After 16 years of successful operation of the facility for scientific Users, we look back on user operation over the last year 2010. For the first time since midway through 2005, the full complement of 32 public beamlines (now including BM14), together with 10 additional beamlines operated by Collaborating Research Groups (CRGs), were not available in their entirety for experiments by visiting research teams.  The EXAFS beamlines ID24 and BM29, along with the Macromolecular Crystallography station ID14-2, were either partially or fully unavailable during the year due to reconstruction or commissioning work undertaken within the framework of the Upgrade Programme.  Figure 161 shows the ever-increasing number of applications for beamtime received since 2004.  As expected, following announcements to the user community of the closure to the public of the two EXAFs beamlines during the year 2010, the number of applications received during that year did not follow the usual trend.  Since the decrease is only very slight, one can extrapolate that, had the full complement of beamlines been open for proposals, an increase in number of applications would once again have been seen.

Fig. 161: Numbers of applications for beamtime, experimental sessions and user visits, 2004 to 2010.  N.B. Final numbers of experimental sessions and user visits for 2010 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: crystals and ordered systems

•    hard condensed matter: disordered systems and liquids

•    applied materials and engineering

•    environmental and cultural heritage matters

•    macromolecular crystallography

•    medicine

•    methods and instrumentation

•    soft condensed matter

•    surfaces and interfaces.

The Review Committees met twice during the year, around six weeks after the deadlines for submission of proposals (1 March and 1 September).  They reviewed 2035 applications for beamtime, and selected 974 (47.9 %), which were then scheduled for experiments.

Features of this period:

•    the April meeting was seriously disrupted due to travel difficulties resulting from the Icelandic volcano eruption and, as a result, the Review Committees met for the very first time via telephone conference to the ESRF from their home laboratories. Whilst the meetings under this format went very smoothly and successfully, most parties involved felt that physical meetings onsite were still the best way of thoroughly evaluating the large number of proposals for beam time.

•    the imaging beamlines were once again highly oversubscribed. Such beamlines are widely requested over the majority of the eleven Review Committees due to the applicability of the imaging techniques to many scientific areas.

Requests for beamtime, which is scheduled in shifts of 8 hours, totalled 30 603 shifts or 244 824 hours in 2010, of which 14 274 shifts or 114 192 hours (46.6 %) were allocated.  The distribution of shifts requested and allocated, by scientific area, is shown in Table 7.

Table 7: Number of shifts of beamtime requested and allocated for user experiments, year 2010.

The breakdown of shifts scheduled for experiments by scientific area in the first half of 2010 is shown in Figure 162. This same period saw 3045 visits by scientists to the ESRF under the user programme, to carry out 729 experiments.  Overall, the number of users in each experimental team averaged 4 persons as in 2009, and the average duration of an experimental session was 10.0 shifts compared with 9.7 shifts in 2009. This can be further broken down to show an average duration of 3.3 shifts for MX experiments and 14.4 shifts for non-MX experiments.  Experiments have tended to become shorter thanks to many factors including higher automation and increased flux from state-of-the-art optics.  This is reflected in the constant rise in the annual number of experimental sessions and user visits since 2004 as shown in Figure 161. The particularly high number of experiments and user visits in the full year 2009 is also due to the fact that an extra week of beam time was made available to users during that year; this was to compensate partly for the anticipated reduction in beam time available in 2010 following the start of the reconstruction work of the Upgrade Programme.

Fig. 162: Shifts scheduled for experiments, March to July 2010, by scientific area.

One of the principle measurable output parameters of the ESRF is the number and quality of publications accepted in peer-reviewed journals. Figure 163 shows how this number has been rising continuously over the past years, with a publication output systematically on a level of one publication per experimental session and reaching a record number of more than 1800 for the year 2009. The year 2010 promises to be even more fruitful, with 1641 publications already registered so far in the ILL/ESRF Library database. Since ESRF began user operation back in 1994, a total of 17495 publications have been accepted in peer-reviewed journals. Of these, more than 200 every year are published in high impact factor journals.

Fig. 163: Numbers of publications appearing in refereed journals reporting on data collected either partially or totally at ESRF, 2004 to 2010.

User responses to questionnaires show once again that the ESRF continues to maintain its excellent reputation concerning the assistance and service given by scientists and support staff on beamlines, and travel and administrative arrangements, in addition to the quality both of the beam and of the experimental stations. Facilities on site, such as preparation laboratories, the Guesthouse and a canteen open 7 days a week, also make an important contribution to the quality of user support.


J. McCarthy