UCO Keck TAC Policies and Procedures

Developed by the UC Observatories Advisory Committee and the UCO Director
Updated April 7, 2015


Recently, the structure of the UC Keck TAC has changed significantly. Whereas previously the UCO Director served as Chair of the TAC panels, now the TAC Chair duty is frequently delegated to other UC faculty. Written guidelines are needed to inform the TAC Chairs and members of their duties and responsibilities. Additionally, guidelines are needed to describe the responsibilities of the UCO administration and staff in overseeing the TAC process. Many of these policies will apply to the Lick TAC as well.

This is intended to be a "living document" that will be regularly reviewed and updated as needed, in order to optimize the functioning of the TACs. Your input is very welcome. The UCO Director will review these policies each semester when the Keck Call for Proposals is distributed, and make revisions as needed in consultation with the UCOAC.

At present, it is assumed that the person(s) responsible for scheduling UC's Keck and Lick time will continue to be UCO faculty members at UCSC. As described below, communication between the TAC chairs and schedulers is essential to ensure that the telescope schedules reflect the TACs' intentions to the greatest extent possible.

Duties of the UCO administration and staff

1. The UCO Director will appoint the TAC Chairs and members. These appointments are normally for two-year terms but may be renewed at the discretion of the UCO Director. The TAC Chair for Keck or Lick should preferably have served as a TAC member for at least two semesters before being appointed as Chair. Keck TAC Chairs and members can be selected from members of the faculty or research staff at any UC campus or UC-affiliated lab. The criteria for serving as a UC Keck TAC member will be the same as the criteria for eligibility to submit UC Keck proposals as PI. For the Lick TAC, the membership can be drawn from faculty, researchers, and postdocs at UC campuses and affiliated labs, while the Lick TAC Chair should be a member of the faculty or long-term research staff.

2. Each TAC panel should include at most one member of a currently active LMAP proposal.

3. For each semester's TAC meeting, UCO administration and staff will:

  • Provide these TAC Policies and Procedures to TAC Chairs and members, when proposals are assigned to individual TAC members for review. This includes information regarding the grading scale for proposals, and policies regarding conflicts of interest in reviewing proposals. The grading scale and guidelines must be uniform across both Keck TACs.
  • Arrange the logistics and scheduling of the TAC meetings, after polling the Chairs and members for their scheduling preferences.
  • Allocate proposals between the Galactic and Extragalactic TACs, in consultation with the TAC Chairs.
  • Provide TAC Chairs and members with information and instructions for using the TAC web site. Distribute the proposals to TAC members via the TAC web site as soon as possible after the submission deadline. For the convenience of TAC members, provide downloadable tar files for the Galactic and Extragalactic proposals separately.
  • Ensure that the TAC Chairs, TAC members, and UC Keck scheduler are provided with all necessary information each semester regarding currently active LMAP programs, their projected durations, nights requested and allocated (total allocation for the entire project, and nights actually allocated to the project in previous semesters), and any relevant benchmarks or criteria for evaluating the progress of the program. The UCO Director's Office will maintain a spreadsheet or table with this information, updated each semester.
  • Require UC's Keck scheduler to attend both TAC meetings, if possible, to ensure that the Keck schedule accurately reflects the TACs' intentions.
  • Ensure that the scheduler and the TAC Chairs meet or have a telecon to discuss scheduling issues and to merge the recommendations of the two TACs soon after the TAC meetings are concluded.
  • Distribute TAC review comments to proposal PIs as soon as possible after the new observing schedule is posted.
  • In proposal calls, provide information to the Keck user community regarding the level of oversubscription for Keck I and II in the most recent semester(s).

It is recommended that UCO adopt a written policy defining what situations constitute conflicts of interest in reviewing Keck or Lick proposals, and how conflicts of interest should be handled during TAC meetings.

Duties of the TAC Chairs

1. Acceptance of the TAC Chair position implies a commitment to carry out the duties listed below, and to be present for the entire duration of each semester's TAC meeting. The TAC meeting will be scheduled taking the Chairs' and members' scheduling preferences into account.

2. The TAC Chair is responsible for various organizational tasks before, during, and after the TAC meeting. These duties include the following.

Before the TAC meeting:
  • Assign primary reviewers for each proposal, paying careful attention to scientific expertise and to potential conflicts of interest.

During the TAC meeting:
  • Manage conflicts of interest by having TAC members leave the room before discussion and/or abstain from voting on proposals, as necessary.
  • Ensure that the discussion of proposals proceeds efficiently considering the limited time available so that all proposals can be judged fairly.
  • For each proposal, discuss both grade ranking and number of nights recommended. After all proposals have been ranked by grade, the TAC should review the number of nights recommended for each proposal and revise the recommended number of nights as appropriate.
  • After proposals have been graded, lead a discussion regarding any additional information that should be passed along to the scheduler, potentially including a lower grade boundary below which proposals should not be allocated time.
  • Ensure that primary reviewers enter comments into the TAC web site for each proposal.
  • It is the primary reviewer's responsibility to write the proposal review comments that will be distributed to the PIs, incorporating relevant comments submitted by other TAC members. It is imperative that there be a tight deadline for TAC members to submit their final comments after the meeting has concluded: preferably by the end of the day but in any case no more than 48 hours after the meeting.
  • If new LMAP proposals are approved, inform the UCO Director regarding the nature of the project, duration, and nights provisionally allocated to the programs.
  • Inform the Director of any other significant changes to allocations or relevant information regarding currently active LMAP programs.

After the TAC meeting, the TAC Chair will:
  • Review the proposal comments to be sent to PIs; edit as needed for fairness, completeness, and accuracy.
  • Participate in a meeting (or telecon) with the other TAC chair and the UC Keck scheduler to discuss issues including nights recommended for proposals; allocations of nights to LMAP programs; possible matching of half-night programs to fill nights, etc. The TAC Chairs and scheduler may opt to include TAC members in this telecon if they feel that there are specific issues that need to be clarified. If they do, then all TAC members should be invited to participate. However, TAC members should be instructed that this is not an opportunity to re-grade or re-rank proposals; the purpose is to clarify details of the TAC's recommendations to the scheduler.

3. Service as TAC Chair represents a major commitment of time and effort and should be recognized as such during personnel actions. On behalf of each TAC Chair, the UCO Director should contact the TAC Chair's home department chair to inform them of the appointment and the fact that this represents a substantial systemwide service activity. Similarly, service as the Keck or Lick scheduler represents a major commitment of time and effort and should be considered appropriately during personnel action reviews.

UCO Policy: Keck Telescope Time

Dated: March 2003

A. All ladder rank faculty and ladder rank emeritus in residence of the University of California are entitled to apply on a competitive basis for UC observing time at the Keck Observatory. Non-faculty UC instrument PIs may apply on the same basis for a period of up to five years.

B. Up to 20% of the UC share of observing time can be awarded to non-faculty UC scientists holding research appointments with titles such as "research astronomer" or "research physicist" and the like. These must be full-time, long-term appointments. Proposals from individuals in this category will be judged in competition with those coming under category A above.

C. Postdoctoral fellows (including special fellowships such as Hubble and Miller Fellows) and temporary visitors to UC are not eligible to apply for UC Keck observing time. The title "Adjunct Professor" does not give eligibility to apply for time. Their access to the Keck Telescopes will be through collaborations with proposers in categories A and B.

D. Graduate students are not eligible to apply for Keck observing time. Graduate student access for thesis research is highly restricted and will only be granted if the proposed thesis research is judged highly meritorious and constitutes a major part of the faculty advisor's research program. There will be no guaranteed time on subsequent reviews.