For researchers whose proposals are unsuccessful in attracting funding in this first competition, DOE should make a special effort to encourage their continued participation by providing written feedback (e.g., written reviews and summaries of panelist comments) that will help improve their future submissions to the program. The EMSP activity is fragile, and DOE needs to take special care not to discourage well-qualified and competent researchers in this formative stage. DOE should continue and even expand its outreach efforts to improve the understanding and appreciation of the magnitude of EM problems and EM research priorities by the national and even international scientific and technical communities. As noted earlier, the committee will address outreach activities in a future report.

FY 1997 PROGRAM

The EMSP has been jointly implemented by the DOE Offices of Environmental Management and Energy Research, but it is not yet clear to the committee what the long-term management structure of the program will be. The committee views this partnership between EM and ER as being vital to the long-term success of the EMSP, because it combines ER's expertise in research selection and management with EM's knowledge of cleanup problems and research needs. In the committee's view, the program should continue to build on the strengths of these two DOE offices to identify meritorious long-term research that is relevant to the EM cleanup mission.

The FY 1997 program plan will be a major—and perhaps the defining—step in shaping the scope and ensuring the success of the EMSP. Consequently, the committee strongly recommends that DOE postpone, until later this year, the release of the 1997 proposal solicitation11 until it has had time to identify and incorporate the “lessons learned” from the FY 1996 proposal competition and to think more carefully, using the advice of this committee where appropriate, about how the program should be structured and managed.

As it develops FY 1997 program plans, DOE also needs to think carefully about funding levels. The committee believes that level funding is a minimum requirement to establish a stable, long-term research program that attracts highly relevant proposals from the nation's top researchers

11  

The committee learned at its May meeting that DOE intends to issue the FY 1997 program notice in September.



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BUILDING AN EFFECTIVE ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SCIENCE PROGRAM:: INITIAL ASSESSMENT For researchers whose proposals are unsuccessful in attracting funding in this first competition, DOE should make a special effort to encourage their continued participation by providing written feedback (e.g., written reviews and summaries of panelist comments) that will help improve their future submissions to the program. The EMSP activity is fragile, and DOE needs to take special care not to discourage well-qualified and competent researchers in this formative stage. DOE should continue and even expand its outreach efforts to improve the understanding and appreciation of the magnitude of EM problems and EM research priorities by the national and even international scientific and technical communities. As noted earlier, the committee will address outreach activities in a future report. FY 1997 PROGRAM The EMSP has been jointly implemented by the DOE Offices of Environmental Management and Energy Research, but it is not yet clear to the committee what the long-term management structure of the program will be. The committee views this partnership between EM and ER as being vital to the long-term success of the EMSP, because it combines ER's expertise in research selection and management with EM's knowledge of cleanup problems and research needs. In the committee's view, the program should continue to build on the strengths of these two DOE offices to identify meritorious long-term research that is relevant to the EM cleanup mission. The FY 1997 program plan will be a major—and perhaps the defining—step in shaping the scope and ensuring the success of the EMSP. Consequently, the committee strongly recommends that DOE postpone, until later this year, the release of the 1997 proposal solicitation11 until it has had time to identify and incorporate the “lessons learned” from the FY 1996 proposal competition and to think more carefully, using the advice of this committee where appropriate, about how the program should be structured and managed. As it develops FY 1997 program plans, DOE also needs to think carefully about funding levels. The committee believes that level funding is a minimum requirement to establish a stable, long-term research program that attracts highly relevant proposals from the nation's top researchers 11   The committee learned at its May meeting that DOE intends to issue the FY 1997 program notice in September.

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BUILDING AN EFFECTIVE ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SCIENCE PROGRAM:: INITIAL ASSESSMENT and notes with concern that the FY 1997 funding request for this program is only $38 million,12 $12 million less than is available in FY 1996 (see footnote 2). The committee strongly recommends that DOE seek to increase the budget for this program to FY 1996 levels, recognizing that the additional funds are likely to be redirected from existing programs within DOE-EM. In its future meetings and reports, the committee will address several issues of direct relevance to development of the FY 1997 EMSP, including the following: Articulation of research needs: The committee's statement of task directed it to advise DOE on additional areas of research that should be included in the FY 1997 program announcement. In view of the committee's recommendation that the DOE postpone the release of the program notice until later this year, the committee has decided to defer the consideration of this question to a future report in order to provide additional time for information gathering and deliberation. The committee plans to provide advice to the DOE on ways to identify and articulate its research needs in the program notice. Outreach to the research community: As noted earlier, the committee will consider ways in which DOE can improve outreach—both long and short term—to the research community and thereby improve the quality and relevance of the proposals submitted to the program. Program management: The committee will explore various models for managing the EMSP, drawing on the experiences of other federal and nonfederal institutions that manage “mission-linked” research programs. Such models might include field management with procurement authority, centers of excellence, consortia, and other cooperative arrangements. Additionally, the committee will consider the usefulness of advisory committees to keep the program focused and relevant to the long-term needs of the cleanup mission. The committee will consider the role of program management for ensuring that the program's research portfolio reflects an appropriate balance of problems, approaches, and levels of risk. Proposal evaluation: The committee will consider ways in which DOE can improve its evaluation of proposals through “scientific merit” and “mission relevance” reviews in order to identify projects that are likely to provide the greatest long-term payoffs to the cleanup mission. 12   Communication from Dr. Carol Henry, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Science nd Technology, DOE.