Science Policies Group (SPG) Members

Panelist Selection Processes

Each SPG member is assigned primary responsibility for a subset of the panels for the proposal review. The SPG member will recruit panelists, using the TAC Panelist Selection (TPS) software as a guide to maintaining appropriate diversity in gender, geographic distribution, institutional type, seniority and, of course, scientific expertise. SPG members also recruit community members to serve as expert reviewers for Large, Treasury, and Legacy proposals.

Once the panel is recruited, the SPG member will work with the PSS to deal with questions and any issues that arise. If a panelist has to withdraw, the SPG member will recruit a replacement if there is reasonable time for the new member to review proposals prior to the meeting; if not, the SPG member will re-assign the primary and secondary reviewer duties for affected proposals. In general, the main factor in recruiting a new panel member is ensuring that key areas of scientific expertise are represented appropriately.

After the proposal deadline is past, SPG members are responsible for checking that proposals are assigned to the appropriate panels, minimizing conflicts. Once the panel assignments are confirmed, SPG members review the panelist assignments for preliminary grading, including primary and secondary reviewer assignments. An automated procedure is used to develop an initial set of assignments based on the science keywords in the proposal and those submitted by the reviewers. SPG members review those initial assignments and adjust, as necessary, to balance the workload for each panelist while maintaining the appropriate level of expertise.

SPG members ensure that the panel support scientists and levelers who are investigators on HST proposals are assigned to panels that are NOT reviewing those proposals.


STScI takes actions to minimize the potential for an appearance of conflict of interest in organizing the TAC. In general, SPG members are assigned responsibility for recruiting panels that lie outside their range of scientific focus; they are therefore not responsible for recruiting the reviewers for their proposals and/or their scientific collaborators. If they submit proposals as Principal Investigator or co-Investigator, they are generally excluded from access to the panels reviewing those proposals. As with other STScI staff, those conflicts are identified before the meeting. Exceptions may be made for Large/Treasury/Legacy proposals that are reviewed by the Executive Committee. In that case, the conflicted SPG member will leave the meeting during the discussion of that proposal. Multiple SPG members are present as observers during the Executive Committee review.

SPG members do not participate in policy decisions (e.g. Telescope Time Review Board recommendations) regarding accepted proposals if they are conflicted.

During the Meeting

SPG members have primary responsibility for the panels they recruited and should be prepared to field questions from the PSS, panel chair and/or panelists. They also act as observers or respond to policy queries from other panels except for those where they are flagged as conflicted.

SPG members should only answer questions and comment on policy matters. They should call in another SPG member if they feel that there is the potential for an appearance of a personal conflict of interest.

After the Meeting

SPG members are responsible for reviewing and approving the final panel report for each proposal in their assigned panels. The comments should be consistent with the guidelines given regarding Proposal Feedback Comments.