During the year 2000 the full complement of 30 public beamlines, together with 8 additional beamlines operated by Collaborating Research Groups (CRGs), were open for user experiments. Requests for beam time and numbers of users carrying out experiments continued to increase, as can be seen in Figure 136. This figure shows the number of applications for beam time and experiments carried out, together with numbers of scientists' visits since user operation began in September 1994.

Figure 136
Fig. 136: Numbers of applications for beam time, experiments carried out, and users, September 1994 to December 2000. N.B. Final numbers of users for 2000 were not available at the time of going to press. 

Proposals for experiments are selected and beam time allocations are made through peer review. Review Committees of specialists from European countries, Israel and the USA have been set up in the following scientific areas:

  • chemistry
  • hard condensed matter: electronic and magnetic properties
  • hard condensed matter: structures
  • materials engineering and environmental matters
  • life sciences
  • methods and instrumentation
  • soft condensed matter
  • surfaces and interfaces


The Review Committees met twice during the past year, some six weeks after the deadlines for submission of proposals (1 March and 1 September). They reviewed a total of 1470 applications for beam time, and selected 783 (53%), which were then scheduled for experiments.

A feature of this period has been the setting up of a new review committee to assess proposals concerned rather more with applied than basic research in materials science, engineering and environmental matters. Experiments in these areas accounted for 7% of the total number of experiments carried out in the first half of 2000. In addition, in the life sciences the number of macromolecular crystallography experiments has risen notably. This is due to a combination of the availability of five experimental stations dedicated to macromolecular crystallography, very rapid data collection times ­ frequently less than one shift - and the very successful operation of the Block Allocation Group (BAG) scheme, designed to encourage groups of users to block together their multiple requests for beam time, and the scheduling of their experiments. As an indication, the number of BAGs, initially 20 late in 1998, rose to 34 by the second scheduling period in 2000.

Requests for beam time, which is scheduled in shifts of 8 hours, totalled 23 216 shifts or 185 728 hours for the year, of which 12 309 shifts or 98 472 hours (53%) were allocated; the distribution of shifts by scientific area is shown in Table 4.

Table 4
Table 4: Number of shifts of beam time requested and allocated for user experiments, year 2000.


The first half of 2000 saw 2580 scientists visit the ESRF under the user programme, to carry out 599 experiments. This represents an increase of some 40% in the number of users compared with the corresponding scheduling period in 1999. The breakdown of experiments carried out, by scientific area, is shown in Figure 137.


Figure 137
Fig. 137: Shifts scheduled for experiments, February to July 2000, by scientific area.

The number of users in each experimental team also increased, from an average of 3.6 to 4.3 persons per team, and they stayed for some 3 days. Users responding to questionnaires indicate that they particularly appreciate the assistance they receive from scientists and support staff on beamlines, and smooth administrative arrangements, in addition to the quality both of the beam and of the experimental stations. Facilities on site, such as preparation laboratories, a canteen, and the Guesthouse, to which another wing was added, also make an important contribution to the quality of user support.

On the beamlines, beam time losses tended to occur because of occasional difficulties with the beamline components, computer programs, or with samples. Such beam time losses, however, remained below 5% of the total shifts scheduled for experiments during the period.