Proposal Review and Lifecycle

Access to EMSL resources is granted through a peer-reviewed proposal process. In general, users whose open research proposals are accepted may use EMSL resources free of charge. Open research is loosely defined as science and engineering research for which the resulting information is published and shared broadly within the scientific community. Different Terms and Conditions, including cost policies and other restrictions, apply to proprietary research. All EMSL users must Acknowledge EMSL in their written works.

Gain access to EMSL resources through the peer-reviewed proposal process detailed below. EMSL's Proposal Planning (pdf) guides users through this process.

1. Contact a Capability Lead (Highly recommended)

Potential EMSL users should first contact the Capability Lead(s) associated with the instruments of interest to ask about opportunities for collaboration and to get answers to your initial questions. Capability Leads are available to:

  • Provide details about equipment and Capabilities, including availability or subscription, and about research within our four Science Themes
  • Discuss the feasibility of your approach
  • Assist in determining why a specific resource is the best choice to meet our requirements
  • Help estimate and justify the amount of time you are requesting
  • Provide constructive comments on your project description.

2. Submit a proposal via the EMSL User Portal

Review the current Proposal Guidance for the applicable proposal type for page limits, formatting requirements, and information that must be included in your research description and proposal. Additional proposal requirements exist if you are resubmitting a proposal that was previously rejected. For researchers developing Letters of Intent and full proposals for 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 the proposal guidance before starting. Proposals that do not adhere to the published guidance will not be considered.

When submitting new proposals or extensions, keep in mind that attention will be given to proposals that have published results from the use of EMSL's unique capabilities and that have appropriately acknowledged EMSL and funding agencies on all related publications.

Log on to the EMSL User Portal. First-time EMSL users will be directed to create a new User Account. On the Home page, click "Create New Proposal." Provide information about the proposal team and your proposed research, answer a variety of questions, select requested EMSL resources, and upload your research proposal. You will also be required to include an abstract of approximately 250-400 words (using plain text). Abstracts of approved proposals will be listed on EMSL's website as written.

Upon submission, you will receive confirmation and an ID number to be used for subsequent tracking of your proposal.

3. Stand by while your proposal is reviewed

This process comprises three parts: proposal screening and review, resource allocation and scheduling, and notification to the principal investigator.

Proposal screening and review

Proposals are screened for conformance to proposal package requirements, safety, and resource availability, and undergo management and peer review based on the following Proposal Review Criteria:

  • Scientific merit and quality of the proposed research
  • Qualifications of the proposed research team to achieve proposal goals and contribute to high-impact science
  • Relevance of the proposed research to EMSL's mission
  • Impact of the proposed research on one or more of the EMSL Science Themes
  • Appropriateness and reasonableness of the request for EMSL resources for the proposed research.

Note: For the JGI-EMSL Collaborative Science Initiative, proposals will not be reviewed on EMSL Science Themes.

Resource allocation and scheduling

After the peer-review process is complete, review information is combined with the resource requests to determine the number of proposals that can be supported and scheduled. Proposals will be scored from 1-5, with 5 being highest, and the Review Panel average will be used to rank proposals from highest to lowest. Except for the JGI-EMSL Collaborative Science proposals, EMSL proposals will use a weighted scoring of the criteria as follows:

  • Scientific Merit: 50%
  • Qualification of Proposal Team: 10%
  • Relevance to EMSL's Mission: 10%
  • Relevance to the Science Theme or Call's Focus: 20%
  • Resource Use and Integration: 10%.

Notification to the principal investigator pending proposal approval

Decisions will be emailed to the proposal authors. Users should be aware that only limited resources are available for proposals submitted outside of the annual Call, and advance discussion regarding the research aims should be held with the appropriate Capability Lead(s) prior to initiating any proposal.

Team participants will be notified of any User Agreement requirements by the EMSL User Support Office. Access to EMSL resources cannot be granted until the necessary User Agreements are in place, and failure to complete these requirements in a timely manner may result in loss of the proposal grant.

Appealing a Decision

Proposal authors may submit appeals regarding new proposals if they have substantive evidence to show that reviewers made a serious error or there was some flaw in the review process. Appeals of denied proposal extensions may be made if decisions appear to have been based on inadequate or incorrect information or if there are extenuating circumstances not noted in the progress summary or capability request. Appeals to reverse management decisions that are related solely to resource availability and funding will not be considered.

To submit an appeal, the proposal author should email the User Support Office with a concise (2-3 paragraphs) summary of concerns as well as any supporting arguments for reversing the decision. Authors do not need to resubmit extension summaries or project descriptions. Appeals must be submitted within 30 days from the date on the award decision notice.

All appeals are reviewed by the Appeals Committee, chaired by EMSL's Chief Science Officer, and all decisions are considered final. The User Support Office will coordinate with the committee, and notify the user of the decision. For appeals on denied Science Theme proposals, authors will be notified within 8 weeks from receipt of the appeal. For all other proposal appeals, authors will be notified within 4 weeks from receipt of the appeal.

4. Visit EMSL or arrange remote use

Upon proposal acceptance, users are assigned an EMSL staff member as host. Your host will work with you and the User Support Office to coordinate your access to EMSL resources.

All EMSL users must be approved for access to EMSL or its resources. This process can take up to two months, and visitor badging must be arranged before a user's arrival. In addition, users will need to complete either the sample submission form or follow the special guidance (pdf) for sending radiological samples and should not send samples until all arrangements have been confirmed.

Learn more about the badging process, its requirements, and other details about Visiting EMSL.

5. Close out

To close out a scheduled use, the user is expected to take the following actions:

  • Identify and list all items for disposal prior to leaving EMSL if you are not returning all chemical and biological samples to your home institution.
  • Complete a questionnaire related to the logistics and outcomes of your most recent interaction with EMSL resources, whether remote or onsite. These questionnaires let us know in real time how we are doing to support your access so we can quickly address any suggestions or concerns. Frequent intermittent users may forego these questionnaires after each use and submit one form at the end of the fiscal year or close of the project, whichever is earlier.

To close out a project, the PI is expected to take the following actions:

  • Participate in the annual satisfaction survey or assign a delegate to complete the survey for the project team. The survey is used to assess EMSL's effectiveness as a research facility supporting your project goals. Although the answers are held in confidence, the participation rates may be shared with the Proposal Review Panels and can negatively impact future awards.
  • Provide summaries of research results at the end of the project or annually for multi-year projects. These summaries are used during new and extending proposal evaluations and may be used in EMSL science highlights.
  • Submit copies or reprints of publications related to the use of EMSL resources. These can be submitted at any time throughout the project or after its close, but must be submitted at least 14 days prior to publication if EMSL staff are included as co-authors. If we receive advance notice of all publications related to your use, however, we can identify those that would be of special interest to DOE BER and work to highlight your research on our website and at DOE. Copies of summaries or publications may be submitted via the User Portal.

User Support Office: |, 509-371-6003