Peer Review Policies

Review and Selection of Research Projects

All research projects supported by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES) undergo regular peer review* and merit evaluation based on procedures set down in 10 CFR Part 605 for the extramural grant program and in an analogous process for the laboratory programs and scientific user facilities. The BES peer review process evaluates the following four criteria, which are listed in order of decreasing importance:

  1. Scientific and/or technical merit of the project;
    for example, the influence that the results might have on the direction, progress, and thinking in relevant scientific fields of research; the likelihood of achieving valuable results; and the scientific innovation and originality indicated in the proposed research.
  2. Appropriateness of the proposed method or approach;
    for example, the logic and feasibility of the research approaches and the soundness of the conduct of the research.
  3. Competency of the personnel and adequacy of proposed resources; and
    for example, the background, past performance, and potential of the investigator(s); and the research environment and facilities for performing the research.
  4. Reasonableness and appropriateness of the proposed budget.

The criteria for a review may also include other appropriate factors established and announced by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

The BES peer review and merit evaluation procedures are described within the following documents:

Office of Science (SC) Grants Policy and Guidance

BES Merit Review Procedures for Projects at DOE Laboratories

For more information about SC's merit review system, please browse the Grants and Contracts Division homepage.

* Peer Reviews are independent assessments of the scientific merit of research by experts having knowledge of the research area equal to that of the performers of the work.

The purpose of peer reviewing Basic Energy Sciences (BES) projects is to provide BES program managers with independent technical evaluations.

The above definition* of peer review is consistent with that of the Office of Science and Technology Policy as given in the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, "Federal Research -- Peer Review Practices at Federal Science Agencies Vary" (GAO/RCED-99-99), 17 pages plus 13 appendices 54 pages; March 17, 1999; page 2 (pdf).

After receiving the above GAO report, the House Committee on Science requested that the GAO conduct a follow-up study, which included an audit of the peer review procedures of the Office of Basic Energy Sciences. The resulting GAO report, "Federal Research: DOE Is Providing Independent Review of the Scientific Merit of Its Research" (GAO/RCED-00-109), 36 pages, April 2000 (pdf) found that, "On the basis of our review of available documentation from program and project files for fiscal years 1998 and 1999, the Office of Basic Energy Sciences ... [followed] the merit review procedures they have established...[and] are performing merit reviews on projects or programs, are selecting reviewers with the requisite knowledge of the research, are requiring those reviewers to apply appropriate criteria in making their evaluations, and are using the merit review evaluations in making award decisions" (page 15).