Division of Physics
Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory
This program has been archived.
The particle physics, cosmology/astrophysics and nuclear physics communities have identified the need for a deep underground laboratory infrastructure in order to address some of the most compelling, transformational questions at the frontier of their disciplines. Some of these questions include:
- What are the fundamental symmetries and absolute mass of the neutrino? Can these provide a window into the origin and pattern of particle masses that make up our universe?
- What are the fundamental properties and interactions of the three families of neutrinos, e.g., CP violation, mass hierarchy, CKM matrix and mixing angles? What can these and other neutrino studies tell us about the matter/antimatter asymmetry in the universe? Can it reveal new insights into the unification of the fundamental forces that govern physical laws as we now understand them?
- What is the proton lifetime, and does it decay? Is ordinary matter inherently (un)stable?
- What is dark matter?
- What is the spectrum of neutrinos from supernovae and the Big Bang, and what can this tell us about the history and evolution of our universe?
Physicists are on the threshold of advancing and deepening our understanding of nature’s basic laws by probing these fundamental questions, which requires a deep underground environment and associated infrastructure. While such an underground infrastructure is envisioned to specifically address forefront physics research, it may also provide cost effective opportunities for other communities to address important new research areas. (Section I of this solicitation - Introduction - contains references to community-based planning documents which have guided the development of such an underground research facility.)
The Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL) is proposed to address the need for such an underground infrastructure, and is in the planning stages at the National Science Foundation for possible consideration for funding as a Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) project, in accordance with the process described in the NSF Large Facilities Manual (LFM, NSF-07-38, http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2007/nsf0738/nsf0738.pdf ). If approved or funded as an MREFC project, DUSEL would include funds to support construction of both the facility and its infrastructure, the design of which is supported through the DUSEL Solicitation 3 award (S3, NSF-06-614, http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2006/nsf06614/nsf06614.pdf), and the suite of DUSEL experiments that this infrastructure would host. This solicitation (DUSEL Solicitation 4, S4) invites proposals to develop project plans for specific candidate experiments that could be considered for the suite of DUSEL experiments.
The funds awarded for the proposals selected in S4 will allow the proposing team to complete the design phase(s) through Preliminary Design or beyond, as defined in the LFM, within the three year solicitation funding period. The project design phases are defined in detail in the LFM. The S4 selection will be based on the peer review of those proposals that put forward experiments that address the most cogent and transformational science questions that require the unique capabilities of an underground facility. Awards will be made for those experiments addressing the most compelling science, and will support design and development for those experiments. The suite of experiments will define the scope of the DUSEL infrastructure.
Proposals targeting research in physics will be the primary target for this Solicitation. Proposals targeting research in engineering and geosciences may also be submitted to this Program Solicitation, and if positively reviewed will be considered for funding by those Directorates, such funding would be separate from the Anticipated Funding Amount identified in this Solicitation. To the extent that engineering or geosciences proposals may represent significant cost drivers for the DUSEL infrastructure, for the needed instrumentation, or for operations, such proposals should be discussed with the relevant Program Directors in the Geosciences or Engineering Directorates for expressions of interest in co-funding, and/or to identify appropriate other agency funding partners, including other U.S. federal agencies, states, private sector organizations, and/or countries.
Reviews will be conducted within the NSF Directorate that normally oversees the proposed research; multi- and inter-disciplinary proposals will be reviewed collaboratively by the relevant Directorates. In some cases, developmental work or simulations may be needed to clarify specific technical features or approaches of the design being proposed. Accordingly, in such special cases, a limited amount of S4 funding will be considered to support targeted R&D and related activities that would complement the design work put forward. S4 provides support for development of project plans for potential candidates for the suite of DUSEL experiments. Should DUSEL be approved and funded as an MREFC project, selection for an S4 award does not constitute a commitment for inclusion in the suite of DUSEL experiments, nor do declinations for S4 funding imply exclusion. A subsequent solicitation (or solicitations), and corresponding review (or reviews), will be used to ultimately identify the suite of experiments that will be included as part of any DUSEL MREFC proposal.
In addition to the National Science Board-approved merit review criteria of intellectual merit and broader impacts (see Section VI.A), the DUSEL-specific guiding principles governing the review process for the proposals in response to this solicitation is to select for award those proposals that (1) show the greatest potential for world-class, transformational scientific and engineering results at the best cost/risk value to the government, and (2) collectively lead to a DUSEL infrastructure that is scientifically justified and fits within funding constraints. More details on the review criteria may be found in Section VI. The scope of the science and engineering activities appropriate for DUSEL are to be defined by the relevant communities, as referenced in Section I below.
What Has Been Funded (Recent Awards Made Through This Program, with Abstracts)
Map of Recent Awards Made Through This Program