CanTAC and Dual-Anonymous CFHT, Gemini, and NEOSSat Proposals

By / par David Bohlender (CanTAC Technical Secretary) and Stéphanie Côté (Canadian Gemini Office)
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2021)

Beginning with the next round of proposals for CFHT, Gemini, and NEOSSat, CanTAC will require that proposals be written in an anonymous fashion.

Over the last few semesters the Canadian Time Allocation Committee (CanTAC) has been moving towards dual-anonymous (or double-blind) reviews of applications for CFHT, Gemini, and NEOSSat telescope time. Many other facilities have already implemented similar requirements for their observing proposals (HST, JWST, NASA, Chandra, SOFIA, ALMA, ESO). Under this system, the proposers are not told the identity of the reviewers and the reviewers do not know the identity of the proposers. Reviewers’ attitudes toward a submission may be affected, either consciously or unconsciously, by the identity of the author(s); withholding this information lets the reviewers focus solely on the science case of a proposal.

The identity of only the CanTAC super chair is now provided on the NRC web pages. In recent semesters CFHT and Canadian Gemini Office (CGO) staff have also attempted to remove sections of the submitted proposals that identify the applicants, previous observing runs, publications, etc., in the versions of the documents that are seen by CanTAC members and external referees. Only the CanTAC Technical Secretary (currently this article’s first author) receives copies of proposals that identify the applicant(s). This permits the Technical Secretary to contact principal investigators when necessary, and to identify potential conflicts between applicants, CanTAC members, and external referees.

CFHT’s last few calls for proposals have asked Canadian applicants to prepare their applications in a way that does not give away their identity (e.g. see the 2021B call). In recent semesters you may have received a feedback letter from CanTAC that pointed out that you had not written a properly anonymized CFHT (or Gemini) proposal. These warnings should be taken seriously for proposals you submit for semester 2022A.

Writing an anonymous proposal obviously requires some care from the authors. This is not particularly difficult and there are many on-line documents that provide helpful advice, such as the STScI Recommendations of the Working Group on Anonymizing Proposal Reviews and the ESO Dual-Anonymous Guidelines. Here are a few important points selected from these and other documents, as well as recent CanTAC experience:

  • Do not claim ownership of past work, e.g., « my previous work… » or « Our prior analysis demonstrates that… »
  • When citing references, use third person neutral wording especially when self-referencing. For example, replace phrases like « as we have shown in our previous work (Doe et al. 2021), … » with « as previously shown (Doe et al. 2021), … »
  • For thesis-related work do not identify the students. Avoid text like “These observations will be analyzed and modelled as part of the dissertation research of I. M. Observer (U. of Clearskies) and A. N. Theoretician (U. Niverse).” Instead, use an anonymized version “These observations will be analyzed and modelled as a significant component of two doctoral theses.”
  • Depending on the program element, it may be occasionally important to cite exclusive access datasets, non-public software, unpublished data, or findings that have been presented in public before but are not citable. Each of these may reveal (or strongly imply) the investigators on the proposal. In these instances, proposers must use language such as « obtained in private communication » or « from private consultation » when referring to such potentially identifying work.
  • Do not refer to previous observing programs at any observatories in an identifying fashion. For instance, rather than write « we observed another cluster, similar to the one we are proposing under HST program #XXXXX, » instead write « HST program #XXXXX has observed this target in the past… »
  • Do not include the names of the personnel associated with the proposal or their organizational affiliations in page headers, footers, diagrams, figures, or attachments uploaded as part of a proposal.
  • If you are re-submitting a proposal first written prior to dual-anonymous peer review make sure you edit it carefully to anonymize the text.
  • If you are submitting a joint application with co-investigators from other agencies you will have to carefully edit the text before submission even if the other agency TACs do not require anonymous proposals.

Here is an example of non-anonymized text from a sample proposal:

In Rogers et al. (2014), we concluded that the best explanation for the dynamics of the shockwave and the spectra from both the forward-shocked ISM and the reverse-shocked ejecta is that a Type Ia supernova exploded into a pre-existing wind-blown cavity. This object is the only known example of such a phenomenon, and it thus provides a unique opportunity to illuminate the nature of Type Ia supernovae and the progenitors. If our model from Rogers et al. (2014) is correct, then the single-degenerate channel for SNe Ia production must exist. We propose here a second epoch of observations which we will compare with our first epoch obtained in 2007 to measure the proper motion of the shock wave.

Here is the same text, again re-worked to anonymize the text:

Rogers et al. (2014) concluded that the best explanation for the dynamics of the shockwave and the spectra from both the forward-shocked ISM and the reverse-shocked ejecta is that a Type Ia supernova exploded into a pre-existing wind-blown cavity. This object is the only known example of such a phenomenon, and it thus provides a unique opportunity to illuminate the nature of Type Ia supernovae and the progenitors. If the model from Rogers et al. (2014) is correct, then the single-degenerate channel for SNe Ia production must exist. We propose here a second epoch of observations which we will compare with a first epoch obtained in 2007 to measure the proper motion of the shock wave.

To date, failure to write an anonymous request for CFHT, Gemini, or NEOSSat telescope time has not impacted the grade of your proposal(s) in any way. However, with the CGO formally requiring dual-anonymous proposals next semester, starting with proposals for semester 2022A CanTAC may choose to reject proposals that are not written in an anonymous fashion.

If you have questions you can reach out to David Bohlender (CanTAC TS), Stéphanie Côté (CGO), or the CanTAC super chair (Brian Chaboyer until 31 August 2021).

David Bohlender, CanTAC Technical Secretary
david.bohlender@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

Stéphanie Côté, Canadian Gemini Office
stephanie.cote@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre
National Research Council of Canada

Pour marque-pages : Permaliens.

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