NORDP 2016 Conference Notes: Research development to build strong core facilities

This post is part of our NORDP 2016 Conference Reports. These reports capture the take-home points from a variety of sessions presented at the NORDP Annual Meeting in Orlando.

Session Scribe: Karla Ewalt

Research Development is Fundamental to Building a Strong Core Facilities Infrastructure

Presenters: Karin Scarpinato & Fruma Yehiely
Key points from the session:
  1. Core facilities are often integral resources to an institution’s competitiveness (faculty recruiting and retention, sponsored research) and innovative potential.
  2. They serve as loci that foster campus collaborations. Research development strengths with strategic planning, interdisciplinary work, and collaboration can be effectively leveraged in the management and oversight of core facilities.
  3. NIH annual reports and FORMS D (effective with proposal due dates of May 25, 2016 and beyond) require more rigor, transparency, and validation. Core facilities can serve as the institutional experts for producing robust, rugged, and reliable analysis needed to satisfy these requirements.
  4. Funding programs fall into three main categories: shared instrumentation, instrumentation and technology development, and user/core facilities.
  5. Selected case study examples:
    • NIH P41 – Biomedical Technology Research Resource grant. Four key components of these proposals are: collaboration, training of external users, administrative management, and dissemination of information beyond the core. The research development team came in after the first submission was unsuccessful. They facilitated a careful review of all reviewer comments on the rejected proposal, drafted the administrative management component, carefully developed and brokered the institutional support, and connected the PIs to national networks for the national dissemination plan component, brainstormed on stronger projects and collaborators, and prepared for site visit.
    • NIH P30 – A very prescriptive RFA for funding equipment or services, not research, that requires multiple PIs with demonstrated funding bases. This example illustrated support by research development with modest resources to facilitate competitive proposals for the P30 mechanism. Initially, a 1/2-day workshop on P30 grant writing was held. The workshop was organized with a panel of successfully funded faculty members and opportunities to discuss what each faculty member might bring to the table. This resulted in a better understanding of potential PIs for P30s, a proposal resource library, and knowledge of potential teams for this limited submission opportunity. The workshop led to a team comprised of people from the engineering and medical schools. Once the RFA was announced, the team realized that they needed to skip an application cycle while faculty got funding lined up (8 PIs with RO1s) to meet the requirements specified in the RFA. Funding was provided for external review of R01 submissions to increase chances of getting the R01s so the team could apply for a P30. Also, seed funding was supplied to allow for a 2-day, off-site workshop to allow the team to brainstorm the proposal.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

Research development principles can be applied to core facilities to create more effective administrative management, decision-making practices, and a central oversight structure. Centralized management of core facilities can provide the opportunity to conduct regular program review, develop meaningful reporting practices, evaluate resource allocations, enhance efficiency, and develop a management cohort amongst the facility leaders.

Presenters shared information on setting up a core directors meeting and a facility advisory committee. The core directors group meets monthly for rotating presentations on a particular facility and for round table discussions on common issues (rate structures, dealing with customers, etc.). The core advisory committee, which includes faculty users, core directors, and research administration staff, is charged with establishing policies and management practices, including reporting and metrics. Attendance is not required, but centralized management provides incentives for participation. In addition to enhancing facility management and decision making, the groups served to connect people who otherwise might not know each other and gave the facility directors a beneficial visibility and status.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

FASEB report Instrumentation: Federal Grants and Programs for the Life Sciences

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

Consider an incentive (voucher) program for faculty who bring in sponsored research support for equipment (>$300,000).  Vouchers are provided to a PI of a funded equipment grant to pay for use of the equipment if it’s placed in a core. Such a program is designed to reward faculty who are successful in securing external funding for capital equipment and to strengthen the use and commitment to core facilities by researchers. The vouchers can’t be used for any other research expenses.

 

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Author: Julie Rogers

Research Development Associate, Oregon Health & Science University

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