LINCC Incubators Call for Proposals

LINCC Incubators Call for Proposals

The LINCC Frameworks team at LSST Discovery Alliance (LSST-DA), Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), and University of Washington (UW) invites scientists to participate in upcoming cohorts of the LINCC Frameworks Incubator Program. 

The goal of the Incubator Program is to engage the scientific community in the creation of software tools that support the community’s analysis of Rubin LSST data. To that end, we will support teams of researchers to test, apply, or expand early-stage analysis software being developed as a part of LINCC Frameworks using their own exciting scientific investigations with existing surveys or simulated data. 

Selected Incubator teams are invited (but not required) to send a Team Lead to CMU or UW for an extended visit of up to three months. In addition to involving the research community in the creation of valuable analysis tools for survey science, we expect the LINCC Frameworks Incubators to lead to cutting-edge scientific publications and to position Incubator participants for success in their future funding and observing proposals.

Call for Proposals

At this time, we invite proposals for the next Incubator session. View a recording of the original LINCC Frameworks Incubators presentation. You can also see a description of past participants. Those in the LSST-DA Slack workspace can use the public #lincc-incubator-help channel for questions about the proposal process; members of the LINCC Frameworks leadership are monitoring this channel.

Stage-one proposal deadline *
Approximate Incubator Dates
February 15, 2024
June – August, 2024
June 17, 2024
September – November, 2024
October 15, 2024
February – April, 2025
February 17, 2025
June – August, 2025
June 16, 2025
September – November, 2025
October 15, 2025
February – April, 2026
February 16, 2026
June – August, 2026
June 15, 2026
September – November, 2026

* Dates are subject to change from the above schedule if needed due to changing circumstances. The exact deadlines and notification dates for a particular round will be announced approximately six weeks in advance on the Frameworks mailing list and the LSST-DA #lincc-incubator-help Slack channel. To join the mailing list, send a blank e-mail and respond to the message you receive to lincc-join AT

About the LINCC Frameworks Incubator Program


The LINCC Frameworks Incubator Program provides dedicated funding and collaborations with software engineers to proposal teams who pitch compelling projects to be carried out in collaboration with the LINCC Frameworks team. Successful Incubator projects tackle computational challenges that are important for the broader community’s eventual LSST data analysis by applying or extending the open-source software being developed by the LINCC Frameworks team. Incubator project teams receive approximately $20K for research support (e.g. travel, graduate student salaries, faculty summer salaries) to enable the project team’s collaboration with LINCC Frameworks software engineer(s) and research scientist(s). Computational resources are available to support Incubator projects. 

Funding Details

  • LSST-DA is able to provide funds to both US-based and international PIs. 
  • We do not, however, request budgets along with stage-one Incubator proposals. We will request budgets at a later stage from the PIs of successful proposals. 
  • The funding cap is $22,500 per Incubator team, and no indirect costs may be charged to these awards (the PI’s institution may, however, cover actual expenses associated with administering the grant in the form of direct costs that do not exceed 10% of the award). 
  • The program is open to groups that do not require funding; budgets are not part of the proposal process prior to selection, and the choice to request funding has no impact on selection probability.

Incubator Session

  • Each incubator cohort will run for three months during the times listed above (exact dates are flexible to accommodate participants’ availability). 
  • Typically two project teams will be selected for each session. 
  • We anticipate implementing three Incubator sessions per year until the end of 2026, with at most two new project teams selected for each session (i.e., at most six new Incubator projects selected each year). 
  • We plan to update the program throughout this time as we receive feedback and to release regular, open calls for proposals.

Incubator Project Team Composition and Size

  • Each project must include a Project Lead who will work with LINCC Frameworks software engineers and/or data scientists for the equivalent of approximately 16 hours per week, including attending a weekly meeting with all the project teams. 
  • The Project Lead can be a student or postdoc and can be a different person than the Principal Investigator (PI, who will receive and oversee the grant). 
  • Although we understand that some Incubator projects might be carried out within a larger group, such as an LSST Science Collaboration or an in-kind team contributing to the Rubin SIT-COM effort, we consider the Incubator team to consist of only the (likely) small number of people who will be actively involved in the Incubator project. 
  • We anticipate that we will support both remote and in-person participation in the Incubator Program. On the proposal form, proposers are asked their preference for working fully remote, hybrid, or in-person. Preference will not impact project selection and is used for logistical planning purposes only.

Collaborative Approach

  • Collaboration in shared virtual or physical spaces is important for deep technical engagement and provides opportunities for cross-pollination among multiple concurrent projects. Thus, Incubator projects are not “for-hire” software jobs — the Project Lead will work in collaboration with LINCC Frameworks software engineers and research scientists. 
  • Each Project Lead will be responsible for successfully moving the project forward, with the Frameworks personnel using software industry standard approaches to provide guidance on methods, technologies, and best practices as well as general software engineering during the three-month incubator period. 
  • As in other academic collaborations, the contributions of the LINCC Frameworks personnel and the role of the Incubator program should be properly attributed in resulting talks, publications, software releases, etc. 
  • Incubators are meant to kick off new scientific analyses and approaches, all within an open-source coding environment to benefit broad sectors of the LSST research community. The three-month timeline provides a concentrated window for both ramp-up and collaboration and the scientific research will likely extend a few months beyond the end of the Incubators. The scope of proposed projects should be commensurate with this three-month timeline, with an eye toward the full research question. 
  • Incubator teams are expected to agree to abide by the LINCC Frameworks Code of Conduct for all interactions.

Recommended Programming Experience

To maximize the value of the three-month period of close collaboration, the Project Lead should have proficiency in reading and writing code. We recommend at least one year of experience programming in Python. Depending on the focus of the Incubator project, the technical work may range from minor modifications of existing LINCC Frameworks code (e.g., adding a new analysis function) to the development of entirely novel algorithms. 

Expected Outcomes or Deliverables

We will ask the following from each of the selected Incubator teams:

  • A write-up of a few paragraphs at the start of their project to post on the LINCC Frameworks website
  • Open-source code on GitHub, as per standard practice throughout LINCC Frameworks
  • A notebook showing their analysis
  • An update to their write-up at the end of the project
  • A talk about their project from a member of their team (For example, at that team member’s home institution or in some Rubin community talk venue)

Planning a Proposal Fitting LINCC Frameworks

LINCC Frameworks Focus Areas

Successful proposals focus on problems that involve computationally intensive analysis to drive novel scientific research using or extending the software being developed within the LINCC Frameworks team. The ultimate goal will be to support the testing, improvement, and application of  software that supports the broader community’s eventual LSST science analyses. Incubator projects that apply or extend the software being developed by the  LINCC Frameworks team  will be given significant priority:

  • LSDB – Frameworks for querying and analyzing catalog data (e.g. crossmatching catalogs and correlation functions) 
  • TAPE – Robust analysis of time series data at LSST scale
  • RAIL – DESC’s framework for applying and evaluating photo-z algorithms 
  • KBMOD – Detection and characterization of minor planets (e.g. light curve fitting and detection of TNOs with precursor data)

Read more about LINCC Frameworks personnel, along with their expertise and interests, as well as a description of ongoing activities. The frameworks team will also hold office hours or can set up a limited number of one on one discussions to brainstorm projects that use or extend this software.

Planning Your Incubator Project

One way to define a project is to think of the science you are excited to do with early LSST data, then think of a starter project that would be a first step in the direction of your LSST project using existing precursor or simulated data. In other words, you should be able to do your Incubator project now, given the opportunity to develop early/prototype software for the science use case. Below, we present a few examples of potential projects. These are not meant to be comprehensive but rather seed ideas for proposals.

  1. Implement a novel, computationally intensive spatial analysis (e.g. whole survey N-point correlations, statistical analysis of source matching across different catalogs, proper motion computation) using the LINCC Frameworks LSDB package. Project participants would implement a new metric code needed for the analysis and conduct the analysis using existing data sets.
  2. Integrate LSDB with the Rubin Science Platform (RSP) and identify optimizations needed for efficient cross-matching of catalogs with very large numbers of sources to enable tests to be carried out during Rubin commissioning, with the LINCC Frameworks team providing expertise on optimization.  Then use the optimized code for a project that involves cross-matching of multiwavelength precursor survey datasets to test photo-z estimation, deblending, or other image- or catalog-level processing in the two datasets.
  3. Implement and test a specific science-driven time series feature computation or algorithm on precursor data using the LINCC Frameworks TAPE package. Project participants would implement the new metric or algorithms code within TAPE and conduct a novel study on a large-sized precursor survey data.
  4. Implement and optimize a new, computationally intensive photo-z quality assessment metric motivated by the needs for AGN or galaxy science in the context of DESC’s RAIL/qp software packages.  Then use precursor or simulated data to conduct a comprehensive comparison of how current photo-z codes perform using that metric versus using existing cosmology-motivated metrics.
  5. Adapt the KBMOD software package to search for trans-neptunian objects in other large-scale precursor surveys. Project participants would write input adapters to convert data from the existing surveys to LSST’s format and then run the search.

Two-Stage Proposal Process

Stage-one proposals for each Incubator session must be submitted by 11:59 pm Pacific time on the date indicated for that session via the Incubator proposal web portal. The Incubator teams will be announced within approximately two months of each submission deadline.


The program is open to anyone outside of the Rubin Observatory construction project whose LSST-specific research can be significantly advanced by intensive collaboration with a software engineering expert. However, we will be particularly focusing on proposals that align with the LINCC Frameworks’ team’s  software focus areas. Moreover, we expect that active LSST Science Collaboration members will be able to leverage their experience to develop compelling Incubator proposals. Over the full lifetime of the LINCC Frameworks Incubator Program, more than three years, we aim to select a scientifically balanced portfolio of Incubator projects, and for at least half of the selected Incubator projects to be led by a researcher or student from an LSST-DA member institution.

International teams developing software as an in-kind contribution for data rights are welcome to apply for incubators. However the incubator projects should be separate from the core in-kind contribution itself. This can include follow ups or extensions to the original in-kind scope.

Stage One Proposals

To submit a stage-one proposal, please answer the questions on the Incubator proposal web portal and upload a short project description of one to two pages describing the scientific goals of your project, the relevant precursor and/or simulated datasets you plan to use, and the expected technical challenges associated with your project.  

Stage Two Conversations

LINCC Frameworks personnel will provide constructive feedback to all proposal teams and initiate more extensive follow-up conversations over video conference or email with a subset of proposal teams whose projects the selection committee deems to be particularly strong and appropriate for the first Incubator session. A primary goal of these stage-two conversations will be to assess the feasibility of potential projects more thoroughly.

Selection Criteria

A successful Incubator proposal will clearly identify both the needed tools and the scientific questions to be answered. It will explain how the technical component of the project is critical to delivering LSST science. It will lead to a publishable scientific result in the near term and software that is useful to the community beyond the proposal team. In more detail, review of Incubator proposals will be based on the following criteria:

  • Compatibility with LINCC Frameworks. The proposed project is well aligned with LINCC Frameworks focus areas and/or the capabilities and interests of the Frameworks scientific staff. Ideally the incubator project directly applies or extends the Framework’s team’s software. See the current LINCC focus areas. A LINCC Frameworks Incubator would be uniquely valuable for catalyzing project success – e.g., there should be a clear indication that something about the project is computationally non-trivial.
  • Desire to engage with LSST. Participants are available and engaged or intending to engage in preparation for LSST, as demonstrated through, e.g., working at an LSST-DA member institution or active participation in an LSST Science Collaboration.
  • Project definition. The project is well-defined, both technically and scientifically. It is likely to lead to measurable outcomes, such as a quantifiable increase in some capability of LINCC Frameworks tools or an improvement in the accuracy of some output, etc. 
  • Feasibility. The project is feasible to carry out now, given existing datasets and computational resources. The proposal demonstrates that the main, closely collaborative part of the project can reasonably be accomplished in three months. It describes a plan for completing the scientific analysis and publication of a paper within a reasonable time frame after the three-month Incubator. The plan should also discuss intermediate milestones accomplishable in one and two months.
  • Community Impact. The project benefits a broad and diverse research community. The proposal team describes an inclusive plan to communicate about their work and the tools to the community.

Some good proposals will not meet all criteria, and some great proposals may not be selected due to the limited bandwidth or expertise of our team members. In particular the allocation of engineers to projects will be considered when selecting projects in order to ensure the appropriate expertise is available during the incubator time frame. With multiple rounds of Incubators and three calls for Incubator proposals expected each year, there will be opportunities to try again!