.

Development sector-specific topics

For Water Security and Food Security, do you require activity in all three countries?
No, applicants are not necessarily required to conduct research activity in all three countries. Nevertheless, at least for the Water Security RFA, strong preference will be given to those concept notes that display a focus on East Africa as a region (the core of which are the 3 countries of the RFA). This reflects the overall intent of the RFA to compile and synthesize water supply and demand data/information to inform regional analyses and forecasting, since water resources are transboundary in nature. However, we recognize that budget limitations may necessitate restricting focus to a single country (if so, this should be clearly explained in the concept note) but taking such an approach will still be judged against those concept notes that propose a regional focus. (See FAQs Q.1d).
There is restriction to youth engagement for research applications covering food security. Does this disqualify studying other age groups in the research?
The RFA requires research that targets and supports youth engagement in the identified research focus themes.
Does the theme food security include nutrition?
Nutrition is not the focus of this RFA; the focus is targeting and supporting youth engagement in agriculture. The form of engagement may involve activities that contribute to nutrition.
It seems that the water security area is about big data, forecasting, and model development, etc. Is there interest in farm-scale irrigation development and translation through participatory research with small-scale farmers?
Yes (first sentence), the intent of the Water Security RFA is to compile and synthesize water supply and demand data/information to inform regional analyses and forecasting. LASER PULSE strongly suggests reading the Sustainable Water Partnership (2017) document cited in the RFA to clearly understand this intention.
No (second sentence); while we encourage those submitting concept notes to be creative in proposing various approaches to realize the intent of the RFA, the example you provide is way too granular (farm-level). Actually, it represents a development intervention that would likely benefit from the type of information and projections that we seek with regard to water supply and demand and the impacts thereof. LASER PULSE aims to support research that examines systems at a decentralized level in order to provide forecasts to be used in planning. The farm-level is too small a scale to be feasible for this RFA.
Can you extend an existing ongoing project towards a different angle?
Yes. An applicant PI can extend an ongoing project to address a specific development challenge for this solicitation. However, they must demonstrate alignment with the focus areas in the RFA, effectively articulate the co-creation process with a development practitioner, and design a feasible translation strategy that involves collaboration with appropriate partners.