Call for Proposals for SMA Large-Scale Science Projects

Opportunity for large-scale observing programs with the SMA

Proposal Review


The SMA invites proposals for large-scale observing projects dedicated to answering major astrophysical questions having significant scientific impact. These are projects requiring observing time of order 100-1000 hours that can make efficient use of the sensitivity, field of view, and u-v coverage of the SMA, and can take advantage of particular strengths of the SMA such as its wide bandwidth, large field-of-view and flexible scheduling. For a description of the current capabilities of the SMA, please refer to Array Status and Technical Information. Projects requiring less than 100 hours of observing time should propose in response to a standard Call for Proposals.

Large-scale proposals may be submitted by scientists from the worldwide astronomy community in addition to those affiliated with SMA partner institutions. Submitted proposals will be subject to extensive review and should therefore include a strong scientific justification. Accepted proposals will likely be observed over multiple semesters, and multiple large-scale observing programs may run concurrently. However, the total amount of time allocated to large-scale projects will not exceed 40% of CfA's available observing time in any semester. Successful proposals from partner institutions are expected to use a matching fraction of time from their pools.

Large-scale projects will follow a phased proposal development, submission, and review process as described below.


Prospective PIs of large-scale proposals may submit a Notice of Intent (NoI) at any time. The NoI must include a brief scientific justification, an estimate of the time and observing conditions required to perform the observations and the rationale for the use of the SMA as opposed to another facility. In addition, it should provide a list of expected Co-I's in order to avoid conflicts of interest in seeking expert reviewers.

The PI or a designated Co-I will be encouraged to make a comprehensive presentation at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Presenting the proposed project to the broader CfA scientific community and SMA technical experts will help to further develop scientific and technical aspects of the proposal. The SMA science meeting regularly held at the CfA is an ideal forum for these presentations. This process is expected to result in a robust full proposal.

The full proposal should:

  • Further develop the scientific justification in the context of the current state-of-the-art and any on-going programmes in the field and explain the legacy science value to the community.
  • Justify the time and configuration requests through detailed estimates of expected source strength and spatial structure.
  • Describe the methods required to achieve the science goals.
  • Identify those team members who will perform data reduction and analysis, and those who will provide theoretical support to the observing program.
  • Demonstrate that sufficient resources are available to the team to enable the highest quality publications, presentations, and other data products to be made available to the wider astronomical community.
  • Provide a timetable and propose methods for dissemination of results to the community.
Proposals are submitted through the My Projects page under each individual PI's SMA Project Account. The proposal should not exceed seven pages, comprising up to four pages of scientific and technical justification, up to two pages of figures, tables and references, and a one-page management plan. In addition, details of the observing plan and schedule should be included as an addendum to the proposal.

To ensure timely review, proposers of large-scale projects should consult with the SMA TAC chair to ensure sufficient lead-time for discussion and proposal development, and the external review process described in the next section, so that the external reviews can be completed by the next regular proposal deadline. To prepare and allow time for this process, a Notice of Intent is first required at least two months in advance of the deadline for regular proposals. Similarly, the full proposal should be submitted at least three weeks before the deadline for regular proposals.

We are no longer accepting large scale proposals for evaluation in the 2017B review cycle and any submission will be considered for the 2018A semester (observing period May 16, 2018 - Nov 15, 2018) and beyond.

The expected deadlines for consideration in the 2018A cycle are:

Notice of Intent: early January 2018
Full submission: mid February 2018

More specific dates will be posted as soon as they have been determined.

Proposal Review

Proposals will be evaluated by expert external reviewers solicited by the SMA on an ad-hoc basis. The primary role of the external reviewers will be to provide written reviews assessing the scientific merit of the proposal. These written reviews will aid the SMA TAC in its comprehensive scientific and technical review of the proposal. At this point, the expert reviews will be available to the TAC members to guide their individual evaluations and the review of the large-scale and regular proposals will be merged. All proposals, including the large-scale projects, will be assessed and ranked following the standard TAC process for regular proposals.

Successful proposals will be assigned observing time and will be scheduled for observing on a semiannual basis, in coordination with the time allocation for regular SMA proposals.

Oversight and the role of the PI:

The PI is responsible for assembling a project team with sufficient scientific and technical expertise to ensure completion of the science goals and timely publication and dissemination of results.

Due to the large commitment of SMA resources, it is a requirement that the large-scale projects be monitored, and adapted if necessary, to ensure successful completion of the science goals. The PI should therefore maintain regular contact with the SMA TAC chair and the PI or a designated Co-I should plan to spend significant time at the SMA, in either Cambridge or Hilo. This will help ensure that the observations are satisfactory or modified as appropriate, and that the data analyses remain concurrent. For multi-semester projects, a progress report will be required at the end of each semester. This report should detail the progress with observing, data reduction, and preparation of publications, and note any changes to the project strategy. Each semester during the course of the project, the PI or a designated Co-I should make a presentation at an SMA science meeting.

A PI may lead only one large-scale proposal at a time.

The proprietary period for the data is 18 months from the completion of observations. Reduced data products should be released within this time period unless an extension has been agreed upon.

For smaller programs (less than 100 hours) our regular proposal procedures continue to apply and proposals for very small projects may be submitted at any time as filler projects.

Questions may be addressed to sma [hyphen] largescale [at] cfa [dot] harvard [dot] edu.

Last updated: 2017-Aug-09 by T. K. Sridharan