Subject: Closure Policies for 3.5-m Telescope

From: elt@astro.Princeton.EDU

Submitted: Tue, 8 Jul 1997 15:15:40 -0600

Message number: 152 (previous: 151, next: 153 up: Index)



This policy will be consulted whenever there are questions or disagreements
concerning closure of the APO 3.5-meter telescope due to hazardous
conditions or situations, at times when telescope operations are being
overseen by an APO Observing Specialist.


     o Telescope operations will be suspended whenever conditions posing
       non-negligible risk to facilities or personnel arise;

     o the on-duty Observing Specialist has full responsibility, and
       sole authority, to make this decision. This may include their making
       subjective assessments of the degree of risk;

     o attempts to influence the decision of the Observing Specialist are in
       serious violation of the Observatory safety rules and will not be
       tolerated; and

     o observatory management will discuss related policy concerns or
       suggestions at an appropriate time, but will not consider appeals nor
       intervene in specific decisions of the on-duty Observing Specialist.

Policy:  Operation of the 3.5-meter shall be suspended whenever, in the
opinion of the Observing Specialist, weather, atmospheric conditions, signs
of imminent mechanical malfunction, or any other situation exists which
poses a risk to either the facility or on-site personnel.  This policy will
be enforced conservatively, i.e., even though it may be probable that
operations could be continued safely, the telescope will be closed unless
the risk is considered negligibly small by the on-duty Observing Specialist.

Rationale:  The long-term scientific return from the 3.5-m and associated
facilities requires avoiding equipment damage in the pursuit of short-term
scientific goals.  Also, the need to provide a safe working environment is
self-evident.  Disagreements on telescope closure usually result from
situations in which the danger is relatively small.  However, our
operational procedures must consider the long-term accumulated risk and
be appropriately conservative.

Policy:  The on-duty Observing Specialist has the full responsibility, and
sole authority, to suspend operations for the reasons described in the
previous policy.  In some instances, measurable quantities (e.g., wind
speed) and preset limits will guide such decisions (these quantitative
closure limits are listed on the Observatory web pages).  In many
circumstances, an informed but somewhat subjective judgement will be
necessary.  Regardless of their position within ARC, academic rank, or
other qualifications, those scheduled to use the telescope may not overrule
the on-duty Observing Specialist or "assume responsibility" for such
decisions themselves.

Rationale:  Our policy is consistent with practice at other major
observatories, which recognizes and protects against the possibility of
conflicts of interest.

Policy:  Users of the telescope must not attempt to influence the on-duty
Observing Specialist to continue telescope operations which are or might be
suspended due to safety concerns.  This prohibition is to be interpreted
very broadly; polite expression of differing opinion, angry argument,
extended musings on the unfortunate consequences of the lost observing
time, continued expression of disappointment, frequent requests to check
for possibly improved conditions (the Observing Specialist will be
monitoring weather conditions regularly without such prompting) and so
forth are all included in this ban.

Rationale:  It is hazardous to have the decisions of the Observing
Specialists influenced in the direction of taking greater risks in marginal
situations; the variations in people's personalities, levels of self
confidence and so forth are such that this might happen in some cases.
Also, such behavior creates a serious morale problem for the Observing
Specialists and is inconsiderate.  The staff of the Observatory in general,
and the 3.5-m Observing Specialists in particular, are strongly committed
to helping its users do excellent science and can be counted on to work
hard toward that goal in all respects, but at the same time, they are
explicitly charged with the responsibility for safe operations as a major
requirement of their jobs.

Policy:  Observatory management will not consider real-time appeals of
decisions of the on-duty Observing Specialist.  Questions, suggestions, or
complaints about either these policies in general or some specific instance
of their implementation should be brought to the attention of the Director
and/or the Site Operations Manager at some appropriate later (i.e., not
during the actual suspended operations) time.

Rationale:  The Observing Specialist will have better information and more
experience upon which to base decisions than anyone else who might be

Ed Turner
Director, and

Bruce Gillespie
Site Operations Manager

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