The “Facilities Integrating Collaborations for User Science” (FICUS) initiative was established in 2014 to encourage and enable researchers to more easily integrate the expertise and capabilities of multiple Department of Energy Office of Science National User Facilities into their research. In recognition of the increasingly collaborative and multidisciplinary nature of DOE mission science projects, this initiative aims to encourage innovative research exploiting a range of capabilities.
Previously researchers had to apply to each facility with separate review schedules and selection processes, making it difficult to propose projects that truly integrated the capabilities of more than one facility. The FICUS initiative not only simplifies and streamlines this process, but enables scientists to conduct fundamental science experiments in ways they couldn’t with projects undertaken separately at either user facility. Future calls are expected to continue to expand the range of facilities and capabilities accessible through the program.
How does FICUS Work?
Proposals for the annual FICUS call with EMSL begin with a Letter of Intent (LOI) from a researcher, briefly describing the project motivation, experimental design, capabilities to be used and DOE mission relevance. LOIs allow JGI and EMSL to plan for appropriate review and prevent full applications for projects outside of DOE mission areas or outside the scope of the call. Letters are reviewed by JGI and EMSL scientific staff, and nearly all LOIs are accepted for full proposal submission. The major reason for disapproval is a lack of relevance to DOE mission areas. In some cases, a meritorious project does not fit within JGI or EMSL’s capabilities. In these cases, staff scientists will often be able to suggest an alternative strategy that meets the project objectives.
Proposals submitted to the JGI-NERSC-KBase call do not use the Letter of Intent; rather proposals are submitted in a single step.
The researcher then submits a proposal for consideration in the next review cycle. All proposals undergo technical review by JGI staff as well as staff at the other participating facilities, who consider technical feasibility and readiness to begin work, checking such factors as genome size, polymorphism level, sample quality and availability, etc. During scientific peer review, proposals are evaluated and placed in rank order by the reviewers. The ranked proposal list, along with a recommendation from management at JGI and the other participating facilities, is then forwarded to DOE for final approval. Following DOE approval, project managers negotiate project specifics with PIs (including JGI scientists as needed), and the work plan is written into a Statement of Work document.
For sequencing projects, once work is under way, raw sequence data is released to NCBI’s Sequence Read Archive on a regular basis, in accordance with JGI’s data release policy. Interactions with applicants and others who might be interested in the project are coordinated through JGI’s Project Management Office. At the completion of a project, the JGI makes the assemblies, gene annotations, and analyses available to the community at large. In most cases where the JGI provides more customized analysis, the JGI also participates in publication of results.