Webb Director’s Discretionary Early Release Science (DD-ERS)

Janice Lee, jlee@stsci.edu

The James Webb Space Telescope has been designed with an expected lifetime of 10 years, and minimum lifetime of 5 years. To realize Webb’s full science potential over this timescale, the scientific community must rapidly learn to use its sophisticated capabilities. To accelerate the process of discovery by the community, and maximize the science productivity of the mission, the Institute, in consultation with the JWST Advisory Committee (JSTAC), has developed the Director’s Discretionary Early Release Science (DD-ERS) program. Feedback collected through the "Survey to Gauge Community Interest in an Early Release Science Program with JWST," which was open from October 2015 to January 2016, also guided the program's development.

An overview of the program is provided here. Full details will be available in early January 2017, with the release of the DD-ERS Call for Notices of Intent (NoIs) to Propose.

The overall goals of the DD-ERS program are to:

  • accelerate the diffusion of Webb know-how, and
  • expand early opportunities for the community to gain experience with Webb data and scientific analysis.

In service of these goals, DD-ERS proposals will be invited from the community, and selected for their potential to aid researchers in learning to exploit the science capabilities of Webb early in its mission. The DD-ERS program will provide open access to coherent suites of science observations soon after commissioning, as well as science-enabling products developed from those observations. In particular, the DD-ERS program will help inform the scientific and technical preparation of Cycle 2 General Observer (GO) proposals, which will be submitted seven months after end of commissioning.

As such, DD-ERS projects are distinguished from standard GO investigations by the following key principles:

  • Projects must be substantive science demonstration programs that will provide representative datasets of broad interest to researchers in major astrophysical sub-disciplines. The datasets will: facilitate the preparation of Cycle 2 proposals; have lasting archival value; and be useful for purposes other than the immediate goals of the project. Coherent investigations utilizing multiple observing modes are valued, though not required.
  • Projects must design, create, and deliver science-enabling products to help the community learn to observe effectively with Webb and analyze its data. The specific types of products are left to the proposing team’s discretion. Each project must define a core team to be responsible for the timely delivery of such products according to a proposed work plan. The timescale of an initial set of product deliveries must support the preparation of Cycle 2 proposals. Projects will also participate in a set of four community briefings organized by the Institute to help disseminate lessons-learned over the span of the program. To support preparatory activities to accelerate the processing and analysis of data early in Cycle 1, we expect that funding for DD-ERS teams will be available beginning October 2018.
  • Observations must be schedulable within the first 4–5 months of Cycle 1, and target lists must be flexible to accommodate possible changes to the scheduled start of science observations.
  • Projects are encouraged to have teams with a range of representation in expertise and demographics of community members within a given major sub-discipline. A project designed with input from a team including members with a good cross-section of expertise helps ensure that the observations and products will be of broad interest. A range of demographic representation (e.g., in seniority, gender, etc.) facilitates the dissemination of Webb expertise through a more inclusive network, and promotes equitable participation in Webb scientific discovery.
  • Both raw and pipeline-processed data will enter the public domain immediately after processing and validation at the Institute; i.e., these data will have no proprietary time.

The Institute Director will make up to 500 hours of discretionary time available for ERS, and early resources are allocated to support up to 15 teams. Proposals will be selected in research areas spanning the science themes of Webb: first light and reionization; the assembly of galaxies; the birth of stars and proto-planetary systems; and planets and the origin of life. A multi-disciplinary committee of experts will recommend a suite of proposals that both fulfills the goals of the DD-ERS and makes optimal use of the available time for observation and funding.

Target of opportunity and pure-parallel observations will not be considered for the DD-ERS program, and should instead be proposed for the Cycle 1 GO program. The inherent uncertainty in scheduling such observations is inconsistent with the objective to provide the community open access to science data early in Cycle 1. In general, investigations inconsistent with the goals and key principles of the DD-ERS program should be submitted in response to subsequent GO Calls for Proposals.

DD-ERS proposals will be reviewed, selected, and publicized prior to the Cycle 1 GO deadline, and Archival Research proposals based on DD-ERS observations will be permitted beginning in Cycle 1. To enable the Institute to prepare for the proposal review, NoIs to propose for the DD-ERS program will be due on Friday, March 3, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. ET. NoIs are mandatory and only investigators who submit NoIs will be permitted to submit a full proposal. Proposals are due on Friday, August 18, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. ET.