Grant Application Guide
Application Receipt and Processing
Upon receipt of an application, the Office of Science receiving office determines whether the document contains the prescribed information, has been approved by an official authorized to sign for the applicant organization and falls under the scientific scope of the Office of Science Financial Assistance Program.
After this preliminary review, copies of the application are forwarded to the appropriate program office for further review to determine if the application contains sufficient technical/scientific information to conduct an evaluation; meets program policies and priorities, and does not duplicate or overlap currently funded research projects. Applications shall be acknowledged to the applicant in writing by the SC program office generally within one week of receipt. This acknowledgement usually advises the applicant of the SC staff member responsible for conducting the merit review of the application.
Program staff may return an application which does not include all information and documentation required by statute, 10 CFR Part 605, 10 CFR Part 600, and the Funding Opportunity Announcement when the nature of the omission precludes review of the application. However, if an application contains most of the information required, the missing information may be requested from the applicant so that it can be processed. During the review of a complete application, the Office of Science may request the submission of additional information only if the information is essential to evaluate the application.
New and renewal applications meeting the above standards will be subjected to formal merit review and will be evaluated against the following criteria which are listed in descending order of importance as set forth in 10 CFR Part 605:
|1. Scientific and/or technical merit or the educational benefits of the project;
|2. Appropriateness of the proposed method or approach;
|3. Competency of applicant's personnel and adequacy of proposed resources;
|4. Reasonableness and appropriateness of the proposed budget; and<
|5. Other appropriate factors, established and set forth in a notice of availability or in a specific solicitation.
For renewal applications, the Office of Science also shall consider the recipient's performance under the existing award.
Also, the Office of Science shall consider, as part of the evaluation, other available advice or information as well as program policy factors such as ensuring an appropriate balance among the program areas.
Merit Review Process
Project managers will review applications for technical/scientific merit and program policy factors. In addition, the project manager will submit applications generally to at least three qualified reviewers for evaluation, in addition to anyone having direct line authority over the project manager, including the selection official. Instructions to reviewers will include a reasonable length of time for responding to the request for a merit review. In those instances where three or more reviews are not obtained, the project manager must provide a written explanation to be retained in the official file. In the event that the project manager is a reviewer and is also the selection official, the decision shall be approved by the Director, Office of Science, or a designee. If no reviews are provided to the Office of Science by the selected qualified reviewers, any award must be justified on a non-competitive basis.
Such additional reviewers may be Federal employees (including those from the Office of Science that are neither the selecting official nor those in a direct line of supervision above the project manager) or non-Federal employees. Also, such additional reviewers will not include former employees of the project manager's immediate office, or anyone having had line authority over that immediate office, within the past one year.
All reviewers serve as advisors to the selecting official and their recommendations are not binding. All significant adverse recommendations will be addressed in writing by the project manager to the selecting official and retained in the official file.
In selecting additional reviewers, such additional reviewers shall not include anyone who, on behalf of the Federal Government, performed or is likely to perform any of the following duties for any of the applications:
|1. Providing substantial technical assistance to the applicant;
|2. Approving/disapproving or having any decision-making role regarding the application;
|3. Serving as the project manager or otherwise monitoring or evaluating the recipient's programmatic performance;
|4. Serving as the Contracting Officer or performing business management functions for the project; or
|5. Auditing the recipient of the project.
Anyone in the Office of Science who has line authority over a person who is ineligible to serve as an additional reviewer because of the above limitations also is ineligible to serve as an additional reviewer.
It occasionally may be necessary, after the fact, to change project manager designation, thereby resulting in an individual who participated as an additional reviewer in the evaluation of an application being appointed as the project manager. This is not a violation of the policy of objective merit review, provided the assignment was not expected when the review was conducted.
In order to enhance the validity of the evaluation, applications may be evaluated in comparison to each other.
Generally, the Office of Science will conduct a merit review before every renewal unless, based upon a review by program staff and one of the criteria listed below, a written determination is made that a project need not be reviewed at each renewal. The project manager shall prepare the determination prior to the date a renewal would become effective, and the determination will be subject to the concurrence of the Office of Science Grants and Contracts Division and the approval of the Selecting Official. In no situation will a grant or cooperative agreement be renewed for more than six (6) years without a merit review. The criteria to be used as a basis for such a determination are as follows:
|1. Instances involving annual award;
|2. The nature of the project requires additional time for performance; or
|3. Instances where a final period of support is being authorized to provide reasonable time and funds sufficient to bring the project to an orderly close.
Merit reviews of ongoing programs include:
|1. A review of the renewal application generally by at least three
qualified reviewers who meet the requirements previously stated
and who document their findings and provide them to the program
|2. An on-site or off-site review of the scientific or technical
program attended generally by at least three qualified reviewers
who evaluate the program and provide their documented findings
to the program official.
In those instances where a merit review is not conducted prior to a renewal award, the renewal award is considered to be noncompetitive and must meet the requirements of 10 CFR 600.6(c).
The Office of Science utilizes various types of review mechanisms to accomplish a merit review; however, within each mechanism the reviewer is selected based upon his/her expertise and professional qualifications as they relate to the activities contained in the application. Each reviewer chosen to participate will be provided with a copy of the application, the evaluation criteria from 10 CFR 605.10, and other programmatic information needed to conduct the review. Based upon his/her review of these documents, the reviewer is expected to provide the project manager with a written analysis based on the pertinent evaluation criteria and other program information for each application. The types of review mechanisms used by the Office of Science and the situations in which they are used follow:
a. Merit review of applications may be obtained by using field readers to whom applications are sent for review and comment. Field readers also may be used as an adjunct to review committees when, for example, the type of expertise needed or the volume of applications to be reviewed requires such auxiliary capacity.
b. Appropriate action should be taken by Office of Science project managers to ensure that field readers clearly understand the process, their role, and the criteria upon which the applications are to be evaluated.
c. For those situations in which a standing committee is determined to be the appropriate review mechanism, but a group of field readers must be used instead, it should function as nearly like a committee as possible. For example, if all members of the standing committee were to evaluate all of the applications under review, then all field readers must receive all of the applications to be reviewed even though they are in geographically separate locations; and all field readers should be instructed to follow the procedures established for evaluating the applications.
a. The determination whether it is appropriate to establish and use a standing committee(s) shall be made only by the Office of Science. Standing committees are normally appropriate when required by legislation or when the following conditions prevail:
(1) A number of applications on specific topics sufficient to justify the use of a standing committee(s) is received by the program on a regular basis in accordance with a predetermined review schedule;
(2) There is a sufficient number of persons with the required expertise who are willing and able to accept appointments; serve over reasonably protracted periods of time; and convene at regularly scheduled intervals or at the call of the chairperson; and
(3) The legislative authority for the particular program(s) involved extends for more than one year.
b. Persons outside the cognizant program office shall constitute at least half the reviewers on such committees unless a deviation from this requirement has been approved.
a. Ad hoc review committees may not exceed one year in duration and are appropriately used when use of a standing committee is not feasible or when one of the following conditions prevails:
1. An on-site or off-site review of the scientific or technical program is being conducted;
2. A small number of applications is received on an intermittent basis, or applications are received through an open solicitation period, generally for a period up to about one year;
3. The program is one of limited duration, usually less than one year;
4. The applications to be reviewed have been solicited to meet a specific program objective and cannot appropriately be reviewed by a standing committee because of subject matter, time constraints, or other limitations;
5. The volume of applications received necessitates convening an additional committee(s) of available reviewers; or
6. It is determined that applications submitted have special review requirements, e.g., construction of a facility; the complexity of subject matter cuts across the areas of expertise of two or more standing committees; or the subject matter is of a special, nonrecurring nature.
b. Ad hoc committees may not be used for reviewing applications for any program for which a standing committee has been established unless a deviation is approved.
Upon request, applicants will be provided with a summary of the evaluation of their application.
Reviewers must comply with the requirements found in the DOE Merit Review Guide for
Financial Assistance concerning conflict of interest.
A committee or group of field readers includes as reviewers any individuals who cannot meet these requirements or the program's review procedures, with regard to a particular application being reviewed, and operates as follows:
|1. These individuals or officials may not review, discuss, and/or
make a recommendation on an application(s) in which they have
a conflict of interest.
|2. In the case of a review committee, the committee member must absent himself or herself from the committee meeting during the review and discussion of the application(s) in which he/she has a conflict of interest.|
In any instance in which the Office of Science "Merit Review System" is not to be used to review an application, group of applications, or class of applications, written prior approval for utilization of a different procedure, which itself must, to the extent possible, conform to the Office of Science policy pertaining to merit review, must be obtained from the Director, Grants and Contracts Division, Office of Science. If the deviation sought applies to a class of applications and constitutes a deviation from the requirements of 10 CFR Part 600, approval for deviation must be obtained. If such request for deviation is approved, all details of the review procedure utilized and the proceedings and determination will be fully documented.
Selection of applications for award will be done by the authorized Office of Science selecting official and will be based upon merit review, the importance and relevance of the proposed project to the Office of Science missions, and funding availability. Cost reasonableness and realism will also be considered to the extent appropriate. The applicant will be advised of this decision and may be asked to submit additional details or a revised budget. Plans for getting the project underway may be firmed up at this time. Such actions are not a commitment that the Office of Science will make award.
DOE will issue a Notice of Financial Assistance Award (NFAA) (DOE Form 4600.1) signed by the Contracting Officer. No commitment of funds may be made until the NFAA has been received by the applicant.
If, on the other hand, it is decided that the application will not be supported, the applicant will be so notified.
Upon receipt of a written request, the Office of Science will provide applicants with a summary of the evaluation of their application. However, until a decision is announced, no information can be provided on the probability of support.
Applications shall be evaluated for funding generally within 6 months but, in any event, no later than 12 months from the date of receipt by the Office of Science.
DOE reserves the right to fund, in whole or in part, any, all, or none of the applications submitted.
Grants awarded are subject to the requirement that the maximum DOE obligation to the recipient is the amount obligated in the NFAA (DOE Form 4600.1). The Office of Science shall not be obligated to make any additional, supplemental, continuation, renewal or other award for the same or any other purpose.
Withdrawals and Declinations
1. Withdrawals: An applicant may withdraw an application at any time before a final decision is made by DOE. An official request for withdrawal to DOE must include the signatures of both the Principal Investigator and the Authorized Organizational Representative. DOE will send confirmation of the withdrawal request. DOE does not normally return the copies of the withdrawn application to the applicant, but does retain a file copy.
2. Declinations: When DOE determines an application will not be funded, DOE will send a declination letter to the applicant advising that support will not be provided. This letter, which includes reasons for the declination, will be addressed to the Principal Investigator with a copy to the Authorized Organizational Representative.