Expert Report: Review of Online Databases on Chemical Analysis Methods for the Identification of New Products and Materials (PEN-CP-2020-ER4)


“The EU Customs laboratories provide the scientific expertise needed to enforce European regulations on Customs. Their main tasks include:

  • Chemical analyses to determine the tariff classification and duties of goods
  • Control of dangerous substances (e.g. pesticides, pollutants, narcotics, illegal medicines, etc.)
  • Determining the authenticity of products and tracking counterfeit
  • Providing overall scientific expertise to all customs departments

As such, European Customs Laboratories play an essential role in

  • the fight against illegal trafficking (e.g. drugs, or contraband)
  • combating fraud
  • protecting consumers’ and their health
  • safeguarding the environment
  • helping the fight against terrorism
  • ensuring border integrity[1]

Regularly, customs laboratories are confronted with new materials and new products to be analyzed. It should be noted that the number of substances, products, and materials, which could be controlled by customs is practically limitless and unpredictable. Depending on the need for analysis, the analytical method predominantly is of chemical, but also may be of biochemical or physical nature. Commercial actors producing the products and materials only in some cases are willing to share their analytical methods. To set up a new effective and efficient method, the Customs Laboratories European Network (CLEN), analytical databases, and scientific literature are consulted.

Information from the various databases, publishers of scientific literature and other sources of relevant information on the internet is currently not searchable in one action, let alone insightfully presented as a result of that action. Next, search results may not be retrievable over the internet or openly accessible. As a consequence, when setting up a new analysis method, gathering and digesting information consumes a lot of time. A single search tool/platform for the various sources, yielding per entered product or material the chemical, biological or physical analytical methods ranked in suitability, and clearly indicating the accessibility and availability of the information would be a time-saving huge step forward.

This Expert Report will identify and present a set of relevant databases, scientific literature and other sources of relevant information which could be linked with a search tool/platform in the future. The report is expected to support the faster identification of analysis methods. It should also facilitate more traditional peer-to-peer exchange of information between existing networks of customs laboratories, universities, and industry players. For example, the expert report can identify tools/platforms that allow customs experts to shortlist potential analysis methods before reaching out to their contacts for further advice. The expert report is a first step to study the feasibility of a single search tool/ platform. Therefore, clear indications are required on the restricted access or full open source availability of the information.

Goal for the Expert Report

This Expert Report should study online and offline databases that provide information about laboratory analysis methods for the analysis of new materials or products. The contracted expert needs to identify the databases and information sources used by Customs laboratories in at least two countries, one in the American region and one in the Asian region (preferably Canada, the United States, Japan, and/or South Korea). In addition, the expert needs to identify a minimum of three databases or other knowledge sources used outside the Customs community.

The identified databases / sources of information should have the following characteristics:

  • Information on analysis methods for the analysis of new materials and products, detailed enough to be directly applicable in a laboratory
  • Predominantly contain analytical chemical methods
  • Information on the quality management status of methods
  • Requirements for customs use, for free or at a (membership) fee
  • Information should be available at least in one of the official languages of the European Union

The outcomes of the Expert Report will be presented and discussed in a broader PEN-CP web-meeting once the report has been finalized.

Tasks to be carried out

  • Identify the main sources of chemical analytical methods used for new material or products in at least two Customs laboratories outside EU, one in the American region and one in the Asian region, preferably the Canada, the United States, Japan, and/or South Korea.
  • List available sources of chemical analysis methods for new materials and products *.
  • Determine how these databases and knowledge sources can be accessed. (you do not need to include the sources already known to customs laboratories*).
  • Determine how commercial laboratories, such as LUCIDEON ( SGS ( or EUROFINS ( keep up with analytical methods for new material and products.
  • Explore if a “de facto open source database” for analytical methods exists already.
  • Discuss findings with PEN-CP experts.
  • Compile all information into the final Expert report, and provide recommendations for PEN-CP.

*Please note that the following sources are considered to be already known for customs laboratories in Europe: SciFinder, ASTM International, NIST Standard, International Standards Organisation (ISO), Official methods from the European Union, Customs Laboratories European Network (CLEN), the ECHA Compendium of analytical methods, and in-house methods of the Japanese and South-Korean Customs laboratories.

Report structure, length and language

  • Chapter 1. Overall approach and methodology for identifying and mapping the databases and sources of knowledge.
  • Chapter 2. Analysis of each of the selected databases and sources of knowledge, with the following (minimum) content:
    • Description of the tool/platform/database
    • equirements for access
    • Cost to access it (if any)
      • If costs apply, describe the preview information available (for free)
    • Availability of an Application Programming Interface (API) and its costs (if any)
    • Information updating frequency
    • Languages offered
    • Level of detail offered (complete method, summary description or reference to original publication of method, etc.)
  • Chapter 3. Recommendations for PEN-CP

The Expert Report is expected to be 15-20 pages, plus possible annexes.

The language for the report is English.


Applicants and application process 

You can apply either as a natural person or as a legal entity (registered company with a VAT ID). In case you are a team of two natural persons, please identify clearly who is the main contact person for contractual purposes. It is also important to note that the call is announced in public and is open for anyone knowledgeable on the topic to apply. We may also approach potential experts by email.

The application process consists of following three steps:

  • Step 1: Applicant expresses his/her interest by sending an email to
  • Step 2: Applicant receives credentials by email (from PEN-CP) enabling the proposal submission
  • Step 3: Applicant submits the proposal (both technical and cv -sections)

Documents to submit 

Submit the following documents as part of your application here:

Submit proposal

  1. Technical proposal (max 2 pages)
    • Describe the methodology you will use to achieve the goal for this project
    • State a list of planned activities, with a respective time frame (please plan for project duration of three months)
    • List the main risks/limitations you foresee with the assignment, with a mitigation plan
  2. CVs of 1-2 experts who will carry out the work, highlighting their past experiences working on similar topic(s).

Evaluation criteria and points (max 100 points in total)

  • Criteria 1: The quality of the methodology, project work and risk plan = max 60 points
  • Criteria 2: The relevant past experience of the 1-2 experts included in the proposal = max 40 points
  • Minimum threshold to be considered for selection: Criteria 1 = min 35 points; Criteria 2 = min 25 points

Evaluation and contract signing process

  • Step 1: Evaluation of all applications by scoring and ranking them.
  • Step 2: Selection of the applicant with the highest score and initiation of the contractual process.
  • Step 3: Communication with the non-selected applications of the evaluation results.
  • Step 4: Contracting with the selected applicant.
  • Step 5: Possibility to contact the unsuccessful applicant (if the contract cannot be closed with the selected applicant for appropriate reasons), to suggest contract negotiation (then follow with Step 4)

Dates, contacts and consulting fee

  • Call publication date: 27 October 2020
  • Deadline for proposal submission: 19 January 2021
  • Call results available (expected): 29 January 2021
  • Project start date: Latest on 1 March 2021
  • Project duration: Three months
  • Administrative contact person: Ms. Amrita Choudhary, ARTTIC;
  • Consulting fee: 5.900 EUR


Note: PEN-CP reserves rights to make updates on the dates listed above, in case no proposal reaches the minimum threshold.



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