Frequently Asked Questions – OBVI Request for Expressions of Intent (EOIs)

Note: This FAQ will be updated as needed during the submission process. If you have any questions not listed here, please reach out to obvi@schmidtfutures.com.


Informational Webinar: Schmidt Futures held two optional 30-minute webinars to provide an overview of the Schmidt Futures Ocean Biogeochemistry Virtual Institute, information about the call for Expressions of Intent, and time for Q&A on May 4th, 2023. The same information was covered in each session. Slides presented during the webinars can be found here. Additionally, the FAQ document has been updated with questions asked during the webinar sessions.


Translations: We strongly encourage proposals from project teams that include scholars from different nations, such as ones within the global south. If you would like to request the translation of the EOI call and/or this FAQ document to your native language, or to make the EOI/FAQs more accessible to all members of your team, please reach out to obvi@schmidtfutures.com and state “OBVI EOI Translation Request” in the email subject line.


Please make a request for translation services before 11:59 pm EDT on May 19, 2023.



Programmatic Questions


What is a virtual institute?

Schmidt Futures’ Virtual Institutes of Science are a distributed network of carefully selected scientific and technical talent that are more likely to solve hard and important problems of scientific knowledge by working across institutions and disciplines — taking high-risk bets that apply more advanced computing and innovative technologies to STEM R&D, for better results. The virtual institutes are designed to attract, excite, and retain the best researchers and students in the field from numerous institutions. Supported projects are therefore typically multi-institutional with one lead institution, a small number of host institutions (2-3 max), and a wider network of partner institutions. Schmidt Futures aims to assist the virtual institutes by leveraging our existing talent network, and maximize their impact through various community and knowledge sharing activities inside the virtual institute and outside of it, thus disseminating new knowledge worldwide, spurring new innovation, and further extending the Schmidt Futures talent network.

OBVI is one of several Schmidt Futures Virtual Institutes of Science working across institutions and disciplines. Additional examples of virtual institutes can be found on the Schmidt Futures website. Other programs that OBVI might closely interact with include the Virtual Earth Systems Research Institute (VESRI) and the Virtual Institute for Scientific Software (VISS).


What project topics are out of scope for this program? (Updated May 5)

OBVI is aimed at funding novel science with the potential to transform the field of ocean biogeochemistry research through scientific findings or methodological advances that will have broad impact on other activities in the field. High risk, high reward projects are encouraged. While a science plan and roadmap is required, we anticipate and will be tolerant of surprises and changes in direction based on your initial findings, as one might expect from truly novel endeavors. The scope of the project should be commensurate with the requested funding. We will interpret the intended areas of innovation (Integrated Ocean Observation and Modeling; Ocean Data Synthesis) broadly and evaluate EOIs that are responsive to these areas as well as the collaborative aims of the program in partnership with the OBVI Advisory Board during the blinded review process.


OBVI aims to support fundamental research projects and any technological innovation needed to support project goals. That said, projects that will likely be considered out of scope for OBVI include those that are solely focused on one of the following: sensor and sensor platform development, ocean observing and capacity building, sustainable fisheries policy and management, renewable energy and other blue economy industry support/implementation, marine conservation planning, climate adaptation and mitigation testing and planning, and social science and economics. Geoengineering, specifically the field-testing of marine carbon dioxide removal techniques, will not be considered; though project outcomes and outputs may directly inform this work. We intend all projects supported through OBVI to work in an integrated manner. There is an expectation that proposed site- or multisite-focused observational work will be integrated with modeling efforts.


Do we organize the EOI around a particular site or topic? What should the primary emphasis be if we are to include observing work? (Updated May 5)

We expect EOIs to speak to a scientific theme, or challenge, that relates to the topics of ocean carbon cycle and resilience of marine ecosystems, and to highlight areas of innovation. EOIs should be approached thematically as opposed to a field proposal, articulating a scientific theme or challenge that relates to the aforementioned topics. The EOI can identify a site or multiple sites in order to address the theme/challenge.


The EOI lists potential project types. Combinations of types are permitted in project proposals. For example, projects combining new data generation and modeling, and projects exploiting existing data and modeling are within scope. A data-centric or modeling project with no explicit field effort is also within scope.


May the roadmap outlined for proposed work in the EOI be modified at the Request for Proposals (RFP) stage?

Yes; however, we urge project teams to put forward a well-developed EOI. The EOI stage is a critical part of our evaluation of the importance and relevance of grand challenges being addressed, project teams’ approaches to driving cross-cutting collaborations, and what teams may contribute to the VI network in order to tackle technological, cultural, and logistical challenges that are pervasive in this field.



How will the Schmidt Ocean Institute engage with OBVI project teams?

EOI and RFP submissions must identify whether or not there are anticipated ocean observing needs, specifically those requiring shiptime. As noted in the EOI, OBVI aims to maximize opportunities to support ocean observing and data collection as part of these high-quality interdisciplinary research projects by collaborating with the Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI), a 501(c)(3) private non-profit operating foundation established by Eric and Wendy Schmidt.

SOI’s mission is to catalyze the discoveries needed to understand our ocean, sustain life, and ensure the health of our planet through the pursuit of impactful scientific research and intelligent observation, technological advancement, open sharing of information, and public engagement at the highest levels of international excellence. to advance oceanographic research, discovery, and knowledge and to catalyze sharing of information about the oceans. SOI operates the 110m global ocean class research vessel, Falkor (too), and provides investigators and teams with free access to the full range of the capabilities of the vessel, its onboardscientific facilities, analytical tools, and lab equipment, as well as pertinent technical, operational, communications, and informational services. A requirement of this asset and support, in alignment with the goals of OBVI, is the timely sharing of data, research and development outcomes, and real-time sharing of expedition research.


In the event that projects require seagoing operations, shiptime may be provided through SOI at no additional cost provided that project timelines align with the Falkor (too) expedition plan for priority areas. Priority areas for Falkor (too) over the next 10 years can be viewed on SOI’s strategic framework website. Additionally, SOI has multiple nodes on a High-Performance Computing System, which may also be provided at no cost to the team if requested. Details of this system are provided here. Support may be reevaluated during the program duration. Specifics of SOI engagement will be determined following the selection of project teams.


Please note: When submitting a proposal and/or if selected to join OBVI, project teams requiring shiptime and/or HPC that can be accommodated by SOI do not need to submit separate proposals to SOI. OBVI will initiate SOI shiptime and HPC engagement. Additional guidance on requests for shiptime on the R/V Falkor (too) will be provided at the RFP stage.


What project start/end date should we plan for?

We aim to start projects six months from full proposal submission, i.e., in this case around December 2023 – January 2024. With a five year project span, this would imply an end date of December 2028 – January 2029. That timeframe is appropriate to plan for (approximately), but has some flexibility. Shorter projects are also acceptable.


Can an ocean data synthesis project include biochemical data as well as other biological or physiological oceanography datastreams? (Added May 5)


Team Organization Questions


Are we able to replace team members if they need to drop off the bid?



Can we make additions or changes to the team beyond those listed in the expression of interest? (Updated May 5)

Yes, there is flexibility in how teams come together. We will provide more information on team restructuring or merging after the EOI stage.


Can scientists who don’t have a permanent position at the time of submission still act as PI for their institution (assuming, of course, that their salary is guaranteed for the project duration)?



Can one institute submit multiple EOIs?


Is there any limit on the number of EOIs an individual can be involved in?

No. An individual PI of one project can be a partner or co-PI on another proposal and serve on multiple EOIs. ​​If a co-PI or other team member is not planning to run the other proposed project(s) and is only a contributor or local organizer, that is also not a problem. Prior experience suggests that Lead PI duties are not to be taken lightly. 

Is there any limit on the number of full proposals that any individual listed co-PI is involved in?

If the co-PI is not actually planning to run the other proposed projects and is only a contributor or local organizer, that’s not a problem. Prior experience suggests that Lead PI duties are not to be taken lightly.


What are program expectations regarding team composition and structure?

We expect demographic, national, and disciplinary diversity within project teams, as well as opportunities for early career scientists and cross-disciplinary collaboration. We strongly encourage collaborations, particularly international, transdisciplinary, and multi-institute collaborations, that are difficult to fund through existing mechanisms. Proposed project team members can be presented as preliminary suggestions in the EOI and can be changed at the RFP stage due to availability and/or fit.


Research teams based in university, national laboratory, institute, or agency settings will all be considered.


How will project teams be integrated?

Project teams will be integrated with support from the OBVI advisory board and program staff. OBVI staff and advisors will work with project teams to determine beneficial, specific integration activities once projects are selected.

At the intellectual level, integration can take many forms, primarily defined as an overlap in research activities such as:

  • Sharing of personnel and expertise
  • Sharing of data
  • Collaboration to carry out basic work at the interface of observing and modeling, such as unit conversion, formatting, and to develop productive workflows for data management or analysis (e.g.integration/synthesis).
  • Co-design/development of common data platforms and protocols
  • Co-design of experiments
  • Coordination and co-planning of fieldwork
  • Analytical support
  • Co-development of publications
  • Co-evaluation of progress towards program goals


At the program level, we aspire to facilitate integration via activities such as:

  • Convenings 
  • Early career researcher and community engagement 
  • Open-access data sharing


We anticipate that OBVI will play an active role in integrating the project teams throughout program duration. We plan to ensure team alignment in terms of topic area, sharing resources and personnel, and facilitating collaborations. Additional information about project integration will be provided at the RFP stage.

Do proposals need to be led/coordinated by U.S.-based research centers?

Proposals do not need to be led/coordinated by U.S.-based research centers, and they do not need to include U.S. institutions or partners.



Can the team contain an industrial partner, such as an ocean sensor manufacturer, or a partner from a non-profit organization? (Updated May 5)

Yes, the team can contain industrial and NGO partners. For-profit companies are eligible to apply as part of a consortium of researchers, academics, and other parties.


Can the lead PI be an early career researcher? Is previous experience managing large projects a requirement, or can the team argue for the capacity to do without prior experience? (Added May 5)

Yes, the lead PI can be an early career researcher. Collectively, teams should demonstrate the scientific ability, relevant expertise, scientific project management experience, and capacity of the PIs and partner institutions to run a large project. We are looking for teams that have the relevant expertise to advance their work. Bringing on someone with that experience would help demonstrate that your team has the capacity to do that. However, please keep in mind that EOIs will undergo a blinded review, and that it is possible to make additions or changes to the team beyond those listed in the EOI.


We understand that ~ 2-4 proposals will ultimately be selected. Is the goal that these proposal groups will collectively form the virtual institute or is each funded proposal a virtual institute into itself. Stated otherwise, will the selection team be looking for synergies between the selected proposals? (Added May 18)

Groups selected to join OBVI will collectively form the virtual institute. While projects may have different objectives, or specific challenges that they are addressing, we will expect them to collaborate. We will be considering potential synergies between the selected proposals, and will provide additional information on project collaboration and integration at the RFP stage.


Financial Questions


What level of detail is Schmidt looking for in the budgets at the EOI stage? i.e., are detailed cost breakdowns and justifications required? Does our budget need to include a detailed breakdown of costs for each subawardee? (Updated May 5)

Detailed budgets are not to be included at the EOI stage; high-level budget information will suffice for the EOI stage, including intended budget items such as salaries, students, staff, computing, and ship time. Budgets are intended to be approximately up to USD 10 million per project proposal and distributed over a 5-year period. Ultimately, compelling proposals with a total budget above or below USD 10 million may still be considered. Project teams invited to submit a full proposal will be expected to provide a preliminary, detailed budget of total expenses across all subprojects, and all proposal budgets will be negotiated if considered for finalist award selection. A budget template with further instructions will be provided to those teams invited to submit a full proposal.

Would funding go directly to one institution which is then responsible for subcontracts, or will Schmidt Futures distribute the money to each institution within an awarded OBVI project?

We prefer the funding to go directly to one institution as this tends to get the money faster to the scientists, but understand the difficulty of this responsibility. If necessary, we can split this up into 2 or 3 awards for a research consortium.


Assuming we would like to apply for the ~$2M USD ceiling per year, should Schmidt Futures’ cap of 10% indirect costs already be included in our budget?



Can student (plus tuition) and post-doctoral support be part of the budget? (Updated May 5)

Yes, student (plus tuition), post-doctoral, and technical staff support can be included in the OBVI budget.


Can we budget for use of a ship other than the R/V Falkor (too)?



Formatting Questions


What should be included within the 2-page EOI? 

The EOI should be no more than 2 pages in length. The EOI must address the following elements:

  1. primary area of innovation and engagement with the virtual institute and key challenges being addressed in support of OBVI’s mission;
  2. why addressing this process or component is critical to advancing science and technology for society and how the proposed work may inform/support environmental decision-making, management, investment, and/or policy;
  3. scientific ability, relevant expertise, scientific project management experience, and capacity of the PIs and partner institutions to run a large project;
  4. project type(*) including observational and computational needs; and
  5. collaborative teamwork approach, plan for coordination across research methods and disciplines within the team; ideas regarding how your team may interact with other research teams to ensure that you have effective cross-cutting collaborations as members of the VI

Please include any PI, team, and partner names and affiliations in the submission form. Do not include this information in the 2-page EOI – we will set aside this information during the evaluation process. The EOI should be written in English, and no more than 2 pages of body text typed in single-spaced 10-point font. The EOI can be formatted as .doc, .docx, or .pdf. Please keep reference citations short – these may be listed on a separate, third page.


Should we include names of PIs or partner institutions in the EOI? (Added May 5)

Please list all PI, team, or partner names where requested in the submission form, and, to the extent possible, refrain from including their names in the 2-page EOI. Schmidt Futures staff will ultimately redact any names included in EOI submissions before sending them to reviewers. 


How should we speak to scientific ability, track record and the capacity of PIs to lead without listing PIs names or partner institutions? (Added May 18)

In the EOI, please speak generally to the collective scientific ability, track record, and capacity of PIs to lead in general terms, excluding names or other specific details to the greatest extent possible. We understand that it may in some cases be impossible to do so without referring to individuals or revealing identifying details. To address this, Schmidt Futures staff will ultimately redact any identifying information that you include in EOI submissions (e.g. in the section on teams as well as in any reference citations) before forwarding them to reviewers. We would like to understand the collective expertise and diversity of perspectives that your team may bring to OBVI.  In the EOI submission form, you will have the opportunity to provide names of any team members that you would like to list.


Potential Restrictions


Are there any restrictions on what we can use the funding for that we should be aware of?

Restrictions include those limited by law, regulations, or scientific collaborations with those in sanctioned nations. Beyond that, one of the intentions of this OBVI program is to provide research awards with relatively flexible funds over an extended period (~5 years). These OBVI awards are intended to help international research partners and break down artificial walls to support the best scientific research and international collaborations to advance the scientific mission and scope of OBVI.


Previously awarded projects have used these flexible funds to support grad students, postdocs, other scientists, support to facilitate conferences, meetings and exchanges between personnel at the collaborating institutions, software engineering support and cloud computational infrastructure (cloud compute/GPU, cloud storage), and other standard research expenses.


Translation, Other Questions

What is the review process for the EOIs? How many teams will be invited for full proposals? (Added May 5)

The EOIs will be anonymized (removing names and references) for a blinded evaluation by a committee of peers, Schmidt Futures, and SOI staff. The number of teams invited to submit full proposals is dependent on the number and quality of EOIs we receive.

Where can I find more information about Schmidt Futures?

Please see common questions about Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative of Eric and Wendy Schmidt, here.


Can Schmidt Futures provide a copy of the EOI translated in my native language?

 We strongly encourage proposals from project teams that include scholars from different nations, such as ones within the global south (i.e., southern hemisphere partners). If you would like to request the translation of the EOI call to your native language, or to make the EOI more accessible to all members of your team, please reach out to obvi@schmidtfutures.com and state “OBVI EOI Translation Request” in the email subject line.


Please make a request for translation services before 11:59 pm EDT on May 19, 2023.