Webb Director’s Discretionary Early Release Science (DD-ERS): Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Janice Lee, jlee@stsci.edu, and I. Neill Reid, inr@stsci.edu

1. Why aren’t Director’s Discretionary Early Release Science (DD-ERS) programs selected as part of the General Observer (GO) proposal process?

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.

These goals will be achieved through the rapid release of observations, and the added-value products and tools to be produced by selected DD-ERS teams. These goals are distinct from those of standard GO programs. Thus, the requirements for DD-ERS proposals and the evaluation criteria to be used by the Time Allocation Committee are also distinct. Evaluation of DD-ERS proposals is best served by a focused process that is separate from the GO proposal review.

Additionally, DD-ERS programs will be selected in advance of the GO Cycle 1 deadline. This schedule enables DD-ERS Astronomer's Proposal Tool observation files and supporting documentation to be released in time to assist the community with Cycle 1 proposal preparation. It also allows for Archival Research proposals based on observations collected through the DD-ERS program to be developed and submitted beginning in Cycle 1.

2. Won't it be difficult to produce and deliver "science-enabling products" in time to inform Cycle 2 proposal preparation? What is meant by "science-enabling products" anyway?

The term "science-enabling product" is broadly defined to encompass documentation, software tools, processed data and other resources that facilitate Webb science in the greater community.

All DD-ERS teams will be required to participate in community briefings organized by the Institute to share experience and progress on observation planning, preparatory work, data analysis, and lessons learned. The briefings will be held approximately twice yearly and will begin after program selection and will conclude after the Cycle 2 deadline. The documentation and recorded talks produced as part of these briefings by DD-ERS teams constitute one type of "science-enabling product," and the timely delivery of such products is straightforward.

DD-ERS teams will also propose to develop and provide more traditional products (tools and processed data) that will be most useful for the communities in their sub-disciplines. The specific types of products are left to the proposing team's discretion. The Institute's current plan is to disburse funding beginning October 2018 to allow DD-ERS teams to organize their processing and analysis pipelines in preparation for the receipt of data beginning in about April 2019. It is up to each team to determine the types and level of products that will be feasible to deliver in time to support community preparation of Cycle 2 proposals. It is expected that there will be multiple deliveries with more advanced products provided over longer timescales. Proposals must describe such a data products workplan and phased delivery schedule, and a core team that will be responsible for this activity.

3. Should DD-ERS teams be concerned about duplicating Guaranteed Time Observer (GTO) science?

Although GTO Cycle 1 observations cannot be duplicated, there are no such restrictions on areas of science. Robust ERS programs involve science investigations that can be performed with a variety of different targets and observations. The full set of Cycle 1 GTO observations will be released publicly no later than June 15, 2017, two months before the ERS deadline.

4. Will proposal pressure play a role in the final selection process? Will sub-disciplines be at a disadvantage if those communities collaborate extensively on a small number of proposals?

DD-ERS programs will not be awarded based on proposal pressure in a given sub-discipline. Instead, up to 15 programs will be selected to cover a range of science areas and key observing modes. Proposals that show a good cross-section of community input and support will be favored.

5. Who will review DD-ERS proposals?

A multi-disciplinary committee of experts will recommend to the Institute Director 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. Committee members will be selected from the US, ESA and Canadian astronomical communities. Proposals should be written for a non-specialist astronomical audience.

6. What are the selection criteria for DD-ERS programs?

The following criteria will guide the selection of DD-ERS programs. Finalized policies will be published in the DD-ERS Call for Proposals, to be released in early January 2017.

  • Extent to which the project will facilitate subsequent Webb observations, support broad-based research by communities in major astrophysical sub-disciplines, and facilitate community understanding of Webb science capabilities. Extent to which observations will be useful for purposes other than the immediate goals of the project, and result in datasets with significant and lasting archival value.
  • Extent to which science-enabling products will be developed to enrich overall scientific return of the mission and facilitate community understanding of Webb science capabilities.
  • Credibility of management plan for science, technical, and financial components of program. In particular, is a core team identified to be responsible for timely delivery of proposed data products?
  • The scientific merit of the program; its significance to major astrophysical sub-disciplines, and to astronomy in general.
  • A demonstration that the unique capabilities of Webb are required to achieve the science goals of the program.
  • The overall technical merit of the proposal; likelihood of executing proposed workplan in a timely manner based on technical considerations; feasibility for early execution of observations in Cycle 1; flexibility of target selection to accommodate possible changes in start of Cycle 1 science observations.