Presentation Roadmap 1.What are core research facilities? 2.What types of core research facilities are accessible to NC State researchers? 3.Core research facilities are of increasing importance to NC State. 4.Challenges for the Support, Management, and Growth of NC State Core Research Facilities. 5.What can we learn from peer research universities regarding their management of core facilities? 6.A vision for the future of NC State core research facilities.
Shared research facilities that provide access to instruments, technologies, services, and experts that are not available in individual laboratories. Many core facilities feature expensive instrumentation required for data acquisition, whereas others (e.g., bioinformatics and statistics) focus on the analysis and interpretation of such data. The experts that support activities within core facilities are essential for the research enterprise as they (i) provide expertise that may be lacking in any given research laboratory and (ii) foster collaborations between investigators as well as inter- disciplinary research. What are Core Research Facilities?
What Types of Core Research Facilities are Available to NC State Researchers?
Why are Core Research Facilities Important to NC State? They provide access to instruments, services, and expertise that may not be available elsewhere. They facilitate collaborative projects and inter-disciplinary academic research. They attract new researchers and research funding to NC State, as well as partnerships with the private sector. The impact of core facilities to research productivity has grown tremendously during the last 30 years, and is anticipated to continue to grow in the future.
The Evolving Research Environment: Single-Laboratory Research Programs Have Become Multi-disciplinary Research Teams One of the most profound changes in research in general, and biomedical research in particular, during the last 30 years has been the dramatic increase in studies requiring collaborations between disparate groups of investigators. Proportion of Papers Reporting Collaborative Biomedical Research in January Issues of Nature, Cell, and Science (1975 to 2005) 1 Year Collaborative Studies Non-collaborative StudiesTotal (25%)119 (75%) (49%)69 (51%) (61%)38 (39%) (74%)25 (26%)95 1 J. Biomol. Tech. 16: , 2005
This migration towards multi-disciplinary research teams is a direct consequence of: 1.The increasing complexity of research questions and the requirement for multi- disciplinary approaches to address these questions, as well as, 2.The increasing demand from funding agencies for “deliverables”. Multi- disciplinary teams are required to translate basic research discoveries into practical solutions for societal problems. The Evolving Research Environment: Single-Laboratory Research Programs Have Become Multi-disciplinary Research Teams
Core Facilities are Increasingly Important Platforms for Multi-Disciplinary Research Programs With increasing competition for scarce research funding, investigators are increasingly reliant on access to powerful new technologies and instrumentation to address research “grand challenges”. Access to such research assets are the “edge” required to attract the most competitive researchers and, therefore, research funding to NC State. Yet, more often than not the disparate approaches required by multi-disciplinary research teams require instruments and technologies that cannot be obtained, maintained, and operated by funds from individual research grants. The latest instruments cost more than the budgets of entire research grants, and service contract and operating costs are generally well beyond the budgets of single laboratories.
Instrument Acquisition and Core Research Facility Support Several Federal funding agencies offer programs that support the acquisition of new instruments for shared research facilities: NIH S10 programs: -$100K to $600K instruments: $46M, ~100 awards in $750K to $2M instruments: $20M, ~15 awards in 2014 NSF MRI program: -$100K to $4M instruments: $90M, ~175 awards in 2014 DOD DURIP program: -$50K to $1M instruments: $39M, ~165 awards in 2014 Additionally, the NIH provides more than $600M annually to operate and use research core facilities (largely through the P30 Center grant program).
Challenges for the Support, Management, and Growth of NC State Core Research Facilities 1.De-centralized core facilities: NC State core facilities evolved within colleges in response to faculty needs and are supported largely by college budgets. In some instances this has led to inefficiencies, such as facilities with overlapping capabilities, or conflicts regarding financial support (i.e., college vs university responsibility). Core facility support and development may not be considered at the university level in strategic research plans. Internal selection processes for limited submission-shared equipment programs are not necessarily linked to the development of robust core facilities. Management of core facilities can be inefficient. Auditing of core facility or instrument utilization, the scheduling of instrument time, and billing are performed using a wide variety of systems and procedures and are often inefficient and time-consuming for facility Directors. Economies of scale are often lost (e.g., negotiations for package deals from vendors for supplies, service contracts, new instruments, etc.). Little or no coordination of activities and equipment upgrades between facilities.
2. Visibility and Vision: Finding NC State core facilities is more difficult than it should be. This is a major concern for faculty and lab personnel that are new to NC State, and especially difficult for potential users at other universities or in the private sector. An over-arching vision and process for the development of new core facilities, or the expansion of existing facilities, is not in place. 3.Operations and Management: Directors of core facilities, in general, lack a stable career path and have a wide variety of titles (e.g., Research Assistant, Research Scholar, Researcher, etc.). Often they are not recognized as important contributors to the university mission. Core facilities may or may not be advised by groups of facility users or advisory committees to ensure that they are responsive to faculty needs and develop in concert with new technologies. Planning for sustainable business models, as well as policies and procedures for closing core facilities, may not be in place. Some NC State policies preclude cost efficient operation of core facilities. Challenges for the Support, Management, and Growth of NC State Core Research Facilities
4.Costs Ever-increasing costs of operation (salaries, supplies, service contracts, infrastructure) Continuous need to replace outdated or broken instrumentation Ever-increasing demand by faculty for cutting-edge instruments and core facility services
What Can We Learn From Steps Taken at Peer Universities? 1.To operate, audit, and manage core facilities many universities have adopted a model in which billing, scheduling, auditing, and management functions are handled centrally. Such efforts can relieve or reduce the amount of time that core Directors spend on “running the business”, enabling them to increase their research productivity. A single centralized system can ease the process of scheduling instrument use or instrument training time, as well as provide real-time auditing information regarding core utilization. 2.To reduce redundancies and increase efficient use of Director/staff time, many universities have consolidated similar core facilities into single entities. Through pooling of resources and staff, single core facilities can offer a wider range of services (“one-stop shopping”) and may be more responsive to customer needs. 3.Inter-institutional agreements have been established that enable users at nearby institutions to take advantage of core facilities at each institution at comparable rates. Access to core facilities at neighboring institutions can reduce the incidence of duplication of instrumentation and augment competitiveness for instrumentation grants.
What Can We Learn From Steps Taken at Peer Universities? Examples of inter-institutional core facility consortia: Chicago Biomedical Consortium: Northwestern University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago Virginia Research Resources Consortium: University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, George Mason University, University of Richmond, Virginia Tech Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Institute: Emory University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Georgia Institute of Technology Indiana Clinical and Translational Science Institute: Indiana University, University of Notre Dame, Purdue University
What Can We Learn From Steps Taken at Peer Universities? 4.Many institutions have developed visually appealing Web sites that organize their core research facilities such that they are user friendly and conduct periodic “outreach” programs (lectures, workshops, courses) to advertise their capabilities. Such efforts reduce the difficulty of finding instruments and services, and generate communities of users that are invested in the success of core facilities. 5.Many institutions have developed career tracks for core facility Directors (UNC-CH is a recent example) and provide awards annually for most outstanding cores. Such tracks provide a path for career advancement and help to recognize the importance of core Directors to the mission of the university. Such awards also help to recognize the value of core facilities, and core facility personnel, to the university. 6.Many institutions ensure that core facilities are advised by research-intensive faculty that depend on efficient operations and cutting-edge instruments/services. These individuals provide oversight, help to resolve conflicts, and write equipment grants to expand capabilities within core facilities.
A Vision for the Management and Development of Core Research Facilities at NC State Goals: 1.To maintain and develop robust core research facilities that are responsive to faculty needs and cost effective. 2.To increase visibility of core facilities and build communities of users. 3.To acknowledge core facility Directors and staff as important members of the NC State community.
A Vision for the Management and Development of Core Research Facilities at NC State Strategies that could be adopted to address our current challenges and position NC State for a brighter future: 1.To centralize or not to centralize, that is the question: Although centralization of core facilities has merit, we do not have to do so. In some instances centralization of facilities (or consolidation of disparate facilities under one roof) may be cost effective and boost productivity, and thus should be considered seriously. In lieu of formal centralization, we should consider a number of steps to improve the way we do business. Examples include: i.Use of a single third-party software package to ease billing, scheduling, auditing, and management functions of all core facilities. ii.Encourage the development of faculty advisory boards for all core facilities and coordinate their activities and needs within a central office. iii.Link university decisions on limited submission equipment proposals to ongoing needs of core facilities. iv.Coordinate purchases amongst facilities wherever possible to take advantage of package deals and decrease overall costs of operation.
A Vision for the Management and Development of Core Research Facilities at NC State 2. Visibility and vision: Develop a visually appealing, user friendly Web site that provides internal and external customers with information on NC State core research facilities (in process). A central core facility office should be responsible for ensuring that support for core facilities is a part of the university strategic planning process. Encourage regular core facility workshops, seminar programs, and courses that highlight capabilities and new technologies. 3. Operations and management: NC State should develop a unified career track for core facility Directors. This will ensure that we attract and retain these talented professionals. Sustainable business models should be developed for all core facilities. We should work to eliminate current policies that preclude cost-efficient operation of core facilities. Institute mechanisms (e.g., annual meetings, electronic newsletters) that build a community of core facility Directors and facilitate the dissemination of best practices.
A Vision for the Management and Development of Core Research Facilities at NC State 4. Inter-institutional agreements: Seek agreements that span universities in the Triangle and region that provide access to core facilities at reduced costs to members of the larger academic community (an agreement with UNC-CH is in place).