EOSC-hub:VA-TNA FAQ

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EOSC-hub project: Main page Project Office Proposal H2020 regulations VA-TNA FAQ Risk management




Introduction

Trans National Access (TNA) and Virtual Access (VA) are financial instruments to reimburse the access provisioning costs to access providers. Information about TNA and VA is provided in Article 16 of the AGA – Annotated Model Grant Agreement (http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/grants_manual/amga/h2020-amga_en.pdf). These instruments are provided by the EC to increase the sharing of research infrastructures and services that otherwise would not be available to international user groups.
In TNA and VA the services – also called “installations” – have to be made available ‘free of charge’ at the point of use for European or International researchers.
TNA access requires a process to select users normally based on scientific excellence. TNA compensates for the logistical, technological and scientific support and the specific training that is usually provided to external researchers using the infrastructure.
VA access is open and free access to services through communication networks to resources needed for research, without selecting the researchers to whom access is provided.

Definitions

‘Access provider’ means a beneficiary or linked 3rd party that is in charge of providing access to one or more research infrastructures or installations, or part of them, as described in Annex 1.

‘Installation’ means a part or a service of a research infrastructure that could be used independently from the rest. A research infrastructure can consist of one or more installations.

‘Research infrastructures’1 are facilities, resources and services that are used by the research communities, (…) to conduct research, education or public services (…) They include: major scientific equipment (or sets of instruments); knowledge-based resources such as collections, archives or scientific data; e-infrastructures such as data and computing systems and communication networks. Such infrastructures may be ‘single-sited’, ‘virtual’ or ‘distributed’.

VA and TNA in the EOSC-hub project

In the EOSC-hub proposal we are likely to implement only the Virtual Access mechanism.

Costs for virtual access are the actual costs incurred by the access provider for the provision of virtual access to resources. Eligible costs that can be clearly attributed to the provision of access will be partly reimbursed by the project.

Following the EC rules:

  • Capital investments (i.e. costs of renting, leasing, purchasing depreciable equipment, infrastructure or other assets) will NOT be reimbursed in VA/TNA.
  • Needs for training will be supported by allocating effort in a dedicated NA activity.
  • An external panel of experts periodically assesses access to installations. In order to be eligible for funding, the access providers need to provide evidence of the international usage to installations offered in the project.

Access Provider Obligations: In order to recover the access costs, providers need to:

  • Accept that the installations made available for VA/TNA are publicized widely. In EOSC-hub installations will be publicized and accessed via an online marketplace.
  • Maintain & provide to EC appropriate documentation to support and justify the amount of access reported (e.g. nature and quantity of access provided to user teams).
  • Open the access to European and international user communities
  • In EOSC-hub access providers will engage with user communities via Service Level Agreements. Pledged resources are made available for allocation through the project marketplace via centrally managed grants distributed to users. These will be preferentially allocated to authenticated users from specific community of users, if required by the access provider’s policies. However, in case of under utilization, the installations will have to be made available to any user outside the selected collaborations.

Important: cost items charged to the grant must NOT be covered by other EU funds. When they are covered by other non-EU funding sources, specifically provided to support them, they must be declared as receipts. For example a cost item already declared under a structural funds or ESIF grant cannot be declared again under H2020 grant and only costs items that have not already been declared are eligible. The main principle being the non-profit; EC does not want to cover costs that are already paid. The personnel charged under access costs is a direct cost of the grant and as such it must be recorded (i.e. staff must produce time sheets for the grant).


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between remote TNA and VA?

(https://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/support/faqs/faq-617.html) According to the definition of the term 'trans-national access' in the Work Programme, the access provided through communication networks is not automatically virtual access: if such access requires a competitive selection of the users to be served, it is not “virtual access” but “remote trans-national access”.

An example of this would be access to a high-performance computer, where the computing cycles are not unlimited and you need to allocate them competitively. Other cases could include services that need project-specific preparatory work (e.g. anonymisation) to enable access to resources via Internet. Remote trans-national access requires the definition of a unit of access, the set-up of a selection panel for the selection of users and all the other obligations specified in the Grant Agreement for trans-national access.

Who can apply to VA and TNA instrument?

Access providers can only be beneficiary or linked third party of the project.

For TNA, if user communities are ERICs, AISBLs, they can be operating in the same country where access is provided (Art. 16.2 Rules for providing virtual access to research infrastructure). Otherwise access providers will be able to recover of access provisioning need to international collaboration, not national users.

Can VA be provided by countries not receiving EU funding be reimbursed?

(https://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/support/faqs/faq-607.html) For virtual access the eligibility for funding of third country beneficiaries follows the general rules, i.e. for beneficiaries from countries not automatically eligible for EU support funding will be provided if the participation is deemed essential for carrying out the action.

What does "free of charge" mean?

(https://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/support/faqs/faq-609.html) It means that the user does not have to pay, at the point of use, to have access to the research infrastructure. The costs incurred by the research infrastructure for the provision of access to the user are reimbursed by the EC directly to the research infrastructure owner (the access provider).

What is the difference between an infrastructure and an installation?

An installation is a part of an infrastructure that can be used independently and for which the operating costs can be singled out. Thus there can be more than one installation in a single infrastructure.

Can one Installation be distributed across multiple providers?

Yes, it can.

Which services can be covered by the EOSC-hub project?

  • Common services, including baseline services like compute and storage, and specialized services for data management, federation of storage and data, service and data discovery, orchestration of compute and data workflows, etc.
  • Thematic services delivering community-specific data and applications;
  • Federation services necessary in order to have federated IT service management processes involving multiple distributed providers.
  • Collaboration services enabling the sharing of open source software, applications and other research objects.

Which Users can be served?

  • Current and future users.
  • Users primarily from other countries (international users)

Users of the same organization are not excluded a priori but there must be evidence of expansion supported by the access provisioning costs charged to the project.

Can researchers from SMEs be supported for their TNA/VA

(https://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/support/faqs/faq-601.html) Researchers working for SMEs (Small Medium Enterprises) can apply for access as any other researchers. If successful the EU can support their access to research infrastructures even if they are not allowed to disseminate the results of the research carried out on the infrastructure.

In addition, as indicated in the work programme, each integrating activity proposal is invited to reinforce partnership with industry, including SMEs, by, for example, outreach and dissemination activities, transfer of knowledge and activities to foster the use of research infrastructures by industrial researchers.

Selection of users: can we limit the user group who can access the services?

In principle the provision of resource through VA is open to ALL users. In compliance to this, the EOSC-hub project requests the services to be available to all research communities. However, within the project it will be possible to define communities of users to which resources will be allocated.

The user communities to be engaged with, will be defined in the Virtual Access WP, where all installations will be listed and described.

Users generating service orders through the EOSC-hub marketplace will be provided with credits according to the first come-first served rule until resources are exhausted.

The installations pledged for access provision are described in the project proposal, and are supposed to be available for the duration specified there.


What type of agreement will be established between the access provider and the users?

Service level agreements and operational level agreements will be put in place with users and service providers during the production phase of the service during which the service will be opened for access.

Which costs can be included in the VA access costs?

Under EOSC-hub the funding will be based on person month costs plus 25% flat overhead but excluding training for personnel and the other costs than personnel costs linked to the operation costs of the infrastructure like maintenance contract, licenses, utilities and consumables.

Which Staff: technical and scientific staff directly working for the provision of virtual access. These costs will be charged to the grant as direct personnel costs (hours worked for the grant must be recorded).

Costs supported in EOSC-hub(H2020 AGA — Annotated Model Grant Agreement: V2.2 – 25.11.2016 General MGA 157):

  • Via VA: costs for operating the installation during the course of the action and costs related to technological and scientific support for users access (e.g. a helpdesk)
  • Via VA: costs of preparing the detailed access activity information that must be included in the periodic technical reports and the assessment reports.
  • Via a central budget: costs of advertising virtual access offered under the action
  • Via a central budget: costs related to the assessment carried out by the board of international experts (e.g. costs of organising a board meeting)


Note well

  • The effort allocated for VA needs to be justified by the ambition in the project, namely the number of users expected.
  • Following the EC rules, usage of services will be periodically assessed and statistics will be gathered to provide the due VA deliverable. Costs of unused services will not be reimbursed and no longer be supported in the project.
  • If the other costs than the personnel costs can be identified by the infrastructure (and are verifiable in their accounting), these can be reported as unfunded costs to the project.
  • Capital investments (i.e. costs of renting, leasing, purchasing depreciable equipment, infrastructure or other assets) will NOT be reimbursed, unless provided for in the work programme/call.


Information.png Please pay attention that the cost items charged to the grant must not be covered by other EU funds. When they are covered by other non-EU funding sources, specifically provided to support them, they must be declared as receipts


How much of the eligible access costs can be reimbursed?

The funding rate is based on 100% of the direct personnel costs + 25% flat overhead.

Virtual access reporting within the project

(https://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/support/faqs/faq-596.html)

How is defined the composition of the board?

Composition of the external board: the EC will be in charge of nominating the panel and it will be the same as for EINFRA12-B

How will the external board evaluate the services offered?

The virtual access services offered will be evaluated according to the rules of the H2020 General model grant agreement (http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/mga/gga/h2020-mga-gga-multi_en.pdf ):

  • The virtual access services must be assessed periodically by a board composed of international experts in the field, at least half of whom must be independent from the beneficiaries" (Art. 16.2 Rules for providing virtual access to research infrastructure)
  • The reports must detail the access activity, with statistics on the virtual access provided in the period, including quantity, geographical distribution of users and, whenever possible, information/statistics on scientific outcomes (publications, patents, etc.), acknowledging the use of the infrastructure (Art. 20.3 Periodic reports — Requests for interim payments)

The assessment will take into account the level of use of the infrastructure with respect to the size of the targeted user community, its origin as well as the appreciation of users. To help the external board in this evaluation the project will provide appropriate data (e.g. number of downloaded data sets, number of users downloading data or visiting the web site, country of origin, etc., and possibly user questionnaires for direct feedback on the services).

How do they report their assessment and findings?

External board report: The assessment reports must be defined as deliverable to the EC. The costs of the review panel list could be a lump sum reimbursing travel and subsistence cost too; it cannot be through a subcontracting like consultancy to guarantee the independence of the board members.

Access cost estimation sheet

Access cost estimation.png