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Center for Nanoscale Materials

CNM User Proposal Review and Evaluation Process

Proposal Review Process

Proposals are directed first to the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM) for an internal feasibility review by instrument scientists. If a proposal is determined to be feasible and can be safely executed at the CNM, it is submitted to the Proposal Evaluation Board for scientific evaluation. If a proposal is not considered feasible, it is returned to the proposer with appropriate comments. Investigators are encouraged to resubmit revised proposals.

Proposal Evaluation Board (PEB)

The PEB, an external panel of peer reviewers, evaluates CNM user proposals. PEB reviewers are directed to treat user proposals as confidential documents and to inform the CNM of potential conflicts of interest. The rank order of scores generated by the PEB is the primary input in allocating facility access to users. The PEB also provides feedback to the investigators on the quality of their proposals and, where relevant, perceived weaknesses. Appointment to the PEB is made by the CNM Director or designate on the basis of expertise.

Evaluation Criteria

The PEB uses criteria endorsed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics to evaluate user proposals:

  1. Scientific merit
  2. Technical feasibility
  3. Capability of the experimental group
  4. Availability of the required resources

The principal evaluation criterion is scientific and/or technological merit.

Rating Process

Proposal reviewers evaluate each proposal according to the criteria described above and assign a numerical rating. In a subsequent proposal cycle, unsuccessful proposers can submit a new proposal that addresses PEB comments in order to improve the rating and thus improve chances of receiving facility time.

Proposals are rated on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the highest rating and 5 being the lowest). The user receives notification of the rating and comments to improve the rating if needed. Proposals are rated according to the scale below:

  1. Extraordinary: The proposal involves highly innovative research of great importance. It is a project that will either launch a new direction for nanoscience or nanotechnology research or will clearly impact one of the outstanding problems in the field of nanoscience or nanotechnology. A nanoscience facility is essential to perform the research. The experimenters have an excellent track record and the results obtained are very likely to have high impact (e.g., to be published in a leading journal).
  2. Excellent: The proposal presents a well-conceived, original research project with a strong potential for making an important contribution to the field of nanoscience or nanotechnology research. A nanoscience facility is essential to perform the research. The experimenters have a good track record, are well-qualified to successfully carry out and complete the research project, and the results obtained are likely to have high impact.
  3. Good: The proposed work is an extension of a nanoscience or nanotechnology project that has already had significant impact. Although not ground-breaking, it is near cutting-edge and is likely to produce significant results. The proposed research is well-defined; the resources requested are required, reasonable and in proportion to expected results. The need for a nanoscience facility is justified.
  4. Fair: A nanoscience facility is required and the science or technology is interesting, but the proposal describes routine measurements in a well-worked area of research. The need for CNM resources is identified but may not be essential and/or not reasonable in proportion to expected results. The results from the research, although useful, are not likely to have a high impact.
  5. Poor: Serious doubt exists regarding the potential impact and/or feasibility of the proposed project, the proposed experiments are not clearly defined, there is no evident need for the use of a nanoscience facility and/or the assistance required is not reasonable in proportion to the expected results.

Aging Process for the Hard X-ray Nanoprobe

Due to ever-increasing demand for limited resources, proposals are ranked by composite PEB score and awarded until all available time is allocated. For proposals requesting the heavily-subscribed hard X-ray Nanoprobe beamline, new proposals that are not allocated during a call for proposals cycle will remain active for two subsequent proposal calls, each time receiving an improved PEB composite score by 0.2 points. There remains the option of submitting a new proposal to any upcoming call for proposals cycle taking into account reviewer and feasibility comments.

CNM Offers Two User Modes

  • General User Access: General users are individuals or groups who need access to the CNM’s current equipment, instruments, capabilities and expertise in order to carry out their research. General users apply for access by submitting a user proposal. Both independent and collaborative proposals with CNM staff are encouraged.
  • Partner User Access: Partners are individuals or groups who not only carry out research at the CNM, but also enhance the capabilities or contribute to the operation of the center. Typically, they develop or enhance instrumentation in some way, bringing outside financial and/or intellectual capital into the evolution of the CNM, or contribute to the operation of equipment and facilities. These contributions must be made available to the general user community; therefore, benefit to them as well as to CNM must be evident. In recognition of their investment of either resources or intellectual capital, and in order to facilitate and encourage their involvement, partners may be allocated limited access to one or more capabilities over a period of two years, with the possibility of renewal. The probability of partner access being granted on oversubscribed instruments is much lower than for underutilized tools. Partner scientific programs are subject to the same peer review process as general users.

Multi-User Facility Proposals

Some projects can benefit from the use of multiple user facilities such as the CNM and the Advanced Photon Source (APS). Upon entering the Multi-User Facility Proposal Gateway, read the instructions to register and submit a proposal. You will then be directed to:

  • Provide a brief justification as to why more than one facility is requested
  • Submit separate proposals with the same title to the pertinent facilities

After external peer review of proposals using the policies and procedures already in place at each facility, the scientific directors of the respective facilities will review the request.

User Access Allocation

CNM management has ultimate responsibility and accountability for effective and efficient use of time on all equipment and facilities that are part of the user program. Allocation of access to equipment and facilities for users is done on the basis of the rankings provided by the PEB. Approved projects must begin within one year of approval.