Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks (MICrONS) BAA Questions

# Question Answer Date Posted
001 It seems that all three Technical Areas are highly interdependent. Do teams bidding to TA3 require work to be completed by teams bidding to TA1 and TA2 prior to performing any TA3-relevant work? Performers in TA3 will require a complete set of neurophysiological and neuroanatomical data from TA1 and TA2, respectively, in order to produce the deliverables specified in BAA Section 1.B.3. However, performers in TA3 need not wait until data collection is complete to begin work. For example, performers in TA3 may develop prototype co-registration algorithms, neural circuit reconstruction techniques, and/or neural data access systems prior to receipt of the final datasets from TA1 and TA2. 01/21/15
002 Are teams bidding to only one TA required to position themselves in a conjectural analysis pipeline that produces and/or depends upon work products by other teams in other TAs? Yes, as described in BAA Section 1.A.5, “success in the MICrONS program will require extensive communication and cooperation between performers in all three TAs within or across teams.” Critical dependencies, restrictions, and interactions that an offeror’s technical approach places on a conjectural analysis pipeline may be specified in the “technical interaction matrix” defined in BAA Section 1.C.4. 01/21/15
003 Are offerors required to bid to all sub-areas of a particular technical area (e.g., machine learning, neurophysiological data collection, etc. in TA1)? Yes. 01/21/15
004 What constitutes a “draft” SSD? A paragraph? An outline? The exact content of draft SSDs will be determined in conjunction with each performer after program kickoff. For planning purposes, offerors should assume that the draft SSD will include most of the content of the final SSD, but with less specificity and less certainty than the final SSD. The Government Team will use the draft SSDs to determine what software or hardware needs to be procured, provisioned, or developed to evaluate the deliverables at the end of each phase. 01/21/15
005 What is the numbering scheme for milestones and waypoints? The character before the dot in each milestone represents the program phase to which that milestone pertains (1, 2, or 3). The character after the dot in each milestone represents the order in which that milestone occurs within the phase (i.e., the first milestone in Phase 1 is 1.1, the second milestone in Phase 1 is 1.2, etc.). Offeror-defined milestones use letters of the alphabet instead of digits as the second character. 01/21/15
006 What is the difference between milestones and waypoints? As described in section 1.B.4, ”Program milestones are generally associated with the major deliverables or the end of a phase,” whereas “Waypoints help IARPA assess intermediate progress towards the next milestone(s).” 01/21/15
007 The last paragraph on Page 7 of the BAA suggests that neural fidelity will be assessed based on “data produced in all three TAs.” Does TA3 produce any data? TA3 does not produce primary data but does generate data products in the form of neural circuit reconstructions and co-registrations of structural and functional data. 01/21/15
008 The first paragraph of BAA Section 1.C.1.c says, “Offerors must also describe how they will support the preparation of samples for neuroanatomical data collection in TA2 (Section 1.C.2.a) and enable performers in TA3 to co-register this functional data with the structural data to be acquired in TA2 (Section 1.C.3.b).” Does this mean we need to have specific arrangements with other offerors who are proposing to TA2 and TA3, or do we only need to specify how we would prepare samples and enable co-registration for unknown performers in TA2 and TA3? The latter. Offerors proposing to one or two TAs are not expected to have arrangements with offerors proposing to the remaining TAs. 01/21/15
009 BAA Section 1.B.1.b speaks of connecting computational models to the outputs of TA2 and TA3 in previous phases. Does this require that we have specific arrangements with other proposers in TA2 and TA3 to ensure that there will be TA2 and TA3 data on our tissue? No, offerors proposing to one or two TAs are not expected to have arrangements with offerors proposing to the remaining TAs. However, after the program commences, performers whose scope is limited to one or two TAs should expect to form collaborations with performers in each of the remaining TAs. 01/21/15
010 Has a contractor performed similar work to this for IARPA in the past? No. 01/21/15
011 Will IARPA accept proposals from individuals or organizations outside of the US? Yes, there is no requirement for US citizenship or residency to propose or receive funding. 01/21/15
012 The announcement is expressed only in terms of the cortex. We are studying these same questions about neural information processing, but in the zebrafish, which offers many experimental advantages over mammalian systems. However, since zebrafish don't have a cortex are we still eligible to apply for this program? No. Experimental studies of non-mammalian systems are out of scope, as specified in BAA Section 1.C.5. 01/27/15
013 Is there any acceptable mechanism to include a video in a proposal? One possible option, as not to circumvent the page count and keep the proposal printable, is to have a image/frame capture of the video as a figure in the proposal, and a citation/link to the full video in the caption. Is this acceptable or would this still be considered circumventing the formatting requirements? Unfortunately, there is currently no acceptable mechanism for including videos in a proposal. If this option becomes available in the future, we will post an amendment to the BAA. 01/27/15
014 Is there a page limit for Section I of the Technical and Management Proposal? No, there is no page limit for Section 1. 01/27/15
015 Is the page limit for Section II of the Technical and Management Proposal 2-5 pages plus 6 slides (for a total of 8 to 11 pages) OR 2-5 pages plus 1 slide (for a total of 3-6 pages)? Six (6) slides must be included in Section II of the Technical and Management Proposal. These slides do not count toward the page limit for the written executive summary. The written Executive Summary must be uploaded separately from the slides during proposal submission. 01/27/15
016 Can you clarify what counts as "Abstract, non-sensory data"? Abstract, non-sensory data is defined as any data that would not commonly be associated with normal human sensory experience (seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, or feeling). Examples include measurements from a weather balloon, price history for a financial instrument, radiofrequency signals, etc. 01/27/15
017 The description of the “Detailed Proposal” (BAA Section 4.B.1.c) lists several proposal elements. Is there any expectation that these elements would be presented in the order in which they are listed? It is not necessary to present these elements in the order in which they are listed. 01/27/15
018 I have some studies that include an apparent anatomical component, though the point of that research is really functional. I think that this is essentially another type of ancillary physiological study that would fit under TA1 (and not TA2 or TA3), because it does not address questions of connectivity or neuroanatomy. Could you confirm whether this approach could be part of a TA1-only proposal (recognizing that it would constitute a supplementary form of data under Section 1.C.1.b(iii)). Yes, an offeror to TA1 may propose any supplementary acquisitions so long as they are not out of scope, as defined in BAA Section 1.C.5. Note that proposals must provide a justification for each proposed supplementary data collection exercise that specifically describes how the offeror will use the results to inform the development and implementation of the machine learning algorithm and why this data is essential for achieving the goals of the program (BAA Section 1.C.1.b(iii)). 01/27/15
019 Can I send you a draft proposal to seek your feedback if my proposed research would be appropriate for your program? No, unfortunately we can only accept full proposals and we are not able to provide any feedback until after proposals are reviewed. 01/27/15
020 Are non-US citizens are eligible to apply for the MICrONS program? Yes, see Question 11. 01/27/15
021 BAA Section 6.B.5 stipulates that "pre-publication approval of certain information may be required if it is determined that its release may result in the disclosure of sensitive intelligence information." Can you stipulate specific conditions for categorical exclusion from pre-publication review approval? In general, performers conducting unclassified research are only required to provide the IARPA Program Manager and the Contracting Officer Representative (COR) with a courtesy soft copy of any work intended for publication at least two weeks prior to submission, and to provide a final copy upon publication. 02/04/15
022 Will performers who have determined that no export control license is required have a way to determine if collaborators are operating under such a license? In other words, does IARPA envision a firewall between export control licensed performers and un-licensed performers? It is the responsibility of each performer (prime contractors and subcontractors) to comply with all applicable U.S. export control laws and regulations. IARPA encourages collaborators to work together to ensure export compliance, including identifying the export restrictions that may apply to their collaborative efforts and technical exchanges. 02/04/15
023 Could machine-learning algorithms fall under the Commerce Department's U.S. Munitions List (USML)? We do not anticipate that the algorithms developed under MICrONS would fall under the USML, but it is the responsibility of each performer to make a determination about its deliverables on a case-by-case basis. 02/04/15
024 Is there a link to the anticipated contract clauses planned for this proposal? The BAA is flexible with regard to contract type, therefore we have not included a standard clause set. Offerors should expect that the standard FAR clauses pertinent to the negotiated contract type will be included in the finalized contract document, with appropriate alternates for educational institutions and non-profit organizations. DFAR clauses will not be applicable. 02/04/15
025 The Cost Element Sheet in Appendix E specifies a “G&A Rate.” Our F&A rate includes G&A and science indirect (R&D costs that cannot be traceable and reconcilable to specific cost objective/project). For purposes of this proposal is the G&A Rate the same as the F&A Rate? Yes, offerors may provide their F&A rate in the block marked G&A in the Cost Element Sheet (Appendix E), but they must indicate in the block that this is an F&A rate. 02/04/15
026 What does “Material Overhead” mean in the Cost Element Sheet in Appendix E? Some organizations have a separate overhead rate applied to materials, equipment, subcontracts, and consultants. If your organization does not have a separate material overhead rate, you should mark that field as “Not Applicable”. 02/04/15
027 What flexibility do we have with respect to the periodic reporting described in BAA Section 6.B.8? There may be some flexibility with respect to the format of the reports and the date on which the report is due each month. Offerors whose proposals are selected for negotiations may discuss their preferences with the Contracting Officer and reach a mutually agreeable solution prior to award. 02/04/15
028 BAA Section 6.B.8 states that all performers will provide monthly financial reports. Is there an example of the financial report format which shows all the required information? Monthly financial status reports will generally include a summary of the funded, expended, and remaining amounts allocated to labor, travel, and other direct costs (each reported separately). Plans versus actuals are computed for each of these categories on a month-by-month basis, and performers must describe the source of any significant variances. 02/04/15
029 BAA Section 6.B.8 states that all performers will provide monthly technical reports. Is there an example of the technical report format which shows all the required information? Monthly technical status reports will generally include a description of progress during the reporting period; a description and justification of any change in approach reported previously; planned activities and deliverables for the next reporting period; a description of any major items of equipment purchased or constructed during the reporting period; a notification of any changes in key personnel associated with the contract during the reporting period; a summary of substantive information derived from noteworthy trips, meetings, and special conferences held in connection with the contract during the reporting period; a summary of all problems or areas of concern; notable accomplishments since the last report; and a list of all commercial/proprietary/third party hardware, software or technical data integrated into any deliverable. 02/04/15
030 Will the contract be awarded as a cost reimbursement R&D contract? The specific contract type will be determined on a case-by-case basis by the Contracting Officer and the prospective performer prior to award. Cost-type arrangements are typically the most appropriate for research and development work, and have historically been the most common contract type awarded. 02/04/15
031 The program metrics will be applied to deliverables, milestones, and waypoints to evaluate the effectiveness of the program objectives. For periodic reports, are we required to provide financial performance at deliverable, milestone, and waypoint level? No. In the monthly financial reports costs are typically provided for the overall effort and broken down by category (labor, material, travel, other direct costs, etc.). 02/04/15
032 What flexibility do we have with respect to the budget details? BAA Section 4.B.1c(v) states that performers must provide the overall cost, cost per share, and estimates of the cost for each deliverable and each task described in the SOW. Besides the budget justification, is there any other budget estimation support we need to provide? Offerors are required to include in their Detailed Proposal (Section III of proposal Volume 1) the budget information specified in BAA Section 4.B.1.c(v). Offerors must also provide a cost summary in their Executive Summary (Section II of proposal Volume 1), as described in BAA Section 4.B.1.b(vi). Additional information is requested as part of the Detailed Estimated Cost Breakdown (Section II of proposal Volume 2), to include supporting cost and pricing information “...in sufficient detail to substantiate the summary cost estimates in Volume 1” (BAA Section 4.B.2.b). 02/04/15
033 Can we state milestones and waypoints in a separate document from the Research Proposal? In other words should milestone/waypoints be addressed within the Research proposal or will the table only format be sufficient? As described in BAA Section 4.B.1.c(iii), offerors shall use a table such as Table 9 to summarize their expected performance at designated waypoints and milestones. This information, as well as any supporting information (such as explanations of the offeror-defined metrics, motivations for the proposed performance targets, etc.) must be included in the main body of the Detailed Proposal. Note that BAA Section 1.B.4 specifies additional information that must be provided regarding certain waypoints and milestones; there is no suggested format for this information. 02/04/15
034 Are there page limits for each of the Technical Areas of the proposal? BAA Section 4.B.1.c defines a page limit for the Detailed Proposal in its entirety, but there are no page limits for specific Technical Areas within the Detailed Proposal. 02/04/15
035 Under which appropriations code(s) will contracts be funded? R&D contracts will be funded with research and development appropriations. 02/04/15
036 Are offerors required to submit a draft Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) protocol or will a letter from the IACUC chair or Institutional Official suffice? As specified in BAA Sections 4.B.1.c(iv) and 4.B.1.d(v), if the proposed research involves laboratory animals, the offeror must include a complete draft of any IACUC research protocol applications (including any appendices and addenda) required to conduct the proposed research in Phase 1. 02/04/15
037 BAA Section 6.B.4 states that institutions must register with the Secretary of Agriculture according to 7 USC 2136 and 9 CFR 2.30. According to 7 USC 2132 and 9 CFR 1.1, the definition of animals excludes purpose-bred rats and mice. Does the requirement to register our research facility with the USDA extend to research conducted with mice (a non-regulated species)? No. As specified in a footnote (32) to the first paragraph of BAA Section 6.B.4, “The term ‘animal’ shall have the meaning provided in 9 C.F.R. § 1.1.” Consequently, the requirement provided in the second paragraph of BAA Section 6.B.4 for institutions to register with the Secretary of Agriculture for research involving animals only pertains to animals as defined in 9 C.F.R. § 1.1. 02/04/15
038 BAA Section 4.B.1.c(viii) states that participation by key personnel is expected to exceed 20% of their time. Are key personnel selected and identified at the discretion of the prime institution? Yes, key personnel are selected and identified at the discretion of the prime institution. Note, however, that proposals will be evaluated in part based on the qualifications, capabilities, and experience of key personnel and significant contributors such as the principal investigator and team leader (BAA Section 5.A, “Relevant Experience and Expertise”). 02/04/15
039 Are offerors required to submit biosketches and/or CVs of the key personnel? Yes, as specified in BAA Section 4.B.1.c(viii), offerors shall provide brief biographical sketches of key personnel and significant contributors. 02/04/15
040 Do you anticipate any contracting issues with potential subcontractors to the prime institution that will make a major contribution in one of the technical areas, but plan to request no funding? A “contract”, as defined by the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) Part 2.101, is a “…mutually binding legal relationship obligating the seller to furnish the supplies or services (including construction) and the buyer to pay for them.” Arrangements such as cost-sharing contracts (see FAR 16.303) allow for the contractor to be reimbursed for only an agreed upon portion of its allowable costs. If selected for negotiations, the contract type, intellectual property considerations (see BAA Section 4.B.1.c(iii)), and subcontract approval requirements (reference FAR 35.009 and FAR clause 52.244-2) will need to be discussed with the Contracting Officer and mutually agreed upon prior to award. 02/04/15
041 Are the technical and cost proposal cover sheets to be uploaded as separate documents, or will IDEAS generate these automatically? The technical and cost proposal cover sheets (provided in BAA Appendices B and C, respectively) must be completed by the offeror and uploaded as separate documents. 02/04/15
042 Will we be able make the research results from this project widely available to the public? In general, IARPA strongly encourages publication of data and results. Performers conducting unclassified research are required to provide the IARPA Program Manager and the Contracting Officer Representative with a courtesy draft copy of any work products intended for public release two weeks in advance of their scheduled release, and to provide a final copy upon final release, but are typically otherwise free to disseminate research results as desired. 02/04/15
043 Assuming we can make the research results from this project widely available to the public, would we describe this approach in Attachment 2, as described in BAA Section 4.B.1.c(iii)? The guidance in BAA Section 4.B.1.c(iii) pertains to program deliverables. Offerors are not required to describe the terms under which they might make their intellectual property available to other parties. If the offeror intends to provide program deliverables to IARPA in the form of publicly available resources, they should use Attachment 2 to describe their proposed approach to intellectual property in this context as it pertains to the Government. 02/04/15
044 Does IARPA require a detailed list of any software or tools (including any open source materials) used to collect data or results in MICrONS? As described in BAA Section 4.B.1.d(ii), IARPA requires offerors to identify in Attachment 2 any data and/or software (including open source software and freeware) that restricts the Government’s ability to use, modify, reproduce, release, perform, display, or disclose deliverables produced in the program. Software or tools that are used by the offeror to generate data or results but that do not impose any limitations on the Government’s ability to use, modify, reproduce, release, perform, display, or disclose those data or results do not need to be listed. 02/04/15
045 Our understanding is that performers will retain title to the intellectual property (IP) created under this contract. Are there any restrictions on our use of the IP or deliverables in the future? Performers will retain title to the IP created under their contract. In general, IARPA does not impose restrictions on those ownership rights. 02/04/15
046 How and when does the government decide if a proposed publication contains sensitive intelligence information that requires approval to release? Any determination of the need for pre-publication review would be made after the courtesy soft copy is provided to the Program Manager and Contracting Officer Representative (at least two weeks prior to submission). However, as described in BAA Section 6.B.5, it is very unlikely that publications describing research funded under this program will require pre-publication review. 02/04/15
047 Are there any items or technical data that are expected to be ITAR- or EAR-controlled as part of this project? No, but it is the responsibility of each performer to make a determination about their items and technical data on a case-by-case basis. 02/04/15
048 Do the page limits specified for the Detailed Proposal include the Statement of Work? Yes, the page limits specified in BAA Section 4.B.1.c include all of the elements described in BAA Sections 4.B.1.c(i) through 4.B.1.c(viii). 02/04/15
049 What are the elements to be included in the “brief” biosketch described in BAA Section 4.B.1.c(viii)? Should we include all of the information required by the NIH biosketch format? Biographical sketches should support each individual’s ability to perform his or her assigned role in the program. The formatting and length of each biosketch are entirely at the discretion of the offeror. Note that biographical sketches count toward the overall page limit of the Detailed Proposal. 02/04/15
050 Is there a preferred format for the organizational chart required by BAA Section 4.B.1.c(viii)? The format of the organizational chart is at the offeror’s discretion. Note that the organizational chart counts towards the overall page limit of the Detailed Proposal. 02/04/15
051 Does the IDEAS proposal submission system accept any file type, or should all documents be converted to PDF format prior to uploading? Each of the required and optional documents for proposal submission specifies an enumerated list of acceptable file types. In general, the following formats are acceptable for upload: .pdf, .doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx, .ppt, .pptx, .rtf, and .txt; however, .pdf is preferred. Do not encrypt, password protect, or include security layers to files. All files must be self-contained; please do not add attachments or embed other files. Offerors who plan to submit proposals are strongly encouraged to register in IDEAS (at https://iarpa-ideas.gov) at least one week prior to the due date for the initial round of selections to view these and other details of the submission process. 02/04/15
052 Our group focuses specifically on the functional architecture of the hippocampal formation (including entorhinal cortex), as opposed to primary or generic neocortex. Will proposals focused on the hippocampus be given full consideration? BAA Section 1.C.1.b(i) states that offerors must specify “which region(s) of sensory cortex” (emphasis added) they will interrogate as the focus of their proposal. Offerors may propose to study the hippocampal formation (or any other brain region) as a supplementary data collection exercise, provided appropriate justification is given, as described in BAA Section 1.C.1.b(iii). Note that project ideas which fall outside the scope of MICrONS, but that are fundamentally synergistic with IARPA's goals, may consider submitting a seedling proposal to one of the four General Solicitations listed on IARPA’s website (http://www.iarpa.gov/index.php/working-with-iarpa/open-solicitations). 02/04/15
053 BAA Section 4.B.2.b asks for a breakdown of estimated costs by fiscal year. Does this refer to the Government’s Fiscal Year, that of the prime contractor, or those of the subcontractors? This refers to the Government’s Fiscal Year. 02/12/15
054 Should the levels of effort needed to support a Program Manager, and possibly a business manager, be included at levels that are anticipated to be needed to support the proposed project, or is there a suggested level or range of effort for these positions that should be used? Offerors should propose the personnel and the levels of effort needed to accomplish the proposed work. 02/12/15
055 Does IARPA have a salary cap similar to the US Department of Health and Human Services, or should full base salaries of faculty be used in the proposal? IARPA does not have a salary cap similar to HHS. Offerors should use the full base salaries of faculty in their proposals. 02/12/15
056 Does IARPA provide the opportunity for the prime contractor to receive indirect cost reimbursement on the first $25,000 of each subcontracts? IARPA does not have a specified limit on indirect costs that are allowed to be reimbursed on subcontracts. Contractors should follow FAR Part 31 Cost Principles and OMB guidance, as applicable. 02/12/15
057 Should proposals include estimated costs for site visits, and, if so, should we anticipate these to be virtual (skype) or in-person meetings? Is the entire team (prime contractor and subcontractors) expected to attend each site visit? Yes, proposals should include estimated costs for the program events described in BAA Table 7 and in BAA Section 6.B.3. At a minimum, offerors should plan for all key personnel and significant contributors to attend these events in person. 02/12/15
058 If an institution is not an “academic” institution, do they still need to complete the Academic Institution Acknowledgement Letter? No, only academic institutions (i.e., institutions of or relating to education and scholarship) are required to provide an Academic Institution Acknowledgement Letter. The requirement for an Academic Institution Acknowledgement Letter arises from paragraph 2.7 of Executive Order 12333, as amended, which states, “Contracts or arrangements with academic institutions may be undertaken only with the consent of appropriate officials of the institution.” 02/12/15
059 What is the success rate of funding? There is no predetermined success rate. As described in BAA Section 5.A, each proposal will be evaluated on its own merits and its relevance to program goals rather than against other proposals responding to the BAA. Selections for negotiation of awards under MICrONS will be made on the basis of the evaluation criteria (BAA Section 5.A), program balance, and the availability of funds. 02/12/15
060 Is preliminary data required? Preliminary data is not required, but it may be useful in establishing the relevant experience and expertise of the proposed team and/or the credibility of the proposed technical approach, among other things (see Evaluation Criteria in BAA Section 5.A). 02/12/15
061 What is the maximum budget that can be requested? There is no maximum budget that can be requested, nor is there a predetermined size for awards. Offerors should propose estimated costs that are realistic and sufficient to accomplish the proposed work. As stated in Footnote 31 within BAA Section 5.A, “IARPA recognizes that undue emphasis on cost may motivate offerors to offer low-risk ideas with minimum uncertainty and to staff the effort with junior personnel in order to be in a more competitive posture. IARPA discourages such cost strategies. Cost reduction approaches that will be received favorably include innovative management concepts that maximize direct funding for technology and limit diversion of funds into overhead. After selection and before award, the Contracting Officer will negotiate cost/price reasonableness.” 02/12/15
062 Is it absolutely necessary that the physiology is conducted in the cortex, as opposed to midbrain? Yes, as described in BAA Section 1.C.1.b(ii), offerors to Technical Area 1 must “describe the experimental paradigm(s) [they] will use to study the operation and organization of mesoscale cortical circuits” (emphasis added). However, supplementary physiological data may be acquired from non-cortical areas, as described in BAA Section 1.C.1.b(iii). 02/12/15
063 Is neuroanatomy an essential requirement? Yes, neuroanatomy is an essential component of the MICrONS program. However, as described in BAA Section 1.A.5, neuroanatomical data collection is addressed in Technical Area 2 (TA2), and any individual offeror may choose not to propose to this TA. 02/12/15
064 For auditory studies, high temporal resolution is a necessity. Would single-unit recordings with high temporal resolution be acceptable as a substitute for the very high spatial resolution (but poor temporal resolution) techniques that are described? Offerors may propose any combination of experimental methods that meets or exceeds the target values for the physiological data metrics described in BAA Section 1.B.1.c and BAA Table 4. In addition, as described in BAA Section 1.C.1.b(iii), offerors may acquire supplemental data at other smaller and/or larger [spatial and/or temporal] scales using any combination of appropriate experimental techniques and technologies. 02/12/15
065 Would efforts at understanding the cognitive architecture controlling auditory attention fit the scope of the work? As described in BAA Section 1.C.1, proposals should: (1) posit a biologically-plausible theoretical framework of cortical computing that may explain sensory information processing in one or more cortical areas; (2) use that framework to motivate a research plan that will answer specific neuroscientific questions about the representations, transformations, and learning rules employed in those brain regions; and (3) use those answers to advance machine learning.” To the extent that an effort focused on understanding the cognitive architecture controlling auditory attention fits within this paradigm, and to the extent that the resulting machine learning algorithms could be expected to meet the metrics described in BAA Section 1.B.1.a, it would fit within the MICrONS scope of work. 02/12/15
066 Can we publish scientific papers out of this study? Yes, see Question 42. 02/12/15
067 Can we submit papers whenever we have publishable results? Yes, but performers are required to provide the IARPA Program Manager and the Contracting Officer Representative (COR) with a courtesy soft copy of any work intended for publication at least two weeks prior to submission. 02/12/15
068 Can the cost of data sharing be covered by funding awarded under MICrONS? Yes, offerors should propose realistic costs for whatever activities are necessary and sufficient to accomplish the proposed work. 02/12/15
069 Can the cost of subcontractors be covered by funding awarded under MICrONS? Yes, offerors should propose realistic costs for both the prime contractor and subcontractors, as necessary. See BAA Sections 4.B.1.b(vi), 4.B.1.c(v), and 4.B.2.b for additional information on how to describe estimated costs in the proposal. Note that the roles and relationships of prime contractors and subcontractors must be clearly delineated in the proposal, as described in BAA Sections 4.B.1.c(ii), 4.B.1.c(viii), and 5.A. 02/12/15
070 When is the expected start date for projects funded by MICrONS? As described in BAA Section 1, the MICrONS program is envisioned to begin in September 2015 and end by September 2020. 02/12/15
071 The BAA is not specific about the sensory system to be investigated, but the proposer’s day slides seem to emphasize the visual system as the target of investigation. Would efforts that propose investigation of other sensory systems be within the scope of the program? As stated on Slide 7 (“Disclaimer”) in the Proposers’ Day presentation, “Nothing said at Proposers’ Day changes the requirements set forth in a BAA,” and “[The] BAA supersedes anything presented or said by IARPA at the Proposers’ Day.” The BAA requires investigation of one or more regions of sensory cortex (BAA Section 1.C.1.b(i)), but is agnostic to the specific sensory modality so long as the machine learning algorithms derived from the study of these sensory regions could be expected to meet the metrics described in BAA Section 1.B.1.a. Note that offerors may propose to develop algorithms that operate in a different sensory modality than that investigated through biological experimentation and computational neural modeling, provided that they describe how results will be translated between the two modalities (Footnote 15 in BAA Section 1.C.1.a). 02/12/15
072 Please clarify what tasks are considered “Major Tasks” for the purposes of the Estimated Cost Breakdown (BAA Section 4.B.2.b). There is no common statement of work, so each offeror is free to define their own work breakdown structure. The major tasks used in the Estimated Cost Breakdown should match those defined in the proposed statement of work (BAA Section 4.B.1.c(ii)). 02/18/15
073 Please clarify what documentation is required for the “proposed subcontract costs and equipment purchases” in the estimated cost breakdown section of the cost proposal. As described in BAA Section 4.B.2.b, for each subcontract the estimated cost breakdown should include a cost element breakdown for the subcontractor’s overall effort, base period, and each option period using the template provided in BAA Appendix F. Offerors must also include a copy of each subcontractor’s proposal. Documentation associated with equipment purchases should provide supporting cost and pricing information in sufficient detail to substantiate the summary cost estimates in Proposal Volume 1. In addition, offerors must include a letter stating why the requested equipment cannot be provided by the offeror’s own funding and, for information technology purchases, why it is in the Government’s best interests for these resources to be acquired rather than procured as a cloud service. 02/18/15
074 If an offeror from an educational institution requests authorization to deviate from the cost templates (as described in BAA Section 4.B.2.b), when will a confirmation be sent? IARPA will typically respond to requests to deviate from the cost templates within a few business days. 02/18/15
075 Should consultants be included as “Team Members” in IDEAS? Yes. 02/18/15
076 Does the IDEAS system impose a file size limit? Yes, the file size limit is 2,047 MB. 02/18/15
077 Is there a way to see the completed proposal in IDEAS, prior to submission? Before final submission, offerors will see a summary page that lists all of the information they entered into the electronic coversheet as well as all of the documents that they uploaded. Offerors may use this summary to verify that their proposal is complete prior to submission. 02/18/15
078 Will IARPA accept proposals that include a design and development effort for new sensing technology (hardware and software)? As described in BAA Sections 1.C.1.c and 1.C.2.a (for neurophysiological and neuroanatomical data, respectively), IARPA anticipates that existing technologies can be scaled up to meet the data acquisition targets in each phase, but offerors may propose to develop new technologies that have exceptional promise for exceeding these targets if the technologies can be expected to mature within the program timeline. 02/18/15
079 If a prime contractor submits an OCI Certification Letter (as described in BAA Section 3.A.1), is it certifying that every individual in the organization, and in all of its subcontractors’ organizations, have no conflicts of interest at the time of application (or throughout the award period)? What are the obligations of the prime organization in identifying and/or managing the subcontractors’ conflicts of interest? As described in the OCI Letter Template provided in BAA Appendix D, the prime is certifying that there are no OCIs, real or perceived, for itself and its subcontractors at the time the application is submitted. If an OCI issue arises after submission of the proposal, the offeror shall submit the OCI waiver request to the Contracting Officer via the email provided in the BAA: dni-iarpa-baa-14-06@iarpa.gov. After award, the prime is responsible for ensuring that no OCI issues occur under the contract and for bringing any OCI issues that arise to the immediate attention of the Contracting Officer. 02/18/15
080 Our (unpaid) consultant has definite deliverables, but his company’s policies prohibit him from specifying a level of effort in his commitment letter. Should this issue be described in the Transmittal Letter? This issue should be addressed in the “Cost Summary” section of your Executive Summary (BAA Section 4.B.1.b(vi)), the “Cost” section of your Detailed Proposal (BAA Section 4.B.1.c(v)), and in the “Estimated Cost Breakdown” of your Cost Proposal (BAA Section 4.B.2.b). Please also refer to the response to Question 40 for other considerations associated with unpaid consultants. 02/18/15
081 Our organization may have some difficulty in accepting certain FAR and/or DFAR clauses, and other compliance requirements referenced in BAA Section 6. Should these anticipated issues be described in the Transmittal Letter? Yes, you may describe any anticipated contracting issues in your Transmittal Letter. Note that DFAR clauses will not be applicable to contracts awarded under MICrONS. 02/18/15
082 Can IARPA specify the particular terms that will apply to future intellectual property generated under a MICrONS award? Or, can IARPA provide a draft of the contract that awardees will be expected to sign if their proposals are selected for negotiation? As described in the answer to Question 24, the BAA is flexible with regard to contract type, so IARPA does not provide a standard clause set or draft contract. Offerors should expect that the standard FAR clauses pertinent to the negotiated contract type will be included in the finalized contract document, with appropriate alternates for educational institutions and non-profit organizations. 02/18/15
083 If one or more of the neural algorithms proposed for use as part of a MICrONS project has been patented, or is in the provisional patent stage, does this render the project ineligible for funding? No, this does not render the project ineligible for funding. As described in BAA Section 4.B.1.c(iii), IARPA prefers unlimited rights in all deliverables and offerors must use Attachment 2 to identify any proprietary content in their proposed deliverables and associated support systems. The offeror’s proposed approach to intellectual property rights is one of many considerations in the evaluation of proposals (see BAA Section 5.A for details). 02/18/15
084 Does IARPA require Government Purpose Rights in all aspects of the funded project? As described in BAA Section 4.B.1.c(iii), IARPA prefers unlimited rights in all deliverables. If an offeror asserts limited or restricted rights in any deliverable or component(s) of a deliverable, the proposal must identify the potential cost for the Government to obtain Government Purpose Rights in the deliverable. 02/18/15
085 What is a reasonable range for the annual budgets that the MICrONS program will support? As described in the answer to Question 61, there is no predetermined size for awards. Offerors should propose a plan of work that is sufficient to achieve the program’s goals, and propose estimated costs that are realistic for that work. As stated in Footnote 31 within BAA Section 5.A, “IARPA recognizes that undue emphasis on cost may motivate offerors to offer low-risk ideas with minimum uncertainty and to staff the effort with junior personnel in order to be in a more competitive posture. IARPA discourages such cost strategies. Cost reduction approaches that will be received favorably include innovative management concepts that maximize direct funding for technology and limit diversion of funds into overhead. After selection and before award, the Contracting Officer will negotiate cost/price reasonableness.” 02/18/15
086 In which proposal section or attachment should we include letters of support from companies? There is no requirement to include letters of support from companies. However, offerors who intend to utilize consultants are required to include consultant commitment letters as described in BAA Sections 4.B.1.d and 4.B.1.d(viii). 02/18/15
087 Can an experimental investigator be involved in more than one proposal? Does it matter if the investigator is identified as a Key Personnel or Significant Contributor in one or both proposals? Yes, as described in BAA Section 4.B.1.c(viii), individuals (and organizations) may participate in multiple proposals. There are no restrictions on the role(s) that individual can play in the proposals. 02/18/15
088 If we are only focused on TA1 and TA2, do we need to constrain ourselves to a single cortical region or can we propose studies of different regions (for example, for TA1 in the visual cortex and for TA2 in the somatosensory cortex or vice versa)? In other words, is there a requirement that the work in TA1 and TA2 would be on the same cortical region? As described in BAA Section 1.A.5, in TA2 performers must collect neuroanatomical data about the same brain regions in the same brain specimens that are used in TA1 for neurophysiological studies. Note, however, that in TA1 offerors may propose a limited set of additional targeted data collection activities in other regions of interest (BAA Section 1.C.1.b(iii)). 02/18/15
089 Can the data acquisition part of the BAA include cognitive experiments? The BAA does not constrain the type of experiments that may be conducted, but performers in TA1 and TA2 must acquire data sufficient to meet the metrics defined in BAA Sections 1.B.1.c and 1.B.2.a, respectively. Note that in TA1, offerors may propose a limited set of additional targeted data collection activities that may differ from the experiments used to collect the data for the aforementioned metrics (BAA Section 1.C.1.b(iii)). 02/18/15
090 Can EEG data acquisition be included? Traditional EEG data would not meet the data collection metrics specified in BAA Section 1.B.1.c, but could be used as supplementary data as described in BAA Section 1.C.1.b(iii). Also see the responses to Questions 18, 52, 62, and 64. 02/18/15
091 Does language count as “abstract, non-sensory data”? It depends. For example, some language comprehension tasks may be construed as operating on abstract, non-sensory data, whereas speech recognition tasks typically operate on sensory (auditory) data. 02/18/15
092 Has IARPA negotiated rates for cloud computing and storage? If not, does IARPA plan to negotiate discounted rates in the future? To date, IARPA has not negotiated rates for cloud computing in storage, but it may do so in the future. 02/18/15
093 Can teams who propose to all three Technical Areas also propose to use a Government-specified commercial cloud service provider for data storage and analysis? As described in BAA Section 1.C, offerors who propose to all three Technical Areas may propose to use a commercial cloud service provider of their choice or a private/custom information technology solution. If the offeror proposes to use a commercial cloud service provider, they must specify their preferred provider in their proposal - there is no Government-specified commercial cloud service provider named in the BAA.. 02/18/15
094 Would teams proposing to all three Technical Areas be permitted to propose and utilize their own information technology solution and be required to utilize the common commercial cloud service? No, teams proposing to all three Technical Areas would either utilize their own information technology solution or the common commercial cloud service provider. 02/18/15
095 We may be bringing new educational institutions on board after the February 9 deadline. Will it be possible for these educational institutions to request authorization, after February 9, to deviate from the cost templates? Yes, this deadline was removed in Amendment 01 to the BAA. Prospective offerors may now request authorization at any time prior to submission, but are encouraged to submit requests as soon as possible to ensure adequate time for IARPA to process and respond to the request. 02/18/15
096 BAA Table 7 indicates that both a draft report and a final System Specification Document (SSD) should be submitted in Month 11. Could you clarify whether there are differences in the expected information or data to be delivered between those two documents? The two documents are very different. The general purpose of the SSDs is to document the hardware and software requirements and interfaces of the deliverables. This information must be presented in sufficient detail for the Government T&E team to prepare for the use and analysis of the deliverables in the end-of-phase evaluations. For example, as described in BAA Section 1.B.1.a on Page 10, “Any specialized computing hardware or software required to execute the code or train the algorithm must be described” in the machine learning SSD. In contrast, the reports serve as the primary documentation of the research, to include preliminary and final results. For example, as described in BAA Section 1.B.1.a on Page 7, the machine learning report “shall be written and presented in the style of a journal article intended for an audience of data scientists, and must include sufficient information to allow IARPA to understand the algorithm and efficiently evaluate its neural fidelity.” This same paragraph goes on to enumerate a list of required elements in the final machine learning report. As described in BAA Section 1.B.4, each offeror must propose the content they expect to include in their draft reports. 02/18/15
097 Is the Government’s intent to have a long gap between the final SSD for Phase 1 (at Month 11) and the end of Phase 1 (at Month 18)? Will the evaluation be based on results achieved in month 11? Yes. As described in the answer to Question 96, the SSD documents the hardware and software requirements and interfaces of the deliverables. This information is requested at least six months before the end of each phase to provide the Government T&E team with adequate time to acquire and/or prepare the necessary resources to evaluate the deliverables. 02/18/15
098 Could you clarify the goals of the requirements on morphological classification? In particular, are performers required to use morphology to identify cell types? Is it acceptable for teams to propose to identify individual cells through other techniques and not provide morphological classification? There is no requirement for morphological classification. Performers are required to reconstruct the morphology of all neurons (see BAA Section 1.B.2.a), and are encouraged to consider the implications of these morphologies in their computational neural models (see BAA Section 1.B.1.b), but are not obligated to use this information in any particular way. 02/18/15
099 Would a Phase 3 demonstration task focused on predicting the position of moving objects in the future be acceptable? As described in BAA Section 1.B.1.a, the performer-defined Phase 3 demonstration task is intended to demonstrate the applicability of the machine learning algorithm to abstract tasks involving non-sensory data. If the predictions of moving objects are based on sensory (e.g., video) data, this would not be consistent with the spirit of the exercise. 02/18/15
100 BAA Table 4 states that Milestone 2.2 for neurophysiological data collection is, “≥ 1000 μm x 1000 μm x 500 μm, wholly contained within the extent of the neuroanatomical data.” Does this imply that the cross section dimensions (L and W) of the collected neuroanatomical data in Phase 2 must be larger than 1mm (i.e., L>=1mm and W>=1mm)? The cross-sectional dimensions (length and width) of the neurophysiological data must be equal to or greater than the cross-sectional dimensions of the neuroanatomical data. Typically this implies that the length and width will be be equal to or greater than 1 mm, except in the case where the depth of the cortex is deemed to be larger than 1 mm (see the answer to Question 101 for additional details). 02/18/15
101 BAA Table 5 in Section 1.B.2.a states that Milestone 2.2 for neuroanatomical data collection is, “≥ 1000 μm x 1000 μm x 1000 μm, or L μm x W μm x D μm where LWD ≥ 1 mm3 and D is the cortical thickness.” Was the intention to say that the sample depth (dimension D) is equal to the full thickness of the selected animal cortex or simply that D denotes thickness of the sample? For example, if the full cortical thickness is X mm (X>1) would the minimal allowed sample size be 1mm*1mm*1mm or 1mm*1mm*Xmm? The sample depth (dimension D) is defined as the full thickness of the selected region of cortex. If D is greater than 1 mm, the length and/or width of the sample may be reduced (if necessary) as long as the total sample volume remains equal to or greater than 1 mm3. 02/18/15