Modern biomedical and translational research involves complex, interdisciplinary projects and requires a variety of different technologies and services. Scientists face many challenges: they have to engage with multiple project partners and the required resources (e.g. instruments, samples) are not always easily available at their own institute or among their collaboration partners.
Facilitating user access to the European life science Research Infrastructures
In order to pool scientific expertise in specific fields within the life sciences, so-called Research Infrastructures (RIs) were established in Europe. RIs are large consortia bringing together multiple organisations (e.g. research institutes) that work in similar fields and are usually distributed all over Europe. In the life science area, there are currently 13 RIs in Europe, for example one for microbial resources (MIRRI), one for structural biology (Instruct) or one for screening and medicinal chemistry (EU-OPENSCREEN). The resources offered to European scientists by the RIs vary: some RIs offer samples, some offer access to equipment or datasets, others provide consulting services. For scientists, it is possible to request access to each RI individually if expertise from this RI’s scientific field is required. Access conditions and procedures vary between the RIs. Some of them regularly offer special access conditions via open calls for research projects - for researchers, it can be worth checking their websites for any news about funding options.
However, as research projects are usually interdisciplinary, scientists might be in need of consecutive access to several of the life science RIs. This is the challenge that the Horizon 2020-funded cluster project CORBEL (Coordinated Research Infrastructures Building Enduring Life-Science Services) addresses: the consortium aims to facilitate a smooth transition for researchers accessing two or more of the life science RIs, thus supporting them in performing advanced interdisciplinary research. Eventually, harmonised RI access should strengthen life science research in Europe and advance the development of new medical treatments.
What does this mean in practice?
The approach of CORBEL was to engage with scientists from the European life science research community in order to identify challenges and obstacles on their way to accessing the RI services. In two Open Calls for research projects, almost 40 user projects were selected and granted free access to at least two RIs. With the help of these user projects, CORBEL is working on tackling the difficulties that occur within the access procedure and establishing the long-term sustainability of harmonised access to multiple RIs for the European life science research community. Our ‘Success Stories’ describe how RI access via CORBEL helped to advance our users’ research projects. Based on the experiences gained from the user projects, experts within CORBEL are performing essential background work towards the harmonisation of user access. A common access portal and an authorisation/authentication infrastructure have been developed, the consortium is working on data management issues and is offering common ethical and legal services as well as innovation support.
If you would like to know if one of the RIs offers a service that you might need for your research, CORBEL provides a Catalogue of Services: you can select ‘What’s your need?’ and the catalogue will show you the appropriate RI. The CORBEL website also provides comprehensive descriptions of all the life science RIs. You can stay informed about the life science RIs by visiting the CORBEL website, subscribing to our newsletter or following us on Twitter (@corbel_eu) or ResearchGate.
The CORBEL project started in 2015 and will end in May 2020. At the moment, the project partners are working on the sustainability of the project’s achievements in order to create enduring offers for the European life science research community - future developments and offers will be published on the CORBEL website.