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SLING has five contracted partners (EMBL-EBI, SIB, TUBS, EPO and Enzymeta GmbH) who have agreed to cooperate pursuant to the terms of a Consortium Agreement which specifies the organisation of the Project work and management, and defines the respective rights and obligations of the Beneficiaries. There is more information on the participants page.

Concept and objectives

SLING will support Europe’s exploitation of biomolecular information in three ways:

  • By providing high-quality electronic services allowing access to comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date information
  • By a programme of joint research activities which will enhance these services and develop then in response to changing science
  • By extensive pan-European user training to facilitate exploitation of the information

Progress beyond the state of the art

Well-established shared collections of biomolecular data are now a key part of the record of the life-sciences, and are as equally important as the journals. These databases are now substantial operations, and are crucial to the SLING project. The SLING partners are the principal European protagonists whose role is typically discharged as European partners of a global collaboration which ensures that data are exchanged world-wide, ensuring completeness for European scientists. Advances in high-throughput methods have increased both the scale and complexity of the task of serving this information. SLING addresses these challenges through:

  • Service provision which will allow access to a comprehensive and unified collection of electronic resources of relevance to biology.
  • Joint research activities which will enhance those information resources in response to the demands of developments in high-throughput science.
  • User training which will be delivered throughout Europe and will optimize European researchers’ ability to exploit the service and create enduring interactions which reinforce pan-European collaboration.

The completion of the SLING project will result in very visible progress:

Topic Pre-SLING baseline Post-SLING
Bioinformatics Training Demand far exceeds supply Several hundred scientists will benefit from SLING training
Exploitation of Patent Literature Little or no exploitation in basic science Services and training to render patent literature accessible
Next Generation Sequence Data Present databases poorly adapted to inclusion Will be a normal part of the public databases
Epigenomics Patchy information attached to genomes Fully integrated with genome information
Sequence based transcriptomics Hardly represented in public databases Will be a normal part of the public databases
Quantitative Proteomics Richest information poorly provided Will be a normal part of the public databases
Molecular interactions Dynamic interaction networks scarcely represented Databases include dynamic information
Protein annotation Poor standardisation limits inter-database connections Terminological standards enhanced and database connectivity improved
Enzyme information Lacks connectivity and richness Connections to tissue and structure information. New enzyme classes and kinetic data
Chemicals in biology Poor information, dependency on proprietary code Enhanced databases and open source chemoinformatics code


The goal of this project is to provide information and information services, to carry out R&D to ensure that those services are state-of-the-art, and to optimise scientific exploitation of those services through extensive user training. The work of the project has been divided into workpackages along natural lines of cleavage, meaning that each workpackage contains tasks which are mostly the work of a single partner. There is more information on the workpackages page.

The workpackages fall into four groups:

Management activities

Overall management of the project At the EBI, the SLING coordinator (assisted by the part-time Scientific Project Manager) will be responsible for the management activities and for all interactions which cut across discrete activities. The overall management team will consist of the manager, principal investigators from the five partners and the individuals for leadership of particular workpackages. This team will be in constant, mostly-electronic communication about decisions within the project. The team will all meet at least once per year in a general meeting – twice per year if necessary. There will be numerous project meetings associated with particular tasks and workpackage interactions. External guidance and input to the SLING management process will be given by the current EBI Bioinformatics Advisory Board and other project-specific committees.

Networking activities

Training in use of the resources WP02 is an extensive user training workpackage with substantial investment and participation from all partners. It will be managed by the EBI Office of Outreach and Training. At the core of this training are the now well-proven “Roadshows” which take user training to host institutions throughout Europe. This training will cover all the information sources made available under the project as described in WP04 and WP05. The content of the training material will be kept up to date with the enhancements coming from WP06 to WP14. The Office of Outreach and Training will provide training by coordinating the efforts of trainers within the technical groups rather than including the trainers in their own group.

Dissemination of best practice for patent information. This second networking activity is a workpackage to disseminate best practice in the deposition of patent data. This will involve extensive visits to national patent offices to train them, and to increase awareness of the need to submit data.

Service activities

WP04 and WP05
Serving users WP04 is designed simply to ensure European access to all the data available from the partners. It is centred around the EBI services, and the resources dedicated to it are the necessary systems and networking costs at the EBI and the staff costs associated with the necessary systems support, service development, and user support. WP05 concerns service provision from SIB, and concentrates on the provision of highly-structured annotation through the UniProt knowledge base.

Research and development activities

WP06 to WP14
Research and development work enhancing the services. A very significant part of the SLING project is dedicated to the research and development activities in workpackages 06 to 14.