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Proposal Review Criteria -- CNMS

Proposal Review Criteria

Review Criteria for CNMS Research Proposals

The CNMS expects high-impact, peer-reviewed scientific or technological publications to result from all user research projects. PIs and reviewers should keep this in mind when proposing or evaluating research projects.  User proposals will undergo an internal feasibility and safety review. A proposal considered not feasible or safe will be returned to the proposer with appropriate comments including suggested changes.  The evaluation criteria used in the external peer review procedures will take as their starting point the criteria proposed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) in its 1996 recommendations on the operation of major user facilities. These are:

  • Scientific merit
  • Technical feasibility
  • Capability of the experimental group
  • Availability of the resources required

Detailed proposal review criteria are described on the proposal review form. Note that the questions for reviewers listed on the review form correspond directly to the questions to be addressed by the PI in the 'Description of Proposed Research' section of the user proposal.

Proposal Review Committees (PRCs)
Evaluation of General User (GU) proposals will be carried out by appropriately constituted Proposal Review Committees. The rank order of scores generated by the PRCs will be the primary input in the allocation of facility access to General Users. The PRC will also provide feedback to the investigators on the quality of their proposals and, where relevant, on perceived weaknesses. The PRC will consist of external scientists (without affiliation to the NSRC) with expertise in various research fields related to nanoscale research. Appointment to the PRCs will be made by the Center Director or designate based on nominations received from the user community and suggestions from the facility management. PRC subcommittees related to the Center's scientific thrusts may be appointed to ensure knowledgeable and efficient handling of user proposals.

Proprietary and Non-Proprietary Research
Users of the facilities include academic, industrial and government scientists and engineers. While the vast majority of user research should be in the public domain, and so must be disseminated by publication in the open literature, there may be access for proprietary research that utilizes these unique facilities to benefit the national economy. Users conducting proprietary research may access the facility as either General Users or as Partners. Full cost recovery will be obtained for proprietary research, and efforts will be made to secure appropriate intellectual property control for proprietary users to permit them to exploit their experimental results.

User Access Allocation, Scheduling, and Recording
Allocation of access to equipment and facilities for General Users will be done based on the rankings provided by the PRCs. Partners will manage their own scientific programs, subject to PRC review, and will allocate access among their members. Scheduling of user access will be centralized in the facility User Office using expert input from facility staff and Partner representatives. Center management will have ultimate responsibility and accountability for effective and efficient utilization of time on all equipment at the facility.

PARTNER USER EVALUATION (Yes/No)
This criterion will be applied only to those projects that have been designated by the PI for the Partner User mode. These projects must enhance the capabilities of the CNMS or otherwise contribute to its operation. Typically they develop the facility instrumentation in some way, bringing outside financial and/or intellectual capital into the evolution of the CNMS, or improve the operation of its equipment and facilities. It is required that these contributions must be made available eventually to General Users.

A positive evaluation for this criterion indicates that the Partner’s contribution is likely to deliver significant value to the CNMS and its future users based on the following considerations:

  • Would the proposed development represent a major advance in the state-of-the-art either as a revolutionary new capability or through a significant, evolutionary enhancement of an existing capability?
  • Would the new capability developed under this proposal be unique in the world, the U.S., or the region (southeastern U.S.)?
  • Is the new capability likely to be of broad interest across several subfields of nanoscale science and technology?
  • How important is it that this capability be housed at CNMS, either (a) because the CNMS has essential, auxiliary capabilities, (b) because the capability will serve a substantial user community and needs to be centrally available in a NSRC, or (c) because it will significantly strengthen the CNMS in one of its identified Scientific Themes?

TECHNICAL FEASIBILITY (Yes/No) - evaluated by CNMS staff prior to external review
CNMS staff and leadership make a determination that a project is feasible based on the answers to both of the following questions:

  • Are the present capabilities and expertise at the CNMS adequate to perform the requested tasks?
  • Can the research be performed safely at CNMS and in compliance with applicable environmental, safety, and health regulations?

If the answer to either question is NO, the proposal will be returned to the PI without external peer-review.

AVAILABILITY OF RESOURCES (No PRC evaluation or score)
The CNMS Director, in consultation with CNMS research leaders, will allocate all available resources based on priorities determined from PRC ratings using the criteria described above.

Requests for Extension of CNMS User Projects

CNMS user projects are initially approved for a term of 12 months. PIs will be offered an opportunity to request one 12-month extension at the end of their original 12-month project period. Extension requests must be limited to the research objectives, technical approach, and level of CNMS time and resources that were originally approved for the peer-reviewed user proposal. PIs will receive an “Application for Extension” form approximately 4-6 weeks before the original expiration date for their project. The application is a 1-page form for listing in bullet style the milestones achieved, milestones pending, any significant obstacles, and publications or presentations (click here for sample form). Interested user PIs will be expected to return these forms promptly, within 2 weeks, and they will be reviewed internally at CNMS. Approval of an extension request is not automatic but is normally granted for projects that can show reasonable progress or have experienced delays due to factors outside of the PI’s control. A new user proposal and full peer review will be required to continue work after the 12-month extension. Below is the expected schedule for upcoming extension requests. Subsequent proposal cycles will follow a similar schedule.

Project numbers in the range CNMS2020-A-0004 through CNMS2020-A-00225, approved in December 2019 (cycle 2020A):

  • original expiration is January 31, 2021
  • expiration date has been automatically extended to January 31, 2022 due to COVID-19 and the inability to fully access CNMS capabilities

Project numbers in the range CNMS2020-B-00302 through CNMS2020-B-00536, approved in July 2020 (cycle 2020B):

  • original expiration is July 31, 2021
  • applications for extension will be distributed in early June 2021
  • successful applicants will receive a new expiration date of July 31, 2022
  • PIs must submit a new, full proposal in the spring of 2022 in order to continue the work beyond July 2022