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ORAU’s PeerNet™ Provides Objective Recommendations for Presidential Awards

Established in 1956, the Enrico Fermi Award is a Presidential honor bestowed upon individuals who have contributed substantially toward the advancement of energy science and technology. The award’s namesake, an Italian-born immigrant and a 1938 Nobel Laureate, is credited with achieving the first nuclear chain reaction and the start of what is now referred to as the Atomic Age. 

Initially presented to Enrico Fermi by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Atomic Energy Commission (now known as the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission) on Nov. 16, 1954, the award is one of the oldest and most prestigious science and technology awards given by the U.S. Government.

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science continues the tradition of encouraging excellence in energy science and technology by inspiring other generations of scientists to follow Fermi’s example. 

Having established a strong repertoire with DOE on numerous successful peer reviews, personnel with the DOE Office of Science recommended Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) to oversee the online nomination process of the 2008 Fermi Award.  

Answering the call, ORAU developed a Web-based nomination process that allowed the international scientific community to submit 20 nominees in a secure environment. The nominations—which were representative of both national and international candidates—were uploaded into PeerNet™, a structured online database that streamlines the review and selection process.

Once the objective review was conducted, DOE submitted recommendations for winners to the Secretary and then also to the President.

Internally—from a process stand-point—the experience has also provided ORAU the ability to develop similar online nomination sites for other prestigious awards such as the Lawrence Award and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) Award.