Subject: Increasing communication between observers and Observatory

From: strauss@astro.Princeton.EDU

Submitted: Fri, 14 Nov 1997 14:08:04 -0500 (EST)

Message number: 210 (previous: 209, next: 211 up: Index)

Executive summary:
  1.  Send a 1-paragraph evaluation of your observing at the end of
each night and/or run to the observing specialist for inclusion in the
nightly logs. 
  2.  Use the problem reporting web page, 
to point out specific problems you encounter.
  3.  Communicate longer-term problems, concerns, and suggestions to
your User's Committee representative. 

Hello all,
  Because of the nature of remote observing, the amount of feedback
from the observers to the observatory about various concerns or
problems they might have had, has been less than ideal.  At
observatories where the observers travel to the telescope, they
interact closely and personally with the observing specialists, and
thus can effectively communicate any problems they may have, or,
indeed, let the observing specialist know when they are getting great
data.  When observing remotely, this communication is not always
there.  This has several consequences: 
  1.  The observing specialist and the observer often have quite
different perspectives on how a given night or run turned out;
observers occasionally are frustrated when the night logs do not
reflect the problems they have had. 
  2.  The observer may be able to make constructive criticisms or
suggestions for operations that could be to everybody's benefit. 
  3.  There is no formal mechanism in place for observers to let the
observatory know that things are going well.

  Of course, the APO User's Committee, with a representative at each
member institution, is in place to form a communications link between
the observatory and its users, but there is clearly a need for a more
immediate path for users to make comments and suggestions. 

  Observers will have comments for the night or for the run on two
  1. Immediately after the end of the run;
  2. Several days later, after they have had a chance to digest their
data and/or compose their thoughts. 
  For the former, we suggest that the observer write up a short
paragraph or two at the end of the night, and e-mail it to the
observing specialist, to be included in the night logs (after some
suitable editing for brevity and clarity).  If the observer is not
able to do so right away (e.g., because they are too exhausted, simply
need some time to gather their thoughts, or don't have anything to
say), the observing specialist should send the logs out anyway; we
definitely do not want to be in the position of having the observing
specialists delaying the distribution of the logs by half a day while
they wait for the report of the observer.

  Longer-term comments will come in two types: 
  1. General statements about the kind of science done during the
run and how things went. 
  2. Specific recommendations, suggestions, or complaints about
various aspects of the observatory. 

We have a mechanism in place for the latter, that is not widely known:
one can issue problem reports from the Web: 
This is sent to the technical staff at the observatory, and
appropriate action is taken.  You will get an e-mail  from one of the
observatory staff describing the response of the observatory to your
problem report.   There are means to check the problem report database
to assess the status of a given problem report; see

In summary, I suggest that 
  1. All observers submit a brief (1 paragraph) description of how
they thought their night went, by the end of the night or their run.
If all went great, they should say so! This gets appended to the night
logs put out by the observing specialist.  If the observer doesn't get
around to it, the logs go out anyway.

  2. The observers are urged to use the problem reports page for
specific suggestions, bug reports, or recommendations. 

  3.  Longer-term complaints, suggestions, etc., be communicated to
your representative on the User's Committee, and/or expressed in
e-mail to the Observatory Director. 

  If these pathways to communication are used by the user's community,
the amount of communication in the 3.5m project will increase, to the
benefit of everybody.

			Michael Strauss
APO APO APO APO APO  Apache Point Observatory 3.5m  APO APO APO
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