Observing proposals for the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope are reviewed and ranked on their scientific case and their feasibility by the ASTRON/NWO Program Committee (PC) consisting of scientific experts from the international astronomy community.
The PC provides an overall ranking which then forms the basis for the allocation and scheduling of telescope time. The assessment and ranking takes into account the scientific excellence of the projects proposed, and their technical feasibility. Projects can be admitted in part, or in modified form.
The proposers are informed of the decision to admit or reject their proposals, and are supplied with a synthesis of the comments made by the PC. The intent is to carry out all allocated projects within a specific semester. Observations that because of inferior data quality would fail to accomplish the science goals will be repeated if possible. In some circumstances, overall schedule optimization will lead to admitted projects being observed in the subsequent semester. Carry-forward beyond this will require a request or revised proposal to the PC, and will only rarely take place. This policy on data quality stands in contrast with the policy of other observatories.
2. Special categories of regular proposals
a. Long-Term Programs
Long-Term Programs run over 2, 3, or 4 semesters. If they run over 3 or 4 semesters, the proposers will be required to submit a progress report to the PC 1 year after the original proposal, addressing issues as will be stipulated by the PC. If the progress or response is clearly insufficient, the PC can terminate the program. Since semester 13A is likely the last semester in which we provide the array fully equipped with MFFEs before the transitional phase towards Apertif, conventional long-term proposals are no longer accepted. Long-term monitoring programs which can make use of an array consisting of 6-8 telescopes will still be considered.
b. Large Programs
A Large Program is larger than 250 hours per semester; many will be Long-Term programs, but this is not mandatory. The intention is to fill a multi-year average of 25% of the WSRT calendar with such large endeavors. The PC may impose special requirements concerning rapid public data access or progress on Large Programs.
Service proposals can be submitted at any time, and can request up to 26 hours of telescope time (this is an expansion of the scheme as it existed until semester 08A). The suitability of Service projects will be assessed by the Observatory Director, the WSRT scheduler, and Observatory technical staff. Service projects are intended for quick verifications, pilots, acquisition of some ancillary data, etc., and, if approved, will receive "filler" priority for the running semester, without any guarantee of being carried out.
Urgent proposals will be assessed on scientific excellence just like regular proposals, and must in addition demonstrate why the project could not be submitted before the last deadline and cannot wait for the next semester. They will be assessed by the Observatory Director, in consultation with the PC (Chair) if time allows.
5. Director's Discretionary Time
This is intended for projects that cannot be regularly accommodated in the categories above, yet are judged by the Observatory Director as having the potential to bring added value to the overall, long-term scientific output and standing of the Observatory. The observing time available for this type of proposals is a maximum of ten percent of the allocated observing time per semester.