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Short Surveys


The Gemini observatory maintains a direct dialog with its users by sending out routine Short Surveys (2–3 questions) at every critical phase of Gemini’s user programs (see the Table). The effort has several key objectives: 1) monitor the usefulness and usability of our software tools and documentation; 2) determine how well the observations went; and 3) assess how satisfied our Principal Investigators (PIs) are with the data and how much were their expectations met. Another objective is to identify actionable items that can improve any part of the observing process at Gemini. In brief, the Short Surveys provide a direct way to listen to what is most important to our user community.

Phase Phase I Phase II End of Semester Phase III
Semester A B A B A B A B
Month October April March September August February July January

As the name Short Surveys indicates, the surveys are designed to be short; they should take only a few minutes to complete. Still, for users who want to have more lengthy communications with Gemini staff, the surveys always include one open question offering a text box that has no length limit. All of these comments are read by Gemini staff, while anonymity is preserved.

Most frequent comments and requests

The answers gathered in our past surveys have already made an impact. They are clear guidance towards developing better tools and better ways to support your research, and they are a quantitative way to measure the impact of changes.

The following are comments, recommendations and requests we get frequently.

  • How come I receive those invitations to surveys?

The survey invitations are sent to every PI of at least one program in a given semester. We avoid sending more than one survey to the same PI. However, if the same PI sent more than one proposal under different email addresses, they will receive more than one invitation.

It is, for the moment, not possible to identify someone else than the PI to send the invitation to. For any PI who would rather have someone else on their team  answer the surveys, it is recommended to please forward them the invitation.

For any special requests, please contact

  • My program was not completed to a satisfactory level.

It can often be disappointing to end the semester with a program that was only partially observed. It is even more disappointing when we expected much more than what we ended up getting!

Gemini is committed to completing as many programs as possible. But scheduling is a zero-sum game, and choices constantly have to be made. We recommend you visit the Operation Statistics page for more information. Those include, among other things, weather loss and delivered science nights, completion rates for queue programs, completion expectations for queue programs and the effect of program length. 

  • Please improve PIT! 

Not everybody enjoys using PIT for Gemini proposals. The most frequent requests are a better way to reuse an old proposal, the ability to submit proposals more than just once before the deadline and a notification email once the proposal has been submitted. All of those requests and more are taken into consideration for the future Gemini Observatory Control System (GPP).

  • Please improve the OT!

In the same fashion, the OT can have rough edges at times. It can be hard to figure out its logic and changes can rarely be done successfully without help from a support staff. The OT, like PIT, will be replaced by the future Gemini Observatory Control System (GPP).

  • Could working on a proposal be easier?

While the new tool for Gemini proposals is being developed, you can access help to make your experience with current PIT better.

The most common hurdle is the “Targets” section in PIT and its interaction with the “Observations” and “Band 3” sections. Also, there is often some confusion around how to copy and paste, organize and configure targets, and the corresponding resources+weather components under the “Observations” section. Finally, many proposers are confused with the way the total requested time is calculated.

If you like to read, most of the related information is under the PIT description page. If not, you can watch the videos in the PIT Help page.

For immediate help with anything not covered in those pages, please contact Gemini through the Helpdesk Ticket system.

  • Could it be easier to use the OT?

While the new observing tool for Gemini is being developed, you can access help to make your experience with the current OT better.

Your Contact Scientist is there to guide you through the process of preparing your observing program, and can be a great resource until your program is deactivated. So please do not hesitate to contact them. 

An alternative is also to contact Gemini through the Helpdesk Ticket system.

Finally, you can access related information under the OT description page. If not, you can watch the videos in the OT Help page.

  • I can’t find the right information!

Sometimes, one can get lost on the website and in the technical documentation. Please be assured that access to relevant information is our priority. We regularly assess the performance of our website and we constantly improve our content.

If you do not feel like our website and documentation have been useful enough to support your work, you can communicate with Gemini. For immediate help, please use the Helpdesk Ticket system and detail how the documentation failed you. You can also take the time on your survey form to describe what was missing or what did not work out if you want your feedback to have an optimal impact. Thanks!

  • Challanges for publication

Compiling all the answers between semester 2016B and 2020B (total response rate of 35%):

The percentage is based on the number of responses within a given Band. Participants could select more than one option, so the sum within a Band can exceed 100%. The labels are:

GOA = Issues to access the data
DQ = Unsatisfactory data quality
AO = Unsatisfactory AO correction
nb obs = Too few data
DR = Issues during data reduction
DR (Gem) = DR, but excluding those who used their own DR tools
support = Insufficient support
not worth = Not worth publishing (i.e., non-detection)
priority = Decreased priority of the project
resources = Lack of resources
None! = None! It is all right!

The most significant improvement that could be made is with data reduction (~25%). Roughly 50% of those who answered DR did not select any other problem, suggesting that fixing DR could poetentially increase the publication rate by ~10-15%. 
The experience that users report back to us is that imaging data reduced using DRAGONS is more straighforward than with the previous Gemini IRAF package. In a near future, DRAGONS will also cover long-slit spectroscopy. The end goal is for DRAGONS to fully replace Gemini IRAF where it is currently available for facility instruments.

The questions

Phase I

  1. Please rate your satisfaction with the proposal preparation process (PIT, ITC, website, documentation, etc.). 1=I hated it; 5=I like it very much
  2. Is there anything you wished would be different?

Phase II

  1. Please rate your satisfaction with the Phase II preparation process (OT, website, documentation, support from NGO or Gemini etc.). 1=I hated it; 5=I like it very much
  2. Is there anything you wished would be different?

End of Semester

  1. Do you feel your program was treated fairly?
  2. How did the data quality meet your expectations (delivered vs predicted S/N, calibrations, cosmetics, AO performances, etc.)?

Phase III

  1. Would you apply for Gemini time again?
  2. Check any of the boxes that correspond to a challenge you have or may soon face before you can publish your data (check all that apply):
    1. Issues to access the data
    2. Unsatisfactory data quality
    3. Unsatisfactory AO correction
    4. Too few data
    5. Issues during data reduction
    6. Insufficient support
    7. Not worth publishing (i.e., non-detection)
    8. Decreased priority of the project
    9. Lack of resources
    10. None! It is all right!
  3. Do you use Gemini Data Reduction tools?