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Virtual Access

19 SYNTHESYS+ partners are preparing to offer Virtual Access (VA) to their collections. Often, researching a collection means being physically present within 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.

VA will see collections access made virtually available by piloting an integrated ‘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, there will be an 'Ideas Call', running between 7 October - 22 November 2019.

A list of participating organisations can also be found at the bottom of this page. 

What is an 'Ideas Call'?

This ideas call does not offer funding, but provides the opportunity to open discussion between researchers and institutions to shape proposals, preparatory to the first full VA call in early 2020. We are also using this call to test the application process and allows the SYNTHESYS+ Management Team to better understand the needs of the research community applying to the programme. This allows us to offer the best possible User service for the first Call. 

Participating in the 'Ideas Call' is not mandatory for submission of a proposal in Call 1. It does, however, offer an opportunity to discuss your VA proposal with the relevant VA coordinator(s) ahead of the Call beginning. 

Click here to begin your VA Ideas Call proposal form. 

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. 



Got 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: Nora Wurzinger 
  • 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. 


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We will be publicising our Access programme across social media.