Guide to NuSTAR Cycle 6 Proposers

1. Overview

This NASA Research Announcement (NRA) solicits General Observer proposals for NuSTAR. Approximately 8.5 Ms of time will be available in the observing period June 1, 2020 - May 31, 2021. $3.0M in funding will be made available to support the analysis of targets accepted at priority L, A, B or C. Priority C targets will be observed on a "best-effort" basis. Target proposals will be considered from both US and foreign PIs. Data from approved GO observations, with the exception of Target of Opportunity (ToO) observations, have a nominal one-year exclusive-use period commencing at the time of receipt of the processed data by the observer. Data from peer review approved ToO observations have a six-month exclusive-use period. Only PIs affiliated with, and located at, a US institution will be eligible for funding for accepted NuSTAR proposals through NASA. As part of the NuSTAR Cycle 6 program, up to 1.5 Ms of XMM observing time, up to 300 ks of Swift observing time, and up to 250 ks of NICER observing time will be made available for coordinated observations with NuSTAR.

2. Deadline

Proposals are due no later than January 24, 2020 4:30pm (EDT).

Note that the last day to request assistance for pointings with potential stray light to NuSTAR SOC is January 22nd, 2019.

3. What's New in Cycle 6

Dual-Anonymous Review Proposals

The phase-1 proposal review will be done in a dual-anonymous fashion.

Dual-anonymous peer review (DAPR) means that not only will the proposers not know who their reviewers are, but the reviewers will not know who the proposers are, at least not until after they have evaluated the scientific merit of the proposal. This implementation of DAPR will be based on that employed by STScI in the evaluation of Hubble Space Telescope observing proposals in recent cycles, in that the names of team members will ultimately be revealed to the peer review panel after all of the proposals have been reviewed for scientific merit. At that time the peer reviewers will have the opportunity to comment on the qualifications and capabilities of the team. The selection official will take into consideration the assessment of the team's qualifications when making the selection.

The primary motivation for reviewing proposals in a dual-anonymous fashion is to minimize unconscious bias in the review process. PIs should consult the Guidelines for Anonymous Proposals document in the "Other Documents" section of the NuSTAR solicitation on NSPIRES for instructions on writing proposals appropriate for a dual-anonymous reviews.

The experience from the Hubble Space Telescope dual-anonymous reviews is that revising previous proposals to be compliant requires some thought but is straightforward in most cases.

Dual-Anonymous Guidelines
  • Proposals should eliminate language that identifies the proposers or institution, as discussed in the Guidelines for Anonymous Proposals.
  • PIs are required to upload a one-page "Team Expertise" PDF through ARK as a separate upload when submitting the science justification.
  • Proposals that do not follow these dual-anonymous guidelines may be returned without review.

Multi-Year Programs

The PI may request that observations (including ToO observations) be scheduled over a two-cycle period. Multi-year programs must be strongly justified in the proposal text. No multi-year programs awarded in Cycle 6 will be carried beyond Cycle 7, i.e., all observations must occur in Cycles 6 and 7. Multi-year joint programs may also be proposed. All approved multi-year programs must be category A, B, or L. It is anticipated that Cycle 7 will commence on June 1, 2021 and have a duration of one year.

Science Justification Page Limit and Format

The page limit for a joint program proposal is changed to 5 pages. Please note that adherence to page limits and formatting rules will be strictly enforced in this cycle.

4. Proposal Elements and Submission Method

Additional details concerning Cycle 6 are given in the NuSTAR NRA. There will be a two-phase proposal process. Phase one is for observing proposals. Phase two is for budget proposals for successful phase one proposers who were awarded priority L, A or B targets. Only observing proposals will be accepted at this time.

Proposal submission is done via the HEASARC ARK/RPS on-line system. Hard-copy submission is not required. The following elements are required:

The following should not be submitted:

5. Some Key Details of the Proposal Form

New NuSTAR PIs must first create an ARK account and/or join the NuSTAR RPS group. Having done so, the NuSTAR RPS form can be accessed via ARK/RPS.

We provide below some key details for NuSTAR Cycle 6. For further details, consult the ARK/RPS help file.

Cover Page
General Form
Target Form

After completing all fields for a proposal in ARK/RPS, use the Verify button to confirm that all required entries exist and conform to the expected format. Forms that pass verification can then be submitted. ARK/RPS allows PIs to continue to modify submitted proposals until the deadline, so there is no penalty for submitting the proposal form early.

The LaTeX, PostScript, and PDF buttons of ARK/RPS can be used to generate formatted versions of the proposal forms. Although it is often useful for the PIs to keep formatted copies of the forms for the record, it is not a required part of the proposal submission process.

6. Scientific Justification


7. Team Expertise and Background Document
PIs are required to upload a one-page "Team Expertise" PDF through ARK as a separate upload when submitting the science justification. The LaTeX template or the Word template is available.

This document will be distributed to the review panel after all proposals have been reviewed and rated, only for programs which are in the selectable range. This is to allow the reviewers to assess the team capabilities required to execute a given proposed science investigation. If there are clear, compelling deficiencies in the expertise required to see through the goals of the proposal, the panel may decide to flag the submission accordingly, and provide a detailed justification in its comments to NASA. This review may not be used to flag "up" proposals for having strong team qualifications, nor may it be used to re-evaluate or upgrade proposals.

8. Phase 2 (Budget) Proposals

US PIs whose Phase-1 proposals are assigned a Category A or B rating by the peer review panel or accepted as a Large Program, i.e., Category L, will be invited to submit a Phase-2 (cost) proposal.

The Phase 2 proposal deadline is June 19th, 2020. Phase 2 proposals are submitted through NASA's NSPIRES system. As with all NASA ROSES proposals, final institutional submission is required. Please leave enough time for your institutional process. If your institution requires a NASA grant solicitation number, it is NNH19ZDA001N-NUSTAR.

Subject to acceptance of the associated Phase 2 cost submission, proposals for standard-mode observations (excluding proposals involving Target of Opportunity ToO or time-constrained TC observations) assigned a Category A, B, or L rating will be eligible for funding immediately. US PIs of A, B, or L proposals with ToO or TC observations are also invited to submit a budget proposal by the June 19th, 2020, deadline. However, the PIs of these programs will not receive funding until a target from their program is observed.

Note that limited funding for the support of costs such as travel expenses associated with presentation of the results at a scientific conference, page charges, etc., will be held in reserve for US PIs of Category C proposals executed during Cycle 6. No budget proposal is due at this time from PIs of proposals with only Category C targets.

US Co-Is on proposals with non-US PIs are not eligible for funding.

To submit a Stage 2 proposal, follow these basic steps:

  1. Log on to NSPIRES. If you do not have an NSPIRES account, you will need to create one and affiliate with your institution.
  2. On your NSPIRES home page, click on "Proposals/NOIs."
  3. Click the "▸Create Proposal" button.
  4. Select "Solicitation." Even though your proposal has already been selected via phase 1, do not select "Prior-phase Proposal."
  5. Select "NuSTAR Guest Observer - Cycle 6" (NNH19ZDA001N-NUSTAR )
  6. Enter proposal information and your institutional affiliation.
  7. When proposal elements are complete, use the "Release to Org" button to release the proposal to your institutional proposal office.
  8. Your institutional proposal office must then perform the final proposal submission.
A Phase-2 cost proposal consists of:
  1. Cover page (via NSPIRES forms)
  2. The abstract (via NSPIRES forms)
  3. The budget justification (12pt minimum font with reasonable margins), not to exceed two pages, including: a) a breakdown of the work assignments for all funded investigators, b) any major purchases including workstations, c) proposed scientific travel, d) publication costs, and e) any cost sharing applied to this project
  4. Confirmation of commitment (via NSPIRES forms) from any unfunded but essential personnel and from any necessary observing facilities on which time is not granted through the NuSTAR proposal review process
  5. A listing of any current and pending support
  6. A budget prepared according to the guidelines of the PI or Co-I institution, detailing the requested itemized expenditures
  7. All required government certifications
  8. A 1-2 page CV for each PI or Co-I requesting support
Please note that only one institution (e.g., PI institution only) award is allowed for NuSTAR Cycle 6 Phase 2 proposals. If Co-Is requesting support, please do budget this as a sub-award. The nominal period of performance is one year and the PI may select a start date between September 1, 2020 and March 1, 2021. For programs with multi-year targets, the period of performance may be for two years. Grants for proposals with "regular" A and B targets will be processed after the cost proposals are reviewed. Since ToO and time-constrained target observation grants will be issued only after the observation(s) take place in those cases the PI may want to use a later start date for planning purposes. Note that in either case the relevant start date for year of effort will be when the grant is issued by NSSC. If the grant needs to be extended beyond one year, please submit the No-Cost Extension request at least three months in advance of the end date of the period of performance.
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