User Guidelines

guidelines and rules to apply for access to NFFA Europe Infrastructures

 

NFFA-Europe offers to European and Third Country (see eligibility criteria) scientists from both academia and industry the possibility to carry out comprehensive projects for multidisciplinary research at the nanoscale. 

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and select the tools you need
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Activities are performed in 6 different types of Installations:

  • Installation 1 - Litho
    Lithography and Nano-patterning
  • Installation 2 - Growth
    Growth and Synthesis
     
  • Installation 3 - SM Charact.
    Structural and Morphological Nano-characterization
  • Installation 4 - ECM Charact.
    Electronic, Chemical and Magnetic Nano-characterisation 
  • Installation 5 - Nano to Micro
    Nano to Micro/Macro
  • Installation 6 - Theory
    Theory and Simulation of nanostructures

 

 

Each Installation includes laboratories located in different NFFA-EU sites; furthermore, when needed, access to co-located Large-Scale Facilities for Fine Analysis is offered as part of the access to Litho, SM or ECM nano-characterisation with some limitations*.

NFFA-Europe proposals necessarily**

  • include access to more than one type of Installation (e.g. Litho and Growth, Nano to Micro and Theory, SM Charact. and ECM Charact., etc.)
  • cannot be limited to Fine Analysis only

Whenever possible, access will be granted to a single NFFA-Europe site for all research steps. Access to more than one site for a given proposal will be considered only when technically or scientifically justified. Multiple access to the same facility (facilities) under the same proposal cannot be supported beyond standard reimbursement limits.

*NFFA-Europe is not an alternative vehicle to access Large Scale Facilities with respect to the standard ALSF access procedures proposed by each facility.  Limited access to beamtime (SR, neutrons) for characterization may be granted by NFFA-Europe only in agreement with the rules stated below.

**Limited exceptions include access to the Theory Installation, combined access to neutron and synchrotron facilities and access by SMEs (see Proposal Requirements (a)).


The workflow

1

The Single Entry Point (SEP) on this portal provides the overall list of tools and methods available and is the portal to submit a proposal. Proposals can be submitted at any time but will be periodically collected for scientific evaluation. These periodic collections will take place on 1 March, 1 June, 1 September and 1 December (extended to the next working day should the official deadline fall on a non-working day) each year.

2

After submission, the technical feasibility of each research step will be assessed by the Technical Liaison Network (TLNet). If proposals are submitted well before the collection deadlines, possible technical problems will be promptly identified and solutions worked out and proposed to the users.

3

Feasible proposals will then be evaluated and ranked according to scientific merit by an external panel of reviewers (ARP).

4

The best-ranked proposals are assigned to the most appropriate NFFA-Europe site/sites, guaranteeing free access* to the most appropriate combination of methods and instruments. The responsibility of the site choice is entirely on the NFFA-Europe side.

5

The user group leader is notified by the TLNet of the results of the technical and scientific evaluation and of the assignment to one or more specific NFFA-Europe access sites.

6

All users are asked to accept and undersign the NFFA-Europe User Declaration Agreement. NFFA-Europe will not schedule any research activity before signed forms from all participants are received by the TLNet.

7

The user group leader will be contacted by the specific access site/s to agree on a scheduling and to be instructed on specific procedures for access.

8

9

The access must start within six months from acceptance (nine months for access to LSF to take into account alignment with standard scheduling calendars) and must be completed in maximum six months from its start.

At the end of the access sessions, users are requested by the NFFA-Europe management to fill in the NFFA-Europe Satisfaction Questionnaire and the NFFA-Europe User Report.

The general timeline of all access related procedures can be found here. NFFA-Europe will make all efforts to respect the timeline, with the active collaboration of users.

*Access to the experimental and theoretical installations is completely free of charge. Moreover, a contribution is given for travel and subsistence expenditures (see below the “travel & subsistence support” section for detailed information).


Eligibility criteria

Access is granted to user groups, i.e. teams of one or more researchers, led by a user group leader, according to the following eligibility criteria:

TRANSNATIONALITY

The user group leader and the majority of the users must work in a country other than the country(ies) where the installations are located. 

This rule does not apply:

- if access is provided by partners INL and JRC;

- in case of remote access to a set of installations located in different countries offering the same type of service. 

 

EU &THIRD COUNTRY USERS

In case of positive proposal evaluation, access for user groups with at least half of the users working in a EU or associated country is granted within the capacity of NFFA-Europe; access for user groups with a majority of users not working in a EU or associated country is limited to 20% of the total access provided by NFFA-Europe.

DISSEMINATION OF THE RESULTS

Only user groups that are allowed to disseminate the results generated within NFFA-Europe can apply, unless the users are working for SMEs (see below).

 INDUSTRIES

Users working for or with industry of any size are very welcome to apply for NFFA access either alone or in partnership with academic teams. Access is granted free-of-charge provided results are published with the exception detailed below. Industrial users may also opt for a proprietary access where all work and results remain confidential, with no external peer review evaluation. Industry interested in such a fee-based access is invited to contact TLNet directly for a full explanation of the relevant H2020 project rules.

SME USER GROUPS

Users working for SMEs are allowed to use results generated within NFFA-Europe for proprietary research. Proposals submitted by users working for SMEs will undergo technical feasibility check and scientific evaluation as for all NFFA-Europe proposals.


TLNet
The Technical Liaison Network

The Technical Liaison Network (TLNet) is the backbone of NFFA-Europe, providing a wealth of skills and technical information across the NFFA-Europe multidisciplinary and multi-site research infrastructure. TLNet supports the full life cycle of user proposals, from first explorative contact by the user to data management.  The TLNet will give feedback to requests and questions by users and liaise with contact scientists and specific instruments.

The TLNet tasks are the assessment on the technical feasibility of the proposals and the assignment to the best suited NFFA-Europe sites according to technical requirements and availability and overall optimisation. A mechanism similar to the peer review system of an editorial board is used to rapidly obtain technical responses from the NFFA installations and the best solution for the user is setup.

The first step in approaching NFFA-Europe for specific technical questions can be made by simply sending an e-mail to tlnet@nffa.eu.


UONet
The User Office Network

The User Office Network (UONet) is a novel pilot support structure for commons and innovative access-support services to the NFFA-Europe Transnational Access programme users. Standardised and harmonised access procedures will smoothen the entrance of Europe's researchers into world-class facilities. By increasing the attractiveness of the Interoperable Distributed Research Infrastructure for Nanoscience (IDRIN), the seamless user access procedures help enhancing the integration of research infrastructures in the European Research Area.

In solid collaboration and concerted effort with the Technical Liaison Network (TLNet), the user office nodes assist the users once they are granted access to one or more sites and schedule the proposal steps. As front offices, staffed or non-staffed, the user office nodes provide support for travel, accommodation, logistics and travel claims reimbursements. Information on health and safety standards to follow (including COVID-19 preventive measures) is supplied. Moreover, novel support services will consist of info helpdesks on gender, insurance, user agreement, visa and legal matters. As back offices, the user office nodes shall verify and validate the online travel claims uploaded by the user in the Metastore database. This innovative methodology enables real-time monitoring of the travel and subsistence expenditure and provides internal user access related statistics.

Proposal requirements

a

NFFA-Europe proposals must include access to at least two different types of Installations (Litho/Growth/SM Charact./ECM Charact./Nano to Micro and Theory).

The following exceptions to this general rule are admitted:

  • Proposals that need combined access to fine analysis employing both neutrons and synchrotron radiation at Large Scale Facilities to investigate the same sample systems are eligible even when the requested techniques belong to the same installation.
  • Proposals to access theoretical installations are considered eligible not only if they combine access to another NFFA installation (in compliance with NFFA-Europe general rules), but also if they address recent experimental results obtained at facilities other than NFFA-Europe's ones. Moreover, proposals to access multi-scale/multi-physics simulations are considered eligible if they address at least two independent computational methods (e.g. electronic ground-state and excited-state approaches, molecular dynamics and electronic structure, structural and spectroscopic properties...). However, it must be stressed that proposals to jointly access experimental and theoretical NFFA installations (standard access rules) will have the priority.
  • Proposals by SMEs requesting access to just one installation are eligible.

b

Access to Fine Analysis methods only is not allowed as it is directly provided by the Large Scale Facilities, except for proposals employing both neutrons and synchrotron radiation. This is a unique opportunity not provided by other access programs.

c

Access to Fine Analysis at Large Scale Facilities in the SM and the ECM characterisation installations is limited to 6 UoA per proposal (1 UoA is equivalent to a 8h hour shift - the typical measure of access time at LSFs), to be completed in 4 days at most. In well-justified cases, 3 more UoAs can be granted, for a total of 9 UoA still to be completed in 4 days at most.
If you need to access two different beamlines, 6 UoA in max 4 days per each beamline are allowed but no extra UoAs can be granted.

d

Since access to NFFA-Europe is not meant for long-term proposals, a maximum number of 20 UoA per proposal is set. Up to 4 extra UoAs can be granted only in well-justified cases. A maximum cumulative usage for a given technique/installation at a given provider by the same user group is set at 50%. When such usage is exceeded, the user will get the appropriate message and proposals from that group will no longer be eligible. In any case, such users will be able to apply in the last two NFFA calls if there is still remaining capacity. This limit will not apply to those techniques locally offered in such low numbers that a reasonable access by the user will consume it anyway.

e

A preference for access to a specific NFFA-Europe site can be indicated by the users, but this information is not binding for the NFFA-Europe scheduling. Whenever suitable for the performance of the proposal NFFA-Europe will grant access to a single site that includes all the installations needed.

f

Research steps are not necessarily consecutive. If you need time to perform further work at your home Institution before continuing your research at NFFA-Europe, please justify your choice and add your timeline in the description of work. If your justification is accepted and your proposal is granted access, the scheduling will take into account your needs, with limitations applying only to the total travel and subsistence cost per proposal.

g

Access may be performed both in-presence and remotely. Remote access could be offered as mail-in or with a higher degree of involvement of the user (real-time cooperation or remote control). Remote access may be offered by the specific facilities when possible and/or necessary. In case your experiment requires shipment of samples and materials (mail-in, mail-out), please contact your local User Office  to arrange all shipment details, procedures, and the terms of payment. Should you arrange the shipment indipendently, be aware your  access provider may not be able to reimburse the cost incurred by you o by your organisation.


How to submit a proposal

Proposals are prepared and submitted through the NFFA-Europe Single Entry Point (SEP), where you can find an up-to-date catalogue of all tools and methods offered by the six NFFA-EU types of Installation and their geographical distribution, as well as their main technical specifications.

From the catalogue, compose your wish list, made of all the steps required by your research.

Login or sign up if you are a new user to access your online application form.

Before starting to fill in the application form, please read the Terms & Conditions, download the proposal application guide and carefully follow the instructions outlined.

 


Proposal Evaluation

NFFA-Europe proposals are first checked for technical feasibility. Proposals assessed as “feasible” will be then sent for evaluation of scientific merit by an independent, external Access Review Panel (ARP).

The ARP consists of sixteen experts in nanoscience (including a Chairperson) covering all necessary competences foreseen by the NFFA-Europe access programme, including representatives of the Large Scale Facilities to warrant alignment of the selection criteria for optional limited beam time.


The main criteria followed by the ARP in the evaluation process are:

  • Scientific merit, evaluated in terms of:
    • scientific relevance for nanoscience 
    • appropriateness of the experimental/theoretical programme
    • expected impact of the results
  • Demonstration of the need for the use of the NFFA-Europe infrastructure
  • Innovation potential and industrial interest will be considered as added value. 

 

In case of competition between projects at equal level of scientific ranking by referees, a preference will be given to:

  • projects with female proponent(s)
  • user groups who have not previously used the specific NFFA-Europe installations and who are working in countries where no equivalent research infrastructure exists.

Rejected proposals will always be accompanied by a written report explaining the reasons for rejection. Where appropriate, the report will also include recommendations and suggestions for improvement and possible resubmission of a new proposal.


Proposals standing out for their excellent, promising and challenging proposed research, hot scientific and technological topics and their comprehensive approach (i.e. well-justified and balanced access to complementary techniques/methods) will be spotlighted as highlight proposals.

Highlight proposals will be awarded:

  • Priority access: the instrument scientists will give best possible priority for scheduling the experiments of highlight proposals.
  • Name of the Principal Investigator and proposal ID as news on our website
  • Special focus on outcomes: if the access is successful, the proposal will be evaluated as a possible contribution for the Newsletters; moreover, the principal investigator will be considered among the potential invited speakers in one NFFA-Europe workshop to present the related results.

Travel & subsistence support

EU funding, up to the maximum budget available, will be allocated to travel and subsistence support to NFFA-Europe users, according to the following criteria:

  • NEP reimburses up to two users per proposal.
  • The maximum contribution per person per site accessed is 500€ for travel expenses. The refund is capped to the upper ceiling if the travel costs incurred exceed this limit or are equal to the cost incurred if lower. The user must provide evidence of the travel titles (ticket invoice/receipt, boarding cards) incurred only on the days of the onward and return journey per each access site visited. No reimbursement will be provided for the local transportation costs incurred in the in-between days.
  • The maximum contribution per person per day is 100€ for subsistence. The refund is capped to the upper daily ceiling if the travel costs incurred exceed this limit or are equal to the cost incurred if lower. The user must provide evidence of the original subsistence titles (meal tickets, invoices/receipts, hotel bills) incurred on the two travelling days (onward and return journeys) and per each day of stay per access site visited or, alternatively, lump sum/per diem requests, if allowed by the beneficiary. No compensation is allowed between days in which the daily subsistence ceiling has been exceeded with the ones in which the daily subsistence costs are lower.
  • A proposal may require multi-site accesses. In such cases, each refundable user can benefit from the standard reimbursement terms and conditions per geographical site accessed. 
  • A proposal may also require multi-leg access sessions to one single access site. In such cases, the overall maximum contribution for travel expenses cannot exceed 500€ in total. Conversely, the contribution for subsistence per day will be 100€ per person for each access leg session following the total number of units of access (UoAs) assigned.
  • The overall duration of each access must be consistent with the number of UoAs assigned (e.g. a user who is granted 5 UoAs cannot be supported for a two-week stay).
  • The reimbursements are based on the accountancy standards and procedures en force at the access provider' site. Therefore, be aware the reimbursement rules and procedures may vary from site to site.
  • General rules for travel & subsistence support request can be found hereMore detailed guidelines specific to the assigned NFFA-Europe site will be provided once access is granted. The user group leader of the awarded proposal will be contacted by the local coordination of access activities for further instructions.