Office of Science
User Access

Proposal Opportunities

Published April, 2014

Researchers are strongly urged to carefully review the proposal options and review process before submitting a new proposal. If you have any questions regarding EMSL's proposal opportunities, please contact User Support.

A variety of proposal options are available to facilitate user access and ensure that EMSL's capabilities are used to address cutting-edge science questions. Most research conducted at EMSL is nonproprietary, with results disseminated to the scientific community through publications in the open literature or conference presentations and papers. Authors of nonproprietary proposals may retain rights to intellectual property (IP) resulting from the use of EMSL, but the government is granted a nonexclusive license to use the IP.

In addition to learning about active or planned calls and the types of proposals described below, researchers are encouraged to read more about the process for Submitting a Proposal for Fiscal Year 2014. Whether new to EMSL or a returning user, please contact the appropriate Capability Lead(s) to discuss your resource requirements before beginning any proposal. They will advise you regarding the technical feasibility and approach of your project plan and about opportunities for strengthening your proposal by integrating additional capabilities.

All proposals must be submitted through EMSL's User Portal and should adhere to the current year's published Proposal Guidance for the applicable proposal type. For researchers responding to the Joint Call for Collaborative Science between EMSL and the Joint Genome Institute, the details regarding proposal format and the submittal process are unique to this Call. Returning applicants to either user facility should closely review this information before starting. If you have questions on or difficulties with the submission process, please email, or call User Support at 509-371-6003.

Active and Planned Calls for Proposals

The annual Call for Proposals provides two opportunities (Science Theme and JGI-EMSL Collaborative Science Initiative) for researchers to request access to EMSL resources for multiple years. On occasion, researchers may have opportunities to request access through special science calls that are announced outside of the normal call cycle. These calls will typically follow unique proposal submission, review and access schedules, and researchers should pay special attention to the details announced in these calls. Although other user proposals requesting one year of access or less may be submitted at any time, they will be reviewed based on the details of the requests and preference is given to user proposals submitted in response to the annual or specialized Calls.


The 2014 annual Call for Science Theme proposals is now closed. Award decisions will be made by July 31, 2014 and approved proposals will be granted access to EMSL resources beginning October 1, 2014.


The joint Call for Collaborative Science between EMSL and the Joint Genome Institute solicits pilot projects in selected topic areas that integrate the genomics and molecular characterization resources of both JGI and EMSL. Letters of Intent were due April 7, with full proposals due May 27, for submitters whose letters of intent are approved. Applications submitted in response to this Call follow a unique proposal format and review process that is separate from the standard process at either facility.


A Special Science Call for Proposals is now open for high-impact research that advances BER scientific missions by taking advantage of recently established or developing technical resources at EMSL. This call focuses on research in selected topics that would be enabled by EMSL's Radiochemistry Annex, Quiet Wing for NanoSims and Microscopy Capabilities, and the High Resolution and Mass Accuracy Mass Spectrometry Capability under development. Proposals may be submitted at any time before September 15, 2014, and will be reviewed upon receipt. Applications for this Call should adhere to the 2014 Proposal Package Guidelines, but will follow a unique review process. Selected proposals under this call are expected to begin immediately.

Types of User Proposals


General proposals provide an opportunity for researchers to expand a previous proof-of-principle experiment or gain data useful in submitting a proposal during the annual Call. The scope of a General proposal can vary from a single, focused experiment to a multi-resource set of studies, and may include Requests for special consideration. Proposals may be submitted to EMSL at any time throughout the year, but those requesting EMSL staff support will be reviewed by Proposal Review Panels (PRP) on established cycles throughout the year. In addition, researchers should be aware that General proposals are valid only for the fiscal year in which they are accepted. For example, proposals accepted in December 2013 are valid up to September 30, 2014.

Review cycle

General proposals are evaluated two times a year by the PRP most closely related to the research topic to ensure fair opportunity through a competitive process. To be considered for acceptance, the proposal score given by the PRP must meet or exceed the minimum established for the current fiscal year. For fiscal year 2014, the cut-off score is 4.00. Authors should be aware that additional requirements exist if you are Resubmitting a Proposal that was previously rejected by the review panel. If the proposal was not accepted due to funding limitations, no additional requirements exist for your proposal package. Proposals received after the review cycle deadline will be held until the next cycle.

Deadline for Submission Proposal Review Panel Meeting
September 15 October
January 15 February

Requests for special consideration

On the proposal form, researchers can identify circumstances that may warrant special consideration, such as restricting data for protection of intellectual property (IP), rapid access to meet an urgent deadline for a grant application, or requesting use of non-EMSL-owned resources. These proposals will be exempted from the review cycle above and evaluated on an expedited case-by-case basis (usually 1-2 weeks). Those that do not meet the standards below will compete for resources in the next available review cycle.

Scientific Partner

Scientific Partner proposals are submitted by individuals or groups who wish to partner scientifically with EMSL staff to enhance an existing capability or develop and build unique new capabilities that enhance EMSL's user program. Capability development efforts that support environmental molecular sciences and which utilize collaborative multidisciplinary teams, pooled or leveraged resources, unique operating environments, or other resources which may be beyond those available to individual researchers or teams are encouraged. Scientific Partner proposals are intended to leverage expertise, capability, and resources that maximize impact for EMSL, the scientific partner, and future users. In return for co-development, EMSL's scientific partner users may have priority access to the new capability for a negotiated and specified period (subject to EMSL Advisory Committees review and approval). Proposals may be in response to a specific call or submitted at any time. The award and timing of EMSL Scientific Partner Projects are contingent upon EMSL strategic needs and the availability of EMSL resources.

A 1-2 page Letter of Intent (LOI) is used to initiate a dialog with EMSL's Chief Technology Officer on suitability, interest, and strategic need for the capability. A Scientific Partner user is encouraged to work with appropriate EMSL Capability Leads or other technical contacts in preparing the Letter of Intent, which should include initial discussion of need, approach, resources, scientific partner contributions, impact, and proposed team.

An LOI may be submitted by a scientific partner user at any time to, and will be reviewed by a panel consisting of EMSL's Chief Technology Officer, Chief Science Officer, Associate Director(s), and Lead Scientists. Review criteria will include strategic alignment, user/scientific impact and need, and resource and time requirements. Interaction, deliberation, and refinement of concepts with the Committee and/or EMSL staff should be expected during the LOI review process. Upon review and approval of the Letter of Intent, the Chief Technology Officer or delegate will contact the scientific partner user and request a full proposal, along with specific needs, considerations, or contacts to be addressed.

Full Scientific Partner Proposals (6-page maximum) are to be submitted through the EMSL User Portal, and should address scientific merit, uniqueness, and complement/fit of the proposed capability to current EMSL capabilities, Science Themes, and other strategy elements. Proposals should also detail the resource split/sharing between EMSL and partner resources.

Scientific Partner users with approved proposals will be required to submit summaries of the work performed. For projects open for one year or less, the summaries are due when the project closes. For all others, summaries are due each year based on the date established by the Chief Technology Officer. Summaries should include a brief introduction of the project, a description of the results to date, a list of any publications, awards, or recognition resulting from the project, and (for multiple year projects) a detailed justification for any changes to the resources outlined in the original proposal. Periodic reviews of Scientific Partner Projects are also required and reviews will be done at least annually for each project; the Chief Technology Officer will call and direct such reviews.

Science Theme

Research programs within the Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) at the Department of Energy (DOE) focus on generating scientific understanding to address global challenges, such as the impact of biogeochemical systems on and from climate, and translational genomics for functional capabilities. EMSL's Science Themes focus our research investments towards the development of predictive understanding that ultimately enables design and control of complex biological and chemical systems of importance to BER and DOE. As such, they are evaluated on a regular basis to ensure continued alignment with our BER sponsor.

In the latter part of FY2013, EMSL reviewed and revised its three existing science themes, including name changes to more accurately describe each theme, and added a new theme in Atmospheric Aerosol Systems. Returning users, especially, should pay careful attention to the new descriptions of these research areas.

The majority of EMSL resources and staff support are allocated to proposals in response to our annual Science Theme call. Successful Science Theme proposals will be from among those that clearly address the focused topics of the Call and couple laboratory experiments with theory, modeling, or simulation; innovatively cross multiple science themes; or represent computationally intensive projects requiring large-scale parallel calculations that scale efficiently with both the number of processors and size of problem.

Please note: Science Theme projects are valid for two years provided the annual summary and extension request demonstrate sufficient progress toward the stated goals. A select number of proposal authors may be invited to submit project plans to extend the work for a third year.

Research Campaign

Research campaigns are large-scale efforts that require significant expertise and resources from multiple institutions to address a specific topic or problem of interest to EMSL. Letters of Intent are solicited through EMSL's annual Call for Proposals and selected authors will be invited to work with EMSL staff to develop more fully a project plan to be submitted as a full proposal. Research campaigns can be valid for multiple years and will be based on the selected proposal and project plan.

User Support Office: , 509-371-6003