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Applying for Time on STFC Astronomy Facilities

This page provides information on applying for telescope time and the associated travel and subsistence funds.

  • PATT Membership Lists
  • Applying for Telescope Time
  • Availability of Instruments
  • PATT Allocations for the previous Semester A
  • PATT Allocations for the previous Semester B
  • Applying for PATT Travel and SubsistenceFunds
  • General Information

Applying for Telescope Time

STFC operates two semesters per year with Semester A running from February to July and Semester B running from August to January. The closing dates for receipt of proposals, excluding Gemini *, are 15 September (for Semester A) and 15 March (for Semester B).

* The closing dates for Gemini proposals are 30 September (for Semester A) and 31 March (for Semester B).

You are encouraged to submit telescope time applications electronically. Click for the relevant links.

Information Only - For ESO Telescopes, please visit the ESO website (link opens in a new window).

Application Forms

Availability of Instruments

If you wish to check the availability of instruments before making your application please see below:

Allocations for Previous Semesters

If you wish to look at the allocations for previous Semesters you should follow the links below. (Please note that you will need a browser capable of handling excel tables to look at some of these files.)

Applying for PATT Travel and Subsistence Funds

  • Introduction
  • Eligibility of Applicants and Observers
  • Telescope Facilities
  • PATT Approved List of Telescopes
  • How to apply for a PATT T&S Grant
  • Applying for a PATT Linked Grant
  • Applying for a PATT Standard Grant


These guidelines are intended to inform individuals of the procedures that need to be followed to obtain travel and subsistence (T&S) funds for observing trips, and the rules and regulations by which such awards are governed.

In April 2004 PPARC changed the way PATT T&S funds are provided for groups who have an expenditure that exceeds £5,000pa. The number of telescopes that the community has access to has increased over the years. As a result, STFC has encountered a number of cases where the two year expenditure limit has been insufficient to cover the travel needs of observers.

In order to address this problem it has been agreed that PATT rolling grants should no longer be offered. In its place, applicants may apply for a PATT Linked Grant as detailed below. Applicants should apply for 2 years standard grant funding.

The advantage of these grants are that if during the award period you are awarded time on a telescope not included in the original grant, you may apply for additional funds to cover the extra observing runs. If approved your grant will be revised. Each case will be considered on its merits, though STFC does retain the right to reject any request that does not meet the above criteria.

Eligibility of Applicants and Observers

To receive STFC PATT T&S funds an individual must satisfy the following eligibility requirements:

Applicants are eligible to apply for STFC PATT Travel Funds (T&S) provided that they are permanent members of staff or otherwise hold a fully tenured post within an eligible UK Institution.

Observers are eligible to use the funds awarded in support of an approved programme of observations provided that they are:

  • the Principal Investigator, or Co-investigator or their nominated representative; or
  • employed as a Research Assistant or Researcher Co-Investigator on a research grant; or
  • a student(s) attached to an eligible Institution whose credentials have firmly established them as bona fide observers.

Principal Investigators may not authorise the use of STFC PATT T&S funds to support students, either STFC or non-STFC, undertaking observations that will form part of their PhD preparation. The Principal Investigator must seek the advice of the STFC PATT Secretariat if there is any doubt as to the status of a student.

Telescope Facilities

For the purposes of awarding travel and subsistence funds STFC classifies telescope facilities in one of three ways:

  • STFC - Where STFC awards the time;
  • PATT Approved - Where the peer review is considered in line with that of STFC;
  • Non-approved - Where the peer review is not in line with that of STFC.

Requests for STFC PATT T&S funds for an observing run at either a STFC or STFC approved telescope do not require additional peer review (as the proposal has already been through a stringent review process in order to be awarded an allocation). Where the request involves either a second observer or a non-approved telescope the applicant should allow 6 weeks notice as this might be peer reviewed by an independent referee (sought by STFC) before being approved by the PATT chair.

Applying for a STFC PATT Standard T&S Grant or a PATT Linked T&S Grant

Proposals should be submitted electronically through the Je-S system. Applicants are advised to read the Je-S Helptext (link opens in a new window) before proceeding.

PATT Standard Grant proposals should be made where only occasional observing trips are made. Most applicants should use the PATT Linked route, PATT Linked Grant proposals, new and continuations, should be submitted for either the 1st April or 1st October closing date. PATT Standard Grant proposals may be submitted at any time.

Applicants to either scheme should apply for 2 years standard grant funding for Linked Grants, and 3 months Standard Grant funding for Standard Grants. all proposals for funding must be accompanied by:-

STFC Astronomy Facility Access Funding & FEC

STFC funds access (travel and subsistence) to a range of astronomy facilities for the UK community. All these facilities are free at the point of access.

Within STFC's programme, and for ex-CCLRC facilities, access is funded through a claims system, on the basis of 100% travel and subsistence costs only. Any other costs associated with the research, such as post-doc salaries, any equipment necessary and investigator time, is assumed to be covered by relevant research grants awarded, in most cases, by other councils.

In the case of ex-PPARC facilities, the access funding is provided through grants, awarded on an FEC basis. This includes investigator (and associated estates and indirect) costs where the grant holders do not have a current FEC grant covering the specific research topic under investigation.

There is a discrepancy between these approaches, which STFC wishes to remove. The ex-PPARC approach has been difficult to administer because it has proved onerous and difficult to establish whether requested investigator time is covered by an existing FEC grant.

Astronomy facility visits are typically of short duration (2-3 days per time allocation), the amount of investigator time awarded is usually small, but, as the only other costs are travel and subsistence, it amounts to a significant fraction of the grant: on average, 50% of the funds awarded are for travel and 50% for investigator time and the associated estates and indirect costs. The typically small amounts of investigator time therefore create a disproportionately large cost, occupying a disproportionately large amount of peer review effort.

STFC has raised this with the other Research Councils and it has been agreed across the Councils that, to resolve these difficulties, these facility access grants should be made an exception to FEC and that they should be returned to funding 100% travel costs only, in line with the treatment of other STFC facility access funding.

We will therefore, from 1 April 2009, not include FEC within awards for facility travel.


It will be normal practice for the island sites to provide PATT observers with a reasonable level of transportation to and from the telescope site. This includes any equipment the observer may have that requires transportation. Transportation requirements should be discussed with the telescope director at the earliest opportunity.

Where usual transportation requirements cannot be met, or are outside the observatories' capacity, requests for reimbursement of any charges incurred may be made through the PATT grant as Directly Incurred Other Costs. A case for support will be required stating why the island site was unable to supply the required resources.

Photographic Plates

The island sites are responsible for the provision of all photographic plates and tapes. Observers wishing to take plates or tapes away from the site should not normally be charged for doing so.

For the UK Schmidt, it should be noted that Schmidt plates will remain the property of the AAO and will be deposited in the Schmidt Plate Archive, managed by the Wide Field Astronomy Unit (WFAU) at the University of Edinburgh. Arrangements for the loan of these plates should be discussed with WFAU.


The following information must accompany the application:

Case for Support

Applicants should not provide a scientific Case for Support for the use of STFC telescopes or telescopes on the STFC-approved list. A science case will have been made when applying for time through the normal peer-review competitive process for such facilities.

The Case for Support should include:

  • a complete list, with dates, and total costs of observing runs supported by STFC, over the last 2 years. If applicants currently do not have a PATT Rolling Grant nor PATT-Linked Grant, and are applying for a PATT-Linked Grant for the first time, they should provide a list of STFC PATT T&S standard grants over the last 2 years. Expenditure breakdown (PDF - 17kB - link opens in a new window);

  • the above list should include awards made to new members of staff at their previous institutes over the same 2 year period. If new members of staff were not eligible for STFC funding during this period, or did not require such funds (because e.g. they worked at an observatory), so that actual costs of telescope trips are not known, estimates should be provided;

  • use of telescopes not on the STFC approved list, over the one year period of the proposed grant application, which should include a justification for their estimated frequency of use of such facilities during the period of the grant;

  • a case for increased funding, where requested. Applicants should explain the rationale behind such requests e.g. group expansion, increased observing time etc. Applicants should indicate if the increase in time being awarded is an exception or likely to become the norm;

A publication list is not required.

The total length of the Case for Support should not exceed 6 pages.

Consideration of Applications

Both new and renewal applications are considered by a panel consisting of the PATT chair and two others. In recommending funds the panel considers the past and likely future level of observing activity of the group. Feedback will be provided to any unsuccessful applicant.

The announcement letter for successful grants will include the following information:

  • It will name those non-approved telescopes for which approval has been given;
  • The level of funds awarded or in the case of a continuation the revised new award.

Using the PATT Linked Grant

Once a group has a PATT Linked Grant the Principal Investigator may authorise its use to support trips to STFC or STFC approved telescopes without further reference to STFC. Where funds are required to support a trip to a non-approved telescope that is not named on the announcement letter, the Principal Investigator should forward the following information to STFC.

  • a copy of the original proposal; and
  • a copy of the time allocation announcement.

Towards the end of the grant period, applicants are required to submit a continuation grant application, quoting the existing reference number under Related Proposals. The application is then linked to the original standard grant. This process should then be followed every 18 months, or until such time as a renewal is no longer required. Applicants will also be required to submit a Final Expenditure Statement (FES) on completion of each grant.

Non-STFC Telescopes (including those on the STFC approved list)

Applicants are reminded that STFC funding for visits to non-STFC telescopes (both approved and non-approved) is not guaranteed and that STFC is not obliged to approve last minute proposals on the grounds that air flights have been booked, or that not to approve funding would be a breach of faith with the awarding body.

General Information (applicable to both Standard and Linked Grants)

STFC PATT T&S funds will only be awarded to a UK Principal Investigator and should be used in support of UK based observers only.

Applicants should note that they must be satisfied as to the experience and qualifications of their nominated representative to use or operate the facility on which an allocation of time has been awarded.

STFC would not normally expect to provide funds to support more than one observer. STFC PATT T&S funds should only be used when the presence of a UK observer is essential.

Where there are collaborators from different Institutions it is expected that the Principal Investigator will extend the same considerations regarding multiple observers as in the case of collaborators from a single Institution, whether for STFC or non-approved telescopes. Approval must be sought prior to observing run.

Applications for the collection/collation of data following an award of 'remote and/or serviced' observing time on ground based facilities should be accompanied by a case for support of the need for a physical journey, e.g. complexity of data, difficulties in the transport of data etc.

The requirement for a Final Report has now been waived for all STFC PATT funded Research Grants. There is however a need for the submission of a Final Expenditure Statement. Failure to submit the FES by the due date, three months after the termination of the grant, will result in the Council abating the sums due in respect of the whole grant period. Grantholders and Institutions wishing to seek an extension to the FES due date should contact the Council, stating the reasons for the delay, before the due date has expired. An extension will not be granted where the request has been received after the due date has expired.

All grantholders/applicants must be aware of the requirement to exercise economy with the funds awarded.

Claims for reimbursement should be in accordance with the Institution's current rules on Travel and Subsistence. Further guidance is available from the STFC PATT Secretariat.

If there is a change to, or cancellation of, an agreed observing programme, any alternative programme must be referred for advice and approval to the relevant TAG Chair, or Technical Secretary, before it is undertaken.

Information for All UK Observers Travelling to Hawaii and La Palma

Observers staying at Hale Pohaku, Hawaii

The costs of provision of accommodation and meals at Hale Pohaku Lodge will be directly met by STFC Swindon Office.

Observers using the JCMT or UKIRT and intending to use the Hale Pohaku Lodge should::

  • Book their accommodation using the email form provided for this purpose by JAC;
  • Send a fax of STFC time allocation letter confirming the number of nights and number of observers.

These should both be sent to either the UKIRT Secretary or the JCMT Secretary as appropriate. Observers should also keep the Secretaries informed of any subsequent changes to their bookings.

Failure to comply with these instructions could result in the observer being charged in full for the services provided.

Observers staying at the ORM Residencia, La Palma

All observers using the Residencia will be asked to settle their accounts at the Residencia reception desk. Meals should be paid for at the reception desk, payable to the catering company. Accommodation costs should be paid to the Institute of Astrophysics of Canaries (IAC) Administration Office, also at the Residencia, situated next to the reception desk. Major credit cards are accepted.

Office hours are 09:00hrs to 15:00 hrs.

The practical effect of this will be that STFC T&S grants for the ING will in future contain provision for meal and accommodation charges. Users must ensure that the procedure stated below is undertaken prior to each visit.

Observers intending to use the ORM Residencia should complete an online booking form (link opens in a new window). The PATT reference number and STFC grant reference number, if known, should be entered on the form under "Other Relevant Information".

The ING Reception should be informed of any changes to the planned schedule.

STFC Approved List of Telescopes

View the list of telescopes where the STFC T&S grant holders can use funds without reference to STFC.

For a telescope to be included in this list, not only should it offer world-class facilities but the application process must involve competitive peer review. The list is kept under review and will be updated after each PATT meeting. Suggestions for additions to the list should be forwarded to the STFC PATT secretariat, with a copy to the current PATT chair. It would be helpful if such suggestions could be accompanied by a description of the allocation process, and, for smaller instruments particularly, by information detailing their unique capabilities.

For the majority of telescopes on this list it is felt that a single observer can carry out the observing run. Therefore STFC PATT T&S funds should only be used to fund one observer and should not be used at all if an overseas observer will be present during the observing run. If a second observer's presence is requested then approval must be sought from the STFC PATT secretariat.

Comments or requests for additions to this page should be made to Diane Greening.

Page last updated: 31 March 2011 by Diane Greening