Obtaining Observing Time on the VLA

by Stephan W. Witz last modified Apr 29, 2013 by Stephan Witz

Observing time on the VLA is available to all researchers, regardless of nationality or location of institution. There are no quotas or reserved blocks of time. The allocation of observing time on the VLA is based upon the submission of a VLA Observing Proposal using the on-line Proposal Submission Tool available via the NRAO Interactive Service web page, at http://my.nrao.edu/. The on-line tool permits the detailed construction of a cover sheet specifying the requested observations, using a set of on-line forms, and uploading of a pdf-format scientific and technical justification to accompany the cover information.

It is also possible to obtain VLA observing time by proposing to NASA missions, under cooperation agreements established between NRAO and those missions. Currently, such programs exist for the Chandra and Fermi missions. Astronomers interested in those joint programs should consult the relevant mission proposal calls for more information.

Students planning to use the VLA for their PhD dissertation must submit a "Plan of Dissertation Research" of no more than 1000 words with their first proposal. This plan can be referred to in later proposals. At a minimum the plan should contain a thesis time line and an estimate of the level of VLA resources needed. The plan provides some assurance against a dissertation being impaired by an adverse review of a proposal when the full scope of the thesis is not seen. The plan can be submitted via NRAO Interactive Services. Students are reminded to submit their plan comfortably in advance of the proposal deadline. New thesis plans must be in pdf format so science reviewers can easily access the plans. Students who have not yet graduated but have active plans on file should consider updating those plans to a pdf format if they are not already in that form.

Time on the VLA is scheduled on a semester basis, with each semester lasting six months. Proposal deadlines are 5pm (1700) Eastern Time on February 1 and August 1. If the deadline falls on a holiday or weekend, it is extended to the next working day. The February 1 proposal deadline nominally covers time to be scheduled during the following August through January, and the August 1 deadline is for time to be scheduled from February through July. At either deadline requests can be made for a VLA configuration linked to a future deadline.

Proposals are evaluated on the basis of scientific merit by eight Science Review Panels (SRPs). The proposals are also reviewed for technical feasibility by NRAO staff. The SRP's comments and linear-rank scores are strongly advisory to the Time Allocation Committee (TAC). The scores and comments from both the SRPs and TAC are passed on to the proposers soon after each meeting of the TAC (twice yearly) and prior to the next proposal submission deadline. See http://science.nrao.edu/observing/proposal-types/peta for a detailed description of the proposal evaluation and time allocation process.

Because of competition, even highly ranked proposals are not guaranteed to receive observing time. This is particularly true for proposals that concentrate on objects in the LST ranges occupied by popular targets such as the Galactic Center or the Virgo Cluster. Daytime observing will also continue to be limited by VLA enhancement activities throughout 2013.