Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Optimizing Institutional Approaches to Enable Research

Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Optimizing Institutional Approaches to Enable Research

Article excerpt

Introduction

Within the past two decades, the complexity of biomedical science has provided the impetus to design increasingly sophisticated and innovative instrumentation and services, thus enabling faculty to dramatically advance research along the entire spectrum of basic and clinical investigations. While the infrastructure for and enablers of research continue to provide the basis for these cutting-edge investigations, they come with a price to individual investigators regarding both instrumentation expense and technical expertise. As acknowledged by Angeletti, Bonewald, Jongh, Niece, Rush, and Stults ( 1999) over fifteen years ago, the model o fan individual investigator possessing a self-sufficient single laboratory, including all the necessary modern equipment to conduct competitive science, is a distant memory. The historic high-end, self-sufficient laboratories have been mostly replaced by laboratories that rely on institutionally supported infrastructure (i.e. core facilities). These core facilities enable scientific discovery by providing the latest technology, instrumentation, and technical expertise. However, those institutions that invest in enabling infrastructure are often faced with additional conundrums. These include the cost associated with maintaining/replacing existing services (Haley, 2011), developing new technologies (Slaughter, 2009), identifying highly trained faculty/staff to serve as core directors (Rey, 2007), and integrating a system to effectively monitor services that need to either grow, be maintained, or be dismantled (Haley, 2009). This manuscript addresses the enterprise-level challenge of keeping pace with and effectively managing cutting-edge, next generation infrastructure that supports the needs of scientists, allowing them to remain competitive in securing extramural funding and publishing novel discoveries. 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 2010, the Office of Research at the University of Michigan Medical School conducted a thorough business review of its centrally managed biomedical research core facilities. As a result, the Office of Research has implemented an institutional approach to effectively manage the supporting infrastructure of our central core facilities. This includes: 1) a process for core facility capital equipment planning and acquisition, 2) a method for reviewing and managing the lifecycle of existing core facilities (invest, maintain, or sun-down), 3) a process to evaluate whether department-based core facilities should transition into the central, school-wide core facilities, 4) an investment in the administration and operational efficiencies of the core facilities, and 5) support for the development and implementation of new methodologies to make the latest techniques available to our investigators. The optimization of this approach to infrastructure management has allowed the Medical School to replace obsolete equipment, introduce new technologies and platforms, increase scientific capability and capacity, reduce turnaround times, create standardized and sustainable oversight, create core evaluation processes and metrics, and pilot an outsourcing model (to eliminate capital investments when appropriate). While this business strategy was developed as a platform to specifically manage the functional units of the core facilities, it also is structured to provide a broad governing system that guides key "lifecycle" decisions of the core facilities.

A Business Review

The University of Michigan is home to 92 core facilities or shared resources that facilitate the pace of both broad and specialty research for our scientists. Due to a decentralized environment, most of these core facilities or shared resources are created and maintained at a department or programmatic center level, often characterized by serving a limited, targeted population of investigators. …

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