JWST Guidelines and Checklist for Proposal Preparation

Formatting of proposals, page limits for various types of proposals, and a checklist for proposers to consult when developing their observing proposals, are covered in this article.

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General guidelines


The deadline for proposal submission is October 25, 2023 by 8:00pm US Eastern Daylight Time. As part of the proposal submission process, proposers should submit a Team Expertise and Background section, following the instructions in JWST Filling Out the APT Proposal Form We strongly recommend that proposers start preparing their proposals early in order to give themselves enough time to learn APT. Cycle 3 will use APT 2023.5 or higher and ETC 3.0 in proposal preparation. APT 2023.5 and ETC 3.0 will become public around 24 August 2023.

Please submit well before the deadline whenever possible, to avoid possible last-minute hardware or overloading problems, or network delays/outages. Proposals can be re-submitted multiple times; the latest version submitted before the deadline will be the version that is evaluated. Late proposals will not be considered.

Questions about policies and technical issues should be addressed to the STScI Helpdesk well before the deadline. While we attempt to answer all questions as rapidly as possible, we cannot guarantee a speedy response in the last week before the deadline.

Proposal format

Cycle 3 Proposals must be submitted electronically. The Java-based APT (the Astronomer's Proposal Tool) is the interface for all proposal submissions for JWST.

A proposal consists of two parts:

Both are submitted to STScI directly from within APT. 

Page limits

There are page limits on the size of your PDF attachment. The table below outlines these limits for different proposal categories.

Table 1. Page limits

Proposal Category1Total Page Limit for PDF Attachment
Small GO


Long-Term GO8
Calibration GO and AR8
Regular AR9
Combined GO-Archival9
Theory AR9
Data Science Software AR9
Cloud Computing AR9
Medium GO10
Large GO12
Treasury GO12
Legacy AR12

For Joint JWST-ALMA, Joint JWST-Chandra, Joint JWST-HST, Joint JWST-NOIRLab, Joint JWST-NASA KeckJoint JWST/XMM-Newton and Joint JWST/NRAO Proposals, users should determine whether their proposal is Small, Medium or Large based on the JWST hours request, and use the appropriate page limits. DD proposals are also required to follow these guidelines.

In relation to these page limits, note the following:

  • Proposals that exceed the page limits will be penalized in the review process. Proposals that exceed the page limits will be penalized in the review process; and risk being disqualified from the review in extreme cases.
  • There are no limits on the numbers of figures and tables in the PDF attachment, and they may be interspersed in the text. However, the total page limit must be observed.
  • References should be listed at the end of the proposal and do not count against the page limits. References have no particular formatting requirements (you can use your favorite style).
  • Your PDF attachment must be prepared with a font size of 12pt. Do not change the format of any of the templates provided by STScI.
  • While there are no specific page limits on the scientific justification, the strongest proposals will have a balance between scientific justification and the other required sections (such as the Technical Description or the Analysis Plan) so that reviewers can accurately assess the merits and feasibility of a proposal using the selection criteria. Historically, scientific justifications for different types of programs range from 3-6 pages (depending on proposal type). 

Proposal preparation checklist

Table 2. Proposal preparation checklist 



1) Review the JWST Proposal Checklist

The JWST Proposal Checklist is a high level step-by-step guide to writing a proposal. It includes links to various documents.

2) Install APT

Go to the APT webpage. Follow the instructions there to download and install the latest version of APT onto your machine. You can also ask your system administrator to do an institution-wide installation.

3) Fill out the APT information

Use APT to fill out the form. Information on the use of APT, including movie tutorials, is available on the APT webpage. A description of which items are requested as well as guidelines for answers are presented in JWST Filling Out the APT Proposal Form. Proposers can save work in progress, so APT submission can be completed over several sessions.

4) Download a template file for the creation of your PDF attachment

Download one of the templates to create your PDF attachment. There are separate template files for GO and for AR/Theory Proposals. Template files are available in several popular word-processing applications, including LaTeX and Microsoft Word.

5) Edit the template

Edit the template using your favorite word-processing application. A description of which issues need to be discussed, and guidelines for how to discuss them, are presented in JWST Preparation of the PDF Attachment.

6) Anonymize the PDF attachment

Ensure that your PDF attachment containing your Scientific and Technical sections are sufficiently anonymized, in accordance with the JWST Anonymous Proposal Reviews guidelines. Violations of the anonymizing guidelines may be flagged for potential disqualification by STScI staff. See the Cycle 2 articles JWST Peer Review Information - Cycle 2 and Dual Anonymous Proposals Guide for Reviewers - Cycle 2 for more information (these reviewer guidelines have not changed from Cycle 2).

7) Create the PDF attachment.

Transform your edited template into a PDF file. Any figures in your proposal must be included into this PDF file. We will provide the reviewers with the electronic PDF files so that figures can be viewed in color. However there is no guarantee that the reviewers will view the files electronically, so please make sure your figures are useful when printed using grey scales.

8) Add the PDF filename path to the APT form

In your APT form, list in the appropriate box the path that points to the PDF attachment file on your local disk.

9) Review your proposal

In APT, click on ‘PDF Preview’ to get a preview of all the final information in your proposal. What you will see is the fully synthesized proposal we keep on record at STScI. The reviewers will see essentially the same, without the list of investigators and without the Team Expertise and Background sections (see JWST Proposal Selection Procedures). If you are not satisfied at this stage, make any necessary changes. Take care to check your submission carefully. You are responsible for ensuring that your PDF upload does not include extraneous material (such as extra cover pages, team expertise statements, or backup material). Extraneous material that causes the proposal to exceed the page limits or to violate Dual Anonymous Peer Review will lead to disqualification of the proposal without review. APT supports UTF-8 for the title, abstract, observing description and observation comment, but make sure all special characters appear correctly. 

10) Institutional Endorsement

STScI does not require institutional endorsement of GO/AR Proposals. However, some institutions do require such endorsement of all submitted proposals. It is the responsibility of each PI to follow all applicable institutional policies concerning the submission of proposals.

11) Submit your proposal 

In APT, use the Submission tool to submit your proposal to STScI. All parts are sent together (i.e., both the APT form information and the PDF attachment).

12) Receive an STScI acknowledgment of your submission

Verification of a successful submission will appear in the Submission Log on the Submission Screen in APT within about a minute. Also, the PI and all Co-Is will receive an automatic email acknowledgment that the merged PDF submission was received successfully. After the Proposal Deadline has passed, and all submissions are in their final form, you will receive final notification that your submission has been successfully processed; this email will mark the completion of the submission. If you do not receive the final notification email within 72 hours of the deadline, please contact the STScI Help Desk and provide the submission ID from the APT Submission Log window. If there are any problems associated with your PDF attachment, you will be contacted by email.

Next: JWST Filling out the APT Proposal Form

Notable updates
    Page limits reverted to those in Cycle 2 
Originally published