The Scientific Visitor Programme at the ESO Chile


To support long term visits by first rate scientists of any nationality as a way to promote the scientific interaction of ESO with its community and with research institutions worldwide and to enhance ESO's role as an astronomical centre of excellence

How the Programme Operates

The Visitor Programme Santiago is under the responsibility of the Head of the Office for Science in Chile. He appoints the members of the Scientific Visitor Selection Committee (VSC) and its chair.  They are selected from ESO astronomers in Chile, including at least one Fellow,  and cover a broad range of scientific interests.  The chair is appointed on a yearly basis, the members generally rotate over a three-year period.

Current membership of the VSC are: Zahed Wahhaj (chair), Eleanora Sani, Jesus M. Corral-Santana and Gautier Mathys (ALMA staff). Paulina Jiron is the programme secretary.

Applications for the Scientific Visitor Programme in Chile are accepted at any time.  The VSC reviews incoming applications every 1-2 months or as needed, and recommends visitors to the Head of the Office for Science in Chile.  It searches actively in collaboration with the Faculty for potential visitors who by their specific expertise and/or internationally recognised level of excellence in research can contribute to the scientific activities of the organisation. It follows up the approved visits with the appropriate correspondence and arrangements and globally monitors the on-going visits to make them successful.  It formulates proposals to the ESO management to improve the programme. 

The length of the visits can vary from a few days up to one year, however visits of longer than two or three months are rare.  Applications for visits of less than one month in duration are handled directly by the Head of the Office for Science in Chile, while those requesting longer stays are reviewed by the VSC.  Ph.D. students or scientists without an affiliation cannot apply within this programme.   A minimum of one year must elapse between visits of a month or more by the same person, unless special agreements have been made.

Currently, the Scientific Visitor Programme at ESO Chile has resources (budget and office space) to host the equivalent of 1-2 visitors per month.  A visitor has the status of Unpaid Associate and receives a fixed allowance to help cover living expenses while at ESO, including support of accommodations in a Hotel or ApartHotel for the period of the visit.   Travel support from outside Chile is considered only for visits of one month or longer.  No support is foreseen for accompanying persons, though up to one guest can be hosted in the Apart Hotel with no extra charge.

How Scientific Visitors are Selected

All ESO astronomers are welcome to contact potential visitors and invite them to apply or to ask the VSC to send an invitation.

Scientists who want to apply are kindly requested to complete the application form. The ESO contact person is requested to send a few lines in support of the application. Generally, well-known scientists are just required to provide the basic data for an efficient follow-up of the application.

Given the scope of the programme, the visitors generally should belong to one of the following categories:

  • visitors of world-recognised scientific stature in any field of astronomy
  • visitors who with their well-proven expertise can contribute to the ESO science-related activities and projects (e.g. definition of scientific drivers of a new VLT instrument, scientific case for a new project, etc.)
  • scientific visitors who would like to visit within the framework of a specific scientific project in collaboration with ESO staff but who can also contribute to the overall scientific discussion within ESO

ESO welcomes unsolicited applications if they fall into one of these categories.

Support to and Duties of the Visitors

Upon his/her arrival the visitor is supported by the secretary of the VSC on the administrative aspects of the visits. The contact person (the scientific collaborator at ESO or a member of the staff identified at the time of the invitation) has the task of introducing the visitor to the aspects of the scientific and non-scientific life at ESO. An office is assigned to every approved visitor, as well as a computer terminal and an account.

The visitors are requested to give either a seminar or an informal discussion near the beginning of their stay. Visitors for longer periods (>> 1 month) may be asked to give a series of lectures or to take over some other science-related tasks.