The Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) is one of the largest and most complicated observatories
ever built. Constructing and operating an observatory at high altitude (5000m) in a cost effective and safe manner, with
minimal effect on the environment creates interesting challenges. Since the array will have to adapt quickly to prevailing
weather conditions, ALMA will be operated exclusively in service mode.
By the time of full science operations, the fundamental ALMA data product shall be calibrated, deconvolved data cubes
and images, but raw data and data reduction software will be made available to users as well. User support is provided by
the ALMA Regional Centres (ARCs) located in Europe, North America and Japan. These ARCs constitute the interface
between the user community and the ALMA observatory in Chile.
For European users the European ARC is being set up as a cluster of nodes located throughout Europe, with the main
centre at the ESO Headquarters in Garching. The main centre serves as the access portal and in synergy with the
distributed network of ARC nodes, the main aim of the ARC is to optimize the ALMA science output and to fully exploit
this unique and powerful facility.
The aim of this article is to introduce the process of proposing for observing time, subsequent execution of the
observations, obtaining and processing of the data in the ALMA epoch. The complete end-to-end process of the ALMA
data flow from the proposal submission to the data delivery is described.