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Q&A for Funding Announcement FOA# CDC-RFA-OE12-1202; BioSense 2.0: Building State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Surveillance Capacity to Enhance Regional and National All-Hazards Public Health Situation Awareness

posted Jun 7, 2012, 9:44 AM by Taha Kass-Hout   [ updated Oct 17, 2012, 8:51 AM by Katy Spears ]

Here I provide answers to the FOA# CDC-RFA-OE12-1202

Use of grant funds/purchasing:

1. What can the funding be used for?


As outlined in the FOA, funds can be used for “reasonable program purposes, including personnel, travel, supplies (general office), and contracts for data aggregrators or health information exchanges.”  This incorporates all activity besides data storage costs, provided for free in the cloud.


2. How do you define data aggregator services?

An entity (could be a university, a for profit contractor, vendor, Health Information Exchange, etc.) who collects emergency department data on your behalf and shares it with you. 

3. Can the grant funds be used for urgent care data transmission if the urgent care is affiliated with the emergency department, as is the case with many children's hospitals?

Yes, but only in certain cases--please be sure to designate that the facility is part of a hospital ED.

4. Can the funding be used to purchase servers for hospitals to transmit data?

BioSense 2.0 offers storage free of cost and supports a variety of transmission methods which can be performed by our technical assistance team with minimal involvement of jurisdiction or facility technical staff.  The funding cannot be used to purchase servers, as the storage is provided in the cloud instead of on a local server, so the server is not needed given the alternative option in the cloud. 

5. In our HD, all our IT services are outsourced. Can we use grant funds for overhead fees for this outsourced IT. For example, if we need to establish a VPN to BioSense to get our data to there, a VPN needs to be set up with our outsourced IT vendor.

Yes, grant funds can be used for all activities besides data storage, which is provided free in the BioSense 2.0 cloud environment.

6. Besides budget for personnel and travel, what supplies can be included in this application?

Routine office supplies such as copy paper, toner, paper clips, etc.

7. You mentioned that the funding cannot be used for research. What are the distinctions between program evaluation and research? For example, an evaluation of data quality with intent to publish the findings -- is that research or evaluation?

Research, in terms of this application, would entail developing a hypothesis, collecting original data, and analyzing that data.  An evaluation of existing data or programs would not be considered research.

8. We would like to hire a staff member to recruit more hospitals, oversee the data, etc.  He/she would be working 100% BioSense.  (We already have BioSense in place but it is underused).  Can we buy a computer for this person?

If this person works 100% on BioSense, and if there are no other resources available to provide a computer, then the purchase may be considered.  

Other Grants:

9. Is this very aligned with PHEP Capability 13?

We work in close coordination with the PHEP staff.

10. If we have received money from the CSTE challenge grant to connect to BioSense, can we also apply to this grant?


11. Is the grant year for the BioSense grant the same as for the PHEP grant?

Our funding cycle will hopefully begin on August 1st.  

12. Can we switch the funding for our current syndromic system from PHEP to this grant?

This FOA is only for BioSense 2.0, not general syndromic surveillance.  However, if by joining BioSense 2.0 your PHEP goals, objectives, or milestones are impacted, you should contact your PHEP program coordinator to discuss the impact on your PHEP funding.  If you are awarded under the BioSense FOA, you should then revise your activities under your PHEP grant.  As far as technical capabilities, BioSense 2.0 works with current syndromic surveillance systems, jurisdiction designated facilities, and all types of data aggregators as listed in question 2 above.

13. Can "cost shared" personnel costs be included (example: epidemiologist 75% on PHEP grant, 25% on this grant).


Review of applicant types:

14. If a state has started with BioSense without funding and has a Data Use Agreement (DUA) in place and has their first hospital on board.  Will they be judged in the new group or the old existing Syndromic Surveillance group? 

Existing syndromic surveillance.

15. Is there a general expectation that grant amounts will be higher for those applicants without existing syndromic surveillance systems compared to those jurisdictions that already have syndromic surveillance systems?

No, there is no preconceived idea about funding amounts for either group.


16. Can we apply if we already have >50% of our hospitals providing data to a system and we already are making plans to join BioSense?


17. Are recipients of the BioSense Challenge Grant Awards (administered through RTI) eligible to apply?


18. If there we have 100% of our hospitals reporting ER data to our current syndromic surveillance system, would this grant benefit us in any way?

Applying for this cooperative agreement is, of course, up to individual state, local, territorial, or tribal health departments.  With that said, these funds can be used to support personnel who maintain and analyze data received from hospitals.  BioSense 2.0 is happy to work with current surveillance systems as well as all types of data aggregators as mentioned in question 2 above.

19. If you don't have a data user agreement with ASTHO - and you currently conduct syndromic surveillance- Is it possible to get a signed letter in time? Who do you contact at ASTHO?

The length of time necessary to get a signed DUA depends on the review processes at the state, local, territorial, or tribal health department.  So, getting the signed DUA is really up to you.  You can contact Jim Kirkwood ( for a copy of the DUA.

20. In that same area, is “BioSense 2.0 in the cloud” includes a larger proposed set of software, i.e. SAS, RODS, ESSENCE etc.  Also implied is interstate interoperability. Is proposed work on the bigger concept of “Syndromic Surveillance in the cloud”; collaborative implementation and use of other software, establishing the governance model and community of practice be acceptable for a current BioSense 2.0 user or is it limited to BioSense 2.0 implementation projects?

At this time we are focusing only on BioSense 2.0 implementation projects.  In future years this may change but because this is a new program, we need to ensure its viability before we expand.


Grant Writing:

21. Should include only year 1 activities in the project narrative, or include years 1-3?

Focus primarily on year one with a short description of years two and three (maybe half of one page of your ten pages).

22. How closely aligned is this grant with the PHEP grant (which has a syndromic surveillance component)?

We work collaboratively with PHEP but their objectives are broader than this one program.

23. Regarding the 8 appendices limit, can categories of documents be submitted as one appendix each? For example, all letters of support are 1 appendix, all resumes/CVs another.

Yes, that is permissible under the guidelines outlined.

24. In the grant application it states on page 8 of the FOA under Content and Form of Application Submission that “All applicants are required to sign and submit CDC Assurances and Certifications that can be found on the CDC Web site” and we are to “Print, scan and upload as an additional attachment into the application package.” If we are submitting our application on and we check the box on page 4 of the application, question 21, where it states “By signing this application, I certify (1) to the statements contained in the list of certifications” and “I also provide the required assurances and agree to comply with any resulting terms if I accept an award,” do we also need to print, scan, and upload the certifications and assurances as an attachment into the grant application?

Yes, our guidance from the Procurements and Grants Office (PGO) is that both need to be included in order to correctly submit your application.

25. What is the knowledge level of the panel evaluating these applications, in terms of framing our proposals?

Some members of the panel will be from the division where the BioSense Program resides. Primarily, though, the panel members will be from other programs across CDC. These members will have limited or no prior direct experience with the BioSense Program.



26. Is the funding going to be equally distributed between the current syndromic group and the new syndromic group; is it dependent on the number of applications?

It is dependent on the number of applications.

27. If our funding application is not successful, will we have opportunity to retract our Information Sharing and Data Use Agreement?

Your Data Use Agreement is between you and ASTHO so this question should be directed to ASTHO.

Katy Spears,
Oct 17, 2012, 8:13 AM