New Review Process Starts with High Demand to Observe with ALMA

The ALMA Call for Proposals (CfP) for observations in Cycle 8 2021 had a fantastic response from the community with a record number of hours requested. And, for the first time, the selection process of the main CfP will use a distributed peer review system which was tested previously in a supplemental call for proposals.

The CfP Cycle 8 2021 closed on April 21. The community submitted 40 Large Program proposals (compared to 14 at Cycle 7) and requested a record number of hours on the 12-meter and compact arrays. The time oversubscription on the Main Array was 6.1, while in the previous CfP (Cycle 7), it was 4.5.

“The response to the ALMA proposal call this year has been astounding. Across all the different fields of ALMA science, the community has proposed more ambitious programs than before,” explains ALMA Director Sean Dougherty. “This could be the result of the observatory encouraging more extensive and ambitious programs, or possibly a side effect of the pandemic. No matter, the increase in the number of hours the community has requested and the dramatic increase in the number of proposals requesting more than 50 hours is remarkable.”

In the renovated review process, one member of each research team submits a proposal is also responsible for reviewing ten proposals from other users. This format has not been used in the main CfP before. Since May 6, the distributed reviewers are ranking the 1497 proposals that requested less than 25 hours of observation on the 12-m Array or less than 150 hours on the 7-m Array. There will be a panel review for proposals requesting more than 25 hours on the 12-m Array and Large Programs, as it formerly was for all proposals in previous cycles.

“The distributed peer review process allows the workload on any individual reviewer to be significantly reduced, where in the past a reviewer may have had to review 100 proposals or more”, explains Observatory Scientist John Carpenter. “It also allows broader participation of the community to make the review process more transparent”, he adds.

Another key measure that was implemented for the Cycle 8 CfP is a dual anonymous review, where the names of the proposal team will not be revealed to the reviewers. “We have been taking several steps in the past few years to reduce biases as much as possible with respect to gender, affiliation, and nationality,” says Andrea Corvillón, lead of the ALMA Proposal Handling Team. “Dual-anonymous review will allow the reviewers to focus on the scientific merit of each proposal.”

Results of the ALMA Call for Proposals for observations in Cycle 8 2021 will be announced by early August.

ALMA from the air

Credit: Clem & Adri Bacri-Normier (

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