Request for Information (RFI): Improving Core Facilities

Notice Number: NOT-RR-09-003

Key Dates
Release Date: January 6, 2009
Response Date:  February 20, 2009

Issued by
National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), http://www.ncrr.nih.gov)

Purpose

The National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) provides laboratory scientists and clinical researchers with the tools and training they need to understand, detect, treat, and prevent a wide range of diseases.  Along with many other Institutes and Centers at NIH, NCRR supports core facilities.  The purpose of this RFI is to solicit input on how to improve NIH funded core facilities.  Funding for these facilities can come from either NCRR or from other NIH Institutes and Centers.  Specific areas of interest include ways to encourage optimum use of cores and ways to provide access to core facilities to investigators who currently lack that access.

Background

For the purpose of the RFI, a core facility is defined as a centralized shared resource that provides access to instruments, technologies, services, as well as expert consultation to scientific investigators.  NIH generally provides start up instrumentation and/or partial salary support for staff members in such facilities.  Often, NIH support is supplemented by annual support from the institution or from other funding organizations. 

Core facilities allow researchers access to tools that they would otherwise not be able to use, but they do require significant resources from both NIH and from the host institution.  In this RFI, we would like to obtain information about the current state of core facilities as well as suggestions for improving them.

Information Requested

NCRR invites interested parties to submit the following information. It is anticipated that the information received will be used in two ways.  First, the information will provide a useful snapshot of the state of NIH funded core facilities.  It is hoped that both the successes and problems with those facilities will become apparent in the responses.  Second, NCRR plans to conduct a public meeting in July (see below) to follow up on the information received.  Some of the information that you provide may be useful as case studies at that meeting.  As a result, the information provided will not be considered confidential.  However, NCRR does not plan to release specific details about problems that are reported in response to this RFI.

1) Describe your interest in core facilities
Please describe how you are associated with core facilities.  Such roles might include (1) current users of core facilities, (2) former users of core facilities, (3) potential users of core facilities, (4) managers of core facilities, (5) principal investigators on NIH awards that support core facilities, (6) institutional officials that oversee core facilities, (7) organizations interested in clinical or biomedical research, or (8) other interested parties.  If you are a current user of core facilities, please indicate the type of facility that you use.  If you are a previous user of core facilities, please indicate what sort of facility you used and why you no longer use the facility.  If you are a potential user of core facilities, please indicate what sort of core facilities would be helpful in supporting your research.

2) Describe how you access core facilities
Please describe your ability to access core facilities that would be helpful in supporting your research.  Please indicate how you locate needed cores, if a national registry of cores would be useful to you, if your experiments would allow you to travel to another institution to use a core facility.  If you have discovered institutional barriers either within your organization or on a regional basis, please describe the details.  Comments concerning whether some types of cores are more amenable to sharing would be welcome.

3) Value of core facilities
If you are a current or past user of core facilities, describe how your use of the facility improved your ability to perform research, or failed to do so.  Describe any examples where the core facility enhanced collaborations with other scientists either within or complementary to your expertise.  Describe any examples where the core facility was significantly involved in training users and whether such training was valuable.  If appropriate, please provide specific examples of multi-disciplinary or interdisciplinary interactions that arose through the use of core facilities and resulted in publications.

4) NIH policies
Indicate whether NIH policies or the terms and conditions for particular awards make it difficult to fully utilize core facilities. 

5) Core consolidation
In instances where there are multiple similar cores at a particular institution or in a small geographic area, describe ways that NIH could aid in core consolidation.  In those instances where an institution has successfully consolidated cores, describe best practices or lessons learned that can be shared.  In those instances where an institution has unsuccessfully attempted to consolidated cores, describe the reasons that the attempt failed.

6) Issues associated with Funding Opportunity Announcements
Describe any issues involving NIH funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) that encourage the creation of new cores that ultimately are not fully utilized.  If such issues exist, list suggestions you have for altering FOAs that propose core facilities.  Indicate whether the NIH peer review process for applications with core facilities encourages the creation of new cores rather than the use/expansion of existing cores.

7) Management plans for core facilities
Describe any management plans that you are aware of that encourage full utilization of core facilities.  Such plans might be concerned with institutional oversight, cost recovery schemes, and access to facilities.  If available, please provide links to information about the core facility using the plan you describe.  Describe any management plans (such as cost sharing requirements) that discourage the use of core facilities.  In either case, indicate whether the management plans are imposed by the core facility, by the academic department, by the host institution, or by a funding agency.

8) Other issues
Describe any other issues involving core facilities that would improve them.

Public Meeting
NCRR anticipates that the responses to this RFI may require a meeting to further explore issues that are raised.  We have tentatively reserved the Natcher Auditorium on the NIH campus in Bethesda (http://www.nih.gov/about/visitor/index.htm ) on July 14 and 15, 2009 for such a meeting.  Everyone who responds to this RFI will receive information about the meeting.  Details about the meeting will also be posted on the NCRR web site (http://www.ncrr.nih.gov ).  Such a meeting, if it is held, will be open both to those who respond as well as to any others.

How to Submit a Response
Responses will be accepted through February 20, 2009.  Responses by e-mail are strongly preferred.  Please use the address ncrrcorerfi@mail.nih.gov to submit a response.  The submitted information will be reviewed by NCRR and will be shared with other NIH Institutes and Centers that have an interest in this matter.

Inquiries

Inquiries regarding this notice may be directed to:

Gregory K. Farber, Ph.D.
Division of Biomedical Technology
National Center for Research Resources
6701 Democracy Boulevard
Room 960, MSC 4874
Bethesda, MD   20892-4874
Telephone:  (301) 435-0778
FAX:  (301) 480-3659
Email:  farberg@mail.nih.gov  

This RFI is for planning purposes only and should not be construed as a solicitation for applications or an obligation on the part of the government.  The government will not pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for the government’s use of that information.


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