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Proposal Writing Guidelines and Scoring Criteria Print

Principal Investigator

The proposal form asks for the names and contact information of the experiment leader completing the form and the Principal Investigator (PI). The PI is the leader and the individual responsible for the group, and the experiment leader is often the person completing the proposal form. In this way the ALS would like to encourage postdocs and students to gain experience in submitting proposals as the experiment leader, while benefiting from the experience and capability of the group within which they work.


Consolidation of Proposals

Similar or closely related proposals from the same group should be consolidated into a single, strong proposal. This often improves the merit and score of the resulting proposal, and reduces the workload of the reviewers. The Proposal Study Panel (PSP) and the ALS are aware when multiple proposals are submitted from a single group for the same science program and/or for use of the same beamline.


Writing the Scientific Case


  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Narrative description of the science to be pursued
  • Justification for the beam line and the amount of beam time requested (may include preliminary data to demonstrate feasibility)
  • Previous scientific accomplishments and synchrotron track record
  • References


Proposals are limited to three pages or less for the six-month proposal cycle, and to one page or less for the two-month structural biology cycle. Only the recommended number of pages will be read by the review panel; the remainder will be ignored.

Oversubscribed Beamlines

There is high demand for beam time on the majority of ALS beamlines. These beamlines can be identified by the low cutoff score for proposals; see Proposal Score Statistics for more information. A proposal for a highly subscribed beamline will have a greater chance of success when the reasons for choosing a specific beamline are clearly stated, e.g., unique features, required resolution, higher flux, etc.


Criteria for Evaluating the Scientific Case

The following criteria, endorsed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) in the IUPAP Recommendations for the Use of Major Physics Users Facilities, will be used by the Proposal Study Panels (PSPs) to evaluate beam time proposals for general users:

  • Scientific merit
  • Technical feasibility
  • Capability of the experimental group
  • Availability of the resources required

PIs and experiment leaders will find it helpful to address each of these aspects in their proposals.

Scientific Merit

Clearly state the goals and scope of the proposed experiment. Discussion of the scientific motivation should be brief, starting with a short introduction suitable for the non-specialist, since members of the Proposal Study Panels are not specialists in all fields of research. Further details should address the proposed research specifically, while avoiding general statements. The number of eight-hour beamtime shifts requested should be consistent with the goals. It is not helpful to inflate the amount of beamtime required for an experiment.

Technical Feasibility

Details of the experimental method should be provided, including the requirements for the particular beamline and/or endstation that is requested. Where appropriate, state whether the endstation is already in place, in use elsewhere, in the design phase, or under construction. Before writing a proposal it is recommended that PIs obtain information about the beamline from our ALS Beamlines Directory, which has beamline contacts and technical specifications, and from discussions with the ALS beamline scientist.

The ALS is a high-brightness facility. Proposals for undulator beamlines must address the need for high brightness, including spot size, spectral resolution, and flux requirements. The proposal should be consistent with the performance of the requested beamline. Include estimates of signal rate and noise where appropriate.

Fully address all safety aspects of the experiment, especially where complex sample preparation, hazardous chemicals or biological samples are involved.

Capability of the Experimental Group

State the names of all members of the group, including ALS collaborators. It is important to refer to the group’s previous work and resulting publications resulting from ALS beam time and from other experiments, showing sample data when available or appropriate. All submissions should include references to at least five publications relating to the proposal.

Availability of Resources Required

Describe details of the resources required for a specific experiment. Investigators should take into account the availability and capability of a beamline, as well as any specialized equipment or technical support requirements.