The following excerpt is from the 2005 Committee of Visitors review of the Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences Division (CSGB) Catalysis Science Program (formerly known as the “Catalysis and Chemical Transformations” Program).
(a) Solicit, review, recommend, and document proposal actions
Reviewers are critical to unbiased and accurate evaluation of proposals.
The review process and associated documentation for actions were usually thorough and appropriate. However, there is room for improvement in review process.
To his credit, the Program Manager is using an informal database.
We were surprised by the paucity of reviewers from industry, given the obvious relevance of this topic.
The DOE is moving toward center or multi-PI interdisciplinary programs. It was not always apparent how the work in individual PI funded programs was distinct from that in multi-PI programs.
Continuity in Program Managers is essential for effective program. This has been particular problem with CCT until about three years ago.
The subpanel applauds the Program Manager for significant improvement in creating a coherent and vital program.
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Appendix E 2005 Committee of Visitors Review Excerpt The following excerpt is from the 2005 Committee of Visitors review of the Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences Division (CSGB) Ca- talysis Science Program (formerly known as the “Catalysis and Chemical Trans- formations” Program). C. FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE CATALYSIS AND CHEMICAL TRANSFORMATIONS SUBPANEL C.I. EFFICACY AND QUALITY OF THE PROGRAM’S PROCESSES (a) Solicit, review, recommend, and document proposal actions Findings: (1) Reviewers are critical to unbiased and accurate evaluation of proposals. (2) The review process and associated documentation for actions were usually thorough and appropriate. However, there is room for improvement in review process. (3) To his credit, the Program Manager is using an informal database. (4) We were surprised by the paucity of reviewers from industry, given the ob- vious relevance of this topic. (5) The DOE is moving toward center or multi-PI interdisciplinary programs. It was not always apparent how the work in individual PI funded programs was distinct from that in multi-PI programs. Comment: (1) Continuity in Program Managers is essential for effective program. This has been particular problem with CCT until about three years ago. (2) The subpanel applauds the Program Manager for significant improvement in creating a coherent and vital program. 113
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114 CATALYSIS FOR ENERGY Recommendations: (1) Mandate a request for a list of collaborators and others with a possible con- flict of interest as part of grant submission to assist in the selection of reviewers. (2) Mentors should be listed and not solicited for reviews. (3) Routinely request suggested and excluded reviewers from the PI. (4) We strongly recommend creation of a standardized database for reviewers, including: who proposals were sent to, who responded, reasons for not respond- ing (conflict of interest, unresponsive), areas of expertise, evaluation of objectiv- ity and quality of review, timeliness. The COV particularly calls out the inclu- sion of reviewers from industry. (5) Mechanisms should be developed to assure a diverse set of reviewers. The Program Manager should further develop a database that includes diversity. Use of reviewers from industry in catalysis is highly desirable and should be more widely implemented. (6) Develop a plan for continuity in program management so there are not sin- gle-point failure modes for vital programs (e.g., sudden departure of a Program Manager). (7) As the DOE moves toward center or multi-PI support, it is important to re- quire a section in the proposals on how any new or initiative-driven research relates to other funded research to avoid “double funding”. (8) Consider awarding renewals for longer than three years for exceptional pro- jects, in parallel with the policy for reduced-term renewals in less-compelling cases. (9) We recommend documenting telephone and verbal communications between PI’s, Program Managers, and national lab managers, especially when problems are identified. Further, there should be documentation of follow-up actions. (10) The subpanel sees no downside to providing verbatim reviewers’ comments to individual national lab PI’s. (11) A more formal mechanism for putting national lab scientists on notice for termination is needed. (b) Monitor active projects and programs Findings: (1) The institution of regular contractors meetings has had a positive impact on the overall program. This appears to be one of the main mechanisms for the Program Manager to monitor active progress. (2) While there is currently a well-defined format for annually reporting on pro- gress, it was not clear how the Program Manager was using this tool (e.g., there was some indication that not all PIs were fully compliant).
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115 APPENDIX E Recommendations: (1) Consider holding the contractors meetings at other national meetings to con- serve travel expenses? (2) Examine the efficacy of the annual reporting process. C.II. EFFECT OF THE AWARD PROCESS ON PORTFOLIOS (a) the breadth and depth of portfolio elements Findings: (1) The CCT program supports outstanding science. (2) The subpanel applauds the Program Manager’s efforts to evolve the portfolio elements by responding to (a) community opinions of emerging areas, (b) rec- ommendations resulting from Contractors Meetings, summaries from Council on Chemical Sciences and BESAC workshops, (c) proposal pressure, (d) reading of literature and attending scientific meetings. (3) The portfolio has evolved towards addressing some of the most challenging aspects of catalysis science. Of particular note is the recent Catalysis Science Initiative. (4) Some improvements are needed to better inform and focus Program Manag- ers on emerging new areas, needs, and opportunities. (5) It was apparent to the subpanel that the Program Managers do not have suffi- cient funds for travel to even a few national conferences. More active participa- tion at scientific meetings would be desirable to accelerate evolution of the port- folios, as well as improve proposal referee base. (6) The subpanel is concerned with the lack of transparency as regards the ad- ministration of funding for PI’s with joint national lab-university appointments. The Program Manager does not appear to be able to use all the program man- agement tools employed for other programs. There appears to be confusion and an accompanying skepticism among the general community as regards the size of individual grants, especially for scientists with university appointments. We found it difficult to ascertain the funds provided to individual PI’s from the ma- terial provided to us. Comment: (1) Recommendations from attendees at Contractors Meetings could be self- serving to those currently funded. CCS and BESAC workshops are initiated largely by those other than PM’s. Recommendations: (1) Workshops should be an efficient and effective means to evolve the Program Manager’s portfolio. For example, the Program Managers should have access to suggesting and organizing informal, focused workshops (e.g., Council on
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116 CATALYSIS FOR ENERGY Chemical Sciences). More extensive involvement of non-DOE funded (and non- US) participants would infuse new perspectives and allow a less conflicted set of recommendations. (2) Mechanisms should be put in place for Program Managers to attend scien- tific meetings, together with more travel funds, to make the Program Managers more visible and involved in science that they manage, as well as expose them to new thrusts. (3) A more transparent reporting should be provided the COV for each PI’s funding for DOE national lab-university PI’s, consistent with that for university PI’s not affiliated with a DOE national lab. (b) the national and international standing of the portfolio elements Finding: (1) The DOE CCT program is the nation’s leading program in catalysis, well represented with national and international awards, ACS awards, National Academy of Sciences memberships, etc. Comments: (1) For technologically driven research aimed at bringing science to the market- place, the desirability of multi-investigator, multi-disciplinary funding is well recognized. However, the field of chemical sciences still finds a unique place for the single investigator grant. Through the commitment of time, unfettered by negotiation and administration of a collaborative effort, can a chemist devote the single-minded concentration necessary to perceive, plan, pursue, and solve a problem of singular significance. (2) Regarding the level of funding of single investigators, funding at the level currently offered through the DOE BES program for single investigator grants poses a significant risk to the maintenance of the excellence that the program has enjoyed. Ideally, funding should allow for the support of at least two, and preferably three persons (post-doctoral or graduate students) per year if the pro- gram is going to attract and retain the best PI’s. Failure to maintain this level of support will lead to a natural attrition of the very best PI’s as they could seek more substantial funding elsewhere. This could lead ultimately to a lessening of the impact of the science accomplished within BES.