Anonymizing the Hubble Space Telescope Proposal Process

by Joanna Bridge on February 23, 2018

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) “Anonymizing Proposal Reviews” Working Group (APRWG) has been formed to tackle the ongoing problem of implicit biases affecting the outcomes of Hubble Space Telescope (HST) proposal reviews. For the last two HST cycles, the list of investigators on each proposal has been given to reviewers alphabetized and with no indication of the principal investigator in order to avoid these biases in the review process.  However, the working group notes in their charge, “The final results from HST proposal reviews continue to show that proposals led by female PIs have a lower success rate that those led by male PIs. This may indicate the continued presence of unconscious bias.”

An email from STScI recently sent to the community states:

NASA’s Great Observatories are open to science proposals from anyone in the worldwide astronomical community. Maintaining equity and a level playing field for access is a high priority for the Director and staff at STScI. In support of that goal, a number of changes have been made to the format of HST proposals. Following discussion with the Space Telescope Users Committee, the Director has established a Working Group to explore options for further anonymizing the proposal format and developing appropriate guidelines for proposers and reviewers.

The APRWG is now soliciting feedback from the astronomical community on this topic. More information on the APRWG mission can be found on the group’s website, including proposing guides and an FAQ.

Send any comments or input you have to hstanon@stsci.edu by March 7, 2018. The APRWG will deliver a report to the Director and the Space Telescope Users Committee by April 1, 2018.

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