|Everything You Wanted To Know About ALS Proposals and Beam Time Allocation|
There are four types of proposals, each of which undergoes a different cycle in terms of timeline and procedure. The General Science general user proposals (which are discussed here in detail) and Approved Program Proposals are solicited every six-months; Structural Biology and National Center for X-Ray Tomography (NCXT) proposals run on two-month cycles.
General Sciences Beamline proposals and beamtime requests are due on the 15th of January and of July. In January, 2010, more than 240 were received and reviewed.
After proposals are submitted, checked, and processed by the User Services Office (USO), beamline scientists are asked to review them for feasibility and resource availability on their beamline. They also submit comments if the proposal presents any difficulties. Proposals are also sent to four external reviewers from a review panel of ~120 international senior scientists, and to two members of the Proposal Study Panel (PSP), who each review up to 40 proposals. Reviewers are assigned proposals based primarily on the scientific and technical keywords selected in each proposal.
Reviewers score each proposal from 1-5 (1 being best). PSP members, who can see beamline scientists’ comments during review, also score the proposals and then meet to calculate the final scores of all submitted proposals. Any proposal that receives a widely varied set of scores is examined more closely and its average score may be adjusted.
Once all proposals are scored, allocation meetings attended by the USO staff, the Division Deputy for Science, and relevant beamline scientists are held for each beamline. Beam time is allocated based on proposal scores. Top scoring proposals usually receive most of the beam time requested, “but every attempt is made to spread out allocations over as many projects as possible based on the advice and experience of the beamline scientists,” says Bailey.
Once time is allocated on all beamlines, both the Principal Investigator (PI) and the experimental lead receive email notification of their time allocations as well as reviewers’ comments. Users allocated time may contact beamline scientists for scheduling, while correspondence regarding other experiment information, such as reviewing samples or experimental hazards, should also go through the Experiment Coordination Group (510-486-7222).
All General Science proposals are active for two years (currently, four proposal cycles). During this time, experiment leads and PIs are eligible to make a beam time request for each cycle. Beam time requests can be made only for beamlines requested in the original proposal; however, these proposal scores will increase by 0.1 each cycle, so users are encouraged to check the cutoff scores for relevant beamlines. In the case of Structural Biology and NCXT proposals, beam time requests are not eligible for renewal; new proposals must be submitted each cycle.
The USO realizes that this process can be confusing for new users, so updated and clarified instructions will be posted on their new Web pages when the ALS Web site redesign is unveiled this summer.