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[*] Evolution of the HST Proposal Selection Process
Urry C.M., Blacker B., Miller G., Stanghellini L., Stanley P., van der Marel R.P.
in `Observatory Operations to Optimize Scientific Return II', Quinn P., ed., Proceedings of SPIE Vol. 4010, p. 98-106, 2000
© 2000. SPIE. All Rights Reserved.

Through Cycle 8, the process of selecting HST proposals was extremely successful, according to hundreds of scientists involved in the proposal review. Yet the system showed signs of strain, as the number of proposals doubled and the panels/TAC grew commensurately. This led to highly specialized panels, each with limited amounts of observing time to award, and an increasingly narrow scientific focus that exacerbated the natural tension between scientific expertise and conflict of interest. The TAC's role of establishing priorities among scientific disciplines became simultaneously more critical and more difficult to carry out. Furthermore, the scientific community advised us strongly, starting in Cycle 7, that more HST observing time should be devoted to larger programs (> 100 orbits). For Cycle 9 we instituted significant changes to address these issues: (1) Fewer, much broader panels, with redundancy to avoid conflicts of interest. (2) TAC role re- defined, to focus on awarding a significant fraction (1/4 - 1/3) of the available time to > 100-orbit proposals. (3) Incentives for panels to award time to 'mid-sized' proposals. We outline these changes in greater detail, and describe to what extent their implementation in the Cycle 9 review achieved the goals of more large programs, fewer conflicts of interest for reviewers, and a stronger science program for HST.

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Last modified October 18, 2000.
Roeland van der Marel, marel@stsci.edu.
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