Group photo (on-site and online) participants
The 18th ESUO General Assembly was held on 29-30th August 2022, hosted by the SOLEIL synchrotron. The meeting had participation of delegates from 27 (out of 31) ESUO member countries. In total 32 ESUO delegates joined the meeting, 21 in-person and 11 online. The meeting also had the participation of 7 invitees: the host, Jean Daillant (Director of SOLEIL and Vice-Chair of LEAPS) and 6 further invitees: Antje Vollmer (Head of User Coordination HZB), Majid Ounsy (Software Project Manager at SOLEIL), Cecilia Blasetti (International Project Officer ELETTRA), Gema Martínez-Criado (Scientific Director for Physical Sciences of ESRF-EBS), Peter Wenzel-Constabel (Vice-Chair of ESFRI) and Lambert van Eijck (Vice-Chair of ENSA).
The following topics were presented or discussed during the meeting.
News from SOLEIL and from LEAPS: Jean Daillant presented SOLEIL in a nutshell highlighting the number of users, approximately 8,000, who used SOLEIL in the last 5 years performing experiments in many diverse scientific areas. SOLEIL also served the international community hosting experiments from 27 of the ESUO member countries and from at least another 9 countries in this period. Jean also showed the portfolio of Horizon Europe (HE) projects in which SOLEIL is involved and the plans for the SOLEIL upgrade program. From his then role as Vice-Chair of LEAPS, Jean emphasized the publication of the LEAPS strategy for this decade – ESAPS22 (LEAPS-ESAPS-Broschure_final-20052022-3.pdf (leaps-initiative.eu))- which proposes among other things the development of new access modes to cope with the present needs and which envisages a coherent strategy plan for the upgrades of LEAPS facilities.
Light Sources – cooperation and global integration: Antje Vollmer (HZB) discussed that opening paths to solve the most pressing global challenges depends on the excellent science performed in large research infrastructures and as the X-ray science knowledge is rooted in infrastructures from the big North transnational cooperation and distribution of knowledge and intellectual exchange is needed to provide, especially Africa, with equal opportunities to participate in finding common solutions for common challenges.
ExPaNDS: Majid Ounsy (SOLEIL) explained that the ExPaNDS project provides tools for and promotes FAIR open data sources and data analysis services for Photon and Neutron facilities. ExPanNDS has developed a Training Portal for PaN Data Services which all users are invited to further explore and use: https://pan-training.eu/.
Digital LEAPS STARS project: Cecilia Blasetti (ELETTRA) described the structure and activities and the activity plans for this LEAPS internal project STARS “Enhanced remote access for users”. The project aims mainly at making sample information compliant with the FAIR principles (for -Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reusability-) by bringing the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC, https://eosc-portal.eu/) standards into the sample handling procedures, helping both the users and the users offices to manage mailed-in samples, and to foster automation and remote data collection.
Welcome to Romania and Ukraine: ESUO celebrated in-person that a national delegate to represent Romania, Ovidiu Crisan was admitted to ESUO and was present, bringing the total to 31 nations that have representation within ESUO. We further celebrated that Serhii Nedilko attended the meeting as an observer delegate for Ukraine, as was ESUOs intention since March. “Ласкаво просимо”
ESUO Overview and considerations: Cormac McGuinness (IE) made a recap of ESUO activities since the previous General Assembly of May 2022.The user and facilities landscape is evolving towards more digital and remote experiments, greener procedures and challenge driven topics and looking to have a more inclusive and extensive SR and FEL community. ESUO needs to look into these aspects and maybe consider to adjust the association vision and missions accordingly. ESUO is carefully looking for opportunities to support user access, mainly considering answering to the upcoming co-funded HE-INFRA-SERV call allowing for projects funding curiosity-driven access. Other aspects mentioned were ESUO priorities, the internal organisation, the association’s sustainability and its relation with LEAPS. In addition, education and outreach activities and future funding of activities and missions were discussed in parallel workgroup meetings later in the day.
Election of a new Executive Board member: Wojciech Gawelda (ES) was elected to the ESUO Executive Board for FEL community replacing Federico Boscherini (IT) who resigned from the board in July 2022 in order to take up the position as chair of the European XFEL board. Wojciech Gawelda is a distinguished “Beatriz Galindo” Professor at the Department of Chemistry, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and an Associated Research Professor at IMDEA Nanoscience (Madrid, ES). The ESUO delegates and Executive Board warmly congratulated Wojciech!
News from the National Users and National Users Organisations: The delegates from each country represented in the meeting presented the status of their activities.
- the demand for a TNA programme for curiosity-driven research remains,
- in almost all cases user funds can only come directly from research grants,
- many members can access the ESRF and the European XFEL through National membership,
- countries with facilities, but not all, offer differing levels of support to national researchers,
- only DK reported having funds for TNA for all sources through a funded research institute, there are few programs for TNA remaining: NFFA and CERIC-ERIC,
- Diamond Light Source offers limited financial support to EU users,
- ELETTRA continued previous TNA level of support to EU nations (since October 2021), and keeping national user support to EU levels as before,
- SK switched from ESRF to European XFEL membership,
- CZ membership in the ESRF has been cancelled.
This overview can be summarized in the following membership and access maps.
HE co-funded pilot for curiosity-driven TNA: Rainer Lechner (AT) explained that the prospective Horizon Europe call is a co-fund pilot with pan-European RIs and/or National RIs. The status of co-funding remains uncertain and will need to be clarified before getting ready to answer the call. The scope of the call is ‘Interdisciplinary curiosity driven research’. Rainer went through the pros and cons and the next steps have been defined. National Access Programmes: Tom Hase (UK) presented a proposal to UK national funding agencies to fund access to facilities external to the UK as a potential template for similar arguments to be made in other countries.
Opportunities for users at the upgraded ESRF-EBS: Gema Martínez-Criado (ESRF Scientific Director) showed the new beamlines capabilities and the new access mode programs (BAGs and HUBs, Community Access Proposals – HUBs and BAGs (esrf.fr)) as well as a number of scientific highlights.
Overview on ESFRI and future access: Peter Wenzel-Constabel (ESFRI Vice-Chair) gave an overview of ESFRI and mentioned that in particular the preparation of a new roadmap on access policies. He mentioned ESUO could be consulted to get involved in this process and also that he is most interested in receiving a summary of the reports presented by the ESUO National User Delegates.
Panel discussion ‘Positioning SR & FELs for challenge-driven and curiosity-driven access while sustaining access for all European researchers’: Antje Vollmer, Cecilia Blasetti, Gema Martínez-Criado, Jean Daillant, Lambert van Eijck (online) and Peter Wenzel-Constabel were the panelists in this discussion moderated by Moniek Tromp (NL). The nature of typical access is changing and the user community as a voice in the definition of these changes as well as in assuring that it evolves towards more inclusive and sustainable access modes. In general, there was no clear sense of whose responsibility it is to ensure that users both have access and the ability to make use of that access. New modes of thematic, challenge-driven or community access were discussed. Antje said she sees this ‘Community’ access precisely as an opportunity for smaller groups to get integrated and collaborate with expert groups. Gema shares that pilot projects for long-term (3 years) topical research access are already running at the ESRF. The access is managed by the user community group and the beamtime usage is regularly reported and evaluated by the Science Advisory Committee (SAC). Jean said that LEAPS is presently discussing the possibility to implement similar targeted challenge-driven access at the national facilities and that a first pilot will be in the field of quantum technologies. Peter remarked that challenge-driven access could be applied in specific occasions but that ESFRI will continue to advocate for keeping curiosity-driven access as by far the main access mode to the RIs. A pathway to sustainable access for all users for all topics to all facilities was not immediately clear.
Wrap-up and closure:
The meeting closed with thanks from the ESUO president to all involved and an acknowledgement that a lot of work was needed from all on behalf of the whole of the European user community to realise ESUOs primary missions. These can be summarised as promoting Trans-National Access (TNA) to European light sources and the European Commission and, as well as lobbying to support elimination of geographical or financial barriers in user participation, with as simple an access model as practicable.