Apply for Beamtime

CHESS generally operates 140 days per year with three cycles and all beam time is requested each cycle through the web-based Userdb system. In this system, a beam time proposal describes the scientific experiments to be performed and identifies the experimental team. A proposal is good for 2 years from the date of review and acceptance.  After the proposal has been reviewed and accepted the proposal will generate its first beam time request.  New beam time requests (BTR) must be submitted for every cycle that a user requests beam time. Every beam time request also requires a Safety Approval.

Planning Your Experiment and Understanding Beamline Capabilities

Look at the Beamline capabilities webpage.  Determine which beamline and technique best fits your experimental needs.  If you have questions contact a Staff Scientist to discuss your research (the CHESS User Office will also get you in touch with the appropriate Staff Scientist):

  • What is the research problem?
  • Which station(s) are appropriate?
  • How mature is the research project (risk, size)? Has this been tried on a home source?
  • What is the material - sample composition, form, size, availability?
  • What are the experimental conditions (temperature, pressure, etc.)?
  • What will be measured?
  • Probability of success? Impact? Significance?
  • How will results be presented and to whom?
  • What is the timeline?

Proposal Types

Currently there is only one type of Standard Proposal available in userdb. However should your proposal meet any of the following criteria please make adjustments in the title of your proposal:

  • If you are a Proprietary user please start your title with "Proprietary."  Proposals marked as proprietary are kept confidential and only reviewed by our Directors.
  • If your proposal is a Feasibility study, something never done before and that is highly experimental.  Please start your title with "Feasibility."  A feasibility study is only granted beamtime for one time access and is reviewed by our Directors.


How to Submit a Proposal in Userdb

Once you have determined the details of your experiment and the beamline you wish to use you are ready to begin the proposal process:

  • Go to userdb and register as a new user and create a profile.
  • You will now see the main dashboard of userdbUserdb portal
  •  Upper left corner of your dashboard select "My Proposals"
  • Then select "New Proposal"
  • After you have entered the title of the proposal you will then see the 10 different sections of the proposal
Proposal Sections
  • Please remember when filling out the proposal that this will be peer reviewed by an outside group of reviewers and safety reviewed.  See guidelines for writing a successful proposal.  Step by step instructions can be found in Userdb.

Proposal Review and Scoring

How is my proposal peer reviewed?

  • A peer review is conducted on your proposal by outside reviewers (2-3) and an average final score will be assigned to the proposal upon completion of the review(s). Your average score will be on a scale of 1-4, 1 being excellent and 4 being poor. The areas in which your proposal will be scored are:
  • Scientific and or Technical Merit
  • Need for CHESS Capabilities
  • Experimental Plan Details
  • Expertise of Group (in both x-ray methods and science subject areas)

Below is a snapshot of the reviewer score sheet:

  1. Scientific and/or Technical Merit
  2. Excellent - Results will be considered impactful and important - ambitious and innovative
  3. Very Good - Will advance scientific knowledge, methods, and/or address critical questions
  4. Good - Research contributes to scientific and/or technical knowledge base
  5. Poor - Proposed research has no clear importance or originality
  1. Need for CHESS Capabilities
  2. Excellent - CHESS facilities and capabilities essential to obtain experimental results
  3. Very Good - Well documented need for existing facilities and capabilities
  4. Good - Appropriate use of existing facilities and capabilities
  5. Poor - Routine use of existing facilities and methods or poorly demonstrated need
  1. Experimental Plan Details
  2. Thorough - Uses established facilities/methods or addresses all phases of a successful experiment (preparation, data collection/analysis, theory/calculations, etc.)
  3. Detailed - Provides a detailed description of most aspects of the experiment
  4. Adequate - Reasonable outline of experimental needs provided
  5. Insufficient - Too little detail to evaluate needs and/or predict successful completion
  1. Expertise of Group (in both x-ray methods and science subject area)
  2. Extensive - Very experienced group with extensive history of successful outcomes
  3. Experienced - Group with proven track record of successes
  4. Gaining - Group has experience and demonstrated competence
  5. Novice - Group lacks experience or did not provide evidence of outcomes


Beam Time Request (BTR)

In order to submit a beam time request (BTR) you must have a valid proposal.  (All proposals are good for two years from submission.)  A BTR is a recap of your approved proposal.  We ask that you review and update sample information, buffers, solutions, equipment needs (this will be reviewed by safety). 

Secondly, and as important, is the experimental plan section.  In your proposal your experimental plan may have discussed the 2 year plan but the BTR wants to explicitly know what are you planning to do this run.

To submit a beam time request log into userdb

  • On the top menu select "My Beamtime Requests"
  • To the left select "New Requests"
  • Complete instructions can be found in userdb

Beam time Allocation and Scheduling

The total amount of beam time available on a beamline each cycle is a combination of the time required for commissioning, maintaining, and upgrading the beamlines and the time available for user experiments.  

Each cycle, beamlines may designate a fraction of their time for specific technique experiments and schedulers allocate appropriate proposals for this purpose.  All beamlines adhere to scheduling by proposal score, i.e. proposals which scored 1 - 1.75 are offered time first.

Beam time allocation and scheduling

Once the deadline has past for proposal and BTR submission scheduling begins in earnest by the Beamline Scientist and schedulers.  Each beamline scientist is responsible for scheduling their beamline.  Users are notified of scheduling confirmation through userdb.