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The EXCITE project offers free-of-charge transnational access (TNA) to equipment from world-class European Earth Science research facilities that use X-ray and electron microscopy for structural and chemical imaging and analysis of Earth materials. TNA involves a researcher conducting science at a research facility located in a country other than the one in which they are working. During the first two TNA calls, about 150 scientific projects have been supported by the EXCITE network. In this 3rd TNA call, access to 16 facilities hosting 42 pieces of equipment will be provided by the EXCITE community. In this call, applications from users employed by SMEs or large enterprises will also be accepted.

Access to 16 facilities

Electron and X-ray microscopy facilities are accessible under two access modes:

Acces modes

01
Physical access (hands-on), which requires a user to visit the TNA facility where the equipment is located. Use of the equipment is free of charge. In addition, the visiting user will also be reimbursed for travel, accommodation, and sustenance, up to an amount specified per facility;
02
Remote service (send-in-sample), with resources and services offered free-of-charge without users physically visiting the facility. Samples are sent for analysis to the facility where they are analyzed by an operator. The user does not visit the facility and is thus not qualified to receive travel/accommodation/sustenance reimbursement. However, sample shipment can be reimbursed up to a fixed amount.

Access details

The type of access mode provided differs per facility and equipment. An overview of the access to each facility and the facility manager contact details can be found via this link.

The 3rd TNA call will be open for applications from 15th December, 2022, to 28th February, 2023 (23:59 CET).

During this period, proposals can be submitted at any time.

Projects accepted under this call can start as early as 1st May, 2023 and must be completed by 31th October, 2023.

Potential users must contact the facility managers before submitting a proposal for TNA to discuss technical aspects of their projects.

Proposals must meet specific EU, EXCITE and TNA facility rules to be eligible for TNA:

Eligibility rules

01
Teams affiliated with European and non-European research institutes are eligible to apply. Applications from users working outside the EU* are limited to a  maximum of 20% of the total access available in EXCITE.
02
The main user and the majority of the user group (>50 % per proposal) must work in a country other than the country where the facility to which they are applying is located.
03
Only users that are allowed and willing to disseminate the results generated during the TNA project in compliance with the EXCITE TNA data policy can be granted access. Please read our data policy here.
04
Applications from users employed by large enterprises are also eligible for funding in the 3rd EXCITE TNA call, as long as they comply with the above eligibility rules. The same goes for users employed by SMEs, however they are exempt from the EXCITE TNA Data Policy.

Funding regulations

Finances to cover TNA visits have the following limits (average flat rate):

  • Remote service: max. € 100 for shipping of samples per project. 
  • Physical access:
    • travel from EU* and EFTA countries$: max. € 300 travel, max. € 150 per day housing and subsistence.
    • travel from all other countries: max. € 1000 travel, max. € 150 per day housing and subsistence.

These limits apply per proposal, regardless of the number of users allowed at the facility on each project. Limits/rules may differ per facility, and must be discussed in advance with the facility manager. Any costs incurred by users exceeding the limits imposed by the facility must be paid by the user.

Travel tickets and accommodation and living expenses will only be reimbursed, by transfer to the user’s bank account, on production of receipts and the final visit report. For more details see the TNA reporting webpage.

* = EU + countries associated with Horizon 2020 (Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Faroe Islands, Georgia, Iceland, Israel, Kosovo, Morocco, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway,  Serbia, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom).

$ = Countries listed above + Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

EXCITE uses a web-based platform, called the Facility Access SysTem (FAST), to handle the application and review process. You can find information on how to use FAST in the FAQ section. Below are the steps you go through in the application process:

How to apply

01
After verifying that you meet the eligibility rules, go to the FAST platform to create an account and login. You have the option to choose 2-factor-authentication for more security, however this is not mandatory. Subsequently, go to the FAST call page for an overview of the call information, equipment, and the participating facilities.
02
Download the proposal template. Carefully read the instructions. Failure to comply with the template, page limits and the provided guidelines results in exclusion from the selection process.
03
Draft the proposal. Each applicant can submit a maximum of 1 proposal per TNA call. Each proposal can request access to multiple equipment from a maximum of 2 facilities within the EXCITE consortium, as long as this is required to meet the research objectives. You can find detailed equipment and facility information on the FAST call page or in this file.
04
Contact the facility manager(s) of the facility(s) to which you intend to apply, prior to submitting the proposal. This contact is mandatory. You must contact the hosting facility(s) to discuss the technical feasibility (e.g., requested equipment, sample type and quantity, general feasibility of the proposal) and the access details (e.g., access mode (physical vs remote), access units (hours/days), quantity of access units, preferred access period, and possible access for co-PIs). These details also need to be provided when selecting the equipment in the next step in the application process. If access to two facilities is requested, both facility managers need to be contacted. The e-mail addresses of the facility managers on the FAST call page or in this file.
05
After contact with the facility, you can finalize the proposal and submit your application. Fill out the title, don’t forget the keywords(!), and upload the proposal. Subsequently, select the equipment you would like to use and complete the requested information (list the requested access units and other details related to your application). Finish by submitting your application. You can check the status of your application by logging into your FAST account.

If a facility offers both remote service and physical access to their equipment, the applicant can choose their preference during the application process. If you request physical access and would like to visit the facility with multiple persons (Co-PIs), you should i) discuss this first with the facility manager, and ii) indicate this in the preferred access period field when selecting the equipment in FAST.

Note that: i) reimbursement limits are per proposal and not per person (see below), ii) restrictions may apply to the number of people allowed in a facility at a single time, iii) health-related measures could be imposed by the facility or by public authorities that limit or prohibit physical access to a facility. The final decision on the mode of access, duration of the visit, and number of visitors allowed, always rests with the facility manager.

Selection process

The evaluation and selection of the TNA proposals shall be completed within 6-8 weeks after the call has closed. The selection process consists of i) a formal technical feasibility assessment conducted by the manager of the requested facility, and ii) a review of the scientific excellence of the proposal by two scientific reviewers.

i) Technical feasibility assessment

All submitted applications will be screened to verify eligibility criteria, then forwarded to the designated facility manager, who will make a final assessment of the technical feasibility of the submitted proposal. The technical feasibility of the proposal will be assessed on:

  1. Rationale for the requested equipment and methodology with which to analyze the samples;
  2. Justification for the number of samples and requested access units;
  3. Sample information, e.g., sample size, geometry and type (thin sections/mounts/rock chips/plugs/cores/etc.), sample preparation, and the nature of the material(s) to be analyzed.

During this assessment, it is at the discretion of the facility manager to make minor amendments to the proposal (e.g. fewer/more units of access needed to fulfill the research objectives). In addition, it is possible that the proposal is redirected to another EXCITE facility with similar technical capabilities, if this is deemed necessary by the facility manager. Note that the applicant always has the right to withdraw their application if they disagree.

If an application is considered not feasible, it will not go through to the scientific review, and the applicant will be informed that their application did not pass the technical feasibility assessment.

ii) Scientific review

After a successful technical feasibility assessment, the proposal will be sent for scientific review to the TNA Review Panel, consisting of an independent group of international scientists without affiliation to the selected TNA facility, with expertise in a broad range of scientific disciplines, as well as in X-ray and electron microscopy and microanalytical techniques.

Evaluation of the TNA project proposal will be made in accordance with the EXCITE TNA General Principles and assessed on the basis of the scientific excellence of the proposal, which will be assessed against the following criteria:

  1. Suitability of the proposed methodology for answering the research question(s);
  2. The rationale for, and link between, the objectives, methodology, and expected outcomes of the study;
  3. The innovativeness and timeliness of the proposed research, and the scientific significance of the expected outcome(s);
  4. Structure and writing style of the proposal.

The review will be blind, and principles of transparency, fairness and impartiality will be applied throughout the whole revision process. Priority will be given to the scientific merit, but the selection will also take into account if the applicants;

  • are early-career scientists [i.e. An Early Career Scientist (ECS) is a student, a PhD candidate, or a practicing scientist who received their highest certificate (e.g. BSc, MSc or PhD) within the past seven years];
  • have not previously used the facility;
  • are working in countries where no equivalent research infrastructure exists.

After the review process, accepted projects are allocated to their desired facility, or redirected to an alternative facility in consultation with the applicant and facility manager.

User responsibilities

Following proposal approval, the user has to accept the general EXCITE TNA data policy, with which they:

  • Acknowledge the project and the support from the EC in the Horizon 2020 Programme, in any publication resulting from work carried out in the context of the TNA Activity in EXCITE (standard statement ‘this publication results from work carried out under transnational access action under the support of EXCITE – EC- HORIZON 2020 – INFRAIA 2020 Integrating Activities for Starting Communities under grant agreement N. 101005611’).
  • Ensure that the data resulting from the TNA are published in an appropriate data repository under a CC:BY 4.0 license after a maximum moratorium period of 2 years after completion of the TNA project.
  • Ensure that peer-reviewed publication(s) resulting from the data acquired under the TNA activity will be made available open access.

Users employed by large enterprises are required to follow the EXCITE TNA data policy. Users employed by SMEs are encouraged to follow the EXCITE TNA data policy but are not obligated to do so.

Before access: Access Agreement

After notification that the project is granted access, the user, before access, needs to contact the facility to sign an Access Agreement with the TNA facility, which covers the mode of access, access units, compliance with Health and Safety regulations, data processing, management and publication specifics, confidentiality, and liability, related to the TNA project. In certain cases the TNA facility can request for co-authorship on the scientific and/or data publications resulting from the TNA project. The Access Agreement must be signed before access can start, and the user is requested to send the signed agreement to the facility manager.

A copy of the signed access agreement must be uploaded in this repository.

All users involved in physical access need to be covered by medical insurance when conducting the TNA visit (either through the employing institution, or through a personal insurance if the institution does not fully cover the user when working abroad);

After access: Project reporting

After completing their TNA project, the user is requested to:

  • Visit the EXCITE TNA documents webpage and download a copy of the TNA user Scientific & Expense report template
  • Fill in all the parts of the template that include a description of the scientific activity carried out at the facility, and the breakdown of expenses incurred during the visit.
  • The report must be checked and signed by your host facility before submission as well as the receipts, which will be checked for reimbursement (please read the EXCITE TNA funding & reporting guidelines).
  • Submit the signed Scientific and expenses report, including all necessary reimbursement documentation, at this link.
  • During the submission, the user will be requested to complete a feedback questionnaire about the TNA experience.
  • Collect and store the raw data/results of the TNA project as per the Access agreement with the host TNA facility.

The users of the selected proposals might be invited to participate and have the opportunity to present their research results at the next annual EXCITE meeting..

Confidentiality of personal data

All personal data collected from the user in the application process are only used by the EXCITE Network for operational management of TNA and for the proper performance of its legal tasks and duties for communication and research, in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR – Regulation (EU) 2016/679) and the Utrecht University Privacy statement. No personal data is shared with the external review panel during the review phase, nor will personal data be rented, sold, or otherwise shared with or provided to third parties other than the EC for reporting purposes. Applicants are requested to view and consent to the EXCITE TNA privacy policy upon application.

Contacts

For questions about the application process, please check the FAST FAQ, or contact FAST support.

For general information on the TNA call please contact us by email: tnamanagement@ingv.it; info@excite-network.eu, by including a  standard text in the Subject field, e.g. “EXCITE TNA inquiry”.

Glossary

Curious to learn more?

Twenty-four European facilities for electron and X-ray microscopy are joining hands. To better understand Earth and planetary materials and to together unveil the secret codes hidden under our feet. Curious? Like to learn more? Interested in gaining access to our EXCITE Imaging facilities? Please enter your email address and be one of the first geoscientists to be informed when we open calls for proposals. Other questions? Contact us here.

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