ALMA Matters


From / de Gerald Schieven
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2020)

ALMA Cycle 7 Observations Suspended Due to COVID-19

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak that has spread to Chile, the ALMA Director has made the decision to suspend science operations with ALMA, effective 20 March. This decision has been taken to protect the safety of ALMA staff, many of whom travel long distances by bus and by plane to reach the remote ALMA site in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile.

A reduced staff will be retained at the Operation Support Facility (OSF) to maintain the safety of the ALMA equipment and infrastructure. All other staff will be working remotely for the immediate future. The plan is to continue providing data processing, data archive services, and ARC support, including the Cycle 8 Call for Proposals (see below) while external conditions allow it. An announcement will be posted on the science portal when observations are resumed.

Cycle 8 Call for Proposals

ALMA proposals are being solicited for Cycle 8, which runs from 1 October 2020 through 30 September 2021. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the deadline for proposal submission has been extended to 19 May 2020. (Note that this deadline may be further extended if circumstances warrant. Consult the ALMA Science Portal for further information.). Full details of the Call for Proposals, including the full list of capabilities and links to documents and the Observing Tool, can be found on the ALMA Science Portal.

An important consideration is that the two largest configurations, C-9 and C-10, will not be available during Cycle 8; the maximum baselines will vary from 0.16 to 8.5 km.

The Millimetre Astronomy Group at NRC Herzberg is the “Canadian Node” of the North American ALMA Regional Center, and is ready to help you with any aspect of proposal preparation and execution. You can contact us directly ( or through the ALMA helpdesk on the Science Portal.

Dual-anonymous Proposal Review in ALMA Cycle 8

ALMA is strongly committed to ensuring that the proposal review process is as fair and impartial as possible. Analysis of the proposal rankings in previous cycles has identified systematics that may signify the presence of biases in the review process. To reduce biases as much as possible, ALMA will use a dual-anonymous proposal review process starting in Cycle 8. In a dual-anonymous review, the proposal team does not know the identity of the reviewers and the reviewers do not know the identity of the proposal team. While proposers will still enter their names and affiliations in the ALMA Observing Tool (OT), this information will not appear on the proposal cover sheet, nor in the tools used by the reviewers. It is the responsibility of the proposers to ensure that anonymity is preserved when writing their proposals. To assist in anonymizing the scientific justification (including the abstract and technical justifications), guidelines have been provided by the observatory which can be found here.

ALMA Publications

The number of publications per year using ALMA data continues to rise dramatically, with more than 450 refereed papers in 2019. As of early March more than 1775 ALMA papers had been published. Of these, 2.5% of all ALMA papers have a first author from a Canadian institution. Canadians appear on 14% of all ALMA papers. The annual statistics for publications is shown on the accompanying image. The blue bars show the number of publications per year, the purple line shows the fraction of papers with a Canadian first author, and the green line shows the fraction of all papers with a Canadian in the list of authors.

Dennis Crabtree has performed an analysis of papers published based on data from approximately 30 observatories world-wide. His analysis covers papers published between 2014 and 2018. ALMA papers have the highest Median Impact per Paper of any observatory tracked by Dennis. The impact of a paper is the ratio of citations a paper has received to the citations for the median ApJ paper of the same year.

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