White Paper Call 2020

Dear Colleagues:

W. M. Keck Observatory (WMKO), in concert with its Science Steering Committee (SSC), announces an instrument development call soliciting requests to fund:

  • Instrument concept studies to take ideas for upgrades and instruments and determine feasibility
  • Phase A design studies that mature initial concepts for assessing cost and schedule in advance of proposal development
  • Proposal development efforts to draft and submit proposals to funding agencies
  • Mini grants for efforts and equipment costs for either new tools and techniques to improve the observatory scientific productivity or minor hardware capability enhancements

All requests should be submitted in pdf format by 24 June, 2020 to whitepapers@keck.hawaii.edu, and all requests will be reviewed by the SSC in early July. All members of the WMKO community are encouraged to participate. All major instrumentation concepts suitable for a large telescope as well as upgrades to our existing instrument suite are encouraged.

Please note that in 2016, WMKO completed a strategic plan, “The W. M. Keck Observatory Scientific Strategic Plan” (see link below). A revision to this plan is expected in 2021. Based on current recommendations, WMKO encourages teams to pursue instrument and technology studies that focus on aspects of that plan such as:

  1. Highly multiplexed, highly sensitive spectroscopy
  2. High contrast fed by AO
  3. New instrumentation and AO concepts
  4. Replacements or improvements for existing aging instruments and observatory systems to adjust to the changing technological capabilities and community scientific needs.

In particular, WMKO and the SSC are supportive of concept studies for a second-generation Low Resolution Imaging Spectrograph (LRIS) that modernizes LRIS swiss army knife core capabilities, takes advantage of new technologies to improve efficiencies and stability, and positions the instrument for future advancements in the field.

White papers may be guided by the Strategic Plan, but PIs should not be limited by the plan or the topics above. Relevance to future new facilities (e.g., TESS, JWST, EUCLID, LSST (Rubin Observatory), NGRST, and ELTs), if any, should be explained. Re-submissions of previous proposals must address SSC comments to the previous submission and highlight updates or progress.

WMKO funds feasibility and Phase A requests with the goal of developing early designs into a competitive proposal for future general funding opportunities (e.g., the NSF MRI, MSIP, MsRI, and/or ATI programs). Details for the funding categories are below:

Concept designs: In 2020, a total of $150k is available to fund concept and feasibility design studies. The amounts awarded will depend on the number of proposals accepted and the budgets proposed. The request should be no more than two pages in length devoted to text, figures, and tables. Up to two additional pages are allowed for a budget, milestones, and deliverables.

Phase A System Designs: In 2020, $250k is available for projects that have already developed feasibility designs either internal or external to the WMKO instrument development call. PIs submitting Phase A proposals are ready to pursue system design level activities in preparation for submitting proposals. In 2020, the notional funding is $250k. Proposals wishing to exceed this amount or that would like a multi-year commitment must provide compelling justification. For Phase A system design proposals, the project description should be no more than 7 pages devoted to science cases, conceptual designs, and a preliminary budget and schedule for the full build of the instrument.  Up to two additional pages are allowed for the Phase A system design budget, milestones, deliverables, and references for the proposed work.

Proposal Development: Instrument teams that have completed phase A activities either internal or external to the WMKO instrument development call may request permission and support of minor cost efforts to develop a proposal for a public grant program or a philanthropic opportunity. PIs are encouraged to assess how an allocation of observatory nights may strengthen a proposal either for general use or for some key science initiative. PIs that want to include nights in a proposal must provide a description and justification for the use of those nights. PIs are encouraged to view the web document describing examples and contact the Instrument Program Manager for guidance on night allocations for proposals. Funding is drawn against the total available for Concept and Phase A designs. The request should be no more than three pages in length devoted to text, figures, tables, and budget.

 Mini Grants: Minor upgrades for software and hardware to existing facilities to add or enhance current instrument or AO capabilities may be proposed and funded by WMKO. Funding is drawn against the total available for Concept and Phase A designs. The request should be no more than three pages in length devoted to text, figures, tables, and budget. Up to two additional pages are allowed for a budget, milestones, and deliverables.

For all requests, the budget should be in summary form identifying how the money will be spent on major study costs. If effort is required from WMKO staff, please specify the hours and staff needed that are in addition to the funds requested. All requests shall provide administrative and financial contact information for the PIs.

To gain an initial understanding of technical issues such as existing instrument configurations, observatory interfaces, and guidelines for the standard WMKO instrument development process, proposers are strongly encouraged to contact the WMKO Instrument Program Manager, Marc Kassis (mkassis@keck.hawaii.edu).

For descriptions of the instrument incubation process, schedule, funding, night allocation examples, and expectations, please see Instrument Development Incubation Process.

At the July 2020 SSC meeting, the SSC will make a preliminary selection of projects and may request more detailed information on the personnel, technical plans, and budgets. The SSC and the observatory will then select studies for funding, and by the end of August, send two letters to the PIs: one with SSC feedback and a second containing invoicing instructions to receive funding within 30 days after submitting an invoice to WMKO. PIs awarded funds may be requested to provide a brief project status in February or March 2021 and a written report two weeks prior to an SSC meeting in summer 2021 at which the PIs will provide a brief overview of the project status and future work. The SSC looks favorably upon groups across the Keck community working in partnerships. Funding must be used in the year(s) approved. SSC approval of a request is NOT an endorsement to seek major funding to build the instrument. Before seeking major funding, the SSC must approve PI request to proceed with a proposal submission.

Sincerely yours,

Chuck Steidel and Aaron Barth, Co-Chairs Keck Science Steering Committee

Hilton Lewis, Observatory Director

John O’Meara, Chief Scientist

Marc Kassis, Instrument Program Manager