During the year 2002 the full complement of 30 public beamlines, together with 8 additional beamlines operated by Collaborating Research Groups (CRGs), were open for user experiments. Figure 142 shows the increase in requests for beam time since 1997; this figure confirms that although the main beamline construction effort was complete by 1999, the number of applications for beam time continued to rise in 2000 and 2001, and remained at a high level in 2002.

Fig. 142: Numbers of applications for beam time, experiments carried out, and user visits, 1997 to 2001. N.B. Final numbers of experiments and user visits for 2002 were not available at the time of going to press.

Proposals for experiments are selected and beam time allocations are made through peer review. Review Committees of specialists for the most part from European countries and Israel, have been set up in the following scientific areas:

  • chemistry
  • hard condensed matter: electronic and magnetic properties
  • hard condensed matter: structures
  • materials engineering and environmental matters
  • macromolecular crystallography
  • medicine
  • methods and instrumentation
  • soft condensed matter
  • surfaces and interfaces

The Review Committees met twice during the past year, some six weeks after the deadlines for submission of proposals (1 March and 1 September). They reviewed a total of 1489 applications for beam time, and selected 748 (50%), which were then scheduled for experiments.


Features of this period have been

  • the setting up of a Medical review committee, to assess research projects in medicine.
  • increasing numbers of projects concerned more with applied than basic research in materials science, engineering and environmental matters. As shown in Figure 143, experiments in these areas accounted for 10% of the total number of experiments carried out in the first half of 2002. A new facility on site, FaME38, will provide specific instrumentation and support to enable engineers to carry out materials and engineering research.
  • the very successful operation of the Block Allocation Group (BAG) scheme for macromolecular crystallography users. This scheme, designed to encourage groups of users to block together their multiple requests for beam time, and the scheduling of their experiments, encompassed 37 groups from Europe and Israel in 2002.

Fig. 143: Shifts scheduled for experiments, from February to July 2002, by scientific area.

Requests for beam time, which is scheduled in shifts of 8 hours, totalled 24 585 shifts or 196 680 hours in 2002, of which 11 759 shifts or 94 072 hours (48%) were allocated. The distribution of shifts requested and allocated, by scientific area, is shown in Table 9.


Table 9: Number of shifts of beam time requested and allocated for user experiments, year 2002.

The first half of 2002 saw 2482 visits by scientists to the ESRF under the user programme, to carry out 613 experiments. Figure 142 shows the rapid rise in the number of user visits since 1997, the higher numbers in recent years reflecting in part the multiple visits made by macromolecular crystallography BAG teams. The peak in 2000 is due to a somewhat longer scheduling period, and correspondingly higher overall number of experimental sessions and visits by users.

Overall, the number of users in each experimental team averaged 4 persons, and they stayed for some 4 days. Users responding to questionnaires indicate that they particularly appreciate the assistance they receive from scientists and support staff on beamlines, and smooth administrative arrangements, in addition to the quality both of the beam and of the experimental stations. Facilities on site, such as preparation laboratories, a canteen and the Guesthouse, also make an important contribution to the quality of user support.

On the beamlines, beam time losses tended to occur because of occasional difficulties with samples or with the beamline components. Such beam time losses, however, remained below 5% of the total shifts scheduled for experiments during the period.