Key Science Projects at the NRAO

Robert Dickman, Karen O'Neill and Fred K.Y. Lo

Beginning with the Observatory’s October 1, 2009 deadline, proposals for time on the VLBA, the GBT and the EVLA will be considered for designation as “Key Science Projects.” Key Science Projects should be those that have high science impact, addressing fundamental and forefront issues in astronomy and astrophysics. The Key Science Project status of a proposal will be based on its scientific ranking from the proposal review process, the recommendation by the Proposal Selection Committee (PSC), and the approval by the NRAO Director. (Any proposal involving ALMA will go through the International ALMA Proposal Review Process for the ALMA part of the request.)

Both regular and large proposals are eligible for Key Project status; there will be no strict a priori limit to the amount of time that can be assigned to such projects, but up to 50% of the time at any particular LST is a practical starting point. Ongoing projects that have already been allocated time in previous trimesters may also be considered for Key Science Project designation. The progress of Key Science Projects that last over many years will be assessed annually, to assess their suitability for continued designation as Key Science Projects. The NRAO aims to provide maximum possible support to and to work collaboratively with the researchers of such Key Science Projects, so that the highest ranked projects are completed successfully and in a timely fashion.

To ensure optimum support within NRAO’s resource limits, however, large programs receiving the Key Science designation are encouraged to consider sending students or postdoctoral fellows to be in residence at Socorro or Green Bank for a suitably extended period. Observatory staff will assist with training these individuals in VLBI and other techniques, and it is expected that these individuals will then play a significant role in assisting in the verification of project data quality and subsequent data processing and calibration.

In addition, the NRAO has a program for supporting research by students at US universities and colleges.

As a result of its ongoing VLBA bandwidth expansion program NRAO expects to be able to support 2 Gbps sustained data rates by the end of 2010. Scientifically justifiable requests for higher data rates will be considered. Such requests will be prioritized according to scientific merit and granted subject to the availability of media and correlator capacity. PIs may wish to contact NRAO staff ahead of time for help in determining media requirements for a particular project. PIs are also encouraged to consider providing additional media and/or correlator capacity, to enhance the overall VLBA capabilities for the entire VLBA user community.