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Preparing your Proposal

How to write a good proposal for synchrotron radiation time

Adapted from the Guidelines of the European Synchrotron User OrganizationLink opens in a new window working group on proposals (Federico Boscherini, Julian Stangl, and Martin Feiters).

A pdf version of this page is available hereLink opens in a new windowLink opens in a new window. Alternatively you can visit the ESRF guidance hereLink opens in a new window.


Here we provide some guidance on how to write a proposal for a Synchrotron Radiation (SR) experiment on XMaS which will stand a good chance of being approved. XMaS is funded to provide a service to the scientific community, but beamtime is relatively expensive and in large demand; therefore, the facility’s management cannot provide beam time for just any experiment proposed. Instead, there is a review process in place to select those proposed experiments that:

  1. take advantage of the instrumental characteristics of the source and/or the beamline,
  2. address an interesting and possibly topical scientific issue or material.

The proposal will be rated according to its potential to be ground-breaking both in technique and topic. Thus, it is usually not sufficient for a proposal to be merely scientifically correct for it to be approved: it will have to be evaluated and prioritized in relation to other submitted proposals according to the criteria mentioned above.

To this purpose, proposals for experiments on XMaS are examined by an independent review panel composed of knowledgeable scientists. Members of the review panel are not beamline staff but the beamline scientists will be asked to give their opinion on the technical feasibility of any proposed experiment. Experiments which are judged technically not feasible are not forwarded for evaluation on scientific merit by the review panel and will be looked at very critically in any case. Thus, it is important that you, as the proposer, seek advice from the beamline scientists on any technical or instrumental aspects of your proposal before submitting it.

As with other SR facilities, the review panel physically meets twice a year for an intensive meeting in which all proposals are comparatively evaluated and prioritized; sometimes, additional advice from referees external to the review panel is obtained. In any case, you should be aware that these meetings are quite intensive; review panel members must make decisions on many proposals in a limited amount of time and will typically not have the time and means to perform in-depth literature searches on every proposal before or during the meeting. Therefore, please put all necessary references in the proposal text, including those to your own work.

The use of synchrotron radiation should be considered a necessary tool for the proposed experiment. It may be important to show in the proposal that relevant in-house characterization methods have been used to set the background of the SR experiment; for example, for a structural investigation it might be useful to quote or report the results of in-house X-ray diffraction measurements, possibly with a short table or small figure reporting the results. A clear experimental plan is indispensable. State the number of samples, their characteristics, the number of measurements planned, and the estimated time required. It is often important to show that the samples exist before a panel considers awarding time. In case the technique proposed for the measurements is not standard on the requested beamline, give all necessary details. If you plan to bring specific additional instrumentation to the beamline, give details, highlighting the extra value you will add to the experiment.