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NASA Keck Call for Proposals: Frequently Asked Questions

Call for Proposals

If you have questions about the call, please contact KeckCFP@ipac.caltech.edu. Submitted questions and responses will be posted below.

For questions not answered below, please email keckcfp@ipac.caltech.edu

Dual Anonymous Peer Review (DAPR) FAQs

Q: Are references to "submitted" papers that are not on arXiv or another similar site that can be referenced permitted under the new dual anonymous rules?

A : Work that is "submitted" but not yet on arXiv or another similar site would likely identify the team, and therefore should be referenced as “personal communication." Please note that references to "submitted" work IS allowed in the non-anonymous E&A document, just not in the anonymous Science Program.

Q: If I put citations in the Expertise and Access document, is it ok to put the references in the reference section of the anonymized science program document?

A : If you have references that are only cited in the Expertise and Access document, then those references need to be listed in that E&A document. Only references cited in the Science Program should appear in the reference section of the anonymized Science Program.

Q: If I slip up in anonymizing my proposal, will it be returned without review?

A : NASA/NExScI understands that dual-anonymous peer review is a major shift in the evaluation of proposals, and as such there may be occasional slips in writing anonymized proposals. The NASA Selecting Official, the NExScI Executive Director, will determine the severity of the writing errors.

NASA further acknowledges that some proposed work may be so specialized that, despite attempts to anonymize the proposal, the identities of the Principal Investigator and team members are readily discernable. As long as the guidelines are followed, NASA will not return these proposals without review.

Q: How should institutional access to unique resourcecs, including Keck time, be anonymized?

A : A team member may have institutional access to unique facilities (e.g., access to a laboratory, observatory, specific instrumentation, or specific samples or sites) that are required to accomplish the proposed work. An anonymized proposal does not prohibit stating this fact in the anonymized Scientific Program; however, it must be written in a way that does not identify the team member.

Here is an example: The team has access to telescope time on the W. M. Keck Observatory, which will enable spectroscopic follow-up of the galaxies in the sample. The NASA time requested for this proposal is to gather complementary imaging data which could not be accommodated through access to their own TAC."

Additionally, we require that the team provide detailed supporting information to validate the claim in the appropriate section of the Expertise and Access document, which is not anonymized.

Q: How will you deal with conflict of interest and bias?

A : For each proposal, NExScI will check the names and institutional affiliation of the PIs and any other team members. These will be checked against the names and affiliations of the Telescope Allocation Committee (TAC) members before the proposals are sent to the TAC for review. Institutionally conflicted TAC members will not be assigned as primary or secondary reviewers. Otherwise conflicted TAC members will not review those proposals on which they are conflicted. TAC members will not be told of the nature of their conflict for a particular proposal.

During the TAC meeting, if the identities of the team members on a proposal become evident to a reviewer, the reviewer will privately disclose to NExScI if any strong biases exist that prevent the reviewer from delivering an objective assessment.

Q: If the identity of the "proposing teams and institutions" is shrouded in secrecy, how then are proposing teams and institutions to discuss their track-record, ongoing work, complementary endeavors, institutional assets?

A : The DAPR process has no prohibition on discussing these aspects in the anonymous science program, merely that they be discussed without attribution to a particular investigator or group. In situations such as this, NExScI recommends writing "previous work" instead of "our previous work"; or using "obtained in private communication". Proposers should be able to make their case through their description of their proposed program that they have the necessary skills to achieve success; if specific skills are required, the panel will flag that and will be able to verify this when they consult the non-anonymized Expertise and Access document. The panel will provide a full analysis of the Expertise and Access - Not Anonymized document, which includes a section on previous work, and note the qualifications of the team by checking the appropriate box (uniquely qualified; qualified; not qualified).

Q: While it is not possible for the proposing teams to show any information in the proposals that might reveal their identities, such as the context and motivation of the proposed research, unique methodologies, and cited references, why keep the reviewers guessing who the proposers are (leading to undesirable consequences)? Furthermore, the track records of the proposers should be part of the merits of the proposals.

A : It is entirely appropriate that the context and motivation of the research be addressed, as well as unique methodologies, references, etc. The main difference is that these aspects should be discussed without attribution to a particular investigator or group in the main body of the proposal. The goal of dual-anonymous peer review is to not make it completely impossible to guess the identities of the investigators, but to shift the focus of the discussion away from the individuals and toward the proposed science.

Q: Assuming that the institution also has to be anonymous, how do reviewers determine if there are sufficient institutional resources to do the research?

A : The track records of the proposing team will be addressed in the non-anonymized "Expertise and Access" document and the qualifications/track record of the team will be noted by checking the appropriate box (uniquely qualified; qualified; not qualified).

Q: Even if referencing is done in the 3rd person, there will be good number, maybe even dominant number, of references to my own prior work. So, it is very conceivable that a reviewer could guess by that who is proposing or at least from what group or institution the proposal comes.

A : Yes, this is unavoidable to some extent. Without a bibliography, the reviewers will have no means to assess any claims made in the proposal. Thus, we opted for a balanced way of handling references. One note: there may be a dominant number of references to a certain author's work, but the dual-anonymous process still does not make it 100% clear who the PI is. For example, the PI could be a different or former member of the group cited frequently in the proposal.

Q: Should I anonymize the metadata in my proposal?

A : Yes. Please ensure that metadata (e.g., PDF bookmarks) that could give information about the proposing team and/or institutions is redacted.


General FAQs

Q: The WMKO cover sheet only allows co-I names to be entered if they have a WMKO observer account. Do we need to create accounts for all our co-Is?

A : All the co-I names and institutions should be entered on the NExScI submission page. On the Keck cover sheet, you can only include the co-Is who have WMKO observer accounts.

Q: Our program has hundreds of potential targets; do we need to list them all or can we list the coordinates of the fields in which the targets sit?

A : As stated in the Science Program template, "In the case of Targets of Opportunity or sources drawn from on-going surveys, a description of the potential targets must be provided in sufficient detail for the TAC to make a thorough review." Sources from ongoing surveys can also include large samples from deep extragalactic fields.

Q: Are there any restrictions on who can be a PI on a proposal?

A : The only restriction is that the PI must be based at a US institution. An awarded proposal can have an administrative PI different from the proposal PI if the PI, as a student/postdoc for example, are not able to administer funds.

Q: Are Notices of Intent (NOIs) required only for KSMS proposals?

A : Yes, NOIs are just required for KSMS proposals. They are not required for General Observing or regular Mission Support proposals.

Q: I've heard that there will be new instruments coming on-line during this KSMS period. Can I propose for them?

A : In addition to the current suite of available instrumentation, the Keck Observatory will be making three new capabilities available during the period covered by this KSMS call. While these instruments may be used in a shared risk mode during 2022A or 2022B, they will be available to NASA users and KSMS proposers only in 2023A and beyond.

  • The Keck Planet Finder (KPF) is an ultra-stable high resolution spectrograph with R=90,000 and wavelength coverage between 445 and 870 nm. KPF will be in full science operations to and available to NASA proposers starting in semester 2023A. KPF is described here and here.
  • The Keck Cosmic Reionization Mapper (KCRM) is an integral field spectrograph with multiple spatial and spectral resolutions which extends the KCWI instrument to provide wavelength coverage over the range 3400-10000 Å. KCRM will be in full science operations and available to NASA proposers starting in semester 2023A. KCRM is described here and here.
  • The Laser Frequency Comb (LFC) calibration unit for NIRSPEC will provide a high-precision IR wavelength reference at JHK wavelengths for observations in conjunction with the KPIC Adaptive Optics feed to NIRSPEC. The LFC will enable radial velocity measurements with < 3 m/s precision as well as providing a stable monitor of the Line Spread Function. The LFC will be in full science operations with KPIC/NIRSPEC and available to NASA proposers starting in semester 2023A. The LFC is described here.

Therefore, you can propose for them, but only starting in 2023A. Please note that these new instruments will not appear on the NExScI submission page or WMKO cover sheet until the instruments are fully available to the community. Therefore, on both the NExScI submission page and WMKO scheduling coversheet, please select the current instrument you would use for this program if the new instrument was not available when you need it and note both the current and new instruments in the proposal text. When the new instrument becomes available, you can submit a WMKO scheduling sheet for that instrument.

Q: Our proposed project requests a full night of observations on a specific date and time. Is this considered a classical program - "requesting time that is flexible in scheduling" - or cadence program - "with specific date or date range requests"?

A : If you are requesting observations on a date specific night, please submit your proposal as 'classical'. On the WMKO scheduling sheet, and in your proposal, please specify which night and/or time you are requesting (in HST). If your proposal is recommended for time by the TAC, then it will be sent to WMKO as a 'time critical/date specific' observation.

Q: Is there a standard way of acknowledging the award of NASA Keck time and the associated funding?

A : All publications based on data acquired with the Keck telescopes should include the following acknowledgement:

"This work was supported by a NASA Keck PI Data Award, administered by the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute. Data presented herein were obtained at the W. M. Keck Observatory from telescope time allocated to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration through the agency's scientific partnership with the California Institute of Technology and the University of California. The Observatory was made possible by the generous financial support of the W. M. Keck Foundation.

The authors wish to recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that the summit of Maunakea has always had within the indigenous Hawaiian community. We are most fortunate to have the opportunity to conduct observations from this mountain."

Please send a citation for any paper using this acknowledgement to us at keckcfp@ipac.caltech.edu.

Q: Is there a standard way of acknowledging use of the Keck Observatory Archive (KOA)?

A : All publications based on data in the Keck Observatory Archive (KOA) should include this acknowledgement.

Q: I am currently at an institution outside the U.S. and will be starting a position at a U.S. institution soon after the deadline to apply for Keck time. Therefore, I will be a U.S.-based astronomer before the start of the observing semester but after the proposal deadline. Am I allowed to propose as a P.I.?

A : Yes, you can apply as a P.I. since you will be based in the U.S. before the start of the observing semester. Include all the information from the U.S.-based institution in your proposal for NASA Keck observing time.

Q: Do you have to be a U.S. citizen or at a NASA institution to apply for NASA Keck time?

A : No, you do not have to be at a NASA institution or be a US Citizen in order to apply for NASA Keck time. Any scientist from any US institution may apply.

Q: What do the following criteria really mean? "Investigations in support of Cosmic Origins science goals and missions."

A : The Cosmic Origins theme science includes stars, star formation, galaxies/AGN, and galaxy formation as described here.

Q: Is the solicitation restricted to science associated with specific missions?

A : NASA Keck time is not limited to a set of specific missions, but rather to projects that address the goals and questions in the Solar System, Exoplanet, Cosmic Origins, and Physics of the Cosmos science themes. Your job is to convince the TAC that it is relevant to a NASA goal in one of these science areas, as well as being an efficient use of NASA Keck time.


FAQs related to Mission Support Status and Key Strategic Mission (KSMS) Support Proposals

Q: Does the minimum of 10 nights have to be spread evenly across 2 or more semesters?

A : You do NOT have to spread the nights out evenly across semesters.

Q: Are Notices of Intent (NOIs) required only for KSMS proposals?

A : Yes, NOIs are just required for KSMS proposals. They are not required for General Observing or regular Mission Support proposals.

Q: Can co-Is be added to a KSMS proposal after the NOI has been submitted?

A : The PI and Co-I names and proposal title should not change once the NOI is submitted since we will use this information in selecting an appropriate review panel. Co-Is may be added to the proposal only with approval of the NASA Selection Official.

Q: Are proposed flagship or probe missions, or proposed major new programs such as the Extreme Precision Radial Velocity Initiative (EPRV) eligible for the current 2021 KSMS opportunity?

A : No future flagships, probes nor any possible new initiatives (e.g. EPRV) have been endorsed by the ASTRO2020 Decadal Report thus far. Unfortunately, it is not likely that NASA will be able to formulate its response to the ASTRO2020 report immediately upon the release of the report later this year. Accordingly, KSMS proposers should NOT expect to receive the necessary endorsement from NASA HQ for these missions or programs. We therefore recommend that KSMS proposals address the needs of missions either currently in operation, or in an advanced state of formulation and/or development. However, it is certainly appropriate within the body of any proposal to emphasize the long-term importance to future missions and NASA goals.

Q: I've heard that there will be new instruments coming on-line during this KSMS period. Can I propose for them?

A : In addition to the current suite of available instrumentation, the Keck Observatory will be making three new capabilities available during the period covered by this KSMS call. While these instruments may be used in a shared risk mode during 2022A or 2022B, they will be available to NASA users and KSMS proposers only in 2023A and beyond.

  • The Keck Planet Finder (KPF) is an ultra-stable high resolution spectrograph with R=90,000 and wavelength coverage between 445 and 870 nm. KPF will be in full science operations to and available to NASA proposers starting in semester 2023A. KPF is described here and here.
  • The Keck Cosmic Reionization Mapper (KCRM) is an integral field spectrograph with multiple spatial and spectral resolutions which extends the KCWI instrument to provide wavelength coverage over the range 3400-10000 Å. KCRM will be in full science operations and available to NASA proposers starting in semester 2023A. KCRM is described here and here.
  • The Laser Frequency Comb (LFC) calibration unit for NIRSPEC will provide a high-precision IR wavelength reference at JHK wavelengths for observations in conjunction with the KPIC Adaptive Optics feed to NIRSPEC. The LFC will enable radial velocity measurements with < 3 m/s precision as well as providing a stable monitor of the Line Spread Function. The LFC will be in full science operations with KPIC/NIRSPEC and available to NASA proposers starting in semester 2023A. The LFC is described here.

Therefore, you can propose for them, but only starting in 2023A. Please note that these new instruments will not appear on the NExScI submission page or WMKO cover sheet until the instruments are fully available to the community. Therefore, on both the NExScI submission page and WMKO scheduling coversheet, please select the current instrument you would use for this program if the new instrument was not available when you need it and note both the current and new instruments in the proposal text. When the new instrument becomes available, you can submit a WMKO scheduling sheet for that instrument.

Q: Is Subaru swap time available for KSMS programs?

A : You may request up to 1 night/semester on Subaru for a KSMS program, with the remainder of the program being conducted with Keck instruments.

Q: Are KSMS allocations limited to whole nights, or are partial nights possible?

A : For the Keck telescopes: Half night requests are allowed. Quarter night increments are difficult to schedule and may, in fact, not be schedulable due to WMKO requirements. Therefore quarter night requests are strongly discouraged. However, up to 6 cadence observations are allowed per semester and may be requested through the KSMS opportunity.

For the Subaru telescope: The facility prefers full night allocations, although it is usually possible to arrange half night increments. Smaller increments or queue scheduled observations are not permitted.

Q: Is the solicitation restricted to science associated with specific missions?

A : NASA Keck time is not limited to a set of specific missions, but rather to projects that address the goals and questions in the Solar System, Exoplanet, Cosmic Origins, and Physics of the Cosmos science themes. Your job is to convince the TAC that it is relevant to a NASA goal in one of these science areas, as well as being an efficient use of NASA Keck time.

Q: What does "critical and timely support for approved NASA space missions" mean?

A : In this case, "critical" refers to refers to NASA Keck data meeting one or more of the following criteria:

  1. Essential to achieving Level 1 Requirements of the mission, e.g. Kepler follow-up at Keck being essential to validate and characterize planet candidates, validating WISE completeness/reliability right after launch, gathering data during LCROSS lunar impact;
  2. Essential to mission planning activities including those affecting the health, safety, and risk mitigation of NASA assets, e.g. looking for potentially harmful debris in the rings orbiting Pluto that might endanger the New Horizons spacecraft;
  3. Parallel/coordinated observations with NASA assets required for time critical events and/or for independent validation and verification of the space mission data, e.g. to support SOFIA observations of Pluto multiple occultations;
  4. Longer term mission planning, e.g. looking for Kuiper Belt objects that New Horizons could fly to after its encounter with Pluto;
  5. Observations essential to the calibration or data reduction of instruments on NASA missions, e.g. calibration of JWST spectrometers using the spectra of astrophysical objects.

Q: Do the required mission support letters count against the page number restrictions?

A : No, these are separate documents that are submitted in addition to the proposal.


FAQs related to Current/Past Allocated Observing Time

Q: Should the "references and status of allocated time on large telescopes" and the "progress report for ongoing or recently completed NASA Keck projects" be included for the PI only or for all the Co-Is as well?

A : This is only required for the proposal PI. However, if your Co-Is' project is relevant to your current proposal in any way, then a listing of the time allocated and a progress report for that project should also be included.

Q: Should progress reports be included for ongoing or recently completed Keck projects that I am involved with but not as the PI or am I exempt from this since I am not the PI on these projects?

A : This requirement is only for the proposal PI. However if the project is relevant to your current proposal in any way, then a progress report should be included.

Q: What specific information should be included in the section "status of allocated time on large telescopes"?

A : An overview of recent and pending large telescope time, NASA or otherwise, is advised. If the time pertains directly to your proposed program, feel free to offer details. It is also prudent to note any publications resulting from previous telescope time, NASA or otherwise.

Q: Is there a template for the final Keck PI Data Award report?

A : Yes, using this template for your final report will ensure that all relevant information is included.


FAQs related to Proposal Format

Q: Is there a standard proposal template?

A : Yes, we have a template for each of the two parts of the NASA Keck proposals: the Science Program and the Expertise and Access document. These templates are available in both Word and Latex formats. Use of the templates is required and will help you submit a compliant proposal. Please also read the Call for Proposals to ensure that you include all of the information requested. You can find the templates for the two parts of the proposal here:

Q: Do the required mission support letters count against the page number restrictions?

A : No, these are separate documents that are submitted in addition to the proposal.


FAQs related to Remote Observing

Q: Can I make my NASA Keck observations from a remote location?

A : Yes. NASA Keck observers have access to remote observing facilities (ROFs) at Caltech, Yale, and through USRA in Columbia, MD. Please note that other ROFs are also available and NASA users with access to these may use them, however arrangements must be made with those ROFs directly (i.e. independent of NExScI).

Observers wishing to use the Caltech,Yale, or URSA/Columbia ROFs are required to follow the procedure described at the WMKO Mainland Observing Policies page and summarized here. This process should be started at least 5 weeks prior to the scheduled observing run.


(last updated September 15th, 2021 12:19:35)