Tag Archives: Research Administration

Optimizing Institutional Approaches to Core Facility Investment to Enable Research – NORDP 2015

Download “Optimizing Institutional Approaches to Core Facility Investment to Enable Research” from the National Organization of Research Development Professionals (NORDP) 2015 Conference, Bethesda, Maryland: [PDF]

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NORDP 2015

Optimizing Institutional Approaches to Core Facility Investment to Enable Research

Jeff Horon, Consultant, Elsevier Research Intelligence

Abstract

In “Optimizing Institutional Approaches to Enable Research,” authors Grieb, Horon, Wong, Durkin, and Kunkel present a comprehensive set of best practices for providing leading-edge core facilities that contribute to the successful execution of research and increase competitiveness for external sponsorship. The authors conclude:

“…. This approach has created a number of standardized, transparent processes to effectively manage central infrastructure that enables enterprise-wide research, including a process for capital equipment planning, a procedure to evaluate new cores, a method for reviewing and managing the lifecycle of existing cores (invest, maintain, or sun-down), an investment in the administration and operational efficiencies of the cores, and support for the development and implementation of new methodologies for our investigators. The execution of these processes has provided faculty with forward-looking technologies to facilitate innovative research and provide a competitive edge for extramural support.”

Therefore the mechanisms for improvement of core facility management and the tangible benefits thereof are understood, but it is often initially not understood how to identify and diagnose sub-optimal funds flows and investment decisions. Funds flows, particularly those related to capital equipment depreciation, can have significant effects on core facility fees to investigators, indirect cost recovery, and availability of funds for equipment replacement/upgrades and provision of new services. Increased understanding of these funds flows can lead to better investment decisions involving strategic allocation of funds to urgent equipment and facility needs as identified by scientific advisory (versus haphazard or ‘hat in hand’ voluntary fundraising models) and periodic review, both to elicit new services investigators would benefit from and to phase out services that have become inefficient or commoditized.

Understanding Funds Flows

Capital equipment ‘on core facility books’ vs…

Capital equipment costs may:

-be factored into investigator-facing costs, reducing the need for subsidization and providing automatic return of funds to repair, replace, and upgrade equipment; however, higher investigator-facing costs may also reduce perceived competitiveness and/or utilization

-fall into capped cost pools, reducing overall indirect cost recovery to the institution

…. ‘on university books’

Capital equipment costs may:

-be factored out of investigator-facing costs, increasing perceived competitiveness and/or utilization; however, funds flows need to be understood and managed such that there are funds to repair, replace, and upgrade equipment; increased subsidization may be required, and some of the benefits may accrue to users external to the institution

-fall into uncapped cost pools, increasing overall indirect cost recovery to the institution

Investment Decision Framework

(adapted from Grieb, et. al., [i] Fig. 1)

nordp-2015-core-facility-investment

By understanding funds flows, institutions can enable strategic decision-making, such as the core facility investment decision framework presented in Grieb, et. al.

In particular, the existence of designated funds for equipment repair, replacement, upgrades, and new equipment purchases implies that there will be input from a scientific advisory board (“What sorts of new equipment and services do our investigators require?”) and/or executive leadership, determining how funds will be allocated from a strategic perspective.

This comprehensive view may lead to further improvements in business processes, e.g. phasing out services that have been commoditized.


 

[i] Grieb, et. al. “Optimizing Institutional Approaches to Enable Research.” Journal of Research Administration Fall 2014. Vol. XLV. No. 2: http://srainternational.org/publications/journal/volume-xlv-number-2/optimizing-institutional-approaches-enable-research

Optimizing Institutional Approaches to Enable Research – Journal of Research Administration

Our article “Optimizing Institutional Approaches to Enable Research” is now available in the Journal of Research Administration Volume XLV, No. 2.

Society of Researchers International members can access the article at: http://srainternational.org/publications/journal/volume-xlv-number-2/optimizing-institutional-approaches-enable-research

From the editor:

In “Optimizing Institutional Approaches to Enable Research”, Grieb and co-authors focus on a key requirement of research administrators, that of ensuring there is adequate infrastructure to create the backbone for cutting edge research. Within the constraints of a university budget, core facilities must be sustained and replaced in order to compete for extramural funding. “The historic high-end, self-sufficient laboratories have been mostly replaced by laboratories that rely on institutionally supported infrastructure (i.e. core facilities).” Decision making about what to support, the cost of the support and the replacement of the core facilities is often not well managed. An institutional approach for enhancing the effectiveness of core infrastructure operations by implementing process improvements, managing the lifecycle of core facilities, and monitoring key core facilities’ metrics is described. In doing so, it addresses one of the key concerns raised in the article by Derrick and Nickson, that strategies that engage researchers, promote communication between administrators and researchers, and lead to a collaborative approach to streamline bureaucratic processes engenders success.