NASA's James Webb Space Telescope

Early Release Science Program

JWST has an expected lifetime of 10 years and a minimum lifetime of 5 years. With its 6.5m mirror and suite of four science instruments, JWST will provide imaging, spectroscopic and coronagraphic capabilities from 0.6 to 28.5 microns, offering an unprecedented combination of sensitivity and spatial resolution to study objects from the Solar System to the most distant galaxies. Realizing JWST’s full science potential requires that the scientific community rapidly learn to use its sophisticated capabilities. To that end, STScI, in consultation with the JWST Advisory Committee, has developed the Director’s Discretionary Early Release Science (DD ERS) program.

The overall goals of the DD ERS program are to:

  • Ensure open access to representative datasets in support of the preparation of Cycle 2 proposals.
  • Engage a broad cross-section of the astronomical community in familiarizing themselves with JWST data and scientific capabilities.

These goals distinguish the DD ERS program from standard GO investigations. In service of these goals, DD ERS proposals are invited from the community.

The DD ERS program is guided by the following key principles:

  • Projects must be substantive science demonstration programs that utilize key instrument modes to provide representative scientific datasets of broad interest to researchers in major astrophysical sub-disciplines.
  • Projects must design, create, and deliver science-enabling products to help the community understand JWST's capabilities.  An initial set of products must be delivered by the release of the Cycle 2 GO Call for Proposals (7 months after launch).  Each project must define a core team to be responsible for the timely delivery of such products according to a proposed project management plan, with performance subject to periodic review.
  • All observations must be schedulable within the first 5 months after commissioning is complete, and a substantive subset of the observations must be schedulable within the first three months. Target lists must be flexible to accommodate possible changes to the scheduled start of science observations.
  • Both raw and pipeline-processed data will enter the public domain immediately after processing and validation at STScI (i.e., no exclusive access period applies to these data).
  • STScI recognizes and supports the benefits of having diverse and inclusive scientific teams involved in the formulation of ERS proposals. Programs with diverse representation of community members in a given sub-discipline helps ensure that the investigations will be of broad interest. Broad involvement also facilitates the dissemination of JWST expertise through a more extensive network, and promotes more equitable participation in JWST scientific discovery.

The STScI Director will make up to 500 hours of discretionary time available for ERS, and resources are allocated to support up to 15 teams. Proposals will be chosen in research areas spanning the science themes of JWST: first light and reionization; the assembly of galaxies; the birth of stars and protoplanetary systems; and planets and the origin of life.  Proposals will also be chosen to cover a range of key instrument modes and observing capabilities.  A multi-disciplinary committee of experts will recommend a suite of proposals for observation and funding that both fulfills the goals of the DD ERS and makes optimal use of the available time.

DD ERS proposals will be reviewed, selected, and publicized prior to the Cycle 1 GO deadline.  Archival Research proposals based on DD ERS observations will be permitted beginning in Cycle 1.

Target of opportunity and pure-parallel observations will not be considered for the DD ERS program, and should instead be proposed for the Cycle 1 GO program.  The inherent uncertainty in scheduling such observations is inconsistent with the objective to provide the community open access to science data early in Cycle 1.  In general, investigations inconsistent with the goals and key principles of the DD ERS program should be submitted in response to subsequent JWST GO Call for Proposals.

Questions can be submitted to the JWST Help Desk.  For further details, please consult the DD ERS Call for Proposals which establishes the goals, requirements, and policies for the program. 

Important Dates

The DD ERS Proposal Deadline is Friday, August 18, 2017, 8pm EDT. Only teams who have submitted Notices of Intent (NoI) to propose by the March 3, 2017 deadline are permitted to submit proposals in response to this call, which was released on May 22, 2017. 

Here are some other important dates related to the DD ERS program.

Timeframe Event
January 6, 2017 Release of the Cycle 1 Call for DD ERS Notices of Intent
March 3, 2017 DD ERS Letters of Intent due
May 22, 2017 Release of the Cycle 1 Call for DD ERS Proposals
August 18, 2017 DD ERS Proposal Deadline
October 9-10, 2017 DD ERS Telescope Allocation Committee (TAC) Review
November 2017 DD ERS Program Results Release to Community
December 2017 Formal DD ERS Budget Proposals