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Call for Proposals Information
FY 2018 Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program

I. Overview

The purpose of the LDRD program is to encourage innovation, creativity, originality, and quality to keep the Laboratory’s research activities and staff at the forefront of science and technology.

The FY2018 LDRD program will have three funding tracks for proposals:

A) Lab-Initiative track,
B) Area-Initiative track, and
C) Early Career Development track.

A) The Lab-Initiative Track

Proposals in the Lab-Initiative track should foster the development of new teams and activities in fields that directly support the high level strategic goals of the Laboratory ( The intent of this track is to ensure that appropriate review is provided for topics of strategic importance which cut across several Laboratory Areas

These proposals will be submitted to one of five strategic initiatives:

  1. Water-Energy
  2. Beyond Moore's Law
  3. Machine Learning for Science
  4. Electron Microscopy
  5. Beyond Petrochemicals

Proposals outside of the topics listed above that support other potential Laboratory-wide strategic goals may be grouped together in an additional category titled “General”.

Principal Investigators (PIs) will indicate on their proposal submission that they wish to be reviewed via the Lab-Initiative funding track.


All proposals will be evaluated based on: i) their alignment with the Lab’s strategic initiatives, ii) the quality of the proposed research, iii) the ability to leverage the unique cross-area capabilities of the Laboratory, and iv) the uniqueness and novelty of the proposed project.

Lab-Initiative proposals will be reviewed in two rounds:

  1. First by a committee formed and managed by the Initiative Review Lead (see table below), and
  2. Second by the Scientific Division Directors, Associate Laboratory Directors, and Senior Lab management.

Both reviews will involve a combination of an evaluation of the written proposal and presentation(s) to a review team. The proposal text and presentation may be modified after the first round based on input from the review committee.

The LDRD Lab-Initiative Review Leads will organize and manage the first round of review, including selection of other experts for the review committee.

For the second round of review, a selected set of related Lab-Initiative proposals will be presented as a portfolio to a review committee of the Scientific Division Directors, Associate Laboratory Directors, and other Senior Lab management. For the second presentation, the Initiative Review Lead will also be responsible for a coordinated presentation of the proposals and may include one or more of the PIs.

Proposals that are considered scientifically competitive by the first review committee, but not well aligned with the Lab-Initiative track, will be automatically reviewed via the Area Initiative track.

B) The Area Initiative Track

Area Initiative track proposals will be accepted in each of the scientific Areas of the Lab:

  1. Biosciences,
  2. Computing Sciences,
  3. Earth and Environmental Sciences,
  4. Energy Sciences,
  5. Energy Technologies, and
  6. Physical Sciences


Area Initiative proposals will be evaluated based on their novelty and scientific quality, as well as the ability to introduce new research activities in areas important to one or more of the Scientific Divisions of the Lab. High-risk projects with the potential for significant scientific impact are strongly encouraged.

Follow-up proposals to previous year Laboratory Initiative projects should still be submitted and reviewed by the corresponding areas.

Multi-divisional and multi-area proposals are encouraged. These proposals should be submitted by the lead division/area, usually the PI’s division/area.


The Associate Laboratory Director and the Area specific Division Directors will review the proposals in their area; they may also include additional reviewers in the process. The PI will be involved in a single round of review involving the written proposal and follow-up to Area and Division management. The highly ranked Area Proposals will be presented by the relevant ALD or Division Director to the Lab Director and Deputy Lab Director for final ranking and funding level recommendations. For multi-area proposals, the submitting area ALD should seek input from the ALDs of the partner areas and present this input during the final presentation to the lab director.

C) Early Career Development Track

The Early Career Development (ECD) track is a new component of the LDRD program in FY 2018. The intent of the ECD track is to develop the future scientific workforce and prepare early career PIs for a successful scientific career. An ECD LDRD grant is intended to be a first opportunity for an early career scientist to develop PI experience at a national lab, and prepare for a DOE Early Career Grant application. Considering the future scientific workforce of Berkeley Lab, it is a goal of the laboratory to develop a diverse group of early career scientists and applications from underrepresented and other employee groups are very much encouraged.


PIs should have no more than five years of experience past their Ph.D. as of October 1, 2017. PIs should have a scientific job title (career or career track, research scientist or staff scientist) as of October 1, 2017. The topic of the proposed project should be consistent with the Area strategy, as well as create a strong basis for a future DOE Early Career grant application.

A typical proposal should consist of funding for up to 50% of an FTE for the PI, and additional funding for a postdoc, and/or students. It is expected that the early Career LDRD project will be independent from and carried out in parallel to their assigned work in their home Divisions.


Applying for this LDRD award invites early career scientists to start thinking strategically about their long term plans and how these plans fit into program goals of the Lab and the DOE. Thus, the Associate Laboratory Director and the Area specific Division Directors should encourage and mentor outstanding early career scientists to become ECD PIs in their area, paying particular attention to diversity and inclusion. Ongoing mentorship by the area or division will be essential for the success of the ECD PIs, thus ALDs/Division Directors should also prepare a mentoring plan for the PIs, and a mentoring plan should be submitted with the application.

ALDs and Division Directors will review the ECD proposals in their area; they may also include additional reviewers in the process. The ECD PIs will be involved in a single round of review involving the written proposal and possibly a presentation to Area and Division management. Each ALD should forward and recommend up to two ECD Proposals from their area.

The selected ECD proposals from all Areas will then be presented by their PIs to the Lab Director, Deputy Lab Director, and all ALDs for final ranking and funding level recommendations.

II. FY18 Lab-Initiatives

As described above, new Lab-Initiative proposals will be considered, especially those aligned with one of the topics of the Lab Strategic Plan:

Water-Energy: Recognizing that new paradigms are needed to quantify water-energy dependencies and to ensure water resiliency, we seek proposals that contribute to building a crosscutting Berkeley Lab Water initiative. Analogous to electricity, to ensure water resiliency, we must develop understanding and new approaches associated with water distribution, generation and storage. We thus seek proposals that focus on: improved hydroclimate prediction of water distribution; breakthrough solutions that lower the energy intensity and cost of desalination to generate water; revolutionary concepts to store and reuse water; and data science and systems analysis to enable optimized water resiliency solutions across large regions. More information about this initiative is at

Beyond Moore’s Law: We intend to fund proposals that address new paradigms of digital computing showing promise for scientific computations. DOE is a leader on the use of advanced computing techniques for both simulation and data analysis, but with transistor density improvements slowing, there is a growing interest in reimagining the digital computing paradigm starting from new materials and physical concepts, new architectures to novel technologies with new functionalities that could lead to unprecedented computing efficiency. Proposals are encouraged in the foundational areas for new computing models and algorithms for novel technologies, new materials and physical phenomena to reduce energy consumption in microelectronics as well as cross-area collaborations to demonstrate novel technologies and their relevance to scientific problems.

Machine Learning for Science: We encourage multi-disciplinary and multi-area teams of researchers to propose the use of advanced machine learning methods to analyze complex data sets that arise in science and applied energy applications. This is intended to broadly include statistical and mathematical methods, such as dimensionality reduction, clustering, regression, optimization and inference; it also includes deep learning methods that have proven effective on speech and image data. Proposers are encouraged to identify opportunities that combine advances in algorithms and use of high performance computing to address science challenges of importance to Berkeley Lab. Of particular interest are proposals that explore new and emerging areas such as multi-modal data from biology and the environment, materials data from observation and simulation, high end communication networks, or energy systems. In addition, we encourage proposals that take a new perspective on data analysis in cosmology, particle physics and other long-standing DOE analysis problems.

Electron Microscopy: We seek proposals from all divisions to develop and apply transformative electron microscopy and scattering techniques and approaches, with the ultimate aim of positioning Berkeley Lab to be a leader in emerging areas of electron microscopy in 21st century. Multi-disciplinary proposals that enhance the scientific reach of electron beam-based characterization across a range of length and time scales, combining techniques developed in the microscopy of hard, soft and biological matter, and leveraging the technological prowess and computational capabilities at the lab are particularly encouraged.

Beyond Petrochemicals: The production of many of our existing materials and chemicals is based on environmentally-harmful chemistry and petroleum as a feedstock. These materials have limited properties, and cannot be readily recycled or separated for reuse. Biology and other catalysts could be used to create new chemicals and materials with expanded properties from renewable feedstocks. Computational approaches will be needed to design these new chemicals and materials and to engineer catalysts (biological or otherwise) to produce them. This initiative seeks proposals that integrate computation, biology, chemistry and materials science to develop new chemicals and materials and routes for their synthesis.

Initiative Topic

LDRD Lab-Initiative Review Lead(s)


Peter Nico and Robert Kostecki

Beyond Moore’s Law

John Shalf and Sayeef Salahuddin

Machine Learning for Science

Jonathan Carter and Sudip Dosanjh

Electron Microscopy

Peter Denes and Jeff Neaton

Beyond Petrochemicals

Jay Keasling, Ali Belkacem, and Peter Fischer

III. FY18 Area Initiatives

The Area Initiatives LDRDs are encouraged in new “breakthrough” science areas. Within each Area, the particular research topics for which proposals are especially encouraged are:

  • Biosciences: i) Biological Dark Matter; ii) Modeling the biology: environment interface; iii) Integrated analysis from Molecular to Mesoscale; and iv) Molecules-to-Minds Program
  • Computing Sciences: i) new cross-divisional partnerships that use advanced computational and mathematical techniques to produce unique lab capabilities; ii) new mathematics that enable increasing capability in modeling and analysis; iii) new models of computation and systems software that increase productivity, reduce errors, or improve performance, security and resilience; and iv) new computational models to derive knowledge and insights from measured and modeled data sets, enabling the understanding of tradeoffs among resource and technology options, and identifying and quantifying the risks and impacts of current and emerging technologies on markets, the environment, and public policy.
  • Earth and Environmental Sciences: i) Dynamic biological-environmental interactions with climate extremes; ii) subsurface properties and dynamics; and iii) system resilience to climate change and natural hazards
  • Energy Sciences: novel theoretical and experimental approaches for: i) in situ and/or multimodal imaging and spectroscopic characterization techniques that expand time and length scales, ii) in situ and operando chemistry, iii) rational design of materials and material structures with potentially useful emergent phases, topologies, and quantum behaviors, iv) synthetic methods for novel chemicals and materials, and v) material systems with bio-inspired and bio-compatible functionalities.
  • Energy Technologies: i) Next Gen Grid: measurement, control, and communication techniques for energy and environmental systems, particularly, focused on next generation Grid and energy distribution; ii) Urban Systems: with a strong focus on buildings efficiency, dynamic and scaled energy efficiency in buildings; iii) EV Everywhere: next generation transportation: including low cost storage concepts; EVs as a part of the grid; integration of transportation with buildings; and, iv) Advanced Manufacturing: this will be a new focal point for this year and we are looking for proposals that will help establish LBL as a key player in the Manufacturing space, with a focus on energy systems (generation, storage, additive manufacturing, 3-D printing).
  • Physical Sciences: i) new scientific opportunities in particle physics and cosmology; ii) new opportunities in nuclear science; iii) advanced accelerator systems for colliders and other applications; iv) development of novel technical capabilities, especially microelectronics; semiconductor detectors, superconducting magnets and composite materials.

    An important priority for the Physical Sciences Area is to establish the technical capabilities for Berkeley Lab leadership roles in upcoming scientific opportunities identified in the Nuclear Physics Long Range Plan and the High Energy Physics P5 report. These include the high luminosity Large Hadron Collider (HL-LHC), the Electron-Ion Collider (EIC), the Stage 4 Cosmic Microwave Background project (CMB S4), a ton-scale neutrino-less double-beta decay experiments, k-BELLA and other opportunities.

IV. Detailed Requirements and Review Process

Proposals must include:

  1. Cover Sheet,
  2. Technical proposal (as described below),
  3. Budget Request form,
  4. NEPA/CEQA form,
  5. Human Subject and Animal Use form, and
  6. Intellectual Property forms

The technical proposal section may not exceed a maximum of three pages of text with up to one additional page for figures and references. Continuing project proposals must include within the three-page limit a statement of progress to date, detailed scope and deliverables for the current fiscal year, as well as prospects for follow-on funding.

Proposed work cannot supplement existing DOE projects, nor can it contain construction line items or maintenance activities. The expected duration of projects started in FY18 is two years, with a third year available in outstanding and exemplary circumstances.

Proposals should be prepared carefully following the given specifications and requirements available online at Detailed Proposal Guidance.


Budgets must include payroll burden, procurement burden and support burden, if applicable, along with scientific organization burden. General laboratory overhead (e.g., general and administrative overhead and site support) estimate should be included as a separate line item.

V. Schedule and Support

The nominal schedule for the FY 2018 cycle is posted - see LDRD Review Schedule. Final detailed scheduling of the review period and any presentations will be arranged by the ALD and/or Lab Director’s offices.

Investigators should work with their divisional or Area support staff to prepare their LDRD proposals. Administrative questions on LDRD may be addressed to Darren Ho (

For additional information about the purpose and implementation of the LDRD program at Berkeley Lab, please click this link:

Information about the Laboratory LDRD proposal submission and review process can be found at: