Since going electronic in 1994, NOAO has continued to refine and enhance its observing proposal handling system. Virtually all related processes are now handled electronically. Members of the astronomical community can submit proposals through email, web form or via Gemini's downloadable Phase-I Tool. NOAO staff can use online interfaces for administrative tasks, technical reviews, telescope scheduling, and compilation of various statistics. In addition, all information relevant to the TAC process is made available online.
The system, now known as ANDES, is designed as a thin-client architecture (web pages are now used for almost all database functions) built using open source tools (FreeBSD, Apache, MySQL, Perl, PHP) to process descriptively-marked (LaTeX, XML) proposal documents.
Proposals for telescope time at facilities available through the National Optical Astronomy Observatories can now be prepared and submitted via the WWW. Investigators submit proposal information through a series of HTML forms to the NOAO server, where the information is processed by Perl CGI scripts. PostScript figures and ASCII files may be attached by investigators for inclusion in their proposals using their browser's upload feature. Proposal information is saved on the server so that investigators can return in later sessions to continue work on a proposal and so that collaborators can participate in writing the proposal if they have access to the proposal account name and password. The system provides on-line verification of LATEX syntax and a spellchecker, and confirms that all sections of the proposal are filled out. Users can request a LATEX or PostScript copy of their proposal by e-mail, or view the proposal on line. The advantages of the Web-based process for our users are convenience, access to on-line documentation, and the simple interface which avoids direct confrontation with LATEX. From the NOAO point of view, the advantage is the use of standardized formats and syntax, particularly as we begin to receive proposals for the Gemini telescopes and some independent observatories.