May 29, 2019

Dean's Message: Investing in our core facilities

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As the NIH defines them, core facilities are “centralized shared research resources that provide access to instruments, technologies, services, as well as expert consultation and other services to scientific and clinical investigators.” Here at UAB, we currently have 11 Institutional Research Cores (IRCs) and of those, ten are directed by School of Medicine faculty. The cores were selected through a competitive process overseen by the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR).

Over the last several years, we’ve realized that in order to further our research strength and growth, our institution must stand on a solid foundation of cores and infrastructure. While our research growth has been driven by five strategic principles, our cores have grown more organically. That is both exciting and fundamentally valuable to us as an academic medical center. However, what we need more of now is strategic planning for our cores through planning, oversight in management, and focus. This will require an increase in our financial support and is important for continuing to advance our cores, making them the most innovative and technologically-advanced, and making sure our faculty have access to them and that they’re affordable.

All of these things are easily achievable with an unlimited budget. Therefore, in order to work within our limits, our leaders have come together to strategize, establish priorities, and engage our community. Dr. Etty (Tika) Benveniste has taken the reigns of this process on behalf of the School of Medicine, and along with other UAB leaders, we have discerned that in order to take our cores to the next level, we need a position that is dedicated to the management of the IRCs. So, in partnership with the OVPR, we are currently completing a search for a new Director of the UAB Institutional Research Core Program, which will allow a dedicated faculty member to devote 50% of their time to this responsibility. We will task that leader with creating an infrastructure that allows Core Facility Directors to be as successful as possible.

Current IRC funding is based on support withheld proportionally to the IER market share for each school. The SOM contributes $860,338 (83%) to the total annual funding amount of $1,035,000. However, the SOM also provides significant additional funding for institutional cores and other cores which includes core director salary support, space costs, core debt, core equipment and service contracts, support to a large number of PI awards that support cores, and support to University-Wide Interdisciplinary Research Centers that support cores. The estimated additional funding amount is approximately $3.2 million per year.

As we look forward, I want all of you to know that we are more dedicated than ever before to ensuring that our cores are cutting-edge and widely available. We will continue to evaluate our needs and grow our infrastructure thoughtfully. I’d like to thank Dr. Benveniste for her hard work throughout this process.