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US DOE Energy Frontier Research Centers: A Case Study of Team Science in the Physical Sciences

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Hayes R. US DOE Energy Frontier Research Centers: A Case Study of Team Science in the Physical Sciences. Oral presentation at 2017 SciTS Conference. Clearwater Beach, FL. Jun 14, 2017. Creating An Institutional Culture For Team Science. Online at:

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES) established the Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) program ( to further grand challenge science and create the scientific foundation for advanced technologies that support the Department’s missions in energy, environment, and national security. The intent of the EFRCs is to bring together creative, multidisciplinary scientific teams from universities, government laboratories, non-profits, and industry to perform energy-relevant basic research with a complexity beyond the scope of single-investigator projects. They also train the next-generation scientific workforce by attracting talented students and postdocs interested in energy science. Since 2009, DOE has invested $1.087B in 60 EFRCs, of which 36 are active, in 40 states at about 150 institutions. Each center is funded at $2-$5M/year for a 4 or 5 year renewable award period and involves, on average, 18 Sr. Investigators and 50 students, postdocs, and staff. One major challenge has been creating a culture of team science rather than traditional pairwise collaborations. BES has explored multiple mechanisms to promote synergy including: a management review and program manager visit within the first year; a mid-term peer review; monthly phone calls within thematic teams; periodic Director’s meetings; biennial Principal Investigators’ Meetings that include students and postdocs; communication contests; a quarterly newsletter run by junior EFRC members; and an Early Career Network that organizes in-person and virtual events. Ideas to foster team science have been captured in a Good Practices document and shared with all the centers. Preliminary analyses of co-authorship publication networks over time and self-reported impacts seek to identify the myriad ways that structure and process can promote team science. Two BES Committees of Visitors and a Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Task Force have found the EFRC program to be highly successful in meeting its goals.



Type of Publication:

Oral presentation


scits 2017 conference, presentation, energy, physical science

Addresses these goal(s):

  • Provide institutional support for team science
  • Conduct research on/evaluate team science

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Resource created by Jane Hwang on 10/5/2017 3:21:44 PM.

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