Monday, January 30, 2006

Lesser Proposals

So, the number of Hubble proposals seems to have been about 720 for this cycle, comparable to the 727 received last year, and down by about 30% from cycle 13 and earlier, when typically about 1000 proposals were received per cycle.
This is clearly from the lack of spectroscopic capability, and means the community is not adapting their observing strategies to try to squeeze out more time for observing.
Which is kind of reassuring, it implies that the proposals are really science driven, not money or resource driven - if the latter then the number of imaging proposals would artificially inflate as people get the perception that they are easier to get through.
And they are, last year oversubscription was only about 5:1 for orbits, and about 4:1 in terms of number of actual proposals accepted (ie the perception that small proposals are more likely to get time is correct).
It will be interesting to see if people asked for more orbits per proposal this time, since spectroscopy sucks up more time per target on average, there should be a perception that it is worth asking for more time per proposal.

Next big question is what the $/orbit figure of merit will be, that's been squeezed in recent years. First the rationale was that spectroscopy is harder so bulk of the money per orbit goes to spectra; then someone muttered that with improved software support it took less human time to reduce the data ('though how people get 0.317 postdocs I don't know - splitting graduate students I understand, splitting postdocs is much harder). Then there is the true fact that operations have improved, so there are more science orbits per cycle (I think, should probably verify that) so therefore less $/orbit given a fixed budget.
But, sadly, we are also not given a fixed budget, so there is less money per proposal per orbit each year.
Soon we'll be doing everything for nothing.


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