A national bioinformatics support organisation like BILS could be organised either in a centralised manner or in a distributed one. In Europe, there are several good examples of similar distributed infrastructures, e.g. in Switzerland, Norway and the Netherlands. There are also good examples of centralised infrastructures, e.g. EBI in England (which in fact is a European infrastructure and not a British), and CBS in Denmark. However, in Sweden, with its quite large distances and with distributed infrastructures in other areas (e.g. SNIC in computing), we believe that a distributed infrastructure will have the greatest possibility to reach success, both technically and politically. Therefore, we aim at creating BILS as a distributed infrastructure, while at the same time keeping some functions centralised when this is more efficient.
Fully expanded, each BILS node will provide basic support for general bioinformatic issues, e.g. consultancy in experiment planning, analysis and interpretation of results, bioinformatic calculations, teaching. The BILS person at each node will be financed 50% from BILS for giving support and 50% from the university for doing his/her own bioinformatic research. To ensure high standard on the basic support function, it is necessary to have researchers responsible for the support. Ideally, this person should be a senior scientist at the level of fo.ass./lecturer. The amount of basic support will be dependent upon the size of the life science related research at each university.
Limited basic support will be provided for free to all life science research groups. However, if some groups need extensive support that goes beyond the resources of the BILS node, these groups can be asked to pay part of their support costs, which will enable BILS to finance additional personnel to guarantee enough general support at that site. This dynamic procedure will help in allocating the proper number of people and it also assures that all life science groups get access to BILS resources. The exact border between basic and extensive support is not settled yet. A similar system has been successfully applied by the Norwegian bioinformatics infrastructure, where groups needing support above a basic level are asked to pay for this. If desired, such a system can also be used to enable BILS to give support to industry, against full cost coverage, as has successfully been established in Switzerland.
In some cases, the basic support will naturally turn into pure scientific collaborations. In those cases, the collaboration will be part of the research by the BILS person(s) and not part of the BILS service per se. The activities at each node will be monthly reported to serve as the basis for the estimates of the bioinformatic support needs at each site.
The various tasks will be allocated to the nodes following an application process, where each university is asked if they can provide the task in question. The proposals from the universities are evaluated with respect to how well they will provide the task, local competence, estimated costs, and suitable organisation. This process will ensure good and efficient implementation of the tasks at the same time as all universities get the fair opportunity to offer the different tasks. The tasks will normally be offered for 3-year periods in order to guarantee continuity, but also allow for dynamic shifts in BILS services over time.