Instruct-ERIC Access Policy and Procedures

Version: 2.3

Date: 16 July 2018  

1.  Introduction 

The aim of Instruct-ERIC is to encourage the integrative use of technology and methodologies in structural biology. Access may be requested by users for series of services/technologies necessary for their project. However, applications for individual Instruct-ERIC services/technologies are also encouraged when the user's local facilities can provide the other techniques required. User access is one of the key activities of Instruct-ERIC and access regulations are collected in this Instruct-ERIC access policy (according to Art. 25 of the Statutes). 

In managing the Access provision for Instruct-ERIC, there are three main levels of organisation and responsibility:

  1. The role of the Executive Committee with respect to User access is to consider the Access policy as prepared by the Access Committee and forward to Instruct-ERIC Council for approval. 
  2. The role of the Access Committee with respect to User access is to define the Access Policy, to approve access proposals, to supervise the review process performed by Instruct-ERIC moderators and reviewers, to resolve issues arising between centres and users with respect to Access provision, and monitor Access metrics. 
  3. The role of the Instruct-ERIC Hub with respect to User access is to implement the Access Policy to manage the peer review process, collect metrics and to provide support to users and facilities.    

Key functions are performed by Moderators and Reviewers who receive and handle the Instruct-ERIC user access proposals. Involvement of Moderators and Reviewers in the review process is managed by Instruct-ERIC Hub with oversight of the Access Committee.

  1. The Moderators comprise experienced scientists from Instruct Centres. They receive the proposals through ARIA, decide whether it is suitable for scientific review and, if so, send it to three reviewers for assessment. The Moderators make a recommendation to approve or reject access proposals based upon the reviewer’s scores using predefined scoring thresholds (Annex 3) and provide a comment for the user incorporating the Reviewers’ comments. The activity of the Moderators is overseen by the Access Committee who monitor acceptance and rejection rates, and assist in discussions of problematic proposals when necessary. 
  2. The Reviewers are experts in their discipline who are registered in ARIA and allocated to a list visible to the Moderator. They review projects against predefined criteria and provide quantitative scores and a comment (see Annex 3). 

2.  Definition of access

Types of Access: Access typically involves the visit of a User to single or multiple services/technologies present at single or multiple Instruct-ERIC centres (referred to in the Statutes as “Instruct Centres”), as detailed in the Instruct-ERIC catalogue; this catalogue comprises a structured hierarchical presentation of the machines and methods available to users at each centre and is accessible on the Instruct-ERIC website. In some cases, remote access is possible whereby a User sends samples to a facility and then performs experimental steps via the network, or receives results (e.g. images) following an experiment, or discusses results with the service/technology staff. 

Access Unit definition:The standard Unit of Access is defined as one day of work at the service/technology. Deviations from this definition are discouraged in order to unify metrics for reporting. If alternative Unit definitions are used locally, these should be converted to day-equivalents for reporting purposes.

3.  Eligibility of access

Instruct-ERIC accepts proposals from any user for access to Instruct-ERIC infrastructure. Resources made available, financial and in-kind, by the Instruct Centre and the Instruct Hub to support the requested access vary depending on the different kind of user. Each Centre has the final decision on whether to accept an Instruct-approved user.

Academic and pre-competitive research
  • Users from an Instruct-ERIC Member state: Instruct-ERIC will contribute to the access costs for academic users from Instruct-ERIC member for academic and pre-competitive research that will be published. Users from teams in the same locality as the service/technology (e.g. centre, institute, city) may submit proposals for funded access, but no User travel costs will be refunded. Users from the same group/team running the service/technology are not eligible. In case of financial support, results of access projects must be published
  • Users from outside the Instruct-ERIC Member countries: Users from non-member states will not receive Instruct-ERIC funding and may be charged an academic fee for access by the Instruct-ERIC Centre for academic or pre-competitive research according to their local rules. Academic fees may also be charged to non-commercial users requesting access through an Intergovernmental Organisation that is not located in one of the Members. Specific arrangements for funding of users from outside the Instruct-ERIC Member countries can be agreed. These specific conditions have to be mentioned in the calls for access proposals. 
Proprietary research
  • Academic and industry researchers: For Proprietary research where Users own the outcome of the work and there is no requirement to publish a commercial fee will be charged. Any agreements or contracts necessary for the service will be established between the user and the Instruct-ERIC Centre according to local Institutional rules.

4. Financing of User Access

Instruct-ERIC contributes to the “Access Cost” of user projects to a predefined limit where no other support is available. The Access Cost has two components:

  • “Support Cost”: This is reimbursed from Instruct-ERIC funds administered through the Instruct Hub to the Instruct centre upon invoice and covers the direct costs of the machine/method used during the access. Typically this is a contribution towards consumables and daily instrument costs. The amount of the Support Cost is detailed in Annex 1.
  • “User Travel Costs”: This is reimbursed from Instruct-ERIC funds administered through the Instruct Hub to the user upon production of valid receipts once all reporting steps have been completed. Typically this is a contribution towards travel and accommodation during the user visit to the Instruct centre. The amount of the User Travel Cost is detailed in Annex 1.

Multiples (and fractions) of units may be scheduled and can be charged accordingly. In all cases, the amount of funding available from Instruct-ERIC is defined before work commences according to the Instruct-ERIC Access Cost (Annex 1); in cases where the costs of access are in excess of the Instruct-ERIC support available (for academic users), the user may be asked to cover the extra costs by the centre concerned or may request Extended Access.

Disclosure of Access Costs: The cost of a standard Unit of Access for each machine/method for academic users from member countries will stated in the appendix to the Service Level Agreement. For users performing proprietary research, commercial (non-academic) rates will applied. These will not be published and should be discussed on a case-by-case basis with the individual centre providing access.

Procedure for financing of Support costs: To receive Instruct-ERIC funds for access, each Centre should invoice Instruct-ERIC for direct consumable and instrument costs. Instruct-ERIC may ask for justification for costs claimed. Where the support costs exceed the Instruct-ERIC contribution (see Annex 1), the centre can decide to recover the difference directly from the user via its own mechanisms. 

Procedure for financing of User travel costs: Users should book and pay for their own travel and accommodation for access visits. Costs will be reimbursed by providing Instruct-ERIC with the completed reimbursement form and receipts up to the maximum value (see Annex 1). Reimbursements will be issued only upon submission of the User Report via ARIA.

5. Responsibilities

Online presentation: The Instruct-ERIC Centres agree to maintain an up-to-date profile in ARIA including the catalogue of services/technologies and machines/methods therein. The Instruct Access Committee should be notified of Substitutions/additions of the machines/methods offered in the catalogue. 

Instrumentation status: The Instruct-ERIC Centres agree to communicate with the Hub on long term breakdown of instrumentation that affects access provision.

Health and safety: Health and safety issues are the responsibility of the Instruct-ERIC Centre hosting the access (complying with its Institutional rules). The Centre is responsible for workplace insurances, safety training and sample authorisation (e.g. handling of hazardous samples, clearance for working with genetically modified organisms or samples). The visitor is responsible for all necessary personal insurances and should comply with all local rules and regulations. 

Ethical considerations: Ethical issues are the responsibility of the Instruct-ERIC Centre (complying with its Institutional rules). The user is required to declare in the project proposal if there are ethical concerns that should be considered. The Centre must then decide whether it is able to perform the requested access taking into account local rules and regulations.

Handling of Users’ personal data: Each Centre is required to manage its Instruct-ERIC user data in a manner compliant with all necessary regulations, including those of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The Instruct Hub will be responsible for additional user data collected during proposal handling and user reporting.

Reporting: Instruct-ERIC Centres are committed to keep a track record of access provision and to report/keep updated access provision data in the access management system adopted by Instruct-ERIC (ARIA). They commit also to maintain updated access provision, and to use the management system adopted by Instruct-ERIC in order to allow the Access Committee to monitor the access provision through metrics/statistics.

User satisfaction: In order to evaluate the quality of access provision, users are required to fill in a post-access online questionnaire detailing their experience and the outcome of the access visit(s). The access provider is also required to complete the online report on the access visit(s). These will be reviewed by the Access Committee and by the Hub with the aim of maintaining and/or improving the level of service.

Publications and dissemination: Instruct-ERIC has a policy to publish data arising from non-proprietary research undertaken using Instruct-ERIC infrastructure. In published material, the User should acknowledge the use of Instruct-ERIC infrastructure, expertise and resource contributions using the following text: "The authors acknowledge the support and the use of resources of Instruct-ERIC”.

6.  Revision of this access policy

The Access Policy will be reviewed by the Access committee annually with matters arising being communicated to the Executive Committee for consideration and action.

7.  Annexes

1. Reimbursement amounts for academic and pre-competitive research

A cap on Access Costs: Instruct-ERIC funding for Access to each service/technology (at the academic rate) is capped at 1500 € per visit. This can be split between the following costs:

  • Support Costs(direct consumable and daily instrument costs): Up to 1100 € per access visit or project (which will comprise a specified number of access units to achieve an agreed experimental outcome).
  • User Travel Costs covering travel and accommodation: Up to 400 € within mainland Europe and 600 € for Israel (within this limit, eligible accommodation costs are capped at 80 € per person per night). No subsistence costs will be reimbursed.

Extended Access Cost: Instruct-ERIC will accept some flexibility in the costs claimed per access (for example, where travel costs can be covered by other means or no travel is required, the total amount of Instruct-ERIC support funds (1500 €) may be claimed against support costs, with justification). 

In the case of exceptionally expensive services/technologies (as described in their unit cost) Instruct-ERIC support may be extended to 3000 € requiring the user to request this through the ARIA messaging system, with approval by the Instruct Moderator who may consult with the Access Committee or Instruct Hub if necessary. A second access visit ID (VID) is created together with a 1500 € Access Cost allocation.

2. Application procedure

The user is required to submit his/her proposal through the ARIA system. This comprises sequential steps:

  • Selection of Platforms: In this step the applicant builds the research plan by selecting the service technologies from the Instruct-ERIC catalogue which will be required to undertake the research. 
  • Context and Objectives: Describes the background and rationale to the project as well as the expected impact of the research.
  • Research Programme and Methodology: Describes the work planned which should have elements that are ambitious and innovative or tackle difficult problems with a fresh approach. Routine service access is not normally acceptable.
  • Ethical considerations: Are there ethical considerations to declare that may impact the ability of the Instruct-ERIC centre to perform the requested access (yes/no).
  • Safety considerations: Are there safety considerations to declare that may impact the ability of the Instruct-ERIC centre to perform the requested access (yes/no).
  • Background and current results: Proposal should contain sufficient preliminary data to show that the experiments work is feasible: e.g. that material is of sufficient quality and quantity for requested technologies; that there is data supporting the scientific approach; that there are no safety or ethical issues preventing access.
  • Relevant publications: The publications should provide information on potential impact of the work and the likelihood of success, i.e. provide preliminary data or information that allows the reviewers to judge if the work is feasible and of a suitable scope. 
  • Research Team: Choose which scientists will be involved in the proposal. This includes any scientist who will be performing a visit. The user profile in ARIA will be the reviewer’s main source of information about the applicant and the team.
  • Principal Investigator (PI): Instruct-ERIC consider principal investigator to a scientist eligible by their institution to apply for grants. The system will send an automatic message to the PI for authorisation of the proposal. 
  • Team members: In addition to the applicant indicate other members of the home institution that will be part of the research. Only scientists mentioned in this session will be eligible to access the Instruct-ERIC centres if the proposal is approved.  
  • Excluded Reviewers: Reviewers that may have conflict of interest can be named and will be excluded from review requests. 
3. Evaluation procedures: 
  • A moderator assesses the proposal for scientific eligibility based upon its alignment with Instruct-ERIC’s mission of integrated structural biology. Proposals are then evaluated by three reviewers and must be accepted by the facility(ies) nominated in the proposal. 
  • A decision by the Access Committee, based upon the recommendation of its Moderator, on the acceptance of a proposal is without prejudice to the right of a facility to decline access on reasonable grounds (including conflict of interest, capacity limitations, financial limitations). All facilities have a local right of veto for access without justification.  
    • Evaluation criteria: Reviewers score each proposal according to the following criteria and score guides:
    • Field and scope of research (score 1= suitable field of study; 0 = not suitable for Instruct-ERIC: threshold = 1/1). The subject category of the proposal should fall within structural cell biology. This may include some functional work that may or may not be undertaken at an Instruct-ERIC Centre.
    • Impact of the research (score 3 = high impact; 2 = moderate impact; 1 = low impact; 0 = not worthy of Instruct-ERIC support; where impact score = 1: threshold=2/3). In many cases, the work proposed will be part of an existing experimental project which has been scientifically peer-reviewed by an external national or international funding body. It is not the intention of Instruct-ERIC to duplicate this review process. However, an evaluation of the impact of the proposed work will help to prioritise proposals in cases where facility capacity or funding might be limited.

    • Preliminary data and Plan B (score 3 = good preliminary data available and plan B in place; score 2 = some further data needed, plan B in place; score 1 = some further data needed and no plan B; score 0 = data not provided or not sufficient: threshold = 2/3. Proposals should contain sufficient preliminary data to show that the experimental work is feasible: e.g. that material is of sufficient quality and quantity for requested technologies; that there is data supporting the scientific approach; that there are no safety or ethical issues preventing access. Where a multi-visit project is proposed, some flexibility in the approach to take account of poor outcome should be included. The Reviewer should make a judgement about whether the nominated facility location(s) is optimal for the objectives and may offer advice on other choices. 
    • Strengths and weaknesses (score 1 = balance on strengths; score 0 = balance on weaknesses: threshold = 1/1) The strengths and weaknesses of the proposal should be evaluated, including a judgement on whether the facility requested are optimal for achieving the best experimental outcome. Suggestions on other facilities or approaches may be made. 
    • Approval or Rejection of proposal. Maximum score = 8; Threshold score for acceptance = 6; Revision required = scores 3-5; Rejected = scores 0-2. The Moderator will make the reviewers’ comments available to the proposer when feedback on the decision is given.
    • Proposal Approval: The Instruct Moderator makes his/her recommendation on whether the proposal is rejected or approved based upon the scores from the reviewers. The user receives the Moderator’s recommendation via the ARIA system together with edited comments from the reviewers. In the absence of intervention by the Access Committee, this recommendation forms the decision of Instruct-ERIC. The Access Committee monitors the Access metrics, and discusses issues arising with individual proposals when requested by the Moderator.