The role of a CORE Research Facility and its staff is multifaceted. In the SBMS, we have the goal of accelerating research, by acquiring and maintaining the latest in cutting edge research equipment, providing research advice and specialised analysis, and training researchers in new methodologies to help their research vision come to light.

Like many professional staff in the research sphere, a lot of what we do goes on behind the scenes and thus is unfortunately overlooked when acknowledgement is warranted. Beyond just etiquette, this can have downstream issues; core facilities often use the number of publications they are mentioned in as a metric when writing equipment and facilities grants. Thus, not having this metric to accurately measure our impact in turn hurts the researchers using our facility and makes it harder for us to keep up to date with the latest scientific advancements.

To provide a little insight into our facilities:

We manage a total of 65 bookable items across three different buildings on campus. Additionally, we have over 400 individuals registered in our system, across over 130 research groups from 25 different departments and institutes. We don’t have the resources available to automatically track publication acknowledgements, but a quick check of recent publications from the school shows they are often lacking.

Acknowledgement guidelines for CORE facilities are generally quite boilerplate. The Royal Microscopical Society for example recommends as follows:

“The authors gratefully acknowledge the [core facility[s] name] for their support and assistance in this work.”

Additionally, acknowledging individual staff members is also acceptable if one or more particular people helped on this work.

When is co-authorship with facility staff warranted?

Section 5 of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research states:

“The right to authorship is not tied to position or profession and does not depend on whether the contribution was paid for or voluntary. It is not enough to have provided materials or routine technical support, or to have made the measurements on which the publication is based. Substantial intellectual involvement is required.”

Thus, charging for services does not preclude facility staff from being co-authors on publications; core facility staff are scientists and if they make a contribution beyond the routine, authorship should be discussed. This also allows facility staff to assist in preparation of the manuscript where needed, especially in regards to technical details.

In general a ‘substantive contribution’ is made when the core facility is involved in:

  1. Conception and design of a project for example: coming up with a methodology to image a particular type of tissue for an upcoming project
  2. Acquisition of data and/or analysis beyond routine help for example,: Providing a custom pipeline in which to analyse data in a specific software
  3. A role in revising or drafting technical detail for a publication, or writing a section of the paper
  4. Other intellectual contribution, consultation or collaboration.

What this looks like differs between facilities, and it is the duty of facility staff to inform project leaders when we believe our contributions are going beyond what we would consider routine services, if not previously discussed at the project conception.

Further reading

More reading and discussion on these topics can be found in the links below:

As always, please contact is if you have any questions.

SBMS Core Facility Staff