RP Timeline

Process initiation

At the moment of the PMPD, ideally, and no later than 15 January (of the calendar year before the intended RP would start), the Staff Member should communicate to his or her Line Manager, their intention to request a RP.

Within one month, the Line Manager must liaise with any relevant Programme and/or Project Manager(s) and assess whether it can be accommodated without significant impact on any core aspect of ESO’s mission, informing the staff member.

If the answer is positive, the Line Manager should provide an endorsement letter and a preliminary duty redistribution plan to the Staff Member, to be attached to the application. The Line Manager should also inform the relevant Director (usually Operations or Science), the relevant Office for Science, HR and the Chair of SPC.

When approved in this fashion by the Line Manager, the staff member must then submit a proposal to SPC, no later than the last day of February (of the calendar year before the intended RP would start).

The proposal must include a CV covering the applicant’s scientific career, a research plan, budget and timeline, and statements of support from the intended host institute(s) and the endorsement letter and preliminary duty redistribution plan from the Line Manager.

Approval process

Proposals are considered by the SPC on the basis of the scientific standing of the applicant, the timeliness and quality of the research plan, the commitment of the intended host institute(s), and the statement from the Line Manager.

SPC’s recommendation is presented no later than 15 April (of the calendar year before the intended RP would start) for consideration by the ESO DG (to be implemented as a period of Special Leave, see Staff Rules and Regulations, R II 4.33 and 4.34). This timeline is designed to mesh smoothly with the FTE allocation process in May/June.

Upon final approval by the DG, HR prepares the amendments of contracts to be signed by the staff member in RP and, if applicable, by those affected by the redistribution of duties.

Reporting process

The PMPD process is largely unaffected by the RP, during which time the Staff Member continues to report formally and solely to their Line Manager. For the calendar year(s) affected by an RP, the science input to the PMPD carries a weight commensurate with the fraction of time spent on the RP that year, i.e., 100% science time for a full year RP.


Summary of the process

Action From To Deadline Output

Manifest intention to request an RP

Staff Member

Line Manager

At the PMPD (ideally) and no later than 15 January

Line Manager pre-approval

RP request discussed with other stakeholders

Line Manager

Programme Manager, Project Manager, or Division Head

Within one month of receipt of request

Programme, Project Manager or Division Head gives consent for RP

Line Manager informs respective Director, Head of Office, Head of HR and SPC Chair

Line Manager

Director for Operations or Director for Science

As soon as possible

Final RP endorsement letter sent to Staff Member

Submission of the RP proposal containing CV, project plan, formal approval of Line Manager, preliminary plan for the redistribution of the duties, and invitation letter from host institute(s)

Staff Member


Last day of February

SPC recommendation to Director General

Final approval of RP


Staff Member,

Programme Manager, Project Manager, or Division Head

Line Manager,

Director for Science or Operations, HR

15 April

Approval letter

Amendment  to contract(s)


Staff member in RP and reassigned colleagues, if applicable


Amendment  to contracts signed