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Hubble Space Telescope
Cycle 21 Peer Review Guidelines

Panel Orientation Presentations

Cycle 21 Peer Review Agenda


The Hubble Space Telescope science peer review process has changed considerably in recent years so even if you have served previously on an HST Panel or TAC, please review this website carefully. This review is organized by the Science Policy Group (SPG) of the Science Mission Office (SMO) of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI).

HST proposals are of three main types: General Observer (GO), Snapshot (SNAP), and Archival Research (AR). Briefly, GO proposals request observing time in an integral number of spacecraft orbits; GO proposals will now be classified as Small (1-34 orbits), Medium (35-74 orbits), or Large (75 or more orbits), summed over Cycles 21-23. SNAP programs use small amounts of otherwise idle time in the HST schedule; they are allocated a number of targets of which in practice only a fraction, ~30 - 70%, will actually be observed. AR programs are to carry out investigations using the HST Archive and are awarded a dollar amount (proposers from U.S. institutions only). We are continuing in Cycle 21 three important proposal categories which were started for the first time in Cycle 11: Treasury proposals are a special class of GO proposals that provide enhanced data products for the community; AR Legacy proposals are a comparable type of AR proposal; and Theory proposals, which are now supported as part of the HST AR program.

Regular GO, SNAP, AR and Theory proposals will be reviewed by fourteen broad Review Panels: Planets (2), Stars (3), Stellar Populations (2), Galaxies (3), AGN and IGM (2) and Cosmology (2). In general, these panels will allocate all the resources available to these categories of proposals. The Telescope Allocation Committee (TAC) consists of the Chairs of the Panels plus a TAC Chair (who is not associated with any of the Panels) and three members at-large. The principal role of the TAC is to review and recommend allocation of the Large GO, Treasury and AR Legacy proposals. The TAC will also produce a final ranking for Pure Parallel and Medium programs, and will adjudicate any cross-panel scientific issues, as needed. The TAC and Panel recommendations on the Cycle 21 science program are advisory to the STScI Director, who is responsible for the final allocation of HST observing time and funding.


All HST Phase I proposals and documents related to the proposal review are strictly confidential.

  • They should not be distributed or used in any manner not directly related to the review process.
  • They may not be discussed with anyone other than those STScI staff participating in the review activities.
  • There should be no discussions with your fellow committee members other than those during the actual committee meeting.
  • The proposals and all related documents are to be brought to the Panel or TAC meetings for use there and collection afterward. Please purge any review files from your computer after the review.
  • Your involvement in the Cycle 21 review process itself should also be kept confidential until after the review has been completed, at which time membership lists are published in the STScI Newsletter.


The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) will conduct the HST Cycle 21 Proposal Review May 13 - 18, 2013. The Review meetings will take place at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Fourteen Review Panels will meet for 2 1/2 days each, and the overall TAC will meet for 2 days, immediately after the panel meetings.

  • Preliminary Grades:
    • Thursday, May 09, 23:59pm EDT
  • Review Orientation:
    • Monday, May 13, 7pm EDT
  • Panels:
    • Tuesday, May 14 - Thursday, May 16 (Lunchtime)
  • TAC:
    • Thursday, May 16 (2-3pm) - Saturday, May 18 (Lunchtime)

Conflicts of Interest

Our goal is informed, unbiased discussion of each proposal:

  • Voting committee members should have neither direct nor indirect interest vested in the outcome of the review.
  • The subset of the review committee discussing the proposal should have sufficient knowledge to assess the science.

It is critically important that conflicts of interest, or the appearance thereof, are avoided during the selection process. Here we identify two types of conflicts, Major and Minor. A panelist is considered to have a conflict of interest on a proposal under any of the following:


  • Personal involvement (PI or Co-I)

    Direct gain from proposal success

  • Recent former advisor/student of PI or Co-I

    Indirect gain from proposal success

  • Involvement in a closely competing proposal regardless of whether that proposal is before your panel. Proposals are judged to be 'closely competing' if their scientific goals, or their observations of the same targets, are sufficiently similar that an impartial panel, knowing one had been approved, would be unlikely to approve the other. Such conflicts should be direct and specific; a Panelist or Chair should not be excluded from considering an entire sub-category of proposals).

    Direct gain from proposal failure

  • Close personal ties (family, etc.) with PI or Co-I

    Indirect gain from proposal success


  • Institutional conflict, i.e. same department or same institution as PI or Co-I

    Indirect gain from proposal success or failure

  • Close collaborator of PI or Co-I on the proposal
  • Any other reason for discomfort
  • Who qualifies as a close collaborator?
    • An active collaborator on a current research program (including Cycle 21 HST Proposals).
    • Active co-author on 3 or more papers in last 3 years
      i.e. more than a participant in a large project (e.g. SDSS).
  • Active collaborator on several recent programs
    At least 3 projects completed in last 3 years.

Key Question:

Would my personal research benefit (or would there be an appearance of benefit) if this proposal is accepted?

If the answer is yes, then there's a conflict.

Major Conflicts leave the room during the proposal discussion, while Minor conflicts declare their conflict, then they can participate in the discussion if they so choose, but do not vote on that proposal.

Panel Chairs should be very sensitive to these issues and always err on the side of caution. They should appoint a deputy chair to guide the discussions in the case where they have a conflict and must leave the room. If there is any possibility of a conflict or even the perception of a conflict, then it should be treated as such; questions concerning conflicts of interest should be directed to the Science Policies Group.

Chairs are responsible for avoiding and tracking conflict situations during the meetings, with assistance from the Panel Support staff. Each panelist must sign and turn in the Conflicts of Interest Disclosure Form prior to the end of the meeting.

Tasks of the Peer Review Members

The main tasks of the Panels and TAC are threefold: (1) to rank the proposals in order of scientific merit; (2) to recommend the resources that should be allocated to each proposed program; and (3) to provide written comments about the recommendations.

Panel members, excluding panel chairs, should read and grade all of the proposals before their panel for the preliminary grades/triage process.

TAC Members should read and grade all TAC proposals. It is extremely important that panelists submit their preliminary grades to STScI by the May 9th deadline. The primary and secondary reviewers assigned to each proposal will lead the discussion; preliminary comments are not required. Panel members should also review, but not grade, the TAC (Large, AR Legacy and Treasury) proposals assigned to their panel prior to the actual panel meetings.

Reviewer Activities

Step-by-Step Details

  1. Read all of the Documentation.
  2. Check for Conflicts of Interest.
  3. Declare any Conflicts to your PSS as soon as possible.
  4. Review the proposals based upon the Criteria as spelled out below.
  5. Submit your Preliminary Grades by Thursday 5/9.
  6. Review the Triage list.
  7. Travel to the review.

Web-Reviewer Tool Helpful Hints

The Web-Reviewer tool can be found at:
Please contact Brett S. Blacker for access to the system if you don't recall your userid and/or password.

  • Simple Documentation or Full Documentation **THESE Will be UPDATED in APRIL ** for the Tool.
  • Please download your panel(s) package from the Proposal Data Area.
  • Grades and Reviews will be turned on as we get closer to the actual review meeting.

The System has been tested on FireFox, IE, Chrome and Safari.

Technical Information

As a member of the TAC/Panels for Cycle 21, you are a critical part of the review process. We value your comments and suggestions, and welcome feedback throughout the process.

This page is maintained by Brett S. Blacker

Last updated: May 28, 2013.