Argonne National Laboratory

Proposals are directed to the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM) first for an internal feasibility review by instrument scientists. If a proposal is determined to be feasible and can be safely executed at the CNM, it is submitted to the Proposal Evaluation Board for scientific evaluation. If a proposal is not considered feasible, it is returned to the proposer with appropriate comments. Investigators are encouraged to resubmit revised proposals.

Proposal Evaluation Board (PEB)

The PEB, an external panel of peer reviewers, evaluates CNM user proposals. PEB reviewers are directed to treat user proposals as confidential documents and to inform the CNM of potential conflicts of interest. The rank order of scores generated by the PEB is the primary input in allocating facility access to users. The PEB also provides feedback to the investigators on the quality of their proposals and, where relevant, perceived weaknesses. Appointment to the PEB is made by the CNM Director or designate on the basis of expertise.

Evaluation Criteria

The PEB uses criteria endorsed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics to evaluate user proposals:

  1. Scientific merit
  2. Technical feasibility
  3. Capability of the experimental group
  4. Availability of the required resources

The principal evaluation criterion is scientific and/or technological merit.

Rating Process

Proposal reviewers evaluate each proposal according to the criteria described above and assign a numerical rating. In a subsequent proposal cycle, unsuccessful proposers can submit a new proposal that addresses PEB comments in order to improve the rating and thus improve chances of receiving facility time.


Proposals are rated on a scale of 1 to 40 (1 being the lowest rating and 40 being the highest). The user receives notification of the rating and comments to improve the rating if needed. Proposals are rated in the following subcategories:

  1. Importance of the Research/Scientific Impact (Score 1-10): What is the proposed nanoscale scientific advance this research will provide? Why is it important for the scientific community? What would be the impact?
  2. Justification for using CNM resources (Score 1-10): Why is the CNM the best/only place this research can be performed? Why can’t it be done elsewhere?
  3. Experimental Detail (Score 1-10): How will the experiments be performed? What tools are needed? How much time per tool? What are anticipated safety/chemical hazards? Which CNM staff will you work with to accomplish your research goals?
  4. Feasibility (Score 1-10): How feasible are the experiments given the restraints on tool accessibility and proposal cycle (1 year)? What is the likelihood of a successful/publishable result given the research plan and requested resources?

Rating Scale

  • Extraordinary (Total score of 32 - 40): The proposal involves highly innovative research of great importance. It is a project that will either launch a new direction for nanoscience or nanotechnology research or will clearly impact one of the outstanding problems in the field of nanoscience or nanotechnology. A nanoscience facility is essential to perform the research. The experimenters have an excellent track record and the results obtained are very likely to have high impact (e.g., to be published in a leading journal).
  • Excellent (Total score of 24 - 32): The proposal presents a well-conceived, original research project with a strong potential for making an important contribution to the field of nanoscience or nanotechnology research. A nanoscience facility is essential to perform the research. The experimenters have a good track record, are well-qualified to successfully carry out and complete the research project, and the results obtained are likely to have high impact.
  • Good (Total score of 16 - 24):The proposed work is an extension of a nanoscience or nanotechnology project that has already had significant impact. Although not ground-breaking, it is near cutting-edge and is likely to produce significant results. The proposed research is well-defined; the resources requested are required, reasonable and in proportion to expected results. The need for a nanoscience facility is justified.
  • Fair (Total score of 8 - 16): A nanoscience facility is required and the science or technology is interesting, but the proposal describes routine measurements in a well-worked area of research. The need for CNM resources is identified but may not be essential and/or not reasonable in proportion to expected results. The results from the research, although useful, are not likely to have a high impact.
  • Poor (Total score of 1 - 8): Serious doubt exists regarding the potential impact and/or feasibility of the proposed project, the proposed experiments are not clearly defined, there is no evident need for the use of a nanoscience facility and/or the assistance required is not reasonable in proportion to the expected results.

Aging Process for the Hard X-ray Nanoprobe

Due to ever-increasing demand for limited resources, proposals are ranked by composite PEB score and awarded until all available time is allocated. For proposals requesting the heavily-subscribed hard X-ray Nanoprobe beamline, new proposals that are not allocated during a call for proposals cycle will remain active for two subsequent proposal calls, each time receiving an improved PEB composite score by 0.2 points. There remains the option of submitting a new proposal to any upcoming call for proposals cycle taking into account reviewer and feasibility comments.

Multi-User Facility Proposals

Some projects can benefit from the use of multiple user facilities such as the CNM and the Advanced Photon Source (APS). Upon entering the Multi-User Facility Proposal Gateway, read the instructions to register and submit a proposal. You will then be directed to:

  • Provide a brief justification as to why more than one facility is requested
  • Submit separate proposals with the same title to the pertinent facilities

After external peer review of proposals using the policies and procedures already in place at each facility, the scientific directors of the respective facilities will review the request.

User Access Allocation

CNM management has ultimate responsibility and accountability for effective and efficient use of time on all equipment and facilities that are part of the user program. Allocation of access to equipment and facilities for users is done on the basis of the rankings provided by the PEB. Approved projects must begin within one year of approval.

Renewing and revising existing proposals

CNM user proposals expire after one year or after specific allocation(s) of time, whichever comes first. A new proposal submission is required to request additional time on a given project.

If the scope of your work changes during your one-year proposal period, contact your Scientific Contact immediately. That individual will make an assessment whether a revision to the existing User Work Approval (UWA) document is needed.