sci18005 — Announcement
Cycle 26 TAC highlights and successes
17 December 2018
For all of us supporting the Hubble mission, the Time Allocation Committee (TAC) week is the week we look forward to. It is a week of pure science, spent listening to all the ideas that the very creative Hubble community proposes to push the boundaries of knowledge. In October tens of astronomers from the USA and Europe descended on Baltimore to evaluate the numerous Hubble proposals received and make recommendations to the STScI Director regarding next year’s Hubble science programme.
The Cycle 26 TAC was different from the usual TAC. First, the schedule was moved by six months to accommodate the JWST TAC, which in the end was postponed. Second, the Cycle 26 call was more limited in scope than the typical call, allowing only medium and large proposals. Third, it was fully anonymised for the first time; this was done in an attempt to address the persistent gender bias seen in previous years (see also the article in the ESA/Hubble July Newsletter). Proposers were given detailed instructions on how to write their proposals in such a way that their identity could not be recognised. In spite of these changes, a surprisingly large number of proposals was received before the deadline: 489 proposals including GO and Archival, requesting a total of 25 775 orbits. With 2077 orbits being available, the TAC was confronted with an oversubscription of ~12:1.
We are grateful to the panel members and chairs who worked very hard to select the best of the best of the submitted proposals. We are also grateful to the proposers, who rigorously followed the new guidelines to make their proposal anonymous — this was highly appreciated. The comments from the reviewers were positive to enthusiastic. “It was liberating to be able to talk only about the science” said Corinne Charbonnel, one of the Panel Chairs.
“The panels and the TAC selection processes went so smoothly, and based on purely scientific considerations, that the whole week turned out to be a pleasant experience, in spite of the enormous load on us as a result of the extremely high pressure for observation time and the oversubscription ratio. It made an excellent experience for the TAC, and it speaks to how well the observatory itself should be judged”, added Alberto Franceschini, another Panel Chair.
There were a couple of dissenting voices, especially among the proposers; scientists who had reached a prominent position in the astronomical community felt that their achievements should not be overlooked. But overall the experiment was successful and the initial statistics seem to indicate that it helped eliminate the gender bias, as male PIs had an 8% success rate, and women PIs had an 8.7% success rate. This strategy will be continued in the future. “I am grateful to all involved in proposing and recommending the Cycle 26 science programme, which will continue Hubble’s rich tradition of broadening and deepening our understanding of the Universe. In implementing a fully anonymous proposal review, I believe we have taken a positive step forward in ensuring that scientific merit is the primary focus of the review process,” concluded Ken Sembach, STScI Director.
Cycle 27 will resume the regular schedule, with a proposal deadline in April 2019 and the TAC meeting in June. Cycle 27 will again accept all proposals (small, medium and large).
Finally, we congratulate all successful European astronomers, who are leading 26% of the accepted proposals in Cycle 26. This is a testament to a vibrant and engaged Hubble community in Europe. To those of you who were not as successful, we can only say that this time around the competition was tough. More orbits will be available in Cycle 27, and your chance to resubmit your ideas is only a few months away.
Please be remembered to get in contact with the ESA/Hubble outreach team if you think your results are worth to get some attention through the public and the media.
ESA HST Project Scientist, STScI
ESA Acting Hubble Mission Manager, STScI
About the Announcement