Call for Planning Letters

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) Littoral Geosciences and Optics program (322LO) solicits informal planning letters or pre-proposals from prospective investigators as the first step in the proposal process. Planning letters allow investigators to submit ideas for consideration and feedback before making the significant effort required of a full proposal. Planning letters will be evaluated and brief feedback provided as to whether a full proposal has a high or low probability of success, if submitted. Planning letter evaluations are based on scientific and technical merit, the fit to current program priorities, naval relevance, past PI performance, and proportional return to estimated cost. A full proposal will be either encouraged or discouraged; however, a full proposal may be submitted at any time (even if the planning letter is discouraged) and it will receive full consideration.

For several decades, the program has had significant investment in very localized observations (mm’s to 100’s of m’s), which always begged the question of how representative these processes/features were of locations immediately adjacent, or distant. With the existence of advanced modeling capabilities (such as with SWAN, ROMS, Delft3D, COAMPS) and the ability to collect, process and assimilate remote sensing data, the program will begin to consider how these very detailed processes vary/function as a system over O (1-50) km and at event scales (e.g., Nor’easter, rain event, hurricane) and/or winter conditions. Given that DRI’s and MURI’s provide safe programmatic cover for basic research advancement at the multi-investigator level, planning letters that are high risk, inventive and/or bold, are of particular interest.

Without meaning to limit potential ideas, the program has several ongoing thrust areas:

  • New methodologies and/or observing technologies which are a) nimble, cost-effective, rapidly re-locatable, or will offer bold new insight into littoral dynamics or b) utilize sensors on operational platforms (termed organic) in ways which increase battlespace awareness or can be used to map the maritime domain while idle.
  • Shelf, near-shore, delta, estuarine, and riverine dynamics, including surface and internal waves, currents, stratification, sediment transport and the seabed response and coastal winds driving shallow water response. Understanding shallow water features which will affect acoustic propagation or acoustic system performance and/or events which cause swimmer or navigational hazards (bathymetry-wave-current-wind interactions), navigationally significant bathymetry or trafficability changes, are of particular interest.
  • Remote sensing of the coastal and riverine environment, above and below the sea surface and canopy, e.g., from EO, IR, radar, SAR, inSAR and acoustic, from land or ship-based, unmanned vehicles, airplanes or satellites. New remote sensing tools and algorithms that can be used to initialize forecast models in distant, remote and/or denied areas, are of particular interest.
  • Optical processes in the littoral environment, including the atmosphere, sea surface, water column, sea bed and suspended or dissolved materials. Predicting the timing (initiation, transport and clearance) of materials that negatively affect optical clarity, is of particular interest.
  • Analysis and/or modeling of DRI observations.

Planning Letter Format

Planning letters should contain a short (three page maximum) description of the research to be pursued and an estimate of the costs for the work. The letter should describe the scientific objectives, the approach, connections to other programs, the plans for dissemination of results, a budget and budget justification. It should identify who will participate in the work and their specific contributions. Typical projects extend for two or three years although studies having a shorter or longer duration may be proposed.

The planning letter should have a two page curriculum vitae of the principal investigator, and a brief descriptions of the qualifications of other study participants. The project costs (one page) should be broken down into the following rough categories for each fiscal year: salaries and benefits, equipment, materials and supplies, travel, costs associated with student participation (tuition and fees) and indirect costs. Please indicate (but do not budget for) University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) ship time needs. Due to limited visibility of future 322LO program funding levels, support for graduate students may be requested, but is not guaranteed. Support for postdocs is encouraged.

Finally, a cover page should provide the project title, the proposed budget for each year with a total, and the mailing address, phone number and email address of the principal investigator. The cover page, any figures, budget and CV are not included in the 3--page limit. NOTE: these are not proposals, they are nuggets, please be concise.

Planning letters should be submitted by e-mail as PDF files to: and Submissions must not exceed 15Mb. To more easily highlight your submission as a planning letter, please use the following SUBJECT: Planning Letter: YOURLASTNAME

We will strive to give you an immediate reply that your submission was received. If you haven't received a reply from us in a week, please check with us by e-mail. Please do not resubmit your planning letter.

Planning letters are generally requested in mid-May for consideration for funding in the upcoming fiscal year (begins 1 Oct), but are welcome throughout the year. Delays in receiving appropriated funds from Congress, will delay decisions and awards, accordingly.

Encouragement of a proposal based on a planning letter is not a commitment to fund the proposal when it is submitted. The program routinely solicits a greater number of proposals than it can afford to fund.

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