The year 2004 saw the 10th anniversary of the opening of beamlines at ESRF for User Operation, on 1st September 1994. The full complement of 30 public beamlines, together with 11 additional beamlines (including GRAAL) operated by Collaborating Research Groups (CRGs) were open for user experiments. Figure 170 shows the increase in the number of applications for beam time since 1998, and confirms that although the main beamline construction effort was complete by 1999, the number of proposals for beam time continues to rise.

Fig. 170: Numbers of applications for beam time, experimental sessions, and user visits, 1998 to 2004. N.B. Final numbers of experiments and user visits for 2004 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 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 1675 applications for beam time, and selected 786 (47 %), which were then scheduled for experiments.

Features of this period have been:

  • increasing numbers of projects concerned more with applied than basic research in materials science, engineering, environmental and cultural heritage matters. As shown in Figure 171, experiments in these areas accounted for 13 % of the total number of experiments carried out in the first half of 2004, 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 beam time, and the scheduling of their experiments, encompassed 44 groups from Europe and Israel in 2004.

Fig. 171: Shifts scheduled for experiments, March to August 2004, by scientific area.

Requests for beam time, which is scheduled in shifts of 8 hours, totalled 26 251 shifts or 210 008 hours in 2004, of which 12 425 shifts or 99 400 hours (47.3%) were allocated. The distribution of shifts requested and allocated, by scientific area, is shown in Table 9.


Table 9: Number of shifts of beam time requested and allocated for user experiments, year 2004.

The first half of 2004 saw 2711 visits by scientists to the ESRF under the user programme, to carry out 665 experiments. Figure 170 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.