MERIL, automation and core facilities

The last two months have been full of travelling for the equipment team at Jisc. We were first at the S-lab conference, then attended the Higher Education Technicians Summit in Warwick, followed by ARMA in Liverpool, the MERIL launch and the Proteomics Methods Forum in Oxford. Three themes have emerged from these meetings and I would like to share them in a short blog:

1.    Technicians networks

There are a wide range of networks and forums set up by technicians for technicians. Many were set up by unanimous votes in order to help core facility experts meet and share their challenges or find collaborators. The members of these networks would ideally be users of, and we are delighted to have met a few of them. We encouraged all to use and let us know what else they would ideally want on the website.

2.    Management systems

The subject of automation was brought up a few times. We asked technicians what they were using to manage their equipment and many already have a variety of systems in place. Beside the 5 I reviewed, there were at least 4 others that came up: Stratocore PPMS, ILab, Calpendo and LabCup. At the launch of MERIL2, I learned the story behind Stratocore PPMS, which was set up back in 2003 at the Institut Pasteur in Paris in order to solve the problem of organisation and monitoring. I am quite excited that I had the chance to meet their CEO and have a chat about the interoperability aspects. We aim to look at ways in which we can harvest data from their API for the institutions using Stratocore PPMS that want to feed the data on We are already working on this with QReserve, academican, ClusterMarket and OpenIris. And we are of course continuing to work with CRIS systems and other systems that institutions use to record their research equipment. One step closer to full automation!

3.    Working with MERIL

I was quite delighted to meet the project team working on MERIL2 and to find out a bit more about the European projects that are looking at research infrastructure: European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), National Roadmaps, European Research Infrastructure Consortia (ERIC) and European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science (E-RIHS) – all of which focus on different aspects of the research infrastructure world.

MERIL, for example, is a portal that lists European research infrastructures. It has done a great job collecting and cleaning the data for 900 different research infrastructures tagged within 69 different categories across EU and some associate countries. As a search portal, they are dealing with similar challenges to the data collection could be more automated, the search may need more capabilities, there was little to no interaction with the users of the portal themselves, although the project team is in close collaboration with the contributors (either the research infrastructure managers and directors themselves or the national points of contact that are normally a funder). We are very interested to work with MERIL and identify where some of the features and developments of could be shared and whether we can feed data straight from into MERIL on the longer term.

Next bits:

We are working on a new interface for and want to hear your feedback before we release it:

We are developing a set of fields that could be used to show how research equipment is being used. If you have been reflecting on this and would like to get involved, then drop us a line with your thoughts.

We are looking for departments, facilities, institutes, or entire organisations that would like to share their end-to-end management and monitoring of equipment.

And finally, if you are using one of the booking systems I mention here, or any other – please let us know!

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