Basic facilities: When outsourcing research

The availability of today’s advanced technologies increasingly determines the importance of scientific research. For the most part, the individual researcher is no longer able to gather the financial and human resources to invest in high-priced equipment and complex methods. In addition, there is often not enough time to develop the technical expertise to comprehensively and comprehensively use these technologies. The provision of these technologies in functional units, the so-called basic facilities, as well as the pooling of scientific and practical expertise thus represents a sustainable solution to this problem not only from a scientific but also from an economic point of view.

Basic amenities can help save money. This does not mean the cuts that often result from existential crises and only guarantees a short-term reduction in financial and personnel costs. Then the centralization and minimization of technical platform equipment cannot meet the demands of demanding projects or the competitiveness of future projects.

Rather, it is about a long-term strategy to use existing resources in a planned manner and expand them in a targeted manner so that they are available to all academics across colleges in as professional and profitable a manner as possible. The cost reduction then results from reducing financial, personnel and time expenditures to achieve the desired research objectives.

They support, manage and advise research

For this, basic facilities need high-level structures. It is often powerful research institutes that establish the basic facilities. However, organizational and personnel requirements are quickly made if the use of basic facilities exceeds the limits of an institute, college or university. Then user management, concepts of centralized management of search data, Internet-based management and information systems need digital tools. Reservation systems, for example, make it easy to allocate measurement time and project planning for experiments. High-performance IT infrastructures and data management plans enable efficient implementation of collected data from measurement to use. The goal is to rest the scientists and give them extra time for their research. The figures generated by the systems in turn help the high-level committees to continuously review the performance of core facilities and identify bottlenecks in the use of existing equipment at an early stage, but also to identify the need for new technologies.

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“But the basic facilities should be more than just a well-maintained set of equipment.”

Basic facilities are service facilities: users appreciate it when they find an operational device, accessories and additional equipment on hand and a competent and helpful contact person can be quickly found in case of problems. Supervised devices should be treated in a more human-only manner. Following the instructions, the devices can be used independently or with personnel experienced in service operations. If the methodology requires it and staffing allows, a pure service process is also possible, which in the end makes the results only available to the user. Once the structures are created, they can not only be used for the efficient use of devices, but also make it possible to offer researchers more complex methods than genetic engineering, cell biology and biochemistry as a service.

Basic utilities should be more than just a well-maintained set of equipment. The infrastructure should provide advice and training which includes project meetings, trainings, workshops and lectures. Targeted training for scientists at all levels of development, from students to junior research group leaders, aims to ensure that data collection, assessment, and presentation are consistent with current good scientific practice. In addition, unproductive training phases are blocked and error propagation and implementation error costs are avoided in advance. Scientifically trained personnel are often a significant basis not only for this, but also for the development of methods relevant to the project. Ultimately, core facilities develop, maintain, and share one of universities’ most valuable resources: knowledge.

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