Supporting NETL’s Fuel Cells Program Peer Review

Client: American Society of Mechanical Engineers, in support of the National Energy Technology Laboratory
coal-fueled power plant Fuel Cells scoring graph Fuel Cells peer review covers NETL peer review website

Project Overview

In February 2011, Nexight Group worked with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) to conduct a rigorous expert peer review of 17 projects, totaling nearly $125 million in federal R&D funding, of the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) Fuel Cells Program.

Need

The NETL Fuel Cells Program manages a research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) portfolio designed to remove environmental concerns over the future use of coal by developing highly efficient, economical, and robust fuel cell technologies. In compliance with requirements from the Office of Management and Budget, NETL worked with ASME to plan a peer review with independent technical experts to assess ongoing Fuel Cells Program research projects and, where applicable, to make recommendations for individual project improvement.

Our Solution

To help ASME facilitate and document the NETL Fuel Cells Program peer review, we assembled our team of five writers and technical experts to attend the peer review meeting. During the five-day meeting, principal investigators presented 17 projects selected from the NETL Fuel Cells Program to a panel of eight expert reviewers. These projects represented a portfolio of fundamental science, national laboratory research, and large-scale industry projects in the following focus areas:

  • Solid oxide fuel cells
  • Electrode research and development
  • Other fuel cells material research and development

Following each presentation, we facilitated question-and-answer discussions with the principal investigators and the reviewers as well as discussions of the strengths, weaknesses, recommendations, and action items for each of the projects. This facilitation kept the peer review agenda on track and made sure each project was adequately reviewed. Using notes taken during meeting discussions and electronic comments provided by each reviewer, we developed two 100-page reports that synthesized the reviewers’ feedback into concise, technically accurate, and actionable summaries. The first report—the meeting summary and recommendations report—will be published on the NETL peer review website. NETL will use the second report—an internal report with the reviewer comments on individual projects, including more than 100 recommendations and action items to strengthen projects—to guide and redirect the Fuel Cells Program projects, as appropriate.

Impact

The Fuel Cells Program peer review involved the independent review of nearly $125 million in federal R&D funding. The results from this peer review will be used to strengthen the 17 projects reviewed, improving the value generated by the investment of public R&D funds and ultimately increasing the likelihood that cost-effective, efficient and robust fuel cell technologies become a viable option for the U.S. energy sector.