Structural Biology underpins much of modern molecular biology and represents over 80% of the activity in the area of the Life Sciences at ESRF. The current facilities for Structural Biology comprise 7 dedicated end-stations (ID23-1, ID23-2, ID29, BM29, ID30A-1, ID30A-3, ID30B) and the CRG beamline BM07 that make 33% of its beam-time available for peer-reviewed public access. These 7 end-stations provide facilities for Macromolecular Crystallography (MX), Serial Synchrotron Crystallography (SSX and TR-SSX), BioSAXS and Cryo Electron Microscopy (CryoEM) on biological samples.

There are currently two main mechanisms for applying Public Access Structural Biology beam-time:

ILL/ESRF Joint Proposal (SANS-SAXS)

Block Allocation Group (BAG) Proposals

Guidelines for preparing a BAG Proposal

As a step to enable groups to become familiar with beamline instrumentation and to make maximum use of their beam time, a Block Allocation scheme was introduced during the second scheduling period in 1998 for macromolecular crystallography requests. A number of groups (Block Allocation Groups,or BAGs), have been identified by the Structural Biology Beam Time Review Committee and are awarded a block of beam time per allocation period, spread over all the Structural Biology beamlines as appropriate. The identification of these Groups is based mainly on previous usage and performance, and accounts for approximately 80% of the beam time currently awarded by the Committee. The scheduling of their beam time is also grouped, allowing greater flexibility in the choice of projects and samples. At the same time, the BAGs are requested to nominate one to two persons who will be trained to provide additional help when these teams are taking beam time.

The Beam Time Review Committee may add or remove groups, or change the size of the block allocations according to performance.

Beam Time Operation by BAGs

Each BAG will have to identify at least one, and preferably more than one person to act as a "Responsible Scientist" (RS). The RSs should be scientists with tenure or fixed term contracts of not less than 3 years (i.e. not students). The RSs have several important functions as follows:

No BAG will be able to undertake an experiment unless a RS is present at the ESRF

The RSs are expected to learn how to operate the relevant beamlines and will be responsible for the activities of the blocked group during experiments. This will help alleviate the workload of the beamline staff.

The RSs act as points of contact for all matters of safety, and for technical issues.

The RSs are responsible for all contacts between the BAG and the ESRF (e.g. User Office, Travel Office, beamline and safety staff) and must ensure that members of the group are aware of the allocation periods and are ready to perform experiments accordingly. Cancellation of beam time less than 4 weeks before the experiment will result in loss of time and re-allocation to other experiments where possible.

The RSs are responsible for ensuring that all reports requested by the Beam Time Review Committee and/or the ESRF Management are available at the appropriate time.

Current BAG Groups

FOUR CATEGORIES have been defined. Each category is requested to submit specific documents.

Consult the BAG Proposal Guidelines for details.

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Rolling Access Procedure for Structural Biology Non-BAG Proposals

Guidelines for preparing a rolling access proposal

Four types of Rolling Applications may be made at ANY time (no deadline):

  • For Crystallography experiments: on beamlines ID23 - ID30A/B (Massif) - BM07
    (by scientists who are NOT already members of a BAG Proposal)
    With the exception of the automatic MASSIF beamline ID30A-1, applications for beam-time using this mechanism must be for projects using crystals which have been previously characterised in-house or at other synchrotron sources. Information as to unit cell dimensions, space group and previously observed diffraction limits therefore MUST be given where these are asked for on the proposal form.

  • For Biological SAXS experiments: on beamline BM29
    (by scientists who are NOT already members of a BAG Proposal)

  • For Serial Synchrotron Crystallography (SSX) and Time Resolved SSX (TR-SSX) experiments: on beamline ID29
    (by scientists who are NOT already members of a BAG Proposal)
  • For the use of the cryo-electron microscope CM01 (CryoEM beamtime)
    Cryo-EM can be used for protein structure determination with near atomic resolution by single-particle imaging. At the ESRF, Cryo-EM is a complementary technique to macromolecular crystallography and BioSAXS. Sufficient proof of the sample’s quality must be included with the proposal. While the written part of an application is limited to a maximum of two pages, evidence of the sample’s quality can be provided in an additional document, also limited to two pages.

These rolling applications will normally be reviewed electronically by the Beam Time Review Committee within the period of 6 weeks after their reception at the ESRF, and if beam-time is awarded this will be scheduled within 6-8 weeks from the time of application. This method of application and review is designed to improve access to ESRF MX beam-lines and encourage the use of ESRF facilities by smaller groups working in the Stuctural Biology field.

Experiment reports

REPORT(S) on previous experiment(s) MUST be systematically submitted via the User Portal, and mentioned on the MX non-BAG proposal form as "Relevant Reports". Failure to submit these will mean that applications for beam-time will NOT be considered.

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