Meeting of Potential Central-Eastern European Structural Biology



IUCr Congress, Glasgow, UK, 12 August 1999







The meeting was opened by Mariusz Jaskolski. He explained that the Royal Society (UK) might be interested in supporting a consortium of structural biology laboratories from central and eastern European ("eastral") countries. Institutions outside the Academy of Science framework, which would not normally be involved in bilateral activities with the Royal Society, would be able to take part. Forming a consortium would also be of benefit in other areas, e.g. when applying for funds from the European Commission (under Framework V).



The Royal Society


Guy Dodson explained the Royal Societys position further. He believes that the Royal Society would encourage the development of such a consortium, particularly if it enhanced existing bilateral contacts. For example, a laboratory in the Czech Republic would apply for a UK visitor through the usual Royal Society channels but as a member of the consortium. The UK visitor would then be able to apply for extra support for visits to other consortium members outside that country. The arrangement would work in the other direction: a member of a consortium laboratory would be able to visit the UK on behalf of the consortium, and include visits to laboratories with contacts with other members. This would ensure that optimum use is made of the Royal Societys support for visits in both directions.


Existing arrangements would apply to visits in both directions. Support is possible for visits lasting between one and twelve months. Potential visitors are encouraged to apply for help with attendance at conferences. Although formal teaching of under-graduates cannot be supported, as it is covered by the British Council, training of young researchers may be part of a visitors programme.


The Royal Society also supports joint research programmes with e.g. some funds for consumables. However, it may be best to get the consortium up and running with visits working well in both directions before thinking of applying for more general support.



Support from France


Anita Lewit-Bentley explained the areas of support available from French government sources. At the moment, only bilateral schemes with certain countries (e.g. Poland, the Czech Republic) are supported. Travel money only (to support joint research projects lasting up to 3 years) is available. Some embassies offer fellowships to Ph.D. students. Anita will send Mariusz Jaskolski details of all schemes.



Framework V


a. Access to Large Facilities

Grants under this programme are available to cover the complete costs of up to two people attending any designated "large-scale research facility". Guy Dodson suggested that one advantage of applying for these grants via the consortium might be that inexperienced researchers from laboratories and countries unfamiliar with a technique could apply in conjunction with more experienced researchers. For example, a group of protein crystallographers from Poznan might include a researcher from Croatia, which does not yet have any protein crystallography, in a visit to a synchrotron source.


Large scale facilities include

- ESRF Grenoble

- EMBL Hamburg (from 2000)

- Institute of Macromolecular Biology (IMB) in Jena, supporting complete projects

- Daresbury? (should be checked)


b. Centres of Excellence

There will be a single call for proposals for Centres of Excellence under Framework V, with a deadline of 15 October 1999. This scheme is for individual laboratories from all "pre-accession" countries (not just those in the "fast track"). It would be good for laboratories from the consortium to apply to this programme in a coordinated manner: e.g. a

proposal from Slovakia for bioinformatics would mention one from Poland for crystallography and vice versa.



Mechanics of forming a consortium


It would be useful to "formalise" the consortium before any individual applications for funding are made. With the EU deadline approaching rapidly, it would make sense to work quickly on this. As the consortium would simply be a voluntary association of laboratories with common interests, the process should be extremely straightforward and could only take a couple of weeks. It should be possible for new members (including members from previously un-represented countries) to join at any time.


It was thought that it would be better to have more than one coordinator, and/or to move the "coordinator-ship" between laboratories and between countries. Mariusz Jaskolski is willing to be the initial coordinator.



Other Opportunities


  1. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (US) has issued a new call for proposals for International Scholars from "eastral" and former Soviet countries. These are very competitive, but the level of support given to appointed Scholars is extremely generous.
  2. ICGEB (based in Trieste) give grants to member countries (which are most, but not all, in emerging economic areas). There is one round of applications each year.
  3. NATO is (apparently) very willing to give research grants to its new members.
  4. The European Science Foundation (ESF) offers financial support towards conferences and workshops.
  5. There is currently a one-year postdoctoral position in Paris open only to applications from central-eastern Europeans.




Action Points


The Royal Society would like to see a fairly formal agreement between the initial consortium members within a few weeks. They, and other funding bodies, need to know exactly who they are dealing with. It may be useful for Mariusz to come to London for a meeting at the Society, at least within the next few months. The deadline for applications for Centres of Excellence is approaching fast! Consortium members should attempt to contact collaborators from central-eastern European countries who are currently under-represented (e.g. Professor Turk in Slovenia) to see whether they would like to be involved, either at this stage or later. Anyone who knows of a possible funding opportunity or has an idea for further collaboration should contact Mariusz Jaskolski (email address below). Funding opportunities will be posted on the Consortium web page []


Clare Sansom - who works part time as a consultant - would be happy to advise any consortium members on applications to Framework V (or anything else). [In the longer term, she would be interested in taking on a formal advisory role, possibly with Royal Society funding?]



Web Addresses


Royal Society

Framework V








Present at the meeting:


Graham Bentley



Anita Lewit-Bentley



Guy Dodson



Timea Gerocei



Veronika Harmat



Jindrich Hasek



Mariusz Jaskolski



Krysztof Lewinski



Jaromir Marek



Frantisek Pavelcik



Clare Sansom



Alexandre Urzhumtsev





Interested, but not able to be there:


Nataliya S. Andreeva



Imrich Barak



Marek Glowka


Gabor Naray-Szabo



Jozef Sevcik



Bohdan Schneider





Notes submitted by: Dr. Clare Sansom