Technology Laboratory (NETL) and other national laboratories, with smaller proportions allocated to program management, selected activities at other federal agencies, graduate research fellowships, and technology transfer (Allison, 2008). The process used by the Program to call for external research proposals and grant support for research projects, to evaluate the progress of individual research projects, and to communicate the scientific results of the projects is examined briefly in the following section.

In its review and assessment of this process, the committee took three issues into consideration: (1) the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) authorized role in identifying, facilitating, and coordinating methane hydrate research; (2) the very fundamental nature of much of the research that the Program supports; and (3) the external factors, particularly with field projects, that affect research progress but which may often be beyond DOE’s direct control.

Project Selection and Peer Review

The Program includes project selection and performance evaluation for procedures for two primary project types: cooperative agreements selected competitively through publicly announced funding opportunity announcements and those awarded directly through interagency agreements and national laboratory field work proposals (FWPs). Cooperative agreements are openly solicited and competed, and are evaluated on three main criteria: scientific and technical merit, technical approach, and technical and management capabilities. The review panel to examine proposals consists of both internal (Program) reviewers and external reviewers who are considered to be leading scientists within the methane hydrate community. Each reviewer conducts an independent assessment of the proposals, and external reviews are then used by the internal review team in their deliberations. Interagency agreements and FWPs, which typically account for one-fifth of the total program funding, are noncompetitive. They are negotiated directly with the research partner and do not go through an external review process (DOE/NETL, 2008).

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