Shared Research Resources

Shared Research Resources

FASEB affirms the importance of properly acknowledging shared resource facilities, including core facilities, national laboratories, stock centers, and shared instrumentation, in scientific communications. This simple act helps demonstrate the value of these resources and is important to ensuring their continued funding and development.

Research requires resources. Shared resources create economies of scale. A bigger, stronger scale empowers an ecosystem that more efficiently expands and distributes vital assets to biomedical researchers. At least, that’s the world FASEB envisions. 

However, a recent FASEB survey revealed obstacles our member societies face in sharing research resources. To address those issues, our members generated an exhaustive report, “Maximizing Shared Resources.”

Maximizing Shared Resources

The series of FASEB reports, “Maximizing Shared Resources,” identified several barriers to shared research resources—assets that are vital to the scientific community and researchers’ commitment to delivering lifesaving biomedical advances:

  • Funding and business operations
  • Discoverability and access
  • Ability to meet evolving needs
  • Career track and staff development

Below are links to the series of FASEB’s shared research resources (SRR) reports:

Shared Research Resources Roundtable

To tackle many of the issues uncovered in the SRR reports, FASEB convened a roundtable, which came away with several common themes. Those included the need for a national strategy and improved management and organization. Participants also cited the importance of developing standardized metrics and changing the SRR culture to ensure the sustainability of shared research resources. 

The roundtable’s key takeaways included:

  • Expanding researchers’ access to SRRs
  • Deepening partnerships within and across institutions and regions
  • Strengthening leadership to support SRR goals and vision
  • Improving collaborations/relationships with federal agencies
  • Increasing awareness and education of SRR careers
  • Developing best practices for data management
  • Recognizing acknowledging SRRs in grants and publications

Roundtable Takeaways

  • To achieve successful partnerships, clearly delineated access to and benefits of RSS are critical.
  • DOE National Labs provide resources and access to members at no charge.
  • Institutional leadership for SRRs is required but remains a challenge at numerous institutions.
  • Support for SRRs goes beyond budget planning; leadership should be at the table championing shared resources at all levels of institutional planning.
  • Existing programs (COBRE, INBRE) are terrific; however, more awareness, training, and financial resources are needed to maximize the programs’ potential.
  • Small institutions have fewer cores with reduced staff.  This creates additional challenges and delays in access/turnaround time/waiting time.
  • While partnerships and consortia are great, the distance between entities presents some challenges considering there is a lack of localized expertise.

Achieving a national strategy will require harmonization across federal agencies. One approach is to first forumulate a national strategy, then use this strategy as a model for institutions to adapt and implement. A national strategy should emphasize
  • Training and faculty/staff professional development 
  • Data management, sharing, and computation
  • Inclusivity
  • Standardized policy for SRR recognition (e.g., grants, publications, etc.)

  • From a funding agency perspective, they can’t support all institutions—the focus should go toward regional SRRs.
  • Increase opportunities for collaborative grants—across federal agencies and between institutions. Can benefit multiple I/Cs.
  • Need to democratize access to SRRs for small institutions. Provide housing supplements for those in rural areas to access SRRs. Dedicated funding for training
Barriers to regional sharing:
  • Data sharing.
  • Incongruent rates for indirect costs across institutions.

Current funding agency strategies:
  • Promote and encourage interinstitutional participation (NSF).
  • Include cost-sharing requirements (NSF).
  • Grants specifically for minority-serving institutions (USDA).
  • IDeA state support (NIH).
Streamlining these strategies across funding agencies can help facilitate improved access to SRRs
Stakeholders can bridge knowledge gaps.

  • Widespread acknowledgment that strategic planning is key to SRR success. However, strategic plans vary from institution to institution.
  • How to convince institutional leadership to invest in cores?
    Oftentimes… leadership will help start / open core facilities.
    But sustaining them seems to be less of a priority.
  • Perhaps by making cores / SRRs an “essential service,” leadership and faculty will prioritize shared resources.
  • SRR advisory committees are valuable, but: how to start them?
Other oversight mechanisms to consider:
  • Centralization: Efficient way to govern SRRs. How to get it started?
  • Develop and implement a long-range plan.
  • Include SRR directors, faculty, staff on institution committees.

Helpful strategies:
  • Regular meetings between core director, faculty, and staff ´âáraise issues with institutional leadership.
  • Recognize SRR directors/staff as leaders.
  • Some institutions have core facility co-directors to balance research and management responsibilities.
  • Provide support for SRR staff to attend one scientific meeting per year.
  • Institutional support for a distinct career track for SRR personnel.
  • At DOE, all SRR personnel are authors on papers.
  • Provide sabbatical time for SRR personnel to pursue specialized career development.
Ongoing challenges:
  • Specialized career paths for SRR faculty/staff not in place at several institutions.
  • Majority of core staff are not eligible for tenure.
  • Lack of curriculum development to cultivate the skills/capabilities of SRR personnel.
  • Trainees are unaware of SRRs as a career path.
Suggested strategies for the future:
  • Provide clear expectations at the institutional level for SRR faculty/staff eligibility for promotion.
  • Encourage technology-related professional development, methods, protocols.
  • Emphasize scientific productivity rather than financial outcomes in discussions, particularly in discussions with leadership.
  • Provide standard language for authors to acknowledge SRRs in papers.

Improving SRR management and evaluation:

Possible strategies:
  • S10 grants include a “Best Practices” in management plan –integrate this into all funding mechanisms to elevate discussion of SRRs.
  • Professional societies can take the lead in establishing best practices.
  • Have funding agencies mandate or incentivize best practices — this would promote widespread use.
  • Ideas to shift culture toward improved efficiency & sustainability:
  • Voucher system — similar to CTSA program.
  • Allow the science and evidence to drive policy decisions and ultimate culture change.
  • Build labs using an “open floor” concept to promote sharing of equipment, reagents, etc. Example: one institution calls labs “collaboratories.”
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about the cost-saving and efficiencies associated with SRRs.
Challenges preventing us from achieving sustainability:
  • Lack of incentives
  • Lack of awareness about the expenses that come with using a core: include overhead costs, electricity, etc., as “non-billable” items on invoices
  • Many labs are still decentralized
Models that could be broadly adopted:
  • Johns Hopkins “Core Store” for investigators to order reagents; saves time and packaging
  • Create positions specifically for core management
  • Centralized billing  — iLab

Commonly used metrics:
  • Revenue — internal and external; P30 and P50 grants; critical to show funding agencies the value of cores.
  • Users — recurring and new; adding new users shows expansion; reaching new faculty and trainees?
  • Turnaround time.
  • Publication acknowledgments and grants.
Strategies to establish metrics:
  • Approach the institutional leadership and explain the interactions between stakeholders; create metrics accordingly.
  • Utilize iLab—collect “data usage” information.
  • Ensure the metrics make sense to the audience—many times, reviewers comment they do not understand the metrics mentioned in manuscripts.
  • RRIDs—a way to tag/track SRR acknowledgments in papers.
Collecting, analyzing and using the metrics:
  • Facilitate and encourage compliance.
  • Provide a report for users at the end of each year to demonstrate value and output of cores. Send a data form per quarter requesting information from researchers about recent publications. Did you include cores in acknowledgments?
  • Openly communicate the metrics with university staff and leadership