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Proposal Submission Guide

This page describes:

General Instructions for All Proposal Types

  1. Proposals for ESRF beamtime must be submitted electronically through the ESRF User Portal. You must create an account in the User Portal to be able to submit a proposal, and all Co-Investigators must also be registered in the User Portal otherwise it will not be possible to include them in the proposal.
  2. Each proposal is submitted to a Proposal Review Panel (PRP) for evaluation. Members of these panels are external (i.e. non-ESRF) specialists in relevant areas of science and are appointed by the ESRF management.
  3. Requests for beamtime are made in units of shifts, where 1 shift = 8 hours. Any allocation of beamtime will usually be made in multiples of 3 shifts.
  4. Before submitting your proposal, in addition to the general instructions given on this page we strongly recommend that you consult the Specific Guidelines for the category of your new proposal very carefully, as these contain detailed instructions regarding the electronic completion and submission of your specific type of proposal.
  5. All proposal types at the ESRF consist of 3 parts and all 3 have to be completed in order to submit a proposal:
  6. Once a proposal has been submitted, it will no longer be editable and will move from your list of “Draft Proposals” to your list of “Submitted Proposals”. It will be assigned a Draft_ID and approximately one week after the deadline, the User Office will:
    • validate the proposal and attribute it a final Proposal-ID (e.g.: CH-1111),
    • communicate the final Proposal_ID to the Principal Investigator by email ("Acknowledgement Letter")
  7. To create a new proposal, click on ‘New proposal’ then choose the proposal type, the experiment group if applicable and the lineage of the proposal.
  8.  Remember when completing your proposal that: 
    • Proposals must be written in English;
    • All sections of the project description template must be filled in; please generally respect the space available on the form;
    • Do not change the font or fontsize of the project description template
  9. For the proposal deadline: 
    • We advise you not to wait until the last minute to prepare and submit your proposal, in order to avoid a possible overload of the system and to avoid unnecessary stress.
    • If you run into difficulties when preparing/submitting your proposal, please contact either:
    • NB: on the day of the proposal submission deadlines, the MIS Group can be contacted until 5pm CET (GMT+1).

Roles and Responsibilities

The Principal Investigator (PI) takes the general responsibility for the scientific project, the proposal writing and submission, the organisation of the experiment and ensuring that reports and feedback forms are submitted.

On the proposal form, the PI may choose to name one of the Co-Investigators (CI) as an Alternative Contact (AC) for the proposal. If an AC is named, this person has the same rights as the PI and so can also edit and submit the proposal.


Once the proposal type (and experiment group if necessary) for a new proposal has been selected, the PI will be asked to select the lineage for this new proposal, i.e. to select whether it is a New proposal, or whether it is a Resubmission or Continuation of a previous proposal.

Warning: Proposal reviewers pay particular attention to this and are very likely to reject your proposal if it is not put in the correct category e.g. if it is selected as a new proposal when it is indeed a resubmission.

The proposal form clearly defines each lineage category but they are also described here:

Proposal form

The online proposal form gives the basic information concerning the proposal and is split into 6 tabs.

The online proposal form includes comprehensive help texts for most questions to guide you in completing the form. Specific and important instructions concerning the “Publications” tab can be found by clicking on the link above, and includes information about relevant reports and the proposal team scientific activity at the ESRF.

Please, however, note the following important points:

In this tab you are asked to provide general information for your proposal like the title, abstract (both will be made public if beamtime is awarded and used), the scientific discipline and societal challenge of the research proposed, and whether there is any industrial involvement (this is for reporting purposes only and will not affect the evaluation of the proposal - it is important for the ESRF to be able to report accurate numbers about industrial collaboration in public research at the ESRF.
Finally, you must accept the Terms & Conditions for submission of ESRF proposals.

In this tab, you are asked to select the beamlines requested and also indicate the beam requirements, if any. In some cases, you may select alternative beamlines if they are also suitable for your project. You are asked to give the technical reasons for requiring the ESRF and the specific beamline(s) requested.

Please list the Co-Investigators of the project, and note that you may select one of the CIs as an Alternative Contact. It is not mandatory to choose an Alternative Contact but, if chosen, this investigator will share the same rights as the PI. Please ensure that the list of CIs is commensurate with the complexity of the project and the amount of beamtime requested (reviewers are reticent to allocate several days of beamtime to a project where only one investigator is listed).

You are also asked to indicate, and comment on if necessary, the experiment team resources. For sample preparation, data acquisition, data processing and data interpretation you are asked to indicate whether this can be fully managed by the proposal team or whether partial or full assistance from ESRF beamline staff is required. This information is required as part of the technical feasibility assessment and proposers should note that the requested resources might not be available.

Finally, you are asked to give a rough indication of the volume of data expected. If you are unsure of this, please consult the beamline staff or web pages.

Please make sure you clearly indicate all equipment and products that are required for the experiment(s), both those requested from the facility and those that will be provided by the user group.

In this tab, you are asked some general questions concerning the overall experiment and measurements. Specific sample risks and information must be given in the sample forms associated to the experiment, but you are asked to provide an overall assessment for the whole experiment in this tab.

Experimental conditions requiring special safety precautions such as the use of lasers, high pressure cells, bacteria, viruses, dangerous substances, toxic substances and radioactive materials, must be clearly stated in the proposal.  Moreover, any ancillary equipment supplied by the user must conform with the appropriate French regulations.

  • Proposal team scientific activity at the ESRF:

The first section in the “Publications” tab is called “Relevant Reports” and this section serves two purposes:

  • To list the scientific activity of the proposal team at the ESRF over the past 5 years, along with the submission status of the experiment reports for beamtime used;
  • To allow the selection of up to 3 experiment reports that are particularly relevant for this proposal.

The table shows the list of ESRF proposals allocated beamtime from this proposal team over the last 5 years even if the beamtime has not yet been scheduled or used, and where the PI and CIs of the current proposal were declared as PI or CI. Inhouse research proposals are not included. The review panels will have access to this same information and pay particular attention to reports on past beamtime; they are likely to reject the proposal application if any reports on past beamtime are missing.

Please see the "Reporting & Feedback" web page for information on submitting Experiment Reports.

  • Publications:

The PI will be asked to select up to 10 most relevant publications from the full list of ESRF publications (publications originating either wholly or partially from ESRF data) of the proposal team (Principal Investigator and Co-Investigators). The full list is automatically created from the publications listed in each Investigator’s "My publications" list in their User Portal profile.

To ensure a smooth proposal submission process, we strongly recommend that all users update their list of ESRF publications in their User Portal profile before proposal submission, and that these lists are regularly maintained by each user to ensure they are up-to-date.

Detailed information on the “My Publications” tool and on publications in ESRF proposals is available on the “Publications” web page.

Sample Forms

The samples to be measured are described using sample forms, and at least one sample form must be joined to a proposal for submission.

Materials with similar composition should be grouped in one sample form, e.g. for several samples of the same material but with different crystal structures or concentrations, one sample form is sufficient including a description of the (range of) different structures or concentrations.

The sample form consists of 3 tabs:

  • Description
  • Handling & Equipment
  • Certify

For instructions on completing the sample forms, please consult the “Declaring your samples” page.

Project Description Template

The project description templates of ESRF proposals generally follow the same structure, as described below. Depending on the proposal type, additional or slightly different information is needed (see templates for more information).

  1. Proposal summary
  2. Scientific background
  3. Experimental plan
  4. Beamline(s) and beamtime requested with justification
  5. Results expected and impact - analysis strategy and significance of the results
  6. References

The templates themselves contain help texts for each of the above sections, and you should read these carefully before removing the help text box and replacing it with your own text.
It is mandatory to use the official template, so please ensure you download the latest version here.