General Lab Information

User Guide

Proposal Review Process

Research at the CFN is organized into three four-month-long work cycles each year: January-April, May-August, and September-December. Users submit new proposals three months before the first cycle in which they plan to start their work. (For example, if a user would like to start work during the May-August cycle, he/she must submit his/her proposal by January 31). Once reviewed and approved, CFN proposals are valid for two years (or six consecutive cycles). The entire time between the initial submission of a proposal at the submission deadline and the time of notification of acceptance of a proposal is approximately ten weeks. Users need to submit a Request for Additional Time for each cycle that they need access. If the research demands access to CFN beyond the two-year period of the proposal, a new proposal must be submitted for full external review by the PRP or the PPRP.

Proposal Submission

Prior to submitting a proposal, potential Users are encouraged to contact the appropriate Facility Leaders to discuss the feasibility of the proposed work. If a potential User requests Capabilities that are provided by multiple Facilities, the work will be reviewed for feasibility by each Facility that is involved. During these discussions, Facility Leaders or their designees determine if the research is compatible with current Facilities and Expertise, and whether the proposed research can be conducted within the existing Experimental Safety Reviews (ESRs).

Online Proposal System

Proposals are submitted, reviewed, and allocated through the CFN Proposal Portal.

The online proposal form requires the user to:

  • Identify the proposal as non-proprietary or proprietary.
  • Identify Users as Principal Investigator, Proposer, Co-Proposer, Onsite User or Remote User.
  • Identify the required Facilities, Capabilities, and/or Equipment.
  • Identify experimental materials and potential hazards associated with the project.
  • Provide sufficient details about the research project, including the scientific or technology-related questions that the User is trying to address, the technical approach, and the potential impact of the work.
  • Provide demographic information required by DOE.


General User proposals are reviewed for feasibility by the CFN’s Facility Leaders to ensure that the CFN has the resources and the expertise to perform the project. If proposals pass feasibility, they are assigned a minimum of three reviewers from the CFN’s PRP or PPRP. The PRP/PPRP consists of scientists and industrial researchers with expertise in areas related to nanoscience and who have no affiliation with BNL. Potential members to the PRP/PPRP are invited by the CFN Assistant Director, based on nominations and suggestions by Facility Leaders. All members of the PRP/PPRP serve two year terms. Reviewers are assigned with the help of the online proposal system, based on keywords provided by the User on the proposal. When reviewer assignments have been completed, the User Administrator activates the reviews, which sends an automated email to the PRP/PPRP members, notifying them that the proposals are ready for their review. For each proposal, the reviewers are asked to provide the following: a numerical score for scientific merit, technical feasibility, capability of the proposal’s team to conduct their research at the CFN, and brief comments to justify scores and recommendation. These assessments are based on the following questions posed to the Reviewers; the weight that each question has on the overall score is indicated in parentheses:

  1. Based solely on the scientific or technical merits of the proposal, I expect that the Proposer’s team will conduct: (35%)
  2. Consider the CFN, its facilities, capabilities, personnel, and mode of operation. The proposed research project _________. (35%)
  3. Based solely on the text and the accompanying images (if any) in the proposal, are the scientific or technological goals of the proposer clearly stated? Are these ideas thoroughly articulated? (20%)
  4. Assess the Proposer’s track record, if applicable. Consider: a) previous work at the CFN; OR b) past accomplishments.
    1. If the Proposer has previously worked in the CFN, has the Proposer been productive? Has the work resulted in substantial technical progress or high quality publications?
    2. If the Proposer is new to the CFN, does the Proposer have a previous record of accomplishment in the relevant field? Does the Proposer have the requisite expertise for the proposed work? (10%) The Proposer possesses__________.

Both proprietary and non-proprietary proposals are rated on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the highest rating and 5 being the lowest). Approximate connotations of the numerical values are as follows:

  1. The proposal involves highly innovative research of great importance. An open-ended project that will either launch a new application for nanoscience research or will clearly impact one of the outstanding problems in the field of nanoscience. Use of a nanoscience facility is essential.
  2. The proposal describes a well-conceived, original, research project with a strong potential for making an important contribution to nanoscience. The Principal Investigator (PI) has a good track record, and the results obtained are likely to be published in a leading publication. No alternative to a nanoscience facility is available to the PI for this research.
  3. The proposal is for an extension of a nanoscience project that has produced published manuscripts in leading journals. Although not groundbreaking, the proposed research is near cutting-edge and is likely to produce significant results. The need for a nanoscience facility is evident.
  4. The proposed research requires a nanoscience facility, and the science possesses some merit. The project, however, involves routine measurements in a well-worked area of research. The results, although useful, are not likely to be of significance in the field.
  5. Serious doubt exists about the feasibility of the proposed project, or clear need for the use of a nanoscience facility was ineffectively conveyed.

Reviewers are asked to submit their reviews within two weeks of their receiving the email that proposals are ready for their review.

Time Allocation and Scheduling

The rank order of scores generated by the review process is the primary input in the allocation of facility access to General Users. The PRP/PPRP also provides feedback to the investigators on the quality, strength, and possible weakness of the proposals. Proposals with ratings between four and five are automatically declined and do not receive facility time. The User will receive written notification from the User Administration of the rating and the decision whether they were granted access to the CFN facilities, with comments from the reviewers. For those proposals that were not favorably reviewed and did not receive allocation of facility time, the proposers are encouraged to submit a revised proposal for the next cycle, addressing the reviewers’ concerns and recommendations.

The Facility Leaders/Coordinators or their designees allocate facility time to both new proposals and requests for additional facility time. The amount of facility time allocated depends on the rating of the proposal relative to other proposals, on equipment availability, and on demonstrated progress from previous cycles (if applicable). After the allocation process is complete, the PI receives an email notification of the Facilities/Capabilities/Resources that were allocated, their CFN Point-of-Contact, and the number of days/sessions/shifts allocated for the cycle. The PI is asked to communicate with their Point-of-Contact to schedule facility time.