First, after a couple of months of very healthy demand, we only received a handful of FT proposals at the December deadline: 4 for Gemini North, and 1 for Gemini South. The Gemini South proposal reached the minimum score and had no technical problems, so it was awarded time. We hope the PI thinks this is a good reward for investing time in proposal writing rather than in mince pies and Christmas pudding.
We were also very interested to see an instance of questionable reviewing during this proposal cycle. The FT support team has access to everyone’s grades and reviews, and we do watch for out-of-the-ordinary behaviour (while, of course, maintaining strict confidentiality). This time, one of the reviewers gave all the other proposals very low grades, which was inconsistent with the other reviewers’ opinions, this reviewer’s very brief written comments, and the reviewer’s own behaviour when taking part in previous cycles. While not necessarily indicating unethical intent, the reviewer’s grades and reviews were of enough concern that they were removed from the final results. The reviewer has been made aware of the situation.
Only FT proposals which exceed a minimum score are ever given time. In a cycle in which demand is strong, even some programs above the line don’t get time. In those circumstances unethical grading might (just) pay off; that’s why we watch out for this. Perhaps ironically, this cycle was not heavily loaded enough for it to make a difference, intentional or not.