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Proposal Review Process

Proposal Submissions

LaserNetUS encourages scientists from diverse fields to propose experiments utilizing the consortium’s wide-ranging capabilities. International Principal Investigators are welcome. We recommend that scientists describe well-posed experiments. Proposals must include brief discussions of the expected scientific or technological impact and anticipated feasibility and probability of success of experiments. Proposals that include a clear description of the expected schedule, indicating the scope, have a better chance of being selected.

Proposal Template

Effective Cycle 5, LaserNetUS proposals must be prepared using the official template. The format and detailed guidelines are intended to assist new applicants with preparing a competitive proposal as well as standardizing the proposal review process. A modified version of the LaserNetUS proposal template is required for Joint Research Initiative: Cycle 6B proposals and should be downloaded using the button below.

The proposal is still limited to 6 pages in PDF format, not including four appendixes:

  • (I) References;
  • (II) Tentative Research Team;
  • (III) Technical Parameter Table; and
  • (IV) Target Support Request.

Proposal Guidelines and Required Content

  • Provide a descriptive title of your proposed experiment that you would be willing to be make public if awarded facility time.

  • Character Limit: 1,900

    Provide an abstract that concisely summarizes the proposed experiment. Emphasize the hypothesis to be tested, expected scientific results and impact. Indicate the observables to be measured (or the relevant experimental approach), samples to be studied etc. State the primary LaserNetUS facility.

  • Character Limit: 2,000

    This should briefly introduce the topic including essential background, context, and references for a general, non-expert audience.

    Consider the following questions to guide your writing:

    • What is the topical area?
    • What is the scientific importance of this topic and potential societal impact?
    • What is the current state of knowledge, and where are the significant knowledge gaps or outstanding questions (and why)?

  • Character Limit: 4,000
    Recommended: 1 figure

    Focus on the scientific (or technical) objectives of the proposed experiments. This section should be highly detailed however it is important that it is thoroughly referenced such that reviewers from a related research area have adequate information to assess this work in the context of the topical area.

    Use the following questions to guide your writing:

    • What is the hypothesis to be tested, or what essential question is to be addressed in these experiments?
    • What are the experimental observables, and how will these observables address the main scientific (or technical) objectives of the proposal? Modeling and/or prior results that can quantify the expected observables should be presented wherever possible – see “feasibility” section below.
    • Describe how the experiment has been designed using theory, simulations, or previous work
    • What measurements are required for the proposed experiment to be considered a success? If successful, what will be the impact on your topical area?
    Provide a roadmap for the analysis and interpretation of the experimental measurements to answer the hypothesis/essential questions of this experiment. Consider including a description of the role of theory, simulations, or analysis methods post-experiment.

  • Experimental Details Character Limit: 2,000
    Recommended: 1 figure

    Proposals must contain sufficient information for LaserNetUS facility scientists to review the proposal for technical feasibility and/or suitability at the primary and secondary LaserNetUS facility. We strongly recommend that you contact the Point of Contact (POC) at your primary and secondary facility to schedule a meeting to discuss with the facility scientist(s) before proposal submission to discuss capabilities and to identify possible problems in integrating external equipment with the LaserNetUS facility and to determine possible solutions.
    Note that additional experimental details of short-listed or awarded experiments will be requested at a later date. Thus, very fine details of the experiment do not need to be captured within the main proposal.

    We make every effort to award experiments at the primary facility as we understand it is difficult to design and write a proposal that covers the complexities and differences at two different LaserNetUS facilities within the 6-page limit. The PRP will rank a proposal for the primary facility that was requested and will only consider it at the secondary facility if it was not competitive at the primary facility. If a proposal was not competitive at the primary or secondary facility, the PRP may recommend an alternative facility if available. In this case, the Spokesperson may accept or decline the transfer to the alternative facility. 

    Questions which will be used in the evaluation of the proposal:

    • What is the primary and secondary LaserNetUS facility?
    • Why is the primary LaserNetUS facility essential for this experiment? Be specific about the most important (unique) capabilities, instrumentation, expertise, partnerships, etc. that will enable the proposed experiment.
    • What is the experimental set-up and/or procedure?
    Consider the following additional questions, as applicable, to guide your writing: 
    • What previous experiments or development work has been performed? Describe any preliminary results, simulations, designs, or supporting experiments.
    • What are the key elements of the proposed experimental set-up which are required for the successful execution of the experiment?
    • If your proposed work relies on high-repetition rate to obtain a statistically significant measurement, what are the anticipated data rates?
    • What additional key equipment (i.e., equipment that is not presently available at the LaserNetUS facility) is needed, including laser, detector, sample delivery/environment, temperature, pressure, etc.? What are the plans and timeline for securing this additional equipment (e.g., through collaboration, upcoming purchases)?
    •  How soon do you anticipate being ready for the experiment if notified in Spring 2023? This information will be used for scheduling purposes only and will not impact the ranking of your proposal by the PRP.

  • Character Limit: 2,000
    Required: 1 setup schematic, 1 table describing experiment schedule

    Briefly describe the experiment setup or geometry. Provide a schematic diagram including key equipment and laser beam paths. The Point of Contact at each LaserNetUS facility can provide additional information and recommendations if assistance is required.

    Each facility has table of key laser parameters on the LaserNetUS website: Describe the required laser parameters such as wavelength, focal spot quality, repetition rate, pulse contrast, pulse energy, and pulse duration required for the proposed experiment. If anything beyond the parameters listed in the parameter table are required (e.g. polarization, bandwidth, chirp, etc.), provide a detailed description. Specify any timing and synchronization requirements.    

    Describe the targets and/or samples which will be used. Include any non-standard sample preparation, storage, or alignment that is required.

    Describe any additional resources required (e.g., access to local facilities, labs, advanced testing, unique sample preparation, delivery storage requirement)

    Describe any known risks which may prevent the successful execution of the proposed experiment such as sourcing targets, equipment (e.g., availability of equipment that will be loaned from another institution), or materials (e.g., new/untested manufacturer, long lead times). Are there any potential changes in personnel availability (e.g., PhD student graduating) during Cycle 5 which determine when the experiment could be performed?

    Provide a table outlining the experiment schedule. The typical experiment duration awarded by LaserNetUS varies by facility – please discuss the number of days/shifts that should be requested for your experiment with the facility Point of Contact prior to submitting the proposal.

  • Character Limit: 2,500

    This section should provide an overview of the joint research initiative, detailing the roles and responsibilities of the User Principal Investigator (PI) and Facility Co-PI.

  • Character Limit: 2,000

    Workforce development and expanding the scientific ecosystem around the use of high-power lasers are key missions of LaserNetUS. In this section, we would like you to provide context for how the proposed work supports these values.

    Questions which may be used in the PRP’s evaluation of the proposal:

    • Does this proposal provide academic or training opportunities to students or early career researchers? If so, are the results of the proposed experiments for a thesis project?
    • What is the intended audience for these results? What is the venue or format that the experimental results will be shared?
    • Describe how this proposal will increase or sustain community interest in the topical area (e.g. follow up experiments, new funding applications/research programs)?
    • To what extent does this proposal engage underrepresented groups or institutions?
    Other questions you can consider, if applicable:
    • Does this proposal engage with a new research group or institution that has not previously been involved with LaserNetUS?
    • To what extent will the project enhance the scientific, technical, or engineering infrastructure of LaserNetUS and result in a potential asset for the larger community?
    • Is the proposed work from a topical area which has not yet been awarded time through LaserNetUS? 
    • Is the proposed experiment part of a larger project or program (e.g., NNSA Center of Excellence, Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD), multi-institutional agreements)

  • The proposal should be thoroughly referenced. References should be numbered in the order in which they appear in the proposal in the following format [1], [4-7], [2, 3, 12-14].

  • Supporting Narrative Character Limit: 1,000 characters

    User support varies significantly at the various LaserNetUS facilities. In some cases, the technical feasibility of your proposal will depend on the number of on-site personnel and their previous experience. This table will be used by the facilities to assess the technical feasibility and likelihood of successfully executing the experimental goals. 

    Definitions of experiment participation:

    • On-site: individuals who will travel to the LaserNetUS facility to perform or supervise hands on work in the laboratory before or during the scheduled experiment
    • Remote support: can vary by team but may include individuals who perform remote data analysis, supervision, coordination, or observation
    • Not attending: individuals involved in other aspects such as pre-experiment design or post-experiment analysis and interpretation
    For the key personnel on the tentative research team (e.g., Lead-PI, personnel who will field primary diagnostics, overall supervision), provide 1-3 sentences detailing:
    • What is their role, responsibilities, or expected tasks?
    • Where or how did the individual obtain the experience necessary for the proposed experiment? Provide description or references to publications.
    • If applicable, what training or assistance will be required from the local facility personnel for their role, responsibilities, or expected tasks?
    Example: First Name Last Name (Lead-PI) e.g has previously designed and led short pulse experiments using the ALEPH and Titan lasers. They have extensive experience in developing laser-pulse contrast enhancement setups1,2 and the generation and characterization of high-harmonic sources.3 

    This list should exactly match the participants entered in the proposal submission portal. Please select from the following options for Career Level and Tentative Roll options:
    Career Level:
    1)     Undergraduate Student
    2)     Graduate Student
    3)     University Postdoctoral Researcher/Fellow/Scholar
    4)     University Research Associate
    5)     University Scientist
    6)     Laboratory Postdoctoral Researcher/Fellow/Scholar
    7)     Laboratory Research Associate
    8)     Laboratory Scientist
    9)     Assistant (Research) Professor
    10)  Associate (Research) Professor
    11)  (Research) Professor
    12)  Other

    Tentative Role:
    1)     Experimental
    2)     Theory and Simulations
    3)     Supervision and Coordination
    4)     Other (please specify)

  • While this is a duplication of information requested in the body of the proposal, it will be used as a quick reference during the proposal review process. Please capture the key elements and details of the experiment execution in this table. Feel free to update/add additional categories as needed.

  • Applicants can now request target fabrication support from the LaserNetUS Target Fabrication Node at the University of Michigan. In order to evaluate your request, it's essential that you provide detailed information that allows us to assess cost, complexity, lead times, and potential safety risks. The University of Michigan's role is primarily as an assembly lab with the ability to do high precision machining, component manufacturing, and procurement.

  • When submitting a proposal that is substantially similar to a previous proposal (declined or awarded LaserNetUS facility time), upload a summary of changes since last submission or a brief progress report; for the latter include proposal number(s), date(s) of experiment, instrument(s) used, a brief summary of how experiment time was used and results disseminated (list major invited talks, papers published or in press, awards, or special recognition).

Key Criteria for Joint Research Initiatives: Cycle 6B

  • This newly developed mode aims to strengthen collaboration between external users and LaserNetUS facility personnel, promote knowledge sharing, and accelerate innovation and discovery. This collaborative framework underscores LaserNetUS's commitment to fostering synergistic partnerships between external and facility researchers. All proposals must have Dual Principal Investigators (PIs) which both play an equal role in defining the scope and execution of the proposed research.
    • The User PI is responsible for initiating the Joint Research Initiative by contacting the listed Facility Point of Contact (POC). The User PI serves as the Spokesperson and is responsible for submitting the proposal.

    • The Facility Co-PI ensures the smooth execution of the experiment within the LaserNetUS facility. However, the LaserNetUS Point of Contact (POC) is responsible for the performance and operation of the facility, consistent with Standard LaserNetUS experiments.


  • Definition of Spokesperson and Principal Investigators (PIs)
    The ‘Spokesperson’ is the primary administrative contact for the proposed experiment. The ‘PIs’ typically conceives of the idea, designs the experiment, and leads the experimental team and analysis effort. In almost all cases, the Spokesperson and Lead PI are the same. 

  • Tentative Research Team
    A list of all participants that you expect to be involved in the proposed research is required. It should include students, designers/modelers, target fabrication technicians, etc. This information is collected in Appendix II - Tentative Research Team. This information is critical to assess if the team/collaboration has adequate experience and staffing levels are compatible with the support provided by the facility. 
  • Safety
    Safety related documents must be submitted during the safety management portion of the LaserNetUS proposal submission process in the user portal. List and describe any safety concerns that may arise with samples you will examine, equipment you will use, or techniques you will perform (including any physical, chemical or biological hazards) and how these issues will be addressed.
  • Cost
    There is no cost to submit proposals or conduct experiments. DOE provides access free of charge to users at all LaserNetUS sponsored facilities. Users are generally responsible for their own travel and target expenses as well as any extraordinary consumables required by the experiment.
  • Scientific Campaigns
    Proposals may be made in the context of a larger scope than can be covered in a single experiment. All proposals, even these broader proposals that address important problems, must be resubmitted each cycle in order to be peer reviewed and considered for facility time. However, in the absence of sufficient information to evaluate progress (data disseminated from previous facility time, publications, etc.), the PRP may recommend that some proposal(s) be postponed for consideration until a future review cycle.
  • Publication Record from Previous LaserNetUS Experiments
    In future calls, the PRP will pay particular attention to the applicants' publication record from prior LaserNetUS facility times. Failure to publish in a timely manner could impact the chances of a successful application in a similar area.
  • Resubmission
    Proposals can be re-submitted at each call, but this will not happen automatically and a re-submission will not receive preference during the review process.
  • Multiple Submissions
    Multiple submissions from the same team for similar experiments at different LaserNetUS facilities will not be considered. While there is no limit to the number of distinct proposals that can be submitted by a scientist or team, the Proposal Review Panel (PRP) may impose a relative advantage to the first-best proposal from each team.
  • Required Language
    Proposal teams must acknowledge the host institution and DOE Office of Science in presentations and publications using the template: "This work was supported by DOE Office of Science, Fusion Energy Sciences under Contract No. [LaserNetUS contract number from facility]: the LaserNetUS initiative at [Facility]," and any other acknowledgement required by the host institution.

Ready to Submit Your Proposal?

Submission Schedule

Cycle Type Proposal deadline Cycle begins Cycle ends Awards
1 LaserNetUS Standard proposal call Mar. 18, 2019 4pm PT July 2019 Dec. 2019 Cycle 1
2 LaserNetUS Standard proposal call Sept. 6, 2019 4pm PT Jan. 2020 Dec. 2020 Cycle 2
3 LaserNetUS Standard proposal call Dec. 11, 2020 4pm PT June 2021 June 2022 Cycle 3
4 LaserNetUS Standard proposal call Dec. 10, 2021 4pm PT July 2022 July 2023 Cycle 4
5 LaserNetUS Standard proposal call Dec. 21, 2022 4pm PT Sept. 2023 July 2024 Cycle 5
6A LaserNetUS Standard proposal call Dec. 12, 2023 4pm PT July 2024* July 2025  
6B LaserNetUS Joint Research Initiative proposal call Mar. 29, 2024, 4pm PT July 2024* July 2025  

*Earliest start date will depend on facility readiness and proposal feasibility.

LaserNetUS proposals are submitted through the LaserNetUS Portal which is operated by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. New users must register for a User Portal Account before they can submit a proposal – please note that if you already have a user account for facilities at SLAC (i.e. LCLS, SSRL, CryoEM), you do not need to make a new account. The proposal submission process will take approximately 30 minutes to complete including a safety management portion at the end. If you have any problems while submitting your proposal, please contact us.

Proposal Review Process

  1. Pre-Review / Conflict of Interest (COI) Stage

    PRP members review basic proposal information. Potential COI are identified and addressed by the Chair of the PRP.

  2. Initial Review Stage

    The Chair assigns 3 reviewers to each proposal and designates a primary and secondary reviewer. PRP members are required to read, at minimum, the abstract of all other proposals. Proposals are scored on Intellectual Merit (75%) and Broader Impact (25%).

  3. Final Review Stage

    Initial ranking by Chair based on reviews. Primary reviewers lead discussion of each proposal. New rank ordering and sorting by facility. Overall science mix assessed.

  4. Facility Feasibility Review

    The top ranked proposals for each facility will be sent to the Facility Directors for evaluation of technical feasibility.

  5. Final Decision

    PRP review and feasibility review integrated by PRP. Final list of awards submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Fusion Energy Sciences (FES). Decision letters emailed to each PI and facility Director.