Proposal Review Getting Started Guide

A general guide to getting started with the JWST Cycle 1 Proposal Review.

(tick) Know the JWST Cycle 1 Telescope Allocation Committee (TAC) Timeline

November 24, 2020Cycle 1 Proposal Deadline
December 18, 2020STScI releases proposals to panelists for review and preliminary grading
January 8, 2021Deadline for panelists to identify additional conflicts of interest (and to recommend proposals that should be moved to another Science Category)
January 28, 2021Orientation meeting for Panel Chairs
February 3, 2021Deadline for Galactic panelists to submit preliminary grades for proposals that they are assigned
February 4, 2021Orientation meeting for Galactic Panelists
February 6, 2021STScI releases the list of proposals that will be discussed in the Galactic panels; panelists should review all those proposals in preparation for the panel meeting.
February 10, 2021Deadline for Extragalactic panelists to submit preliminary grades for proposals that they are assigned
February 11, 2021Orientation meeting for Extragalactic Panelists
February 12, 2021Deadline for Executive Committee to submit preliminary grades for Large and Treasury proposals that they are assigned
February 13, 2021STScI releases the list of proposals that will be discussed in the Extragalactic panels; panelists should review all those proposals in preparation for the panel meeting.
February 15, 2021STScI releases the list of proposals that will be discussed in the Executive Committee meeting; Committee members should review all those proposals in preparation for the panel meeting.
February 16 - 19, 2021Galactic panels meet
February 22 - 25, 2021Extragalactic panels meet
March 1 - 4, 2021Executive Committee meets
March 11, 2021Deadline for Panel Chairs to submit final consensus reports
April 7, 2021STScI releases Cycle 1 GO Science Program

(tick) An Overview of the TAC Process

All proposals are reviewed through a two stage process. Small and Medium GO and Regular Archival proposals are reviewed by the TAC panels. Each panel has a specific allocation of hours for Small GO programs and a separate allocation for Medium GO programs.  In the first stage, panelists submit preliminary grades and comments on a set of proposals before the TAC meeting. Proposals that score highly on their preliminary grades will advance to the next stage of the review. In the second stage, the Galactic and Extragalactic panels discuss each of the remaining proposals and come to a consensus evaluation that they use to rank the proposals within their panel.

During preliminary grading, each proposal is assigned 6 reviewers to provide sufficient basis to determine an initial proposal ranking; the lowest ranked proposals are flagged (triaged) and will not be discussed during the panel meeting unless explicitly resurrected. During the meeting, the Primary and Secondary Reviewers for each proposal lead the discussion, and all of the panelists are expected to contribute to that discussion. Therefore, each panelist should read carefully all of the proposals that will be discussed at the panel meeting. STScI may adjust assignments for Primary and Secondary Reviewers after triage to balance the work load among panelists. Each panel compiles a single ranked list, including all GO and AR proposals. with the cutoff limit set by the panel allocation of hours for Small GO programs.

Large and Treasury GO proposals and Legacy Archival proposals follow a similar process, but are discussed by the Executive Committee after the Galactic and Extragalactic panels have completed their evaluations. The Executive Committee comprises the Panel Chairs and At-Large TAC members, and is led by the TAC Chairs. Panel Chairs serve as Primary and Secondary Reviewers for the Executive Committee. Panelists provide comments on the Large and Treasury proposals within their topical areas to help the Panel Chairs present a thorough review of each proposal. At-Large TAC members are not assigned to individual panels, but can step in to deputize for Panel Chairs in case of proposal conflicts. They serve as regular members of the Executive Committee.

(tick) Become Familiar with the Call for Proposals

The JWST Cycle 1 TAC recommends a Science Program to the STScI Director in response to the JWST Cycle 1 Call for Proposals. STScI has solicited General Observer and Archival Proposals.

General Observer proposals are divided into categories primarily based on their size (Small, Medium or Large). However, they are also flagged as Joint HST Observing Programs if they require HST time to complete their science goals, a Survey proposal if a specific, named science target is not necessary, a Calibration proposal if the observations will lead to an improved calibration of the facility for the community, a Treasury status proposal if the proposal addresses multiple science questions and the team plans to provide high level science products, or a Long-Term Status Proposal if the observations are spread over Cycle 1 and subsequent cycles.

Archival proposals are divided into categories. Regular and Legacy AR Proposals support analysis of ERS and GTO data that will be public in Cycle 1. Theory Proposals support theoretical research that is relevant to JWST. Calibration AR proposals support analysis of Calibration data that will already be available in Cycle 1. In addition, Community Data Science Software Proposals will support the development of software products that will be made available to the community for analyzing JWST data.

(tick) Become Familiar with Dual Anonymous Reviews

Peer review of JWST Cycle 1 General Observer proposals will be Dual Anonymous. At the time of the review, proposers will not know the identities of panel members and panel members will not know the identities of the proposal teams. The HST TAC has successfully used the Dual Anonymous review process for HST General Observer Cycles 26 - 28. For more information, about the Dual Anonymous review, please review the Anonymous Proposal Review page.

(tick) Become Familiar with Panel Roles and Responsibilities

Each topical panel consists of one Panel Chair who will organize and lead the discussion of the proposals, nine Panel Members who will review the proposals and draft consensus feedback briefly summarizing the proposal and explaining the strengths and weaknesses discussed by the panel, a Panel Support Scientist who assists the Panel Chair with administrative aspects of the panel review, and a Leveler who is dedicated to keeping the panel discussion focused on the scientific strengths and weaknesses.

Panel Members play one of several roles for each proposal, depending on the subject of the proposal and the expertise of the Panel Member:

  • The Primary Reviewer submits preliminary grades and leads the discussion at the panel meeting
  • A Secondary Reviewer submits preliminary grades and supports the discussion at the panel meeting
  • A Reviewer submits preliminary grades and contributes to the discussion at the panel meeting
  • All panelists discuss all proposals (unless they are conflicted) at the panel meeting.
  • If you are Not Assigned a formal role to a proposal for preliminary grading, please familiarize yourself with the proposal so that you can contribute to the discussion at the meeting

Panel members also review a subset of the Large/Treasury/Legacy proposals. They do not grade those proposals but provide the Chair with feedback on their strengths and weaknesses to aid the later discussion.

(tick) Download Proposals and Submit Preliminary Grades

STScI has developed the web-based SPIRIT tool to facilitate preliminary grading of the proposals before the TAC meeting and final grading of the proposals during the TAC meeting. Grading assignments can be viewed in SPIRIT ( A Quick Guide to SPIRIT (Reviewer Tool) can be downloaded here.

The JWST Cycle 1 grading process is modeled on recent HST reviews. Panelists are required to provide three grades for each proposal matched against the following criteria:

  1. The scientific merit of the program and its potential contribution to the advancement of scientific knowledge;
  2. The program’s importance to astronomy in general. This should be stated explicitly in the “Scientific Justification” section of the proposal;
  3. A demonstration that the unique capabilities of JWST are required to achieve the science goals of the program.

The final grade is the straight average of those values.

In addition, Panelists will be asked to evaluate the complexity of each proposal. The complexity of a proposal does not affect its ranking in the triage process. Instead, the complexity evaluation will be used to help determine the amount of data analysis funding awarded to successful proposals.

(tick) The TAC Meeting

Panel members should come prepared to discuss each of the proposals that are to be discussed at the TAC meeting. After the discussions of individual proposals, each topical panel will rank the proposals in the panel, paying close attention to proposals near the cut-off to award telescope time. Typically, panels rank the proposals to twice the amount of time allocated in case the telescope has unforeseen technical problems. Once the panel agrees on the proposal ranking, then the Primary reviewer is responsible for drafting the panel consensus evaluation with the help of the Secondary Reviewer and other Reviewers. Once the Panel Chair signs off on the panel consensus evaluations, then the work of the Panel Members is complete.

(tick) Getting Help

Please contact the JWST Help Desk ( for any questions that you may have, including questions about science policy or technical performance. In your correspondence, please identify yourself as a TAC member. If your question is about a specific proposal, please state the ID for the proposal associated with your question.