The Arecibo Observatory operates on a continuous basis, 24 hours a day every day, providing observing time, electronics, computer, travel and logistic support to scientists from all over the world. The staff consists of about 120 persons who work in different areas such as cooks, administrators, scientists, engineers, maintenance workers, technicians and telescope operators, among others. For example, the scientists divide their time between scientific research and assistance to visiting scientists; engineers, computer experts and technicians design and build new instrumentation and keep it in operation; a large maintenance crew keeps the telescope and associated instrumentation as well as the site in optimal condition and telescope operators support observing twenty four hour per day.

Use of the Arecibo Observatory is available on an equal, competitive basis to all scientists from throughout the world. Observing time is granted on the basis of the most promising research as ascertained by a panel of independent referees who review the proposals sent to the Observatory by interested scientists. Every year about 200 scientists visit the Observatory facilities to pursue their research project, and numerous students perform observations that lead to their master and doctoral dissertations.