ABOUT

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE MERIL PORTAL IS CURRENTLY UNDER RE-CONSTRUCTION. The new portal is expected to launch at the end of 2016.

On this page:

What is MERIL?
Why is MERIL important?
Background to MERIL
Criteria for inclusion in the MERIL database
How to add a Research Infrastructure to the database

What is MERIL?


The MERIL portal gives access to an inventory of openly accessible research infrastructures (RIs) of more-than-national relevance in Europe across all scientific domains, including the humanities and social sciences. It aims to be a user-friendly resource for information commonly needed by researchers seeking access to an infrastructure and by policy-makers analysing the current state of research infrastructure in Europe. The database will be continuously updated with RIs that meet the criteria for inclusion (see below). Note that entries are only published on the portal once a minimum set of data has been provided by the RI, therefore the visible entries do not represent the full database.

RIs included in the database have been evaluated through a national or European process on the basis of commonly agreed criteria and recognised as being of the highest standards and relevance to research in Europe. Inclusion in the database is thus a label of quality. The database may also serve as a basis for policy and planning on research infrastructures in the future.

Each research infrastructure in the database is described in a standard format, with a limited amount of core information and a web link to each individual research infrastructure.

Note that MERIL does not include Integrating Activities or short-term projects or networks, although their component parts may be entries in MERIL in their own right. For information on research infrastructure projects funded by the European Commission, please see the EuroRIs-net Observatory. For a map of facilities funded by the European Commission in the framework of its Integrating Activities, see its Map of Research Infrastructures.

Why is MERIL important?

MERIL is intended to:
  • Improve scientists' access to resources, services and facilities offered by modern research infrastructures;
  • Promote individual research infrastructures by raising their profile and fostering a greater sense of partnership across Europe;
  • Allow policy-makers to assess the state of research infrastructures throughout Europe to pinpoint gaps or duplications and make decisions about where best to direct funding;
  • Stimulate discussion among policy-makers and research funders on RI funding and joint investment, where appropriate;
  • Support the exchange of expertise and best practice among RI coordinators with a view to optimising the operation and exploitation of research infrastructures;
  • Contribute with this state-of-the-art analysis to the planning for future needs in cooperation with the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI).

Background

It is increasingly recognised that excellent research requires excellent research infrastructures which not only underpin research but also lead its development in new directions and create an attractive environment for world-class researchers.

A Member Organisation Forum on Research Infrastructures (MOFRI, 2010-2012) of the European Science Foundation was a first attempt to bring together national agencies from all over Europe for joint discussions of RI policy. Complementing the work of ESFRI on future needs for pan-European RIs, the Forum focussed on the efficient utilisation of existing RIs, including the need for an inventory of existing RIs on national and European level both as a baseline for policy-making and as a valuable source of information for scientists.

The report of the MO Forum, "Research Infrastructures in the European Research Area" (2013), gives an overview of the aims, activities, conclusions and results of the Forum, including the definition of quality standards and basic requirements for research infrastructures, which also represent the criteria for inclusion of research infrastructures in the MERIL portal.

In 2009 the European Commission issued a call with a view to updating and upgrading an earlier RI inventory (www.riportal.eu) and the ESF responded with a successful proposal for the MERIL project (Mapping the European RI Landscape) in line with the objectives of the MO Forum. The MERIL project was supported by the European Commission under Framework Programme 7 - Contract # 262159 between October 2010 and December 2012. Since 2013 it is supported by the ESF member organisations.

The stakeholders behind the MERIL project are the scientific community, EUROHORCs, ESF, European Commission, ESFRI, European Association of National Research Facilities (ERF), EIROforum, and Ministries. Most of these are represented in MERIL's governance through its Steering Committee.

Read more about the development phase of MERIL on the project webpages.


Criteria for inclusion of Research Infrastructures in the MERIL database


The MERIL project established the following definition of research infrastructures:

A European Research Infrastructure is a facility or (virtual) platform that provides the scientific community with resources and services to conduct research in their respective fields. These research infrastructures can be single-sited or distributed or an e-infrastructure, and can be part of a national or international network of facilities, or of interconnected scientific instrument networks.

Furthermore, an eligible research infrastructure should:
  • Offer scientific and technological performance that is recognised as being of ‘more-than-national' relevance;
  • Offer access to scientific users from Europe and beyond through a transparent selection and admission process;
  • Have a management structure.

Three primary factors are considered in deciding whether an RI should be included in the MERIL database: Quality, Access and Management.
  1. Quality
    It is assumed that any RI funded by a national government or agency meets acceptable quality standards. The quality assessment of databases and collections requires a specific approach. For a database to be of more-than-national relevance it must be operating in a manner that enables its data or samples to be compared with those in other centres.This means that data should be easily and continuously retrievable, there should be appropriate metadata to enable the data to be analysed, compared and re-used, and that the RI is working to harmonised standards with other equivalent centres.

    Strong indicators that an RI is of greater than national relevance are:
    • Evidence of the attractiveness of the RI to users from abroad, either from data showing actual use by non-nationals, or user interest where the RI is not yet operating. RIs that restrict access only to national users are excluded;
    • The existence of formal agreements with non-national partners.


  2. Access
    To qualify for the MERIL database an RI must have clear and public rules and procedures for access to facility time or resource. Where the resource is limited, access must be based on an assessment of the soundness of the proposed use. Significant time must be available for outside users, national or international; in the case of an RI operating in extended experiment or campaign mode, there must be openness to new partners joining experiments. As mentioned above, RIs that restrict access to national users are excluded.

  3. Management
    Minimum standards of management are necessary to ensure that an RI is able to fulfil its potential to support external, extra-national users:
    • A single entry point for the RI must be clearly identifiable;
    • There must be clear support arrangements for science users;
    • There must be clear procedures for the management of data.

    The RI must have funding approved for a period sufficient to deliver the type of access typical for that class of facility. In the case of RIs in development, initial funding for construction and a clear timetable for the opening of research services must be in place.

How to add an RI to the database


Proposals for adding new RIs to the MERIL database should be directed to the MERIL team, which will forward them to the relevant National or International Data Intermediaries for validation. If you would like to propose an addition to the MERIL database, please read carefully the MERIL Portal Principles before downloading and completing the Self-Assessment Form for Prospective New Entries.

If the check is positive, the MERIL team will create an entry for the RI and a user account for the contact person to complete the data for the RI through the back office of the portal. RIs are only published on the portal when a minimum set of data has been provided by the facility managers.