NIH-funded core facilities – future directions and OHSU’s model

As you know, Sally Rockey has stepped down from her position at NIH where she steered the Office of Extramural Research for five years. During Rockey’s tenure, she launched a blog, “Rock  Talk,” that lent transparency to NIH decision making and allowed the research community to voice their opinions. In her last few Rock Talk postings, Rockey shared some insights and updates on current NIH priorities and resources including a discussion on NIH-supported core facilities.

Rockey affirmed NIH’s commitment to continued support for core facilities and stressed the importance of these cores as hubs of innovation at research institutions. As part of this commitment, NIH co-hosted a “Workshop on Enhancing Efficiency of Research Core Facilities” with the Association of Biomolecular Research Facilities in March of this year. The workshop focused on identifying best practices, existing challenges, and suggested standards moving forward.

The primary outcome of the meeting was a set of recommendations for NIH and research institutions to consider. Among them was that institutions each develop a core strategic plan that facilitates coordination among all core facilities and encourages core resource sharing between institutions. One of the first steps in developing these strategic plans is to take inventory of what cores exist and where duplicate services occur within NIH’s funded portfolio. NIH’s goal is to identify these inefficiencies, work with institutions to consolidate multiple similar cores into a single facility, and centralize administrative components (billing, tracking, etc.) via integrated information systems. As such, institutions are encouraged to develop inventories of their core facilities both internally and across institutions or within a geographic region.

OHSU is already aligned with NIH’s vision: our institution has long been an innovator in developing shared resources to support our research enterprise.  OHSU’s University Shared Resources (USR) program is widely recognized as an exceptional example of centralization borne of collaboration and participation of multiple stakeholders. Director Andy Chitty has been asked to speak about the program’s structure, governance, and incentives approach (some good news about pilot funding will be announced soon, so stay tuned) at many conferences. OHSU also takes a leadership role with the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities professional organization. Andy Chitty is president of our regional chapter, and OHSU hosted this year’s Western Association of Core Directors conference with more than 110 in attendance.

For more information, a full report on the workshop can be found here and the NIH Office of Extramural affairs published FAQs that address NIH policies and considerations about cores.