USER OPERATION FACTS AND FIGURES
2020 was the year of the Extremely Brilliant Source (EBS) restart and the return to user operation after a 20-month shutdown period for the X-ray beamlines. Restarting and commissioning the beamlines was always going to be demanding following the full renewal of the ESRF source, but the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns across Europe made this even more challenging. Despite the closure of the ESRF for two months, and a reduction in available beamline commissioning time, User Service Mode (USM) was delivered as planned on 25 August 2020, and the first user experiments began.
During the first run (August-October), user operation was ramped up across the beamlines. By the end of the run, 35 out of a potential 45 end-stations had taken user experiments and, by the end of the year, 39 beamlines had resumed their user programme. In addition to the five bending magnet (BM) and one insertion device (ID) beamlines that will restart their user programme in early 2021, three beamlines are currently closed for refurbishment (ID24, ID27 and ID29) and another is under construction (BM18).
Given the ongoing public health crisis and the resulting travel restrictions and social distancing measures, nearly all user experiments carried out since the restart in 2020 have been performed remotely. Procedures and solutions to allow remote user experiments across all ESRF beamlines were put in place in only a few months leading up to the restart. These included the development of a sample tracking system to allow users to declare, send and track their samples to and from the ESRF (page 178). Of course, many experiments need the knowledge and expertise of onsite user teams to be correctly performed but, for many others, users have been able to send samples, take and process data, and exchange with beamline staff thanks to the remote solutions implemented.
Figure 159 shows the number of applications for beam-time received since 2013. Following
the Phase I Upgrade Programme activities that finished in 2015, record high numbers of proposals were received successively from 2016 to 2018. 2019 was the EBS shutdown year, and the figures for proposals received and allocated correspond mainly to cryo-electron microscope activities and around 20 BioSAXS and crystallography rolling proposals for the structural biology beamlines. The figures for 2020 concern only half a year of user operation, except for the normal number of cryo-electron microscope proposals received and allocated in the first half of 2020.
Proposals for experiments are selected and beam-time allocations are made through peer review. Proposals for experiments in 2020 were reviewed by 12 beam-time allocation panels grouping the following beamlines of similar techniques or activities: C01 (ID01, BM01, BM25, BM32) C02 (ID06-HXM, ID11, ID15A, ID22, ID31) C03 (ID12, ID32) C04 (BM08, BM16, BM14, BM20, BM23, BM30, BM31) C05 (ID06-LVP, ID15B, ID27) C06 (ID17, ID19) C07 (ID16A, ID16B, ID21) C08 (ID02, ID13, BM26) C09 (BM02, ID09, ID10, BM28) C10 (Structural biology beamlines) C11 (ID20, ID24, ID26) C12 (ID18, ID28)
Fig. 159: Numbers of applications for beam-time, experimental sessions and user visits, 2013 to 2020. N.B. 2020 experiments and user visit figures are up to 31 December 2020, and do not include the experiments that will continue to be scheduled in the remainder of 2020/II.