• Proposal 548: A Rapid-Response Observation Program for ALMA

  • Reviewer* 5

Grade: 8

A Rapid-Response Observation Program for ALMA

1. Alignment with NA ALMA Partnership strategic goals;

The proposed study will lead to enhanced scientific return by the observatory through a streamlining of the TOO process to enable follow-up much more rapidly. Perhaps as fast as minutes to ~1 hour rather than the current ~1 day.

2. Strength of the scientific case for the proposed ALMA upgrade concept; Comment on the relevance to the ‘ALMA 2030’ development documents.

This proposed study will increase synergy with time-domain facilities that are expected to be in operation within the next decade. Moreover, the ability for rapid follow-up may also broaded the ALMA user community if such a program were implemented.

3. Quality of the upgrade conceptual design;

The proposed study will investigate the organizational and operational structure of the observatory to determine what changes would be needed in order to implement a rapid response system. The need for such a system is well-motivated scientifically; however, the observatory may already know how to implement such a system but has not yet done so.

4. Readiness for production in the context of the ALMA Development Plan (the aim is to support a range of upgrades including both those which can be implemented rapidly and those requiring longer-term research and development);

The propsed study will have a longer-term return to the observatory. The product of the study will determine what high-level changes are needed to both the observatory observations and organization to support rapid follow-up of TOOs. These changes would then, presumably, be more thoroughly investivated by the observatory.

5. Strength of the consortium organization (if applicable);

N/A

6. Qualifications of the key personnel of the Study;

The key personnel are well-qualified from a scientific standpoint to conduct such a study. However, this study would benefit from direct involvement from more NRAO staff that already have an intimate knowledge of observatory operations. Without which, the scientific lead may have to dedicate a significant amount of time to learning about the organizational structure and operations protocols that are already known to observatory staff. Thus, this may not be the most efficient use of time for this study.

7. Technical expertise, past experience (also in series production, if relevant) and technical facilities in the Institutes taking part in the Study;

The team's background in observatory operations is unclear. They are clearly experienced users of a wider range of facilities, but their experience with the management structure of a larger international observatory such as ALMA is unclear. This is an area where direct participation of ALMA staff would have been beneficial and possibly a more efficient use of resources.

8. Assessment of the level of risk inherent in the design;

Barriers to the implementation of the proposed rapid-response system may already be well-known to the observatory and the study may be somewhat redundant.

9. Strength of the Scientific Team supporting the Study;

The scientific tean support the study is excellent, they are experts and leaders in time-domain astronomy.

10. Level of support guaranteed by the Institutes;

Fine.

11. Budgeted cost of the Study;

Cost is relatively high compared to other studies, given that this does not have a true deliverable, rather a report of what changes should be made to implement a rapid reponse system.

  • Reviewer* 6

Grade: 7

Title A Rapid-Response Observation Program for ALMA by Edo Berger & collaborator

Alignment with NA ALMA Partnership strategic goals.

The primary purpose is to expand the scientific capability that would enable rapid response observations. Currently 24 hours is the minimum response time. ALMA uses queue scheduling so in principle this response time can be decreased with algorithms.

Strength of the scientific case for the proposed ALMA upgrade concept.

Comment on the relevance to the ‘ALMA 2030’ development documents.

The science case presented was broad, spanning a wide range of topics, from energetic phenomena (GRBs, cosmic explosions) to lower energy events. Not all short time-scale variations lend themselves to triggers. No significant detail was presented as a motivation; in fact, part of the purpose of this study is to develop the science case. It does seem relevant to the ALMA 2030 development discussions.

This is a capability that is a nice to have. What burning questions will be able to be answered with this capability?

Quality of the upgrade conceptual design

Proposal mentions travel cursorily to different sites, without a clear description of why. Given the international nature of the project, work is distributed across many executives. It would have been nice to have that reflected in the proposal. E. G. the OPT is a deliverable of ESO, so the activity would require interfacing with those folks about changes discussed.

Readiness for production in the context of the ALMA Development Plan (the aim is to support a range of upgrades including both those which can be implemented rapidly and those requiring longer-term research and development).

This is a long time scale plan design. It will produce suggestions for policy changes and implementation steps. It would not be ready for “production” in the sense of a capability offered to PIs for several years in the most optimistic scenario.

Strength of the consortium organization (if applicable)

N/A

Qualifications of the key personnel of the Study

These are time domain radio people, with experience mostly at cm wavelengths with JVLA and ATA. Science domain is cosmic explosions.

Technical expertise, past experience (also in series production, if relevant) and technical facilities in the Institutes taking part in the Study.

The scientific lead has experience commissioning radio telescopes, but mostly at longer wavelengths, and for a much smaller project.

Assessment of the level of risk inherent in the design

Little risk in design

Strength of the Scientific Team supporting the Study

Qualifications are good, motivation is high. Scientific lead has formulated an ALMA Time Domain interest group. Level of support guaranteed by the Institutes

None stated.

Budgeted cost of the Study

High for the proposed effort.

  • Reviewer* 7

Grade: 1

Title A Rapid Response Observation Program for ALMA

1. Alignment with NA ALMA Partnership strategic goals; This project aligns with the strategic goals: ● 1. Improve and extend technical capability ● 2. Increase operating efficiency by providing a review of current impediments to Rapid Response observing and delivering a plan to enable such a systems. And has the potential to align with ● 4. Strengthen the ALMA partnership by leveraging the best practice of optimal use of available observing time ● 5. Strengthen the North American Radio Astronomy community by expanding the NA ALMA community to include non-radio astronomers that do research in time-domain astronomy.

2. Strength of the scientific case for the proposed ALMA upgrade concept; Comment on the relevance to the “ALMA 2030” development documents. The scientific case is well-motivated. A rapid response program could have great impact on a broad range of astrophysics that involve time domain studies from SNe and TDEs to stellar and solar events. I’m skeptical however of any possibility of followup of gravitational wave sources, since even in the best scenarios with Advanced LIGO the localization is a few square degrees. As noted in the proposal, other facilities are gearing up to have rapid response capability, and ALMA needs to get in the game. The proposal does not touch on the suggestions in the ALMA 2030 Roadmap, however that document focuses on technical improvements, whereas this study aims to enable operational improvements.

3. Quality of the upgrade conceptual design; The time is right for such a study. ALMA is mature enough that new observing modes should be considered. The study goes about this the right way: interview stakeholders -- scientific, technical, and policy. Then make an assessment and formulate a plan. The Measures of Success focus on technical changes omitting the possibility of organizational/operational changes (though #2 mentions policy changes, some of which the ATSIG white paper has already identified) . To me, the latter are much more important and harder to accomplish. Nonetheless, this kind of holistic review of operations and policies is needed and could have broad utility outside the particular motivator of a rapid response observations.

4. Readiness for production in the context of the ALMA Development Plan (the aim is to support a range of upgrades including both those which can be implemented rapidly and those requiring longer-term research and development); Depending on the findings of the study, the program could be implemented rapidly. I think the main obstacles will be organizational rather than technical

5. Strength of the consortium organization (if applicable); N/A

6. Qualifications of the key personnel of the Study; The Scientific Lead has the technical expertise to understand how interferometric observatories are run, having been involved with the ATA. He also has the scientific expertise in his understanding and interest in time domain science with ALMA (ATSIG white paper). What matters most to the success of this study are the interpersonal skills of the Scientific Lead, because he will be interviewing many people with different competencies and responsibilities across the ALMA organization. These skills are not easy to assess from the proposal. My own interactions with the SL are limited to when he was a grad student and are generally positive. I think Dick P. will have a better read on this.

7. Technical expertise, past experience (also in series production, if relevant) and technical facilities in the Institutes taking part in the Study; CfA has broad range of experts in interferometry and time domain astrophysics. This study needs to look beyond CfA however to avoid parochial conclusions. (I note that >50% of ATSIG members are at CfA)

8. Assessment of the level of risk inherent in the design; The risk is probably low. My major concern is that the team is too small: i.e.the single person of the Scientific Lead (The PI’s commitment is negligible). So the project runs the risk of being too narrowly focused because it will be the point of view of that one person. This risk is difficult to quantify. If the Scientific Lead can successfully engage all the people he will interview and accurately synthesize the issues, then the risk is low.

9. Strength of the Scientific Team supporting the Study; See #6.

10. Level of support guaranteed by the Institutes; N/A

11. Budgeted cost of the Study; Reasonable, salary and travel for 0.75 FTE.

  • Reviewer* 8

Grade: 5

Title A Rapid-Response Observation Program for ALMA

1. Alignment with NA ALMA Partnership strategic goals;

The time domain is a major, growing sector of astronomy that has not been served well by ALMA so far. To do the best science, ALMA must enable rapid response in some form. Other major observing facilities have dealt successfully with this, as well as associated issues of policy and implementation.

2. Strength of the scientific case for the proposed ALMA upgrade concept; Comment on the relevance to the ‘ALMA 2030’ development documents.

The proposal details several compelling science cases that require more rapid response than ALMA is willing to provides right now. Most important, these represent "the tip of the iceberg", given the new multi-wavelength capabilities for time domain science coming in the 2020s. Frankly, it's odd that ALMA has not already done more to ensure more rapid response capability. These improvements lie in the category of flexibility, a "low to moderate" priority in the pathways document.

3. Quality of the upgrade conceptual design;

The study promises quantitative, science-driven, performance requirements for rapid response. This is exactly what's needed to move forward quickly.

4. Readiness for production in the context of the ALMA Development Plan (the aim is to support a range of upgrades including both those which can be implemented rapidly and those requiring longer-term research and development);

This study is a short term exercise. Given the results of the study, the time horizon for implementation likely will be paced simply by software development, and reaching agreement on policies.

5. Strength of the consortium organization (if applicable);

6. Qualifications of the key personnel of the Study;

The key personnel are highly qualified to execute the study. They are among the world experts in time domain science and have extensive experience with radio interferometry. In effect, they have already started this work, by forming a community interest group aimed at the problem.

7. Technical expertise, past experience (also in series production, if relevant) and technical facilities in the Institutes taking part in the Study;

8. Assessment of the level of risk inherent in the design;

There is no clearly identifiable risk to this study.

9. Strength of the Scientific Team supporting the Study;

A potential strength is that support ultimately comes from broader community of astronomers interested in time domain science with ALMA.

10. Level of support guaranteed by the Institutes;

11. Budgeted cost of the Study;

The main budget item is 0.75 FTE for a highly experienced postdoc, who is uniquely positioned to run the study. I do have some skepticism that this high level of effort is required for the proposed work.

  • Reviewer* 11

Grade: 1.5

1. Alignment with NA ALMA Partnership strategic goals;

This is a study to research potential implementation of an RRM program enabling fast follow-up within perhaps minutes of a trigger, offering an order-of-magnitude improvement in latency over existing TOO response times at ALMA. As a number of important scientific cases would benefit from such an improvement in response time, this proposed study is in clear alignment with ALMA programmatic goals of maximizing the scientific return of the observatory.

2. Strength of the scientific case for the proposed ALMA upgrade concept; Comment on the relevance to the “ALMA 2030” development documents.

Time-domain astronomy is entering a second renaissance, in this reviewer's opinion, particularly as we look toward the horizon of LSST, LIGO, etc. The proposal does a good job of arguing for those science cases wherein variations in observables can be extreme over the timescale of ~hours (TDEs, exotic transients, LSST follow-up, etc.). ALMA can maintain a cutting edge by being the de-facto mm follow-up facility well into the 2030s with RRM capability. I'm convinced that this is a study worth pursuing.

3. Quality of the upgrade conceptual design;

High. See above.

4. Readiness for production in the context of the ALMA Development Plan (the aim is to support a range of upgrades including both those which can be implemented rapidly and those requiring longer-term research and development);

This is an information-gathering study that can be conducted in parallel. No interface with ALMA is necessary, beyond a simple OSF site visit by the study lead.

5. Strength of the consortium organization (if applicable);

N/A

6. Qualifications of the key personnel of the Study;

Their scientific qualifications are beyond doubt. Their knowledge of ALMA scheduling and operation is unknown, but better understanding this is part of the proposed program.

7. Technical expertise, past experience (also in series production, if relevant) and technical facilities in the Institutes taking part in the Study;

See above.

8. Assessment of the level of risk inherent in the design;

This is an information-gathering study, wtih low financial risk.

9. Strength of the Scientific Team supporting the Study;

Extremely high.

10. Level of support guaranteed by the Institutes;

N/A

11. Budgeted cost of the Study;

Reasonably low ($123K). The project deliverable is a final closeout report detailing RRM science drivers, a conceptual design for an RRM program, proposed consortium structure, cost estimates/schedules, etc. This seems like it would be a valuable document as we move forward, and I think the study is worth pursuing.

-- AlWootten - 2017-07-19
Topic revision: r1 - 2017-07-19, AlWootten
This site is powered by FoswikiCopyright © by the contributing authors. All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
Ideas, requests, problems regarding NRAO Public Wiki? Send feedback