Applying for Time on STFC Astronomy Facilities

Applying for telescope time

Applications for telescope time for the ING, Liverpool Telescope and e-MERLIN are submitted directly to the observatories, which allocate time according to two semesters per year.

  • Semester A running from February to July
  • Semester B running from August to January

The closing dates are available from each of the following sites:

PATT travel application guidelines


The following notes are intended to provide guidance and instructions to Applicants when preparing an application for travel funds (travel and subsistence) and the rules and regulations by which such awards are governed.

  1. Aims of the scheme
  2. Eligibility
  3. General information
  4. PATT travel grant
    • How to apply
    • Case for support
    • Additional information
    • Peer review
    • Using the PATT grant
  5. PATT travel claim
    • How to apply

The aim of the scheme is to fund access (travel and subsistence) to a range of astronomy facilities for the UK community. All these facilities are free at the point of access. PATT travel funds will only be awarded to a UK Principal Investigator and should be used in support of UK based observers only.

There are currently two separate routes to apply for travel funds:

PATT Travel Grants:

  • For groups that exceed expenditure of £5k per annum
  • Submission against set closing dates via the Je-S system
  • Requesting 2 years funding

PATT Travel Claims (From May 2016):

  • For Applicants that neither hold nor have access to a PATT Travel Grant at their Institution
  • For occasional observing trips only
  • Submission via e-mail with the required attachments

Applicants are eligible to apply for travel funds provided that they are permanent members of staff or otherwise hold a fully tenured post within an eligible UK Institution, please refer to the Research Grants Handbook.

Observers are eligible to use the funds awarded in support of an approved programme of observations provided that they are:

  • The Principal Investigator, or Co-investigator or their nominated representative
  • Employed as a Research Assistant or Researcher Co-Investigator on a research grant
  • A student attached to an eligible Institution whose credentials have firmly established them as bona fide observers

Applicants should note that they must be satisfied as to the experience and qualifications of their nominated representative to use or operate the facility on which an allocation of time has been awarded. A Principal Investigator MUST not authorise the use of travel funds to support any students undertaking observations that will form part of their PhD preparation. If there is any doubt as to the status of the student please contact the office.

STFC would not normally expect to provide funds to support more than one observer. PATT travel funds should only be used when the presence of a UK observer is essential to the observing programme or required by the facility. Requests for a second observer will need explicit approval from the office. The Applicant should e-mail the office at least 4 weeks in advance of the observing time for approval.

Applicants are reminded that STFC funding for visits to both approved and non-approved telescopes is not guaranteed and that STFC is not obliged to approve last minute proposals on the grounds that air flights have been booked, or that not to approve funding would be a breach of faith with the awarding body.

Applications for the collection/collation of data following an award of 'remote and/or serviced' observing time on ground based facilities should be accompanied by a case for support of the need for a physical journey, e.g. complexity of data, difficulties in the transport of data etc.

All grant holders/applicants must be aware of the requirement to exercise economy with the funds awarded. Claims for reimbursement should be in accordance with the Institution's current rules on Travel and Subsistence.

If there is a change to, or cancellation of an agreed observing programme, any alternative programme should be referred to the office.

It is expected that most Applicants will apply for funding via this route. STFC operates two closing dates per year April and October. Please refer to the Funding Calls page for closing dates. Proposals submitted to the April closing date MUST start on the 1st October; those submitted to the October closing date MUST start 1st April of the following year.

How to Apply for a PATT Travel GRANT (formerly PATT Linked Grant)

Proposals must be submitted via the Je-S system selecting the following:

  • Document type: Standard Proposal
  • Scheme: PATT Travel
  • Call: PATT Travel Grants

Please note the deadline for submission is 4.00pm.
Requests should be for a 2 year period and only for travel funds, which will be paid at 100%.

Any other costs associated with the research, such as post-doc salaries, equipment and investigator time, is assumed to be covered by relevant research grants awarded.

Case for support

Applicants should not provide a scientific case for support for the use of STFC telescopes or telescopes on the STFC-approved list, as a science case will have been made when applying for time through the normal peer-review competitive process for such facilities.

In this instance the case for support should not exceed 6 pages but must include the following:

  • An Expenditure Breakdown. This is a list of observing runs supported by STFC over the last 2 years. The actual dates and total cost for each run must be provided. Applicants proposing to submit a Travel Grant for the first time are advised to contact the office for advice.
  • Justification for any increase to the requested amounts. Applicants should explain the rationale behind such requests (e.g. group expansion, increased observing time etc.).
Additional information

Exceptionally, if during the award period an Applicant is awarded time on a telescope that wasn’t included in the original grant, Applicants may apply for additional funds to cover the extra observing runs. If approved, the additional funds will be added to the existing award. All requests should be e-mailed to the office in the first instance.

Peer Review

New and renewal PATT Grant applications are considered by the PATT Panel. PATT Travel Claims will be dealt with by the office with the exception of claims in relation to observing runs on non–approved telescopes, they will be considered by the PATT chair.

Current membership
  • Professor Andrew Blain – Leicester University
  • Dr Stefano Bagnulo – Armagh Observatory
  • Professor Martin Hardcastle – Hertfordshire University

Once a decision has been reached Applicants will be provided with appropriate feedback. In addition to the award details the Offer letter will include (where appropriate) the name of an approved telescopes, which may not be listed as a PATT approved telescope (e.g. SAAO 1.0m).

Using the PATT grant

Funds awarded on a PATT travel grant may be used (without prior approval) to support observing runs to the following;

  • STFC – Facilities in direct receipt of STFC funds (e-MERLIN, ING, LT)
  • PATT Approved - Where the peer review is considered in line with that of STFC

Should funds be required to support observing runs on non-approved telescopes prior approval from STFC MUST be sought.

Applicants that neither hold nor have access to a PATT travel grant at their institution may apply to the STFC for funding via this route.

How to apply for PATT funding via travel claims

Requests for funding via this route should be e-mailed directly to the office at least 4 weeks in advance of the run. The e-mail should simply indicate request for PATT travel funds but have the following documents attached.

  • A completed PATT T&S Form following the Guidance provided
  • The original proposal against which the time was awarded
  • A copy of the time allocation letter from the awarding body

The office will e-mail confirmation of approval, with an STFC travel and subsistence form attached. Claims for Flights travel and subsistence must be submitted within 3 months of the observing run. All expenditure claimed must be officially receipted. Un-receipted claims will not be reimbursed by STFC.

Please be advised travel under this scheme should not be undertaken without prior approval from STFC.

For all PATT enquires please contact Tracey McGuire.

PDF version of guidelines

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000