Role of Levelers
A leveler is assigned to each panel. The leveler is present to monitor the panel discussion and ensure that they focus on the scientific merit of the proposals. Unlike the chairs, they are not listening to what is being discussed regarding the sciences goals and technical challenges; rather, they are listening to how the panel is discussing those issues.
If the discussion tends towards comments on the proposing team, their past work, their validity, or their identities, the leveler’s job is to refocus that discussion.
The Leveler has the authority to stop the discussion on a proposal.
Prior to the meeting, panelists are asked to inform their Panel Support Scientist if they have concerns that any proposal is not following the dual anonymous protocols. STScI will determine whether those proposals should be considered non-compliant and flagged for possible rejection. In some cases, there may be an occasional slip-up that can be ignored and does not affect the panel discussion. The STScI Director will make the final decision. If the proposal is deemed non-compliant, it will be removed prior to the panel discussion.
Panelists may also raise concerns about proposals during the meeting. In those circumstances, the levelers can help the panel determine the appropriate course of action. If the mistake is slight, the leveler will help re-focus the discussion on the science case. However, if an investigator’s self-revealed identify becomes impossible to ignore, and that identity has a clear impact on the discussion, the proposal should be flagged for disqualification. The levelers may bring this to the attention of the panel if they feel this threshold has been crossed. The STScI Director will make the final decision.
The leveler is present for the panel discussions through the grading, the re-ranking and the discussion of the team expertise for the recommended proposals.