Hubble Cycle 18 Proposal Selection

Peer Review Process

Hubble proposals are reviewed by members of the international astronomical community, who serve on various panels organized by science category and proposal size. Large proposals in all science categories are reviewed by the time allocation committee (TAC). All other programs are assigned to panels according to their science category.

The process of selecting the panelists begins with the selection of the Chair about six months prior to the proposal deadline. Neta Bahcall (Princeton) served as Chair of the Cycle 18 TAC. Next, we selected the chairs of the panels, who also serve as members of the TAC. In addition, there are three at-large TAC members, with broad expertise, who review proposals as assigned. The recruitment of panel members is usually completed about two months prior to the proposal deadline. The goal is to have a healthy mix of experienced, senior panelists, as well as younger panel members, at the postdoctoral level. Other important considerations are gender balance and representation of ESA and other countries. For Cycle 18, we anticipated high proposal pressure, and initially invited ~130 scientists from the community as panelists or TAC members. In the event, the proposal pressure exceeded expectations, and additional panelists were recruited—and a new panel constituted—after the Phase I deadline. The final Cycle 18 assessment process involved close to 150 panelists and TAC members, which is the largest number ever to participate in a Hubble proposal review.

In order to minimize the workload for each panelist, we increased the number of panels from 12 in Cycle 17 to 14 in Cycle 18. Of these, two panels were for the solar system and exoplanets, two for cool stars and star formation, three for hot stars and stellar populations, three for galaxies, two for active galactic nuclei (AGN) and the intergalactic medium (IGM), and two panels for cosmology.

Each topical set of panels served as “mirrors,” so that proposals could be transferred to a mirror panel if necessitated by conflicts.

Ideally, one would like to have all panels be of equal size, but in practice this was not feasible, because different science categories have varying numbers of proposals.  In addition, the meeting room sizes vary and impose a limit on the panel size. In Cycle 18, the panels had between 8 and 13 members; the TAC totaled 18.

The proposal review took place during the week of 17–21 May, 2010. As in Cycle 17, we held the Cycle 18 proposal review in the buildings of the Institute and the Physics & Astronomy department of the Johns Hopkins University (JHU). JHU kindly offered the additional space. Most panelists preferred the campus location to the offsite conference center where we held the review in some of the previous years.