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Virtual Access

Call 1 of Virtual Access will open for Proposals on 20 February. Proposers must contact relevant VA Coordinator(s) by 2 April. The Call closes 30 April, 17.00 UK time. 


19 SYNTHESYS+ partners are preparing to offer Virtual Access (VA) to their collections. Researching a collection often requires being physically present in the collection itself. Virtual Access aims to remove the reliance on physical access by piloting digitisation workflows across organisations engaged in the SYNTHESYS+ Access programme, to trial a 'Digitisation on Demand' (DoD) model.

Successful VA proposals will provide funding for digitisation of one or more collections with the resulting data being made freely available for use by the scientific "community". 

VA is a new approach to accessing collections and VA workflows will vary from organisation to organisation. The VA process for each participating institution will be managed by a VA coordinator who can advise on feasibility, workflows, and cost - the input of the digitising institution(s) is key to proposals. It is the responsibility of the proposer to contact the coordinator(s) of the institution(s) they would like to work with on their proposal - see the list to the right. 

Call 1 of Virtual Access will run in Spring 2020 (dates to be announced). Prior to this Call an ‘Ideas Call’ ran between October – November 2019, offering potential proposers the chance to outline their ideas for collections digitisation across the SYNTHESYS+ consortium.

Findings from the Ideas Call

The SYNTHESYS+ Management Team received 26 complete proposals, submitted from proposers based across 15 nations, many with a collaborative scope encompassing multiple institutions, and covering a range of natural science disciplines, digitisation workflows, and collection types. This has provided the SYNTHESYS+ Virtual Access programme with extremely useful information to inform our preparations for the first Call of Virtual Access in 2020.

During December 2019, the SYNTHESYS+ Management team will review proposals and upload a feedback summary to the SYNTHESYS website. This summary will provide recommendations for the effective writing of future VA proposals and comment on core research themes arising from the Ideas Call.

The SYNTHESYS+ Management Team would like to thank all who participated in the Ideas Call – we look forward to seeing these revised proposals (as well as new ones), in the first Call for Virtual Access in 2020. 

How will VA applications be considered?

All proposals to Virtual Access will be reviewed by our VA prioritisation panel. Projects will be funded where the resulting open data will provide a broad benefit to the European Research Community (ERC) and contribute to addressing Societal Challenges

The VA prioritisation panel is a team of world expert natural sciences and digital collections professionals. They will be looking for applications that consider various criteria (to be released shortly), and will prioritise proposals accordingly. 

After prioritisation is confirmed, projects will be funded in accordance with their priority ranking. Due to high demand, we anticipate that not all projects will be funded. 

Developing Virtual Access

There will be two VA Calls in SYNTHESYS+, each with a total budget of €500,000. This is a pilot for the Virtual Access initiatives of DiSSCo, and lessons learned will inform the work of the DiSSCo project. DiSSCo will expand on the legacies of SYNTHESYS and inherit much of the Joint Research Activities (JRA), and Networking Activities (NA) – a scope of programme objectives that include the development of new collections technologies and molecular and digital standards.

Now is an important time to consider how collections can best be digitised and serve the needs of the research community. An assessment of the world’s largest collections showed that only a fraction (4.5–18% for the eight largest collections) have been digitised. VA in SYNTHESYS+ will address this critical gap, helping insitutions to increase their proportion of digital collections in response to strong demand by current, emerging, and new user communities – and ensure free access to all Users.

Participating organisations

Click on each organisation to learn more about their collection. 

Applications will open soon (Spring 2020)

Please check our News page and Twitter for updates. 

Virtual Access FAQ

Have a question about Virtual Access? Our Frequently Asked Questions page may have the answer. 

Click here to read Virtual Access FAQs

Find your VA Coordinator

  • Natural History Museum, London:
  • Natural History Museum Wien: Maria Marschler,
  • Meise Botanic Garden:  
  • Royal Botanic Institute Natural Sciences: Patrick Semal.
  • Royal Museum Central Africa:   
  • Narodni Museum Prague: Jiri Frank
  • Museum fur Naturkunde: Frederik Berger.
  • Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum: Robert Vogt.
  • Naturmuseum Senckenberg: Marco Thines.
  • Staatliches Museum fur Naturkunde Stuttgart, Joachim Holstein.  
  • University Copenhagen: Martin Vinther Sorensen.
  • Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas: Begona Sanchez.
  • LUOMOS, Anne Koivunen.
  • Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris & 

  • Hebrew University Jerusalem, Rivka Ribanovich,
  • Hungarian Natural History Museum, Bernadett Dome 
  • Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet, Steffen Kiel. 
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, Elspeth Haston.
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Sarah Phillips.