During the year 2003 the full complement of 30 public beamlines, together with 9 additional beamlines operated by Collaborating Research Groups (CRGs) were open for user experiments. Figure 182 shows the increase in the number of applications for beamtime since 1998, and confirms that although the main beamline construction effort was complete by 1999, the number of proposals for beamtime continues to rise.


Fig. 182: Numbers of applications for beamtime, experiments carried out, and user visits, 1998 to 2002. N.B. Final numbers of experiments and user visits for 2003 were not available at the time of going to press.


Proposals for experiments are selected and beamtime allocations are made through peer review. Review Committees of specialists for the most part from European countries and Israel, 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
  • macromolecular crystallography
  • medicine
  • methods and instrumentation
  • soft condensed matter
  • surfaces and interfaces

The Review Committees met twice during the year, some six weeks after the deadlines for submission of proposals (1 March and 1 September). They reviewed a total of 1622 applications for beamtime, and selected 769 (47%), which were then scheduled for experiments.

Features of this period have been:

  • the convening of a Medical review committee, to assess research projects in medicine.
  • increasing numbers of projects concerned more with applied than basic research in materials science, engineering and environmental matters. As shown in Figure 183, experiments in these areas accounted for 12% of the total number of shifts scheduled in the first half of 2003, an increase from 10% in 2002.
  • the continued successful operation of the Block Allocation Group (BAG) scheme for macromolecular crystallography users. This scheme, designed to encourage groups of users to block together their multiple requests for beamtime, and the scheduling of their experiments, encompassed 39 groups from Europe and Israel in 2003.


Fig. 183: Shifts scheduled for experiments, from March to August 2003, by scientific area.


Requests for beamtime, which is scheduled in shifts of 8 hours, totalled 25 740 shifts or 205 920 hours in 2003, of which 12 486 shifts or 99 888 hours (48.5%) were allocated. The distribution of shifts requested and allocated, by scientific area, is shown in Table 11.


Table 11: Number of shifts of beamtime requested and allocated for user experiments, year 2003.


The first half of 2003 saw 2639 visits by scientists to the ESRF under the user programme, to carry out 641 experiments. Figure 182 shows the rapid rise in the number of user visits since 1998, the higher numbers in recent years reflecting in part the multiple visits made by macromolecular crystallography BAG teams. The peak in 2000 is due to a somewhat longer scheduling period, and correspondingly higher overall number of experimental sessions, and visits by users.

Overall, the number of users in each experimental team averaged 4 persons, and they stayed for some 4 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, also make an important contribution to the quality of user support.

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