LDRD For Principal Investigators


Congratulations … you want to be a Principal Investigator on a Fermilab Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) project! You have something new to explore, new to create, or new to try out. No question, a key aspect of LDRD is to maintain the scientific vitality at National Laboratories by enabling those with good ideas a chance to get funded to try them out. Feel free to review the Fermilab Annual LDRD Program Plan for more details. This web page gives it to you in brief.


This is a working document which will be continued to be improved especially based upon any feedback sent to the LDRD coordinator.


Here are the basic steps.


1.     Think through your new idea and the work plan that makes sense under LDRD. Understand the approximate scope of what will be involved to carry it out.


2.     Wait for a “Call for LDRD Proposals.” These will have deadlines. Approximate dates are given on the ldrd.fnal.gov web site.


3.     Fill out a one page “Preliminary Proposal” that is to be signed by your Supervisor and the Division Head where your project will be based.

a.     Your Supervisor acknowledges that the scope is consistent with you completing your current job duties. The Division Head also acknowledges the scope and discusses your resource needs for you to carry out your project. If it is unknown whether a certain resource might be available within a Division, it may be appropriate to add contingency in case you have to go elsewhere to complete that part of the project.

b.     The LDRD Selection committee will be able to review the Preliminary Proposal and will invite you to develop a “Full Proposal” assuming your project is appropriate for LDRD. There may be some iteration.


4.     Fill out the “Full Proposal” that describes the project, how it fits into the DOE and FNAL missions, what makes it innovative, and what are the steps required to complete the project.

a.     The “Full Proposal” is judged competitively with other proposals received and within the limitations of the annual LDRD funding profile and with priorities of strategic focus.

b.     The “Full Proposal” includes a budget component that you will fill out with the Division’s Field Financial Manager (FFM). Essentially, you need to account for the expected full cost of the project including your own time (yes, even scientists), the time of technical resources or outside contracts, and any material goods that needed to complete the project. All of these costs are fully burdened, which means that an overhead factor gets applied. Then you need to estimate a reasonable contingency in case the project doesn’t go as expected.

c.      An emphasis will be placed on proposals that culminate in a clear deliverable such as a device itself and a write-up generally suitable for publication.

d.     For FY2014, the “Initiative” is “2014 Broad Scope.” In future years, you may direct a proposal to a specific strategic area.


5.     If your project is selected to be funded, you can start your work on the project once a project / task code is established. You are the manager of your own LDRD project.

a.     Account for your own time as Principal Investigator. Part of your FNAL salary will come from the LDRD project funds.

b.     Engineering, technical, and scientific work performed by others for your LDRD project per your work plan also charges labor to the project / task code.

c.      Sub-contracted work will usually be for a fixed amount and spelled out clearly in the Full Proposal. This gets invoiced to the project / task code of your project.

d.     If you require materials or equipment that is not readily available from existing FNAL inventory, then such expenditures are allowable under LDRD.

e.     It gets to be a big hassle if your project exceeds the expected cost and schedule especially beyond the contingency specified in the Full Proposal.


6.     There is some required reporting for your project including an Annual Summary that is required.

a.     In addition, on approximately a monthly basis, the project will be informally reviewed to make sure work is progressing and costs and schedules are on tract.

b.     Take pride especially if your project results in new physics results, a compelling publication, new intellectual property, or perhaps a key discovery!