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Applications for awards from the NRC Research Associateship Programs are reviewed by panels of experts in broad discipline areas: Chemistry; Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; Engineering, Applied Sciences, and Mathematics; Life Sciences; and Physics. Each application is read by a minimum of 3 panelists. Panelists assess the quality of an application, the likelihood for success, and the contribution of the research to the mission of the sponsoring federal laboratory. Postdoctoral applicants are evaluated on the basis of demonstrated ability as a student and on their potential for making contributions as an independent scientist. Senior applicants are evaluated on the basis of proven ability and demonstrated research accomplishments. Evaluations are made without regard to age, sex, marital status, national origin, creed, racial group, or ethnic group.

Each panelist will assign a numerical score based on a number of factors (see below). The applicant’s final score is an average of all reviews. Scoring is on a 100-point scale; only applicants scoring 60 or above can be considered for awards. Sponsoring laboratories offer awards to the highest scoring applicants first and continue to make awards until available slots are filled.

In the review process each applicant is evaluated on the following elements:

Academic and Research Record
Panelists review the appropriateness of the applicant’s training for the proposed research:

  • Educational background (degrees, transcripts*, honors and awards)
  • Previous research experience (including thesis research)
  • Publications and presentations
*Senior applicants are not required to submit transcripts.

Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation contain letters and opinions of persons who should have had a close professional relationship with an applicant; letter writers provide reviewers with important information regarding the applicant's scholarly abilities particularly as it pertains to the proposed research.

Scientific Merit of the Proposed Research
The proposal is evaluated for the following:

  • Clarity of objectives and methodology
  • Technical/innovative quality of the work plan
  • Feasibility of success in the proposed timeframe
  • Qualifications of the applicant relative to the proposed research

Host Laboratory/Center Review
The Laboratory/Center Review form includes comments from the prospective Adviser and the disposition of the Laboratory/Center's program committee or representative concerning the importance of the proposed research to the mission of the laboratory and capacity of the laboratory to support the research. It is at the discretion of the laboratory to recommend or not recommend the application for review based on a number of factors, including the scope of the proposed research and funding availability.