Life Science session at the ESUO Annual Meeting 2014
The European Synchrotron User Organisation (ESUO) was established a few years ago to represent the community’s light source users. In task 10.1 (Networking activities under the umbrella of the European Synchrotron User Organisation (ESUO)), two life science sessions are planned at ESUO annual user meetings, the first of which took place in March 2014 (MS25).
At the respective ESUO annual meeting held at SOLEIL on March 6th 2014, a round table discussion with the topic “Challenges in supporting access to life sciences beamlines in Europe” was organised. The aim of the round table was to understand how Transnational Access to European life sciences beamlines has evolved in recent years and will evolve within Horizon2020, and to provide users’ feedback to the EU officers.

The EU officers remarked that although the Integrating Activities did not change significantly from FP7 to Horizon 2020, the focus for advanced communities should be more on technology transfer and innovation than on maintaining already developed activities. They described Horizon2020 holistic approach, stressing the fact that users and interested facilities should find their own way to join or create multidisciplinary consortia, involving industries and ESFRI projects. They underlined the role of the Research Infrastructures actions as well as calls under the Societal Challenges pillar focussing on the users’ needs; however they stressed that such calls are not meant to fund “business-as-usual” but to improve excellence, widen participation and boost innovation, starting from a specific scientific question or need. They also suggested to consider innovative ESFRI projects directly related to synchrotrons. They strongly suggested all facilities and national users’ communities to lobby at their national governments and/or funding agencies, in order to get additional funds for transnational access. Representatives of the users and the facilities expressed the worry that the current emphasis on new users’ communities and translational research drastically reduces the financial support to grass-root excellent science by established users. As half of EU countries do not have a national plan to support transnational users, the foreseen model runs the risk to penalise countries where no national funds exist, in contrast with the principle of European solidarity.
It was suggested that ESUO should seek funds to create a European Network of Excellence to support dissemination and networking activities, exploring also the possibilities offered by the e-Infrastructure calls.
There was a discussion on the difficulties for the facilities to deal in parallel with an internal peer reviewing system, coupled with a growing number of thematic projects for Transnational Access (such as BioStruct-x but also EUMINAFAB and QualityNANO), each implementing an independent review panel.
It was also stressed that there is a fundamental difference between structural biology and other synchrotron-based sciences; within the former the trend is towards remote data collection, so funds should be spent supporting facilities infrastructures, rather than users’ travel expenses. Despite that, there was a general agreement to keep the whole users community together when lobbying for the next calls. It was suggested that life sciences representation should increase in ESUO.

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