NASA's James Webb Space Telescope

JWST Cycle 1 Proposal Survey Follow-up

News Feature July 24, 2018

In April, we requested feedback from the user community on the JWST Cycle 1 Proposal process. With the delay of the JWST launch , we wanted to discover how we might improve the proposal process for future cycles.

The online survey included broad questions about the proposal process, proposal tools, documentation, news and communication, support, and policies. The survey ran from April 16 to May 1 and we received 318 responses.

Here is a summary of some of the survey results:

  • Most respondents offered detailed comments, criticism, and suggestions (>50 pages in total). These are particularly helpful to identify specific areas where improvements are needed.
  • About 2/3 of the respondents identified as faculty/staff, while only 1/3 were postdocs or students.
  • Roughly 40% of respondents had not yet used the Astronomer's Proposal Tool (APT) at the time of the launch delay announcement. About 20% of respondents had not yet used the Exposure Time Calculator (ETC). This suggests that most people use the ETC to estimate feasibility before crafting their observations, and that some users waited until the last week to use APT.
  • Many respondents had trouble figuring out how to get started with the ETC.  
  • Besides APT and ETC, the most popular ancillary user tools included:
  • Nearly 60% of respondents did not reach out to the JWST Help Desk during the proposal planning process. Most of those who did felt the Help Desk staff were helpful and prompt.
  • Some users mentioned that they made extensive use of expert help for their proposal planning. About 40% of respondents reported talking directly to an STScI staff member who was not part of the Help Desk. To get the most complete and up-to-date response, STScI generally recommends that users submit their JWST questions to the Help Desk.
  • Comments on the JWST Documentation system were broad-ranging.  Many respondents praised the quality of the content, while some had trouble navigating the many articles within new “every page is page one” style.
  • The 3 most popular platforms for keeping up-to-date with news were:
  • Some comments and usage patterns indicate that many users had not yet discovered all the tools and sources of information that they need to optimize their proposals. This indicates a need for clearer documentation, checklists, and cookbooks.

The findings of the survey are being reviewed by STScI staff, the JWST project at GSFC, and the JWST Users Committee (JSTUC), and the results are being used to inform priorities for future tools development and documentation. We will continue to provide updates to the community as new features and other improvements become available.

To see the numbers for yourself, you may review the Community Feedback presentation shared with the JSTUC during their May meeting.