Principles of use

The principles of use are intended to promote the harmonious research and educational activities of an extensive and diverse group of users, collaborators and partners.


A1. The Henry Wellcome Building for Biomolecular NMR Spectroscopy (HWB•NMR) operates to facilitate state of the art research and educational activities for its users, collaborators and partners (hereafter referred to collectively as “Users”).

A2. Use of HWB•NMR resources should comply with contractual agreements between the University of Birmingham, The Wellcome Trust and the Higher Education Funding Council of England, as well as with conditions of grants awarded to Users.

A3. HWB•NMR shall protect the reasonable use by and safety of the staff and users by appropriate training, oversight, and enforcement of regulation.

A4. HWB•NMR will develop target charges and justifications for insertion into proposals for grants and contracts for recovery of approved costs from the Users.

A5. Expert users and non-expert users: Users classify themselves as expert or non-expert. Non-expert Users can choose from a package of available support activities. HWB•NMR senior staff maintain the right to classify Users as non-expert if they do not meet the minimum requirement for hands-on expertise with NMR spectrometers, and/or should this lack of expertise endanger instrumentation or result in the waste of resources. In this case, non-expert Users shall at minimum receive training and assistance in the acquisition of NMR data.

A6. Facility resources (e.g. NMR time) are allocated by senior HWB•NMR staff, with Wellcome Trust funded time being subject to scientific review. In case of overbooking, allocation of time is prioritised according to merit and suitability of the requested resources, in consultation with the User. The User and his/her Principal Investigator take responsibility for ensuring compliance with HWB•NMR regulations and payment of any charges.

A7. International applicants, or applicants with commercial interests, may access the facility following discussion with senior HWB•NMR staff. This access is subject to resource availability.


B1. The Health and Safety Committee is responsible for the prevention and investigation of accidents and incidents, and includes the NMR Lab manager, NMR Operations manager and Institute Technical manager.

B2. The NMR Management Committee includes all the NMR staff and is responsible for the operations and services of the facility, and meets monthly.

B3. The Financial Management Committee is responsible for the business administration of the facility, and includes the Director of HWB-NMR, NMR Operations Manager, Institute Manager, College Business Partner, and meets quarterly.

B4. The External Advisory Board provides the staff with advice on strategic planning and oversight of the facility. 

The membership of these committees are described.


C1. Hours of Operation.  The regular hours of operation HWB•NMR are 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, Monday-Friday, with the exception of Bank Holidays and University Holidays. HWB•NMR may reduce hours of operation because of weather or other emergencies, staff limitations, or other factors.

C2. All Users.  Individuals involved in biomolecular NMR spectroscopy research are encouraged to apply for NMR time by submitting an Application for Access form or by enquiring with the staff. 

All Users must:

  1. be at least 18 years old,
  2. possess a relevant Bachelor degree, and
  3. have appropriate training and understanding of the operation of the NMR spectrometer, and have 'hands-on' experience with NMR spectrometers.

Users are responsible for damage that results from samples that are explosive, pressurised, chemically corrosive, radioactive, biologically dangerous, or that otherwise pose hazards to instrumentation or personnel. In all such cases, prior permission and advice should be sought with regard to these special samples, and appropriate risk assessments provided for inspection, but permission does not absolve any User from responsibility for whatever harm their samples may cause to HWB•NMR’s spectrometers or probes. Researchers use HWB•NMR resources with the understanding that Users may be charged for damages incurred as a direct result of unsafe or negligent use of the instrumentation.  This obligation does not extend to responsibility for damage that occurs accidentally and unavoidably during normal use. 

C3. All-hours Users.  Those Users with a research need to conduct operations outside normal hours of operation may be permitted all-hours status subject to induction and their signed agreement to abide by rules for all-hours operation, including the HWB•NMR Security Management Policy and Out-of-hours Procedures which have been  designed to protect personal safety and the general security of the building. Occupants of the building outside of regular hours of operation need to log their presence and departure at the entry lobby in case of fire or other emergency. Should unsafe after hours use occur, the HWB•NMR Director may suspend all-hours operations for all Users, an Institution, research group, or individual.

C4. Building admission.  Contractors, University Personnel and Visitors shall enter the building via the front door and sign in during normal hours of operation. The complexity of the building and its low population density makes it desirable to maintain a count of the people present in case of fire.

C5. Secure areas.  Because of human safety and instrument security concerns, HWB•NMR Staff will identify secure areas, including the NMR chambers and adjacent rooms.  Users will be able to access these areas only after appropriate induction.  Any User or Staff member admitting an unauthorised visitor to the secure areas is subject to expulsion or dismissal, respectively.  A visitor must become authorised for access to secure zones by a member of staff, and must be accompanied by a Staff Member or regular User. For one-time visitors, Staff and Users are asked to guide the visitor(s) around the safe front of house areas.

C6. Fire safety.  A safe gathering point in front of the NMR Building is indicated by a green sign.

C7. Special events.  For events including demonstrations, lectures, meetings and tours, modified security arrangements will be made to permit access to the safe zone in the front of house.  Secure zone restrictions will always be in place.  There will be no general access to the remainder of the building. 

C8. Restricted activities :

  • Smoking is not allowed on the premises.
  • Food: No eating or drinking in any laboratory or secure zones.  The kitchen area and front of house are available, and the nearby College of Medical and Dental Sciences have food and drinks available for purchase.
  • Clothing: No use of steel-containing clothing, headgear (e.g. helmets), or footwear, especially high-heeled shoes and steel-toed shoes or boots in the secure areas. 
  • Medical Implants: Anyone with a pacemaker or similar device or with any magnetisable implant should obtain their doctor's advice before entering the building since some areas are in the 5-10 Gauss field.  They should not enter secure zones; neither should people requiring the use of wheel chairs, walkers, crutches or canes.
  • Regulations: All Users and Staff are subject to government regulations including those relating to non-discrimination, scientific misconduct, substance abuse. Downloading or sharing of pornographic or copyrighted material are grounds for expulsion.

C9. Restricted items.  Anyone entering the secure zone must use the personal lockers and the small drop boxes for keys, beepers, wallets & change, PDA's, pocket knives, bags or backpacks, mobile phones

C10. Expulsion.  HWB•NMR staff and University Security Personnel revoke membership of and expel anyone who is:

  • apparently under the influence of drugs or alcohol,
  • threatening, violent or disruptive,
  • whose conduct leads to suspicion of interference with the research operations of others,
  • who is not appropriately affiliated with HWB•NMR

Code of Conduct

D1. University regulations.  Any User continues to be subject to all the regulations and requirements of their member institution or employer.

D2. Safety.  All Users agree to use the instruments in a safe fashion and to be subject to continuing education and testing in this area.

D3. Monitoring.  Any instrument or laboratory is subject to visual and electronic monitoring for the purposes of safety and security.

D4. Fit to operate.  The HWB•NMR staff has the final determination of the fitness of any User to operate in the building.

Dispute Resolution

E1. Collegial conduct.  Users and Staff are obligated to attempt to resolve disputes directly with each other.  Only in the most extreme circumstances will any dispute resolution process be started unless direct discussions have taken place.

E2. Scientific misconduct (including issues involving research data, confidentiality, publications, and conflict of interests) is handled by the Joint Ethics and Research Governance Committee of the Council and Senate of the University of Birmingham.

E3. NMR time and services.  Disputes should be discussed with the Operations Manager.  If the issue concerns a breach of a defined policy, then the Director should rule on whether the policy was reasonably adhered to, and if not, how to remedy the breach.  Otherwise the NMR Management Committee should consider whether to formally recommend to the Director a change in policy or the introduction of a new policy.

E4. Accidents and incidents will be handled by the Health and Safety Committee.

E5. Liability and damage to the equipment will be handled by the Financial Management Committee.

E6. Other:  The External Advisory Board of HWB•NMR is available to discuss disputes, and will normally resolve all disputes other than those referred to above or those governed by the University or Funding Bodies (Wellcome Trust and UKRI).

Laboratory use

F1. Use.  Users will have access to laboratory space for sample preparation and analysis procedures. All Users must leave laboratory space in a clean and tidy state at all times.  All samples must be labelled with the date and owner's initials.  All regular Users will be entered into a rota that is responsible for weekly cleaning of the NMR chambers and sample preparation lab.

F2. Safety.  All Users are required to adhere to general safety rules and security regulations and to all specific laboratory safety requirements at HWB•NMR.

F3. Materials.  All purchased materials brought into and subsequently removed from the laboratory must be identified.  Any stored materials must be re-identified on a yearly or more frequent basis, or removed. COSHH forms, MSDS, and risk assessments must be provided, as appropriate.  HWB•NMR may require removal of chemical or biological wastes and sharps by Users rather than local disposal.  No radioactive materials are allowed on the premises. 

F4. Computers and data access.  Users requiring the highest level of confidentiality for their data should make arrangements for physical transport of their data from HWB•NMR, and request removal of the intranet connection from the instrument being used.  While reasonable efforts for confidentiality and data integrity will be made, HWB•NMR cannot guarantee absolute security of electronic data. Data on the acquisition computers are not backed up. Processed data will be deleted after one day and raw data after four weeks. All data must be transferred to accounts on the server where they will be backed up weekly to tape. Storage of NMR data to the secure cloud is advised.  Regular Users may purchase personal workstations and have them installed in HWB•NMR only after consultation with Mark Jeeves, Scientific Officer. See also Data Management.

NMR operations

NMR operations: 800, 900 & 1000 MHz (UHF) NMR systems

G1. Allocation of access.  A total of 70% of the available time on the UHF NMR systems is allocated equitably to UK academic Users.

Wellcome Trust and UKRI -funded research groups are given priority for available time on these systems on a competitive basis, subject to approval of their “Application for Access” form.  All external groups can also apply for access to the other NMR systems in the facility. 

Local Users at the University of Birmingham are allocated 20% of the time on the UHF systems. The remaining 10% is for other Users that do not fall within the previous categories. 

Requests for a particular time are made on an online scheduling calendar, for which access is given following acceptance of the user policies, as appropriate.

Requests for access will be accommodated with the goal of optimising spectrometer usage while taking into account the order in which such requests are received, with only one pending request per institution permitted. 

A request for priority of allocation of an instrument whose allocation was lost due to down time in the last cycle will be honoured first.

Online booking of spectrometer time and the meeting room is available, as appropriate.

G2. Review of access.  The NMR Staff and Management Committees will  review the applications and schedules to ensure that fairness and equal opportunity for peer review and internationally competitive research are in place.  The committees will resolve disputes as to scheduled availability, downtime, and other operational issues.   Reserved but unused NMR spectrometer time will be charged as this prevents access by other Users.

G3. Trading slots.  The exchange of slots during a quarterly schedule is entirely appropriate and only requires that the two parties agree, and that they inform the HWB•NMR staff. Exchange, or other trading of slots outside a current cycle, however, raises issues about the accounting of the slot, and about availability.  Out-of-schedule swaps are then solely between the two parties, and the party designated in the current schedule has the full responsibility for use, for the accounted debit, and for any damage resulting from accidents or incidents.  

G4. Downtime issues.  The offer of the opportunity to use the instrument obviously requires that the instrument be operational.  For addressing the issue of whether the instrument is operational, the instrument is required to pass the Standard Acceptance Tests for three channels of operation, and one probe must be operational for at least three channel performance. HWB-NMR staff keep the instruments in optimal working order and perform regular tests. However, breakdowns occurring in between regular testing cannot be excluded. If the user suspects malfunctioning of the instrument, it is their responsibility to perform the Standard Acceptance Tests for three channels of operation. Credit for downtime will accrue only on receipt of this information.  Staff will attempt to remedy downtime conditions as far and as soon as possible. The following conditions clearly result in downtime, and require no testing. 

  • Magnet failure
  • Failure of computer controller to boot

The following conditions, on their own, will not be considered to result in downtime:

  • Failure of one probe when another is functional
  • Lack of disk space on a computer when data transfer would permit adequate space
  • Any sample related problem

Redress of downtime.  The member institution’s request for earliest priority of use for the previously down instrument in the next schedule will be met, to the greatest practical degree.  In the case of multiple member institutions with downtime requests, they will be prioritised by length of total downtime. 

G5. Appeals and disputes.  Users should discuss any difficulties with the staff as soon as practical.  In cases where the allocations of time, of staff resources, or other questions arise, when discussion with the staff has taken place and when Users are still in dispute, Users may address the Director who may invite a written appeal.  The Director will, within the next 10 working days, make a recommendation to the Operations Manager for any redress or change of procedure.  In the case of accidents or incidents, a separate procedure will involve the Health and Safety Committee. 

G6.  Accounting.  Accounts of actual use time will be maintained by recording login sessions. 

G7.  User and staff responsibilities.

a) On Tuesdays, spectrometers will generally not be available between 9am and 2pm to allow for weekly cryogen filling and routine service. This period may be changed if necessary, to facilitate up-keep of the magnets. In addition, Users must permit staff to change probes and to operate the cycling of the cryoprobes for their continuing operation and performance.

b) Users will generally operate with standard operating protocols and methods, and are not permitted to modify the NMR hardware, software or implement new pulse sequences without explicit permission from the NMR staff. Users are required to consult with NMR staff for

  • any unusual use of high power amplifiers including extreme power levels or pulse lengths
  • any other expected condition which may imperil the instrumentation, including extreme temperatures

Users must leave the operating programs in the standard condition. If users write or modify a pulse program, these versions must be clearly named to distinguish them from the standard condition.

c) Users will submit ’application for access’ and ‘user agreement’ forms as required to gain access to the NMR systems.

d) Users will assist the staff in the cleaning rota and with magnet filling, and will endeavour to keep the facility including kitchen, sample preparation lab, and NMR chambers cleaner than when they entered.

e) Staff will prioritise the removal of previous Users’ data so as to permit maximum use to the current Users.

f) Staff priorities will be human safety, instrument safety, attempted resolution of downtime issues, attempted resolution of other performance issues, and training and other operations. 

g) Users should finish their experiments by 12 noon on the 800, 900 and 1000 MHz spectrometers unless they are also using the instrument overnight. Users of the other NMR systems should  finish their experiments by 3pm to accommodate Users who may be taking the overnight slot. This arrangement may be varied by mutual agreement of the relevant parties.

h) Users who prevent other Users from using overnight slots by over-running experiments beyond 12 or 3pm (see point g) will  be charged for overnight and over weekend usage.

i) Users who book time online but don’t use it will be charged for the time since they are preventing use by other Users.

NMR operations: 500 & 600 MHz NMR systems

Same as above except that:

  1. users are typically from the University of Birmingham, and other Universities, Hospitals or Institutes in the neighbouring region are given priority access, although other groups inside or outside the UK are welcome to apply for access to any available time. 
  2. the user fees are unique to each system configuration including magnet, probe and autosampler.
  3. subsidies may be made available to new or underfunded Users upon request, to collect preliminary NMR data for grant applications, for example.

Access to the spectrometers for internationally competitive scientific research is intended to be fair and equitable. Access fees will be charged on the basis of login time to a given NMR system, or on a per sample basis. Users will be billed monthly.  Rates will be reviewed annually and will differ depending on the user affiliation (i.e. commercial, academic, internal).