CanTAC - Canadian Time Allocation Committee

Canada is a member of the two international partnerships that operate the Gemini Observatory, with twin telescopes on mountains in Hawai’i and Chile, and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT), also located on Maunakea, Hawai’i. As part of its mandate to operate and administer any astronomical observatories established or maintained by the Government of Canada, the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) supports Canada’s use of these observatories by contributing to their operating costs. This provides Canada with 18% of the available observing time on each of the Gemini telescopes and a 42.5% share of time on the CFHT.

The NRC also facilitates telescope access for Canadian astronomers through the management of the Canadian Time Allocation Committee (CanTAC). This includes the selection of expert astronomers for membership on the committee as well as organizing the bi-annual competitive peer-review activities that CanTAC carries out for all applications for Canadian time on the Gemini and CFHT telescopes.


The quality and integrity of the Canadian telescope time allocation process owes much to the unselfish efforts of the CanTAC scientific members and NRC staff. These people oversee the peer review of the proposals submitted to Gemini (near infrared (NIR), optical), and CFHT (optical).


This system assures that the member handling a proposal will have expertise in the relevant subject area. Expert members are more likely to identify capable and objective reviewers, and they provide a critical check and balance during the peer review process.


Because they work with little or no compensation, they allow us to maintain a high level of scientific and technical quality, at minimal cost to the proposal authors and user communities.

Double-blind peer review

Double-blind reviews of proposals are carried out with the identity of the proposal applicants concealed from the reviewers and vice versa throughout the review process.  Proposers should make every effort to ensure that their proposals are prepared in a way that does not give away their identity.  Numerous sites provide guidelines to help with this, for example, the STScI Proposer Guidelines.

CanTAC composition

CanTAC consists of 12 North American members with the majority located at Canadian institutions.  Separate Galactic and Extragalactic panels are composed of a panel chair and five additional members with appropriate expertise.  Each proposal is reviewed by the panel selected by the panel chairs.

Technical Secretary: Laura Ferrarese

Applying for CFHT observing time

Submission procedures and deadlines

Please refer to CFHT Calls for Proposals for information on the submission of proposals and the current deadlines.

Unwanted referees? Send email to the CanTAC technical secretary.

Reasonable electronic size

Referees start to encounter printer problems when asked to referee a proposal exceeding 2.1 Megabytes. Try to decrease the size of your figures, and/or to supply a web address where the figures can be seen.

Please note

The scientific justification is now limited to a single page of text (not including references). Investigators proposing a large program (requesting 5 or more nights in a single semester from a single agency) may append 2 additional pages on their experimental design.

Thesis status for student observing proposals

The data acquired as part of an accepted observing proposal for Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope or Gemini is subject to a proprietary period that ranges from 12 to 18 months. This period is relatively short compared to the typical time taken to complete an MSc or even a PhD thesis. Therefore, while it is possible for any principal investigator (PI) to request an extension to the nominal proprietary period, CanTAC strongly supports proprietary extensions for meritorious proposals tightly tied to a thesis project.

At their May 2012 meeting CanTAC passed the following resolution: "Thesis status is a privilege granted by CanTAC upon request by a student PI completing a graduate degree at a Canadian institution whose thesis depends critically upon the requested observations. Thesis status normally guarantees an increase in the proprietary period to a total duration of 3 years (PhD) or 2 years (MSc). CanTAC will not normally approve an extension that lasts more than 6 months after the nominal date of degree completion. A letter of support from the supervisor describing the role of the proposed observations in the student's thesis must be sent to the CanTAC technical secretary when the proposal is submitted."

In order to request thesis status for an observing proposal, please send the following information to the CanTAC Technical Secretary within 1 week of the proposal deadline:

  • Name of student and university
  • Degree being sought and expected date of completion
  • Name of thesis supervisor (and university if different than student's)
  • Telescope(s) to which proposals were submitted
  • Proposal(s) title(s)
  • Description of the role of the proposed observations in the student's thesis

Contact us

Dr. Laura Ferrarese
5071 West Saanich Road
Victoria, British Columbia V9E 2E7

Telephone: 250-363-3460
Fax: 250-363-0045