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Coordinated Research Infrastructures Building Enduring Life-science services

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - CORBEL (Coordinated Research Infrastructures Building Enduring Life-science services)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-05-31

European research infrastructures allow scientists across the continent benefit from access to advanced research instrumentation, services and facilities - a cornerstone for allowing excellent science throughout the ERA. The goal of CORBEL was to allow our users in the scientific community to easily access a range of facilities and services from the ESFRI Life Science Research Infrastructures (LS RI). We achieve this by supporting users to link services between the LS RIs so that research projects can make use of the full range of capabilities across the RIs. CORBEL delivers this by achieving three main objectives:
Objective 1: Forge effective partnerships with user communities across RI by simplifying user access, joining up service catalogues and provide user engagement forums for feedback and future service developments.
Objective 2: Develop scalable solutions that meet user needs for complex scientific workflows by developing and operating cross-RI scientific connectors that integrate our joint capabilities into service packages.
Objective 3: Implement a portfolio of shared services that facilitate user access to data, samples and instrumentation through common access policies and a shared resource portal, and data management solutions that enable users to manage data across RI boundaries.
The work plan is based on 9 work packages: 4 “building” WPs delivering the shared service platform (WP5 Enabling common solutions for user access; WP6 Data access, management and integration; WP7 Common services to provide support with Ethical, Legal and Societal Issues; WP8 Accelerating innovation), 3 supporting WPs (WP1 Project management and coordination; WP2 Documentation, communication and outreach; WP9 Training), and 2 central “driving” WPs (Community-driven cross-infrastructure joint research: WP3 - Medical; WP4 - Bioscience).
CORBEL was designed around the concept of an innovation pipeline that translates basic biological discoveries into health innovation, and which recognises that the long-term impact of LS RIs requires both overall coordination of services as well as tight partnership with specific user communities and stakeholders. CORBEL has established:
1. Harmonised access policies, procedures, and portals for service access
2. Common ELSI support and evaluation for services
3. Shared Innovation support and industry partnership to leverage innovation potential
4. Joint data management, exchange and integration practices
CORBEL is coordinated by Dr. Niklas Blomberg and managed by Dr. Friederike Schmidt-Tremmel (ELIXIR). The Executive Board consists of the directors of the 13 LS RIs.
CORBEL has now concluded the 3rd of its 3 phases:
• Months 1-12: Coordination and preparation: Mapping efforts, establishment of user and stakeholder forums, technology road mapping and gap analysis
• Months 13-37: Implementation: Execution of user-led research efforts, development of shared service platform
• Months 38-57: Assessment and validation: Testing and validation of shared service platform against user requirements, embedding of services within the established RIs, providing the foundation for sustainable services
The partners achieved all 51 deliverables and 49 milestones.
Development of advanced cross-RI service pipelines (Objective 1) was driven through user projects. CORBEL launched two open calls for users with 31 projects selected from 50 applications via external peer-review. The Medical Infrastructure Users Forum has brought together EU projects, ERA-NETS, JPIs and other stakeholders to discuss and shape service offerings for transnational health projects.
The development of scalable, harmonised solutions cross-RI (Objective 2) has delivered a shared quality management strategy, harmonised user access and project review via the ARIA system and a joint strategy for managing federated user identities for single-sign on access to computational services.
CORBEL has facilitated user access and service use (Objective 3) by delivering a continuously updated shared resource portal and together with NIH Data Commons established simple guidance on solutions for FAIR data management. These recommendations are now being embedded in user projects and contributed to an “interoperability knowledge hub” that enable users to manage data across domain boundaries. Our recommendations are adopted by 3rd parties, e.g. data management guidelines for ERC and EC COVID-19 research projects.
Good RI service is dependent on committed, highly trained operators. CORBEL has addressed the challenge of identifying, attracting and training staff. The project has developed a common competency framework for RI operators, with a focus on distributed research infrastructures and mapped the available training courses and e-learning resources in on-course to this framework. CORBEL has also provided a staff-exchange programme and a service focussed training programme.
The CORBEL project has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic - several user projects had to postpone facility access - but the solutions established in the project could be rapidly refocused to support COVID-19 research. User access pipelines have been providing support to screening projects for drug repurposing and structural analysis of SARS-CoV-2 virus. The data integration and management solutions developed supported the development of the European COVID-19 data portal ( and DataHubs to manage the access and sharing of SARS-CoV-2 viral genomes. The BBMRI Locator was extended to provide information on samples for COVID-19 research in European biobanks.
With a combined public and private research investment of 60 billion Euro annually the biomedical sector is a key component of the European knowledge economy with significant innovation potential. The EC estimates that there are 500,000 active life science researchers in Europe. Hence, user demand for the services of CORBEL partners from within Europe is large and the advanced RI facilities provide a solid foundation for the complex, multidisciplinary research being carried out by Europe’s science base.
CORBEL has supported and developed a sustainable model for one of the fundamental cornerstones of the ERA: the provision of world-class RIs to enable science. The European RIs support the integration of national capabilities where the development of shared standards, services and training programmes promotes the synergy and sustainability of investments. Leveraging the technologies, expertise and solutions embedded within individual RIs, CORBEL’s shared services demonstrate a real EU-added value and simplify access for small laboratories and enable scaling services for European projects through large consortia and industry. E.g. CORBEL has transformed the medical area by defining a framework for opening access and reuse of clinical trial data. These developments now provide solutions for the rapid establishment of COVID-19 clinical trial data repositories. Likewise, the development of pipelines and data services for ‘omics technologies have not only brought in relevant models for biological mechanisms but delivered an avenue to reduce experiments on mammalian species.
Through innovation support CORBEL has also ensured that each RI is better equipped to exploit and support the value creation from technology platforms.
CORBEL partners provide services accessed by users worldwide, ensuring global dissemination of project results.