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The JWST Cycle 1 General Observer Proposal Schedule

Neill Reid (inr[at]stsci.edu)

On March 27th 2018, 10 days prior to the nominal Cycle 1 General Observer proposal deadline, NASA announced a postponement of the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. With the completion of the report by the Independent Review Board, NASA has developed a revised schedule, setting a launch date of March 30, 2021. Working in conjunction with the JWST Project at Goddard and the JWST Users Committee (JSTUC), we have developed a corresponding outline for the Cycle 1 proposal process. The results are shown in Figure 1.

JWST Cycle 1 Figure
Figure 1: The JWST Cycle 1 proposal schedule.

A key requirement in developing the proposal schedule is that the final Cycle 1 science program, including the Guaranteed Time Observer (GTO) programs, the Director’s Discretionary Early Release Science (DD-ERS) programs, and General Observer (GO) program, is formulated sufficiently in advance of the start of science observations. This fixes the timeframe for scheduling the Telescope Allocation Committee, and therefore sets the cadence for the other major milestones and deadlines associated with the proposal process. For the moment, we are retaining some flexibility by mapping the schedule against 2–3 month windows.

Part of the Cycle 1 science program is already in place. The GTO observers submitted their original programs in April 2017 and finalized them in January of this year, applying ~3700 hours (~90% of their allocation) to a rich variety of targets ranging from solar system objects and nearby exoplanets through star-forming regions and nearby galaxies, to surveys of galaxy formation in the early universe. A further ~500 hours has been allocated to community ERS programs spanning a similar range of topics. Those programs will have a chance to consider potential minor revisions, given the change in launch date. Following NASA policy, any such changes will need to be finalized 7 months in advance of the Cycle 1 Call for Proposals

The Call itself must be specified sufficiently in advance of the TAC meeting to allow time for proposal preparation (~3 months) and the review process (~3 months). Consequently, if the TAC is scheduled for the June–August time period in 2020, the proposal deadline will likely fall in the March–May window and the Call will be issued late in 2019 or very early in 2020. Tracking back to the GTO and ERS proposals, their target lists will need to be finalized between May and June in 2019 to meet NASA policy requirements. The final schedule for the Cycle 1 proposal process will be set in early 2019 after extensive consultation with the JSTUC and the JWST Project. 

A total of ~6,000 hours will be offered for GO programs—the ~20% over-subscription is essential to ensure efficient use of the observing time throughout the cycle. As in the original Call, programs will be grouped by size as Small, Medium and Large programs; at present, the boundaries are set at durations 25 and 75 hours—based on feedback, we may consider increasing the lower boundary to ~30 hours. The overall balance in time allocation will be tilted towards smaller programs in Cycle 1. Proposers can apply for long-term programs spanning up to 3 cycles if scientifically necessary (e.g., astrometric measurements), for Target of Opportunity observations (transients such as supernovae, active asteroids, gamma-ray bursts), and for Treasury programs, offering broad science reach and providing high-level data products for the community. They may also apply for joint observations with Hubble, but no other observatories, at least in Cycle 1. There will be opportunities to apply for Archival research programs based on analysis of public Cycle 1 datasets (from ERS programs and some GTO programs), Theory programs and Community Software programs. 

In summary, we have developed a revised schedule outline for the JWST Cycle 1 GO proposal process. The Call will be re-issued around New Year 2020, with the proposal deadline in the March–May timeframe and the TAC meeting scheduled for the summer of that year.