International In-kind Contribution Evaluation Committee (CEC) Update: Charge and Science Collaboration Representation

We received a very positive response to our October invitations to the international LSST community to submit Letters of Intent (LOIs) to make in-kind contributions in return for LSST data rights. NSF and DOE are currently reviewing 41 LOIs seeking data rights for 480 international PIs; as the agencies approve each LOI for further development, I am passing them to our all-new Contribution Evaluation Committee (CEC).

This committee has been appointed by Acting Rubin Observatory Operations Director Bob Blum, with a charge (based on advice from the Rubin Observatory LSST Science Advisory Committee) to oversee the evaluation of the proposed contributions. For an overview of what the CEC is being asked to do, you can read the CEC’s charge below.

As you can see, the charge defines the CEC to be a 15-member committee, with representatives of each of the 8 LSST Science Collaborations, plus 5 at-large members (including 2 Chilean representatives), the Science Collaborations Coordinator (Federica Bianco), and myself. The science collaboration representatives also have alternates, who can stand in for them in cases of potential conflicts of interest and generally assist in the work of the CEC members. We’re still finalizing the at-large members, but in the meantime, here are the science collaboration representatives on the committee:

  • Xiaohui Fan (AGN SC, with interim alternate Niel Brandt)
  • Rachel Mandelbaum (DESC, with alternates Pat Burchat and Richard Dubois)
  • Sugata Kaviraj (Galaxies SC, with alternate Harry Ferguson)
  • Matthew Graham (ISSC, with alternate Chad Schafer)
  • Aprajita Verma (SLSC, with alternate Timo Anguita)
  • Peregrine McGehee (SMWLV SC, with alternate John Gizis)
  • Meg Schwamb (SSSC, with alternate David Trilling)
  • Rachel Street (TVS SC, with alternate Paula Szkody)

The CEC will be instrumental in ensuring that the international in-kind contributions meet agency requirements and lead to the successful creation of new data rights agreements, to the benefit of the whole LSST community. Thank you very much for agreeing to serve, all of you!

I’ll explain a bit more about the at-large CEC members when I introduce them to you, and then post further updates as the committee gets to work. Giving the proposed contributions the attention they deserve is going to be a significant undertaking, and the CEC is going to need help from around the community. As the charge puts it, the plan for the next couple of months is to work with the international groups to help them form a more detailed proposal for their in-kind contributions, with a submission deadline of March 31, 2020. In some cases, this will involve redirecting them to various Science Collaboration working groups, who can provide feedback that leads to a better defined and higher value contribution. SC members, please do help out by responding with good feedback and advice, when asked!

Comments and questions on the CEC and its work are most welcome - and you’ll be hearing more soon as the committee gets started.

Best wishes,


Charge to the Rubin Observatory LSST Contribution Evaluation Committee

Final version for CEC, December 20, 2019.

(Updated to refer to the Rubin Observatory throughout, January 18, 2020 )

(Revisions to timeline and some processes, June 29, 2020)

Bob Blum (Rubin Observatory Operations Director) & Phil Marshall (Deputy Director of Rubin Observatory Operations at SLAC), based on recommendations and an initial draft by the Rubin Observatory LSST Science Advisory Committee (SAC).


The Vera C. Rubin Observatory is a US funded and Chilean supported project, and scientists from those countries will enjoy full rights to the data from its Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) (which it will carry out during the first ten years of its operations). However, the observatory is actively soliciting involvement from international partners, in which LSST data rights for named individuals will be given in exchange for in-kind contributions to Rubin Observatory operations themselves, or to the LSST science effort in the US. In October 2019, the international LSST community (mainly those with prior relationships with the Rubin Observatory or the LSST Corporation) was invited to prepare Letters of Intent, to be followed by full proposals, outlining the in-kind contributions they hope to make. This document is a charge to the Rubin Observatory LSST Contribution Evaluation Committee (CEC, pronounced “Cee-ee-cee”), which will make recommendations to the Rubin Observatory Operations Director about the scientific utility of the proposed contributions. The CEC’s initial work will be to assess the first round of full proposals for in-kind contributions. However, the CEC will also be responsible for reviewing proposals in future calls, and assessing the delivery and performance of in-contributions through the survey. Thus the CEC will be a standing committee, which may continue throughout LSST operations.

At the time of this writing, the Rubin Observatory has recognized eight LSST Science Collaborations: Dark Energy, Galaxies, Solar System, Stars, Milky Way and Local Volume, Strong Lensing, Informatics and Statistics, Transients and Variable Stars, Active Galactic Nuclei. These Science Collaborations, with memberships of hundreds of scientists in many cases, have developed science plans, roadmaps, and detailed tasks lists for their work. We anticipate that many of the proposals from international partners for in-kind work will address the needs of the Science Collaborations, as outlined in their science planning documents, naturally as a result of the requirement that in-kind contributions expand the resources available to the US science community. While there is no formal requirement that an in-kind contribution respond to a specific need described in this way, and some proposed contributions may be of use to more than one Science Collaboration, nevertheless the Science Collaborations themselves are best-positioned to review these proposals, and to determine the extent to which they will augment, supplement and support the science effort of the US LSST communities. This charge also defines the makeup of the LSST CEC, and describes the criteria by which it should make its judgements of the proposals it receives.

The Composition of the Rubin Observatory LSST CEC

The CEC shall consist of:

  • One representative from each of the existing LSST Science Collaborations. This could be either a chair/co-chair of the Science Collaboration, or any other representative of the Science Collaboration, as selected by the Science Collaboration leadership. If additional Science Collaborations are recognized by the Rubin Observatory in the future, they will have the right to name a member of the CEC.
  • Five additional at-large members of the LSST Science Community, as nominated by the SAC for approval of the Rubin Operations Director. The SAC will nominate these additional members to complement the scientific expertise of the Science Collaboration representatives, and represent existing US observing facilities for LSST follow-up, the Chilean science community , and/or any scientific or academic communities that are otherwise under-represented on the CEC.
  • The LSST Science Collaborations Coordinator (currently Federica Bianco).
  • The Deputy Director of Rubin Observatory Operations (currently Phil Marshall), who will chair the CEC.

The initial CEC will therefore consist of 15 members.

The CEC members should all be scientists with LSST data rights employed in the US or Chile. Where this is not possible, any CEC member not employed in the US or Chile will recuse themselves from the development of recommendations relating to their country’s proposed in-kind contributions or those that would compete with them. The CEC should include at least two scientists employed in Chile, including one who is not a Science Collaboration co-chair.

Those who receive any salary support from the Rubin Observatory are ineligible to serve on the CEC (except for the chair). However, members of advisory committees and other groups associated with the Rubin Observatory are eligible (if they are not employed by the Rubin Observatory itself), including members of the LSST Corporation, the SAC, the AMCL, and so on. Similarly, employees of the NSF’s OIR Lab, SLAC, or other AURA or DOE centers are eligible to be members of the CEC, if not employed by the Rubin Observatory itself.

CEC members will serve terms of 3 years, subject to renewal as appropriate. Science collaboration representatives will be replaced by their Science Collaboration’s leadership; the SAC will provide replacement at-large nominations for committee members.

The Rubin Observatory operations managing organizations, AURA and SLAC, may send representatives to observe the CEC meetings, as part of their work to monitor and approve Rubin Observatory or LSST policy decisions. The CEC Chair will provide regular reports to the Rubin Observatory Operations Director, who as appropriate will inform the US agencies and the LSST science community on the Committee’s progress.

In-kind Contribution Proposal Process and Timeline

In October 2019, potential international participants were invited to submit letters of intent (LOIs) to provide in-kind contributions that expand the resources available to the US science community in return for LSST data rights and access. These LOIs will be reviewed by NSF and DOE following recommendations from the Rubin Operations Director, with input from the CEC, and approval by the Rubin Observatory Management Board. Before the LOI deadline of November 22, the Science Collaborations began exploring possible areas in which in-kind contributions would be valuable, including possible enhancements to the facility, data sets and observing capabilities, and contributions to either individual Science Collaborations or cross-collaboration infrastructure. The CEC was established in December 2019, while the LOIs were in initial agency review, and will meet regularly as it carries out its work.

Once the agencies confirm that an LOI is appropriate for further development and likely to produce an agreement for exchange of data rights, the Rubin Observatory Operations Director, with input from the CEC, will begin working with the international participant to help them form a more detailed proposal for the proposed in-kind contribution, The CEC will recommend initial feedback for each proposal team on their LOI ideas to the Director by the end of July 2020. In some cases, the guidance that Rubin gives to proposers will be to redirect them to various Science Collaboration working groups who can provide feedback that leads to a better defined and higher value contribution.

Full proposals will be due September 25, 2020. The CEC will review these proposals, and advise the Rubin Operations Director as to their scientific value, issuing brief recommendations, by the end of the calendar year, for final acceptance by the Rubin Operations Director, Rubin Management Board, and federal agencies. Once a proposal is recommended by the CEC, Rubin will work with the proposers, AURA, SLAC and the agencies to develop Data Rights Agreements, formalizing the agreement between the US agencies (or their designates) and the international group. The goal is to get data rights agreements in place as soon as possible, but there is no hard deadline for any of these dates/milestones.

Evaluation Process

When reviewing a proposed in-kind contribution, the CEC should consider the following criteria:

  • The direct value of the proposed contribution to the science effort of the US community;
  • The extent to which this contribution aligns with the stated roadmaps or task lists of one or more Science Collaborations;
  • The extent to which it does not unnecessarily duplicate existing effort, tools or resources already available to the US and Chilean communities;
  • Any specific deliverables promised, and how they will be monitored as the survey progresses;
  • The size of the contribution relative to the number of scientists requesting data rights. Bigger groups should provide more value. The NSF, DOE, and the Rubin Observatory will provide guidance to the CEC on how the relation between effort and number of scientists should be quantified.

The CEC will operate by consensus whenever possible in developing its recommendations.

If consensus is not possible, the CEC will vote on its recommendations, with the chair providing a tie-breaking vote when required.

While the membership of the CEC will be primarily limited to those at US and Chilean institutions, and the applications will by definition be coming from other countries, there is potential for conflicts of interest. Before any meeting in which proposals will be discussed, the chair will ask CEC members to disclose any potential conflicts of interest (e.g., by being close collaborators of the authors of a proposal to be considered). The CEC chair has the right to request that conflicted individuals not take part in the discussion, or leave the room/phonecon at that time, if they do not voluntarily recuse themselves. The CEC Chair will report on any conflicts of interest managed in this way to the Rubin Operations Director, who will in turn report to the Management Board so that they can be monitored by AURA and SLAC.

It will be the chair’s responsibility to determine that there is suitable scientific and technical expertise, and familiarity with the planned science within the collaborations, among the CEC members to assess each proposal, even after conflicted members (see below) are removed. To provide advice on proposed contributions, CEC members are encouraged to consult the Science Collaborations, SAC, Rubin construction or operations, or other bodies, as needed. When needed, the chair may identify alternates from the Science Collaborations or broader community to provide written commentary on proposals, or to take part in the discussion of these proposals. Any such technical observers would need to be decided and announced to the full CEC membership at least one week before each meeting. In general, technical observers will be asked to comment on specific proposals, and not on general CEC work.

The Role of the CEC after December 2020

The Rubin Observatory anticipates future calls or opportunities for international partners to propose additional in-kind contributions. As indicated above, the CEC will be a standing committee, and will review future proposals in the same manner as described above.

The CEC will also monitor progress on the in-kind contributions to advise whether the international participants are delivering these contributions at a level consistent with their proposal. The CEC will assess these contributions yearly (or more often if deemed necessary by the Rubin Operations Director), and prepare a report to the Rubin Operations Director. The CEC will be assisted in this task by one or more Rubin operations international program coordinators, to be provided by the Rubin operations team.

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