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Health Science Center – Core Facilities Governance

Table of Contents

  1. Principles of Operation
  2. Oversight Committee
  3. Cost Recovery
  4. Governance
  5. Service Contracts
  6. Non-Core Instruments and Services
  7. Partnership Agreements
  8. Demand based Capability Expansion
  9. Infrastructure Funds Matching
  10. University of Utah Policy
  11. SVPHS Guidlines
  12. Faculty Candidate Instrumentation Funds Matching

Principles of operation / departmental partnerships

The HSC Core Facilities are maintained in order to provide access to the capability provided by sophisticated instrumentation and to high-level expertise that are essential to the success of faculty research.  The goal is to enable excellent science as assessed by faculty recognition, impactful publications, and external funding.  Advantages over maintaining equipment solely within a lab or a department can include access to high-level expertise, shared costs on purchase, shared costs for maintenance through engagement of a larger group of users, professional-level maintenance, and increased potential for future support from instrumentation grants (NIH S10 awards strongly favor Core Facilities).  In order to keep pace with the rapidly advancing opportunities of health science research, Core Facilities require continual investment and close partnership with departments and faculty, as well as fiscally responsible management.

Oversight Committee

James Cox, Ph.D., DirectorCores Research Facilities
Alana Welm, Ph.D., ProfessorDepartment of Oncological Sciences
Dean Tantin, Ph.D., ProfessorDepartment of Pathology
Eric W. Schmidt, Ph.D., ProfessorDepartment Medicinal Chemistry
Chris Hill, Ph.D., Distinguished ProfessorDepartment of Biochemistry
Joseph Yost, Ph.D., ProfessorDepartment of Neurobiology and Anatomy
Matthew Rondina, MD, MS, Associate ProfessorDepartment of Internal Medicine
Mark Yandell, Ph.D., Associate ProfessorDepartment of Human Genetics
Wesley Sundquist, Ph.D., ProfessorDepartment of Medicinal Chemistry
Rachel Hess, MD, MS, Associate Vice President for ResearchOffice of SR VP HSC
Erin Rothwell, Ph.D., Associate Vice PresidentVP for Research
Scott Summers. Ph.D., ProfessorNutrition & Integrative Physiology
Sarah Franklin, Ph.D., Associate ProfessorDepartment of Internal Medicine

Cost recovery

User fee levels are used to support service contracts and associated director/staff time.  They are not used to recoup the cost of an instrument or to support the purchase of new instrumentation.  Depending on circumstances, individual Cores may require a subsidy to break even.  User fee structures that project need for a subsidy must be approved by the HSC Cores Director with input from the Faculty Advisory Committee and administrative staff.

Circumstances during which Cores should be subsidized from central funds include: (i) When building new capability in advance of anticipated high demand, as justified by assessment of scientific trends and emerging scientific opportunity.  (ii) Where a Core Director provides high-level expertise that is not amenable to a charge-back system but enables impactful science by U of U investigators.

In consultation with the Faculty Advisory Committee, the value of user fees will be assessed at least annually to ensure optimization between access, excellence, and cost recovery.  A default expectation is that user fees will increase each year in line with inflation.

Although the primary function is to enable U of U investigators to perform excellence science, the Cores may also serve external users.  These include academic users who would pay user fees at the same rate as U of U investigators but with the addition of current U of U F&A.  They also include commercial users who would pay at a higher rate, as determined by the market.


A critical factor in the success of essentially all Cores is close partnership between the Core Directors, who provide excellent service and technical expertise, and the faculty leaders of user groups who help set scientific direction.  Each Core should have a faculty/user advisory committee (FAC) that meets twice a year with the director to discuss progress and future needs and opportunities, including staffing levels, quality of service, need for additional instrumentation, and opportunities to enhance technical capability such as by applying for external instrumentation grants and U of U Research Instrumentation Funds awards.  The steering committee provides written reports to the HSC Core Leadership after each meeting.

Service contracts

In general, instruments in Core Facilities will be covered by service contracts, although the Cores have discretion to determine whether or not service contracts should be purchased in individual cases.  As appropriate, such as where an instrument was donated or purchased by a partnering department, the relevant users and partners may have the opportunity to provide additional funds to cover service contract costs if user fees are insufficient.  If the Cores determine that it is no longer appropriate to maintain a specific instrument that was purchased or donated by a department, the partnering department would generally have first right of refusal to take the instrument.

Support of non-core instruments and services

The Cores are under no obligation to support instruments outside of the Core.  Assistance may be provided, if it does not compromise Core operations, on the basis of full-cost recovery +10%, including time (minimum of one hour) provided by Core Staff.  There is no warranty on the outcome of repair or maintenance work done by Core Facility personnel on instrumentation that is not part of the HSC Cores.

HSC Cores may offer administrative and billing assistance to recharge centers that are outside of the Cores, at the standard rates charged to all cores.  For example, when an instrument is owned by a PI, Department, or Center.

Partnership agreements

Purchase of new equipment

Where appropriate, it is encouraged that when departments purchase sophisticated instrumentation they do so through the Core Facilities and that the purchase includes an extended multi-year warranty/service agreement.  This assumes that the Cores agree that there is a practical financial model for maintenance and operation of the instrumentation, and that the Department agrees that the plan for operations is appropriate for their needs.  In some cases, partial matching funds may be available through the Cores.  Further cost sharing through additional partnering departments, PIs, or initiatives, etc, is encouraged.  Regardless, of the exact source of funding, the instrumentation becomes the property of the Core Facility (which is responsible for maintenance) and is subject to Cores policies for operations, scheduling and user fees.

Donation of existing equipment to the Cores

The Cores are not obliged to accept donated equipment, but may do so when judged to be an effective and financially responsible way to advance scientific excellence.  The donated instrument will be transferred to the HSC Core inventory.  The Core Facility will be responsible for maintenance.  The instrument will be subject to Cores policies for operations, scheduling and user fees.

Guaranteed access time

  • Departments/PIs contributing to the purchase of an instrument or donating an instrument to the core may negotiate a guaranteed fraction of available instrument time for a defined time period (e.g., 3 years).
  • The definition of available time should be stated for each agreement. This will depend upon the specific instrument and nature of its use.  For example, in some cases it may correspond to week-day working hours (9-5, Monday-Friday) except holidays and time that the instrument is inoperable, such as due to maintenance, upgrades, or failure.  Available time does not include periods of routine or unscheduled maintenance or instrument failure.
  • All users pay full user fees, including the partnering Department/PI. This is to align with NIH guidelines.
  • The partnering Department/PI will reserve Core instrument time on an equal basis as all other users. However, if the partnering Department/PI is unable to secure the guaranteed access time on this basis, the scheduling mechanism may be adjusted slightly, such as by allowing the partnering Department/PI to schedule time prior to allowing scheduling by other users.
  • Guaranteed time will not accrue. If a partnering Department/PI uses less than their guaranteed time during a month, this will not roll over to an increased level of guaranteed time during the following month.

Expansion of capability based on demand

In cases where sustained saturation of current capacity is clearly demonstrated, Cores may work proactively with major users/departments in partnership to acquire new instrumentation.  The primary emphasis for this effort would be through the acquisition of external funding, with internal grants (e.g., RIF) or matching funds as appropriate.  The impetus for expanding capability could originate at any time, including the periodic FAC reports, response to a faculty recruitment effort, or Core User or Director assessment of demand/opportunity.

Matching Infrastructure Funds HSC Guidelines

Maintenance of a world-class research enterprise requires excellent infrastructure, instrumentation, and programs.  To the extent possible, these should be provided by external funding.  However, many funding mechanisms require matching institutional funds.  Even when matching funds are required, the external funding is still highly valued because it is better to get some external support than to cover all of the costs internally, and because external peer-review provides assessment and validation of excellence.

University of Utah Policy

University of Utah Policy on Cost-Sharing (Matching Funds) is given at

Major points from the U of U policy include:

  • In the absence of extenuating circumstances, it is policy of the University to offer cost sharing only to the extent mandated by the funding agency.
  • Responsibility for cost sharing lies with the Department/College.
  • VPR resources may only be requested after Department/College resources have been maximized.

SVPHS Guidelines and Procedures

Given the highly integrated nature of the HSC, SVPHS support for required cost sharing may be appropriate when the award would benefit faculty broadly across the HSC.  This document is intended to guide decisions on whether or not to support cost sharing from SVPHS funds.

Requests for matching funds from the SVPHS (typically from the SVPHS F&A pool) should be made to the Associate VP for Research HS (Will Dere) and the Vice Dean for Research SOM (Chris Hill) as far in advance of the proposal deadline as possible.  Following review, the AVPR and VDR will make a recommendation to the SVPHS.

The AVPR and VDR will communicate back to the requester as quickly as possible when a final determination is made. If matching is approved, the Health Sciences Controller (Catalina Ochoa) will be copied.  If/when an award is made and funds can be transferred, the requester will work directly with the Controller on final accounting steps.

The recommendation whether or not to support the request will be based on the following considerations, each of which should be addressed in the request:

  • The extent to which matching funds are a requirement of the funding agency for this specific proposal
  • The extent to which the award would enable the generation of substantial new funding (F&A) for the SVPHS, such as by strengthening subsequent NIH grant proposals with a relevant Org-ID.
  • The extent to which the award will serve the broad HSC community and programs. For example, it is generally expected that new equipment would be housed in a Core Facility and that Core Facility leadership supports the application and identifies a substantial current/future user base from units across the HSC.
  • The extent to which faculty, departments, programs, and institutes also provide matching funds. In general, the SVPHS would provide no more than 50% of the total matching cost, with other university units (e.g., departments, programs, faculty) providing at least 50%.
  • Some deviation from these guidelines may be appropriate in specific cases.

Matching funds for Faculty Recruit Instrumentation

The purchase of specialized instrumentation is often a requirement for successful faculty recruiting.  In order to maximize institutional impact, where appropriate, we encourage this instrumentation be located in an HSC Core Facility because that ensures expert maintenance and user support, and helps defray costs and supports the broader research mission by facilitating access by additional users.

Although opportunities for external funding should always be considered, it is often not possible to secure external grant support for instrumentation for a new junior faculty recruit.  When external funding is not plausible, SVPHS matching funds may nevertheless be available for instrumentation purchases associated with a specific recruitment.  Terms of the partnership will be defined by the HSC Core Facilities Director (James Cox) in light of each specific situation.  At a minimum, it is expected that:

  1. The department should cover costs for purchase of the instrument at least equal to the fraction of time estimated for use by the recruit, with the minimum department contribution being 50% of the total purchase costs.
  2. The recruit should commit to covering a defined fraction (up to the percent of protected time) of the service contract and expenses for at least 3 years.  The commitment may be met in part or whole by user fees paid by the recruit (perhaps using start-up funds), with balance of the commitment covered by additional departmental funds. Any shortfall in equipment maintenance and service contract should be covered by the recruit, Department or College.

Requests for support should be made to the AVPR HS and VDR SOM, and should follow the process outlined above for matches to instrumentation grants.  Requests should be made jointly by the relevant Department Chair and the Director HSC Core Facilities (James Cox), and should include a discussion about costs for maintenance/service contracts for the first five years after purchase of the instrument.

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