MCDONALD OBSERVATORY
TELESCOPE SCHEDULING POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
 


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Two TAC members were assigned at random to read and to review each proposal. If there is a discrepancy between these two reviews an additional review by the entire TAC is requested and the TAC (as a whole) discusses the proposal at its meeting. Summary rankings are used to assign telescope time and dates. Feedback from the proposers is welcomed. All proposers should take note of the detailed, summarized comments as an indication of what was missing in your proposal and how it could be improved next time.

The TAC recommendations and grades are used to create a rank ordered list of the proposals for each telescope. At this point the TAC meets to discuss the rankings and to adjudicate inequities. A telescope schedule is created by the Assistant Director beginning with the 2.7m telescope, then the 2.1m telescope, finally the 0.8m telescope so that in case of equipment conflicts the larger telescope is assigned the equipment. Proposals are scheduled starting with the first ranked and continuing until all observing time is allotted. Generally the highest ranked proposals receive all the time requested, middle ranked proposals are reduced in their allotments and the lowest ranked are denied time.

The TAC Chairman and the Assistant Director meet with the Director to present and explain the schedule. The Director reviews the schedule and has the right to adjust it as appropriate.

TAC process in outline form:

Membership (6)

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UT Austin: 6 members with staggered 3 year appointments beginning in January plus the Assistant Director in an ex officio status.
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TAC Chair, appointed by the Director

Policies

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Preferably, all of the TAC members are active observers.
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Proposals are evaluated on the basis of scientific merit, appropriateness of McDonald equipment, and the PI's research productivity. No distinction is made in the evaluation process between UT Austin and non-UT Austin proposals.
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No differentiation is made in the proposal process between "bright" and "dark" time proposals; all proposals for a specific telescope are ranked together.
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Members do not evaluate their own proposals, their students' proposals, or their close collaborators' proposals.
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Members are asked to recognize the importance of graduate education at UT Austin and other institutions by adjusting rankings for dissertation proposals as appropriate (usually done in the TAC meeting).

Practicalities

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Proposals are sent in hard copy to each UT Austin TAC member within a few days of the proposal deadline; reviews are to be returned by email within approximately 7-10 days.
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Two TAC members are assigned to review each proposal. In the case of discrepancies between grades, the entire TAC reviews the proposal.
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TAC members may request clarification of proposals by forwarding email questions through the Assistant Director to the PI to preserve uniform reviews and TAC anonymity (if desired).
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Proposals are graded by the TAC on a scale where A=1.0, B=2.0, C=2.0, D=4.0, and F=5.0.
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Letter grade definitions:
  1. Excellent science: (must be done, no deficiencies)
  2. Good Science: no deficiencies, (schedule time as requested)
  3. OK Science: but has deficiencies such as write-up, time justification, instrumentation; (schedule as possible)
  4. Poor Science: major deficiencies, (but should get some time if other programs don't need additional time)
  5. Bad or inappropriate Science for McDonald telescopes and should not get any time.

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The TAC member also recommends the number of nights to be awarded to each proposal.
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Individual TAC member's proposal grades are confidential and are combined into a summary ranking by the Assistant Director using a modified Haare method.
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The TAC reviews the summary rankings in a meeting; questions and problems are resolved then. Any absent TAC member is encouraged to attend the meeting by teleconference.
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The Assistant Director creates a schedule based on the rankings, starting with the 2.7m telescope, and proceeding through the 2.1m and 0.8m telescopes, respectively. Thus instrumentation conflicts are resolved in favor of the larger telescope unless specified otherwise by the TAC.
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The TAC chair and Assistant Director present the schedule to the Director for approval; revision in the schedule at this stage is possible but rare.
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The schedule is published and summary rankings, with any comments by the TAC, are sent to the PIs by the Assistant Director.




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3 November 2003
McDonald Observatory · The University of Texas at Austin · Austin, Texas 78712
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