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Knowledge/Staff Exchanges

Access managerial and leadership expertise directly from leading research infrastructures


Staff Exchange Ritrain



The purpose of RItrain knowledge/staff exchanges is for managerial staff from European Research Infrastructures to develop managerial and leadership expertise in areas that are new to them, or that they feel their research infrastructure needs to develop specific expertise in, by making short knowledge-exchange visits to research infrastructures that are noted for their excellence in the same area. The knowledge/staff exchanges form an integral part of Executive Master in Management of Research Infrastructures, but can also be undertaken independently of the Master course.


The Knowledge/Staff Exchanges have now been completed for the RItrain project. Details of the events are listed below.


Past Staff Exchanges


Strategic Vision, Governance and Business Development
10 - 11 April 2017 in Amsterdam NL, organised by EATRIS-ERIC



This staff exchange aimed at sharing best practices for research infrastructure management regarding strategy, governance and business development. For managers of Research Infrastructures in the planning phase (RIs) it provided the opportunity to learn from the experience of more mature RIs and avoid common mistakes. Managers of more mature RIs discussed their approaches. These discussions either provided alternative approaches or new confidence to continue the chosen approach. Participants came from ten different infrastructures and included representatives from Health & Food, Physical Sciences & Engineering, Social & Cultural Innovation, Energy and Environment RIs which promoted exchange across diverse infrastructures. The RIs represented were from ECRIN-SCTO, EST, EMBRC, DARIAH-EU, LIH, JIVE / VLBI ERIC , EMBRC, LIFEWATCH, MYRRHA , ISBE and EMPHASIS. Participants included RI directors, project managers, finance officers and policy officers. This diverse mixture allowed for analysing challenges from a multitude of perspectives and cross-fertiliisation across functions. 
Examples of feedback from participants: 
“Thanks again for your generous effort in this well-packaged, enjoyable and fruitful exchange. It was also very interesting to meet the EATRIS management team up close, in its different aspects.”
“The two days spent in Amsterdam have considerably changed my mind regarding the organisation of my daily work and the longer-term action”
“I still profit of the staff exchange”



Service Provision
2 - 5 May 2017 in Hinxton UK, organised by EMBL-EBI

In early May three senior officers from three emerging research infrastructures (EuroBioImaging, ISBE Italy, Emphasis) came to EMBL-EBI as part of the RItrain staff exchange programme. A four-day exchange was organised with the objective to help participants –  and by extension their research infrastructures (RI) – to overcome bottlenecks in service provision.
The programme was highly tailored to the individual needs of the participants allowing them to take full advantage of their time at EMBL-EBI to gain insight into the working practice of an established and successful research infrastructure.
The programme comprised of:
  • presentations from EMBL-EBI experts on topics of relevance to all three RIs including identifying and addressing bottlenecks in service provision, defining the value proposition of your services, and challenges in data provision and interoperability
  • one-to-one sessions with EMBL-EBI experts, matched to them based on the specific needs of the research infrastructure in question, in order to maximally benefit from the expert’s experience and to gain a different perspective on their situation

Interactions with the experts and peers helped the participants to extend their network of professionals facing similar challenges and to define an action plan to further develop and implement at their respective research infrastructure.


Operating and managing large sustainable on-site research infrastructures

7 – 8th June 2018 in Hamburg organised by DESY


It was an intensive and informative workshop for exchange of experiences. Topics covered in this two-day knowledge/staff exchange included management, governance structure and financing operations, structure and challenges in the operation of large-scale facilities within DESY, management of a laboratory as an additional service at a large RI, stakeholder management and a tour of facilities. The event incorporated participants from the CREMLIN project, enabling a greater breadth and depth of experience to be shared during the discussion sessions and informal interactions.



Governance, business context and operational planning for hubs & nodes

12 - 13th June 2018 in Amsterdam organised by EATRIS


On 12 & 13 June EATRIS welcomed six Research Infrastructure managers to Amsterdam to exchange knowledge and experiences with respect to Governance, business and operational planning for hubs & nodes. The two-day programme provided a mix of lectures from EATRIS on best practices and lessons learnt, and structured break-out groups where participants discussed their use cases.

The knowledge exchange workshop proved to be a very valuable opportunity for the participants to learn from EATRIS and to bring people together that would otherwise not have met, enabling them to support each other in the future. And the host RI gained much too. It was an opportunity for EATRIS hub and node staff to reflect on achievements and challenges so far, and to gain new insights and ideas from the participating RIs.

Examples of feedback from participants:

  • It was a rewarding and helpful opportunity to get a more in-depth understanding of RI best practices and structural characteristics. I learned a lot!
  • Many thanks for organising this excellent workshop and for sharing the resources. It was extremely useful and a good networking opportunity.

And from the host:

  • It was amazing how valuable the exchange between RIs who focus on completely different subject areas was. It became clear that infrastructures who work across a multitude of disciplines face similar challenges in terms of community building.


Stakeholder Management and Community Building

3rd - 5th October 2018 in Prague organised by Institute of Molecular Genetics, Academy of Sciences Czech Republic


The knowledge/staff exchange focused on sharing the experience in community building in the area of biological and medical imaging, on preparing proposals for a national research infrastructure, involving a scientific community in research infrastructures, and sharing best practices in collaboration with the industry and national societies. The first day consisted of presentations on the Institute of Molecular Genetics as the Czech-BioImaging hub and the presentations of the participants and their research infrastructures. The RIs represented by the participants were ICOS-RI and ISBE. The second day was dedicated to Joint Meeting of Advisory Board and Steering Committee of Czech-BioImaging. The participants were able to join the meeting and see the management of the research infrastructure in action. The third day was aimed at the research infrastructure CEITEC in Brno, where the meeting happened. The diversity of the research infrastructures allowed for sharing experience from variety of environments.
Feedback from participants included:
“It gave me an insight into different community building strategies and I can definitely apply this experience in my position of communication manager.”
“Seeing the Czech-BioImaging meeting from the point of view of an outsider gave me ideas on how to improve the management of our RI.”



Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Workshop

29th - 30th October 2018 hosted by EMBL - European Bioinformatics Institute, near Cambridge, UK


Eleven representatives from across EMBL, ESRF, ELIXIR, XFEL, BBMRI and ESO joined an informative, enthusiastic and collaborative workshop on Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) led by an experienced trainer from Advance HE. Topics included ‘Why valuing difference matters’, ‘EDI approaches and directions’ and ‘Leading EDI change’. There were opportunities for open discussion, to share organisational experiences and challenges, and to present practices being implemented in a selection of research infrastructures. Participants went away with new insight and ideas, renewed energy, and a new network of peers from across diverse research infrastructures with whom to continue to share knowledge and experience. What were the best or most useful aspects of the workshop? The group replied: ‘the diverse background of the participants’, ‘the good mixture of theory and practical exercises’, ‘the expertise of the trainer’ and ‘the opportunity to discuss ideas with colleagues working in the same areas’. 


Project Management

22nd - 23rd November 2018 in Paris organised by ECRIN


This knowledge/staff exchange focused on sharing the experience and best practices in project management in the context of a distributed research infrastructure. The topics, based on participants’ expectations, included the access procedures, quality management, transnational management and coordination of national hubs, the role of governing bodies and business planning process. The format was a mixture of presentations from ECRIN and open discussions -to share experiences and challenges- that were opportunities to explore new perspectives or to confirm practices. This format was appreciated as it allowed for discussion of various models.
The participants came from different infrastructures (BBMRI-Swedish Node, Instruct-ERIC hub and ISBE), from hubs or nodes and at different stage of maturity thus having various perspectives, concerns and experiences. The exchange was reported to be a beneficial experience for both the participants and for the host.


Building Leadership in European Research Infrastructures

20th - 21st November 2019 in Brussels (organised by EMBL-EBI)


We planned to bring together participants of the different Knowledge/Staff Exchanges at the end of the RItrain project. This remit was expanded to include EMMRI students as well as funders, policymakers and educators and RI representatives with an interest in management and leadership training. The ‘Building Leadership in European Research Infrastructures’ took place on 20-21 November. 2019, hosted by KVAB at le Palais des Académies in Brussels.  Around 40 research infrastructures were represented at the meeting. Keynote speeches were delivered by Dominik Sobczak (ESFRI Executive Secretary), Jan Hrušák (Chair of ESFRI) and Giorgio Rossi (Scientific coordinator, NFFA-Europe and member of EOSC governing board). Sessions focussed on training for managers and leaders of RIs from the perspectives of the ‘student’ and the employer, and the experience of staff exchanges. A mini training session on Innovation Management had the effect of the participants receiving a consultancy service from their peers!

It was highlighted by several speakers and agreed with by participants that RIs are unique and as such they require specific managerial and leadership skill sets. Staff competence must be part of an RI strategy and supported by dedicated resources and defined commitment, and that a variety of training approaches are needed with the exchange of experience and skills between RIs being a key component. There were fruitful discussions on how knowledge exchange could take place and the financial and accessibility challenges that still remain. 

You can view the slides and recordings from the two days, and see comments from across the audience in our Twitter feed @RItrain_eu