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Call for Proposals

FY 2019
Laboratory Directed Research and Development
(LDRD) 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 FY2019 LDRD program will have three funding tracks for proposals. Please note that these tracks are not in order of priority and are as follows:

  • Lab-wide Initiative
  • Area-Initiative
  • Early Career Development

The Lab-wide Initiative Track
Proposals in the Lab-wide 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 those topics of strategic importance which cut across several Laboratory Areas. These proposals will be submitted to one of five strategic initiatives:

  • Advanced Biogenics Chemicals and Materials
  • Machine Learning for Science
  • Water-Energy Nexus

Proposals outside of the topics listed above that support other potential Lab-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-wide 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-wide Initiative proposals will be reviewed in two rounds: First by a committee formed and managed by the Initiative Review Lead (see table below), and then 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-wide Initiative Review Leads will organize and manage the first round of reviews, including selection of other experts for the review committee.

For the second round of reviews, a selected set of related Lab-wide 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-wide Initiative track, will be automatically reviewed via the Area Initiative track.

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

  • Biosciences
  • Computing Sciences
  • Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • Energy Sciences
  • Energy Technologies
  • 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 reviews 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.

Early Career Development Track
The intent of the Early Career Development (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 a 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. A maximum funding amount not to exceed $225,000 per PI will be allocated.

PIs should have no more than five years of experience past their Ph.D. as of October 1, 2018. PIs should have a scientific job title (career or career track, research scientist or staff scientist) as of October 1, 2018. 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 the program goals of the Lab and the DOE. Thus, the ALD 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. FY19 Lab-wide Initiatives

As described above, new Lab-wide Initiative proposals will be considered, especially those aligned with one of the topics of the Lab Strategic Plan. These initiatives are listed below in alphabetical order:

Advanced Biogenics Chemicals and Materials: 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.

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 of importance to Berkeley Lab. New projects are encouraged in areas that develop foundational advances in machine learning focused on addressing specific scientific challenges and those that represent new science directions.

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 understanding of water distribution under extreme events and future climate conditions and implications for energy strategies; 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

Initiative Topic LDRD Lab-wide Initiative Review Lead(s)
Advanced Biogenics Chemicals and Materials Peter Fischer and Jay Keasling
Machine Learning for Science Jonathan Carter and Kathy Yelick
Water-Energy Nexus Peter Fiske

III. FY19 Area Initiatives

The Area Initiative 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, including ones that explore new “superfacility” drivers; ii) new mathematics that enable increasing capability in modeling and analysis; iii) new models of programming and systems software for resilience, security, productivity; and iv) design and evaluation of new computer architectures for increased performance beyond transistor scaling.

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, plus building and city scale resilience; 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); (v) Energy Efficient Electronics for Beyond Moore’s Law: New concepts, manufacturability, public-private partnerships, vi) Transforming transport, storage, conversion and utilization of heat (HEATER)

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) novel technical capabilities: especially microelectronics, semiconductor detectors, “Quantum Information Science” sensors, superconducting magnets.

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 Electron-Ion Collider (EIC), the Stage 4 Cosmic Microwave Background project (CMB S4), long baseline neutrino experiments, ton-scale neutrino-less double-beta decay experiments, high power lasers, and other opportunities.

IV. Detailed Requirements and Review Process

Proposals must include a:

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 FY19 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. Site Support overhead estimate should be included as a separate line item as applicable.

V. Schedule and Support

The nominal schedule for the FY 2019 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:

FY 2019 Laboratory Directed R&D (LDRD) Proposal Schedule »