Operational and Fiscal Management of Core Facilities: A Survey of Chief Research Officers

Author/Creator ORCID





Citation of Original Publication

Carter, Jason R.; Delahanty, Douglas L.; Strasser, Jane E.; Knoedler, Alicia J.; Wilson, Gillian; Davis, Ralph K.; Engel, Don; Operational and Fiscal Management of Core Facilities: A Survey of Chief Research Officers; Journal of Research Administration, Volume L, Number 3 (2019); https://www.srainternational.org/blogs/srai-jra1/2019/12/09/operational-fiscal-management-of-core-facilities


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Sharing research equipment and personnel across investigators and laboratories has a long-standing history within research universities. However, the coordinated management of centralized, shared resources (i.e., core facilities) that provide access to instruments, technologies, services, expert consultation, and/or other scientific and clinical capabilities by Chief Research Officers (CROs) represents a more recent shift within the academy. While a number of recent surveys and studies have focused on the experiences of core facility directors and users, there has not yet been a targeted survey of CROs. Partnering with the Association for Public and Land Grant Universities Council on Research, fifty-eight CROs (or their designee) from research universities completed an electronic survey on core facilities (response rate = 35%). Core facilities formally reported to a range of entities within the university (and many to multiple entities), including the CRO office (83%), colleges/schools (67%), institutes/centers (42%), and departments (42%). Forty percent of respondents indicated that their university does not have a formal process to become and/or retain status as a recognized core facility. CROs also perceived that different types of core facilities directors differed in their general effectiveness (F(3,179)=6.88, p<.001); professional staff and administrators were rated as significantly more effective at directing/supervising core facilities than were tenure/tenure-track faculty (Tukey’s post-hoc; p<.005). Core facilities were funded through a variety of mechanisms, with the most common being use fees (96%), central and/or decentralized funding of directors or staff (77%), annual general fund allocation (62%), a designated portion of Facilities & Administration (F&A) reimbursements (46%), and internal grant programs (31%). Funds for purchasing new equipment within core facilities came from a number of sources, with the most common being external grants (87%), central institutional funds (83%), college/school/department funds (73%), use fees (50%), F&A resources (50%), and donations (27%). There are significant challenges to managing and funding core facilities; the present study provides new insights into the various strategies and tactics being taken by CROs to address these real and perceived challenges.