Los Alamos National LaboratoryCenter for Space and Earth Science
Part of the National Security Education Center

Evaluation and Selection of CSES Proposals

High quality, cutting-edge science in the areas of astrophysics, space physics, solid planetary geoscience and Earth systems


  • Director
  • Reiner Friedel
  • (505) 665-1936
  • Email
  • Professional Staff Assistant
  • Sarah Balkey
  • (505) 667-8777
  • Email

New student and postdoc proposals

All new proposals undergo peer review by scientists in the broad research community who are familiar with the research topic. Numerical review criteria are used.

All proposals are evaluated on the basis of:

Category Weight
Scientific impact 15%
Mission impact 15%
Innovation and creativity 30%
Research approach 20%
Qualifications 20%

Guiding principles

  1. All CSES projects should be of the highest quality, with the potential to advance, if not transform, the frontiers of knowledge.
  2. CSES projects, in the aggregate, should contribute broadly to achieving Laboratory National Security goals, including alignment with the Science of Signatures strategic goals.
  3. Meaningful assessment and evaluation of CSES funded projects should be based on appropriate metrics, keeping in mind the likely correlation between the effect of broader impacts and the resources provided to implement projects.

Fundamental criteria

When evaluating CSES proposals, reviewers consider what the proposers want to do, why they want to do it, how they plan to do it, how they will know if they succeed and what benefits would accrue if the project is successful.

These issues apply both to the technical aspects of the proposal and the way in which the project may make broader contributions.

Reviewers are asked to evaluate all proposals against two fundamental criteria.

  1. Intellectual merit: encompasses the potential to advance knowledge
  2. Broader impacts: encompasses the potential for strengthening and advancing the Laboratory's national security mission capabilities and anticipating future challenges

Elements considered during review

  • What is the potential for the proposed activity to:
    • Scientific impact: Advance knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields; and
    • Mission impact: Contribute to and strengthen the Laboratory longterm scientific strategic mission or advance desired national security outcomes?
  • Innovation and creativity: To what extent do the proposed activities suggest and explore creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts?
  • Research Approach: Is the plan for carrying out the proposed activities well reasoned, well organized and based on a sound rationale? Does the plan incorporate a mechanism to assess success?
  • Qualifications: How well qualified is the individual, team or institution to conduct the proposed activities?


Numerical scoring for each element spans between 0 and 5.

5.0 Outstanding in all respects, failure to support would be a strategic mistake. A 5.0 is an essentially perfect proposal.
4.0 High quality in nearly all respects and should be supported if at all possible. Identifiable, though non-critical weaknesses may be present.
3.0 Good proposal that is definitely worthy of support, even given other demands on discretionary Laboratory resources. Scores significantly below 3.0 are not worthy of CSES funding. Exposition may lack significant details.
2.0 Lacking in one or more critical aspects. Innovation and/or impact is expected to be weak. Team or approach is unlikely to overcome challenges. Key issues not recognized. Displays a lack of appreciation for major challenges.
1.0 Serious deficiencies render the proposal uninteresting (innovation and/or impact) or implausible (team or approach).

A “0” is grounds for disqualification.

Who reviews

In each discipline area the review team is composed of the Focus leads and their team, augmented by 2-3 external reviewers, who could be drawn from the External Advisory Panel in the Absence of a conflict of interest only.

CSES’s advisory committee is comprised of subject matter experts, primarily from academia.

Renewals, reporting

Every multi year project will be required to present a technical seminar on the project and its progress every year, toward the end of the fiscal year. This seminar is attended by the CSES director and the respective Focus lead, and serves as the final report for continuing projects