Smooth start for IT system handling beam time proposals


For many years, 1 September has been the autumn deadline for submitting beam time proposals to the ESRF. In 2012, the proposers had to use a new software tool for this purpose and as always with new software, its deployment was the first test under real conditions, i.e. non-expert users from all around the world logged in at the same time.

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The new software has successfully taken its first hurdles and the ESRF has been able to log once more a high number of proposals, showing continued user interest by its users. During the critical days leading up to the deadline the only glitch was  two outages that were rapidly intercepted and corrected by the technical staff, each intervention lasting less than 30 minutes.

The new software tool became necessary as the ESRF wishes to incorporate the entire proposal review procedure into a single IT tool and at the same time adapt it to a new structure of the Beam Time Allocation Panels (BTAPs) put in place in 2012. The tool, put online in July 2012, is now being used by the beamline scientists for a preliminary evaluation of all proposals and will then support the BTAP members in their scientific evaluation. The scope of the tool is extremely wide and once fully in place, it will help BTAP members, beamline scientists and the User Office to perform their tasks more efficiently, and to process and publish the results of the review more quickly.

By 1 September, 894 new standard and BAG (Block Access Group) proposals were logged requesting beam time between March and July 2013. In addition, 20 rolling applications and 27 interim requests for BAG beam time in the area of Structural Biology were included into the review process, bringing the total number of submitted proposals to 941. This number is on a par with that for the September deadlines two or three years ago when the ESRF was operating at full capacity. Today, some beamlines are temporarily unavailable whilst they are upgraded and also the overall time for user operations is slightly lower. Interest in the ESRF from international scientists remains high despite these restrictions linked to the Upgrade – in fact the community appears to be keener than ever before to use the ESRF for their projects!

A big Thank You to our users for their continued interest, and to the programmers and testers of the new software for their successful work!


Top image: Upgraded proposals system is functioning correctly. Credit: ESRF/Molyneux Associates.