Laboratory Appraisal Process

Each year, the Office of Science (SC) conducts an evaluation of the scientific, technological, managerial, and operational performance of the contractors who manage and operate its ten national laboratories. These evaluations provide the basis for determining annual performance fees and the possibility of winning additional years on the contract through an “Award Term” extension. They also serve to inform the decisions the Department of Energy (DOE) makes regarding whether to extend or to compete the management and operating contracts when they expire.

The current laboratory appraisal process has been in place since Fiscal Year 2006. It was designed to improve the transparency of the process, raise the level of involvement by the SC leadership, increase consistency in the way the laboratories are evaluated, and more effectively incentivize contractor performance by tying performance to fee earned, contract length and the public release of grades.

The Office of Laboratory Policy coordinates the laboratory appraisal process on behalf of the Director of the Office of Science.


The SC laboratory appraisal process uses a common structure and scoring system across all ten of its Laboratories. Structured around eight Performance Goals, it emphasizes the importance of delivering the science and technology necessary to meet the missions of DOE; of operating the Laboratories in a safe, secure, responsible, and cost-effective way; and of recognizing the leadership, stewardship and value-added provided by contractor managing the Laboratory. The eight Performance Goals are:

  1. Mission Accomplishment (Delivery of S&T)
  2. Design, Construction and Operation of Research Facilities
  3. Science and Technology Project/Program Management
  4. Leadership and Stewardship of the Laboratory
  5. Integrated Environment, Safety and Health Protection
  6. Business Systems
  7. Facilities Maintenance and Infrastructure
  8. Security and Emergency Management

Each Performance Goal is comprised of a small number of Objectives. Within each Objective, SC Science Programs and Site Offices can further identify a small number of Notable Outcomes that illustrate or amplify important features of the laboratory’s performance for the coming year. The Performance Goals, Objectives, and Notable Outcomes are documented at the beginning of each year in a Performance Evaluation and Measurement Plan (PEMP) that is appended to the respective Laboratory contract. Information regarding an individual PEMP may be obtained by contacting the appropriate SC Site Office.

At the conclusion of each Fiscal Year, the S&T (Goals 1-3) performance of the Laboratory is evaluated by the organizations that fund work at the Laboratory. In addition to the SC science programs, SC solicits input from all organizations that spend more than $5 million at the Laboratory or are equal to or greater than 1% of the laboratory’s operating cost (whichever is lower). This S&T input is weighted according to the dollars spent at the Laboratory. Each Site Office evaluates the Laboratory’s performance against the M&O Objectives (Goals 5-8). Site Offices and Science Programs provide input regarding the contractor’s performance with respect to Goal 4 to the SC leadership who subsequently determine the Laboratory’s score in this area. In determining these grades, the SC Science Programs and Site Offices consider the laboratory’s performance against the Notable Outcomes, defined in the PEMP, as well as other sources of performance information that becomes available to DOE throughout the year. These include independent scientific program and project reviews, external operational reviews conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), DOE Inspector General (IG), and other parts of DOE, and the results of SC’s own oversight activities. The evaluation process includes end-of-year normalization meetings for all the Goals, during which rating organizations report their proposed scores/grades and work to ensure a consistent and fair scoring/grading approach across all ten Laboratories.

The SC appraisal process uses a five-point (0-4.3) scoring system with corresponding grades for the Performance Goals and Objectives. A grade of “B+” is awarded for performance at the Objective level that meets SC’s expectations for performance. SC intentionally set its expectations associated with a B+ very high and does not equate performance below a B+ as necessarily unsatisfactory, but as offering opportunity for improvement. The grade for each of the Performance Goals is based on a weighted computation of the scores of the individual Performance Objectives identified for each Goal. SC uses the resultant Performance Goal grades to create annual “Report Cards” for each Laboratory that are publicly available on the SC website. The scale SC uses for assigning scores and letter grades is provided in the table below.

Score/Letter Grade Scale
Final Grade: A+ A
A- B+* B B- C+ C C- D F
Score: 4.3 - 4.1 4.0 - 3.8 3.7 - 3.5 3.4 - 3.1 3.0 - 2.8 2.7 - 2.5 2.4 - 2.1 2.0 - 1.8 1.7 - 1.1 1.0 - 0.8 0.7 - 0