Assigning Research Lab Space
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Policy No.: 6071
Effective Date: 01/06/06
Revised Date: 09/22/22
Reviewed Date: 09/22/22
Assigning and Managing Research Laboratory Space Policy
Basis for Policy
Rapid expansion of the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) research enterprise has led directly to the development of a merit-based system for the assignment of research space. The Chancellor has designated the Vice Chancellor for Research (VCR) as responsible for centrally managing the efficient use of research space. This policy exists to ensure that the procedure for assignment of research space is transparent and that all research space assignments are subject to the same evaluation criteria and standards. This policy applies to all research laboratory space on the UNMC campuses. Research space assignments are based upon research expenditures and consider unique facility requirements to successfully conduct the research. Research expenditures are more stable than grant/contract award data and are in alignment with the methodology utilized by the University of Nebraska (NU) system. It is expected that all deans, directors and chairs will collaborate with the VCR Office to ensure that the assignment of research space under their aegis aligns with this policy.
Criteria for Eligibility of Research Space Assignments
Research laboratory and accompanying office space may be assigned to UNMC faculty at the rank of assistant professor and above. Adjunct faculty with no primary faculty appointment at UNMC cannot be assigned space, nor can post-doctoral fellows, graduate students or instructors. These individuals may use space assigned to their principal investigator, mentor, chair or chief.
Administrative or Program Space
Departmental or program office space may be assigned to the leader of that department/division or funded research program leader in a laboratory building. A request for administrative or program space may be considered if there is no other assigned department space, the request is compliant with UNMC’s current office space assignment guidelines, and where the department (and its faculty) is focused predominantly on research.
Remote or Hybrid Faculty
If a faculty member has been assigned laboratory space and is spending 25% or more time away from the assigned laboratory for any reason, including approved sabbatical or approved remote work, the faculty member will need to designate an alternative lab supervisor or a lab manager to oversee the space while they are not on site. The lab supervisor should be a senior technologist or preferably faculty (assistant professor or above). The alternative lab supervisor can be in the same or different department/division/unit of the PI, but they must have sufficient experience to oversee the safety of personnel in that space. The alternative lab supervisor should not be a trainee (e.g., graduate student, research volunteer, or post-doctoral fellow).
- The laboratory supervisor may or may not be able to oversee animal activities, based on their past training so may require specific approvals.
- Core directors cannot work remotely or supervise core personnel remotely without prior approval.
Research expenditures per square foot of assigned space is used to evaluate research space assignments. The metric is applied as follows: Research expenditures are averaged over a rolling three (3) year period and divided by the square footage assigned to the investigator. Investigators with the lowest metric values are candidates for resizing to make room for new recruits or researchers being displaced by facility changes. The three-year average of research expenditures allows investigators to have time to re-establish funding, but investigators may still be asked to reduce their space to accommodate other funded investigators. Resizing may also occur even if funding remains constant but the campus metric increases.
Expenditure data, coded PCS2 signifying research, are provided annually by Sponsored Programs Accounting. Expenditure data includes both direct and indirect expenditures from the research accounts associated with individual investigators.
- Effort should be made toward properly attributing expenditures with the appropriate faculty. For program project grants, multi-PI, and other large grants where individual projects and project budgets can be identified and assigned, research expenditures from those project budgets will be applied toward that faculty’s expenditures. For other grants, like Center grants, where there are grant cores or project leads, “child accounts” can be created so there is tracking of research expenditures to the faculty member. The VCR Office will not modify the values used for expenditures to calculate the research space metric (e.g., project expenditures were attributed in SAP to a center grant PI and not the project lead).
- Training grant expenditures are not counted toward a research space metric but may warrant the assignment of administrative space specific to the needs defined by the grant.
- Unfunded new faculty may be assigned research space based on estimated research expenditures from their start-up package. Alternatively, the space is assigned to the department chair or research mentor whose own space metric must accommodate that additional space. A separate UNMC Space Request should be made once the faculty achieves independent funding.
Assigned research space includes all office and lab spaces in all buildings assigned to the investigator.
- Spaces include, but are not limited to, labs, common equipment rooms, tissue culture, animal facility procedure rooms exclusively for their use (not animal housing space) and any offices. Shared spaces, like equipment rooms, will be divided proportionally among those using those spaces.
- Freezer rooms are not included in the space metric.
- Departmental administrative space will not be counted towards the chair’s research space assignment unless said space competes with laboratory-associated offices or is not aligned with institutional office space guidelines.
- Research faculty offices assigned or shared amongst unfunded faculty or trainees will be assigned to their faculty mentor or chair.
Additional considerations in space assignments are as follows:
- Where the preponderance of the funded work is performed (in the lab vs. another location).
- Requirements for specific equipment.
- The number of personnel funded by grants working in the assigned space. Personnel working elsewhere, students, or other research volunteers, including International Scholars not funded by grants to UNMC, are not considered in space requests.
- The type of research in the space. Whenever possible, faculty are co-located with others working on similar research, and/or to accommodate sharing of unique equipment or facilities when approved.
Other principles of space assignment:
- Investigators who have been most successful in attracting extramural federal funding will be given the highest priority for the UNMC Type A laboratory spaces.
- Funded faculty may be resized based on their metric but will not be moved solely to accommodate a new investigator without their approval of that proposed relocation unless directed by their unit leader.
- Space assigned to a core managed by a specific unit for that unit only will be attributed to that department, college or institute. Cores that provide and invoice for services using the core facility management system to faculty beyond their department can request that space be removed from their unit’s space metric. Evaluation of core spaces will be conducted annually.
- The space metric for research faculty who have an assigned office, but have no assigned lab, will be calculated. That metric will not be included in the overall department laboratory space metric if the faculty exclusively conducts non-laboratory based research. However, that funding may justify maintaining an office in the research building.
- Spaces designated to one or a group of investigators in the comparative medicine area may be assessed a lease fee and/or considered in their space metric.
- Deans, directors and chairs are considered stewards of the space their faculty occupy and can adjust space among their faculty within their department without a specific request if those research space assignments are in alignment with this policy and if they notify the VCR Office within thirty (30) days of the change to update the campus database. The VCR Office is available to the faculty member to hear any appeals regarding this process.
- Research space vacated when a researcher leaves UNMC reverts to unassigned status under the control of the appropriate UNMC Research Space Committee.
- Space Requests for new faculty should be discussed with the VCR Office prior to discussing a specific laboratory with a faculty candidate and are not finalized until a signed letter of offer is received. Specific space locations are discouraged from inclusion in the employment contract.
- Faculty requests for research space in any UNMC building with research space will require an assessment of any other spaces assigned to that faculty and alternative spaces that meet the requirements of the research. Funded cancer-related research (as defined by NIH/NCI independent funding) will preferentially be placed in Buffett Cancer Center with the lab space assignments for all cancer-related faculty in BCC to be made in collaboration with the BCC Director.
Written requests are considered and finalized by the UNMC Unit-specific Research Space committee once received by the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Resources. For College of Medicine (COM), this includes VCR and Facilities Management Program (FMP) leadership along with the dean and associate dean for research. For all other colleges and institutes, this includes the VCR and FMP leadership, as needed, and the dean or unit director, or designate.
Research space assignments will be reviewed annually by the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Resources and the faculty’s dean, director, chair and/or chief. The Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Resources will also provide an annual status report of lab assignments and the space metric for each faculty to confirm that the spaces are assigned correctly, which is important for campus safety and incident command operations.
Research Laboratory Space
Wet lab bench space. Investigators awarded grants for research that does not require wet lab bench space would be ideally assigned non-laboratory space, and clinical activities and support personnel may not be assigned nearby for those that conduct both clinical and basic science research.
Each UNMC research laboratory is given a hierarchical designation based on its quality:
Considered state-of-the-art laboratories: Durham Research Centers (DRC) 1 and 2, Scott Cancer Research Tower (BCC), Lozier Center for Pharmaceutical Sciences and Center for Drug Discovery (PDD) or renovated Eppley Cancer Institute (ECI)
Older laboratories which currently include Wittson Hall (WHM), Williams Science Hall (WSH), Eppley Science Hall (ESH), Lied Transplant Center (LTC), and College of Dentistry (COD) laboratories
Types of Research Spaces
Buildings often have different types of spaces that laboratory investigators may require
Generally defined as lab bench space, research support space (e.g., equipment or tissue culture room) and office. Approximately 1,000 sq ft.
Small Instrument/Support Space
Generally sized based on the work to be done, such as a biosafety cabinet or tissue-culture hood, dark room or other equipment that requires separation or light modulation. Faculty are assigned one or more rooms for their own activities or to share based on their specific equipment or activities, which are included in their space metric
Considered shared space and not considered in the space metric
Cold or warm rooms
Faculty requiring cold or warm rooms should be located close to existing spaces as these are not usual rooms in most lab areas.
Comparative Medicine Space
Procedure and other spaces in comparative medicine areas are assigned by comparative medicine leadership independent of the research space committee. Most spaces are considered shared and not assigned to a specific investigator; however, investigators that request and are assigned comparative medicine space will be assessed a fee.
Generally placed in every other lab and can or should be shared.
Most often located outside of labs but may be located within a lab.
Located near laboratory spaces for laboratory-focused departments AND are generally not included in the research space metric of the department. Administrative offices may be required to be shared with other units that have funded large grant programs or training grants that require administrative support space.
May be available in office areas and vary with the floor. Are not included in the metric.
Autoclave and Dishwashing Rooms
Considered shared spaces. Individual departments who have developed these spaces are responsible for their maintenance and repairs. If specific to a department, the space will be assigned to the department or unit as a whole. If the resource is split between two (2) or more units and managed as a core in the core facility management system, it will be excluded from the space metric.
Multi-College Research Buildings
Housing researchers from more than one college or institute
Comparative Medicine Lab Space
Requests for dedicated laboratory space in the comparative medicine area of any research building should be made directly to comparative medicine, who has established a separate space review and approval process as well as potential charges for assignment of that space. The space metric for laboratory space may however include assigned comparative medicine space when considering requests for space assignment in non-comparative medicine space areas.
Dry Lab or Program Support Space
Some investigators direct programs of research that do not require a bench but do require office space for staff completing the work or directing the program. These include but are not limited to faculty or staff conducting biomedical informatics or biostatistics, administrators, clinical research coordinators, educators, and others. The space metric established for laboratory-focused investigators does not apply to this type of space. Laboratories will not be converted to dry lab spaces except with the evaluation of the relative need and location and approval of the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Resources. All such personnel may be required to share offices, or be provided access to flexible docking space, as available, particularly if they are doing remote work part of the time.
Leased Space for SBIR/STTR Grants
Many investigators develop intellectual property that is then developed into a company. Those companies, generally now under the direction of a new CEO, may desire to work with the original investigator or others to develop the product with a federal SBIR or STTR grant. If said faculty has applied for federal funding, that company may request to lease part of the principal investigator’s assigned laboratory space for that grant (e.g., SBIR), with the specific space need evaluated by the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Resources. The final lease of space is executed by Business & Finance, based on established rates to meet costs of maintenance of said space, with copy to the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Resources. Leases may be re-negotiated annually. All personnel assigned to work in that space must understand and meet all institutional policies as per separate SBIR/STTR policy, including that they are kept separate from university equipment and cannot purchase goods or services using university rates.
Procedure To Request Research Space
Research space may be requested by completing the UNMC Space Request form. Research space requests will be considered by the appropriate chair, dean and/or director and/or the UNMC Research Space Committee based on the location of the proposed space. For an assignment in multi-college/institute research buildings, the Research Space Committee will discuss the request at their bi-monthly meeting, to include the VCR and FMP leadership along with the relevant college dean/institute director and department chair or any other representatives designated. A response from a UNMC Research Space Committee request should be expected within one (1) month.
Procedure When Research Space Assignment is Reduced or Changed
Requesting Additional Space
Faculty may request additional space once notice of grant award has been received that designates the final funding received. The space metric of the faculty with and without the award will be compared to those around their current laboratory and the specific space committee evaluates options that may be presented. These could include a decision to not increase space, assignment in another area that can accommodate the request or an increase in space assigned to that faculty member and a reduction in the space assigned to other faculty immediately adjacent to their current space assignment.
Relocation of Space
This process requires a discussion with the faculty’s dean/director and department/division chair/chief. Whenever possible, choices are provided. When a faculty with a lower research metric is asked to relocate, the faculty should be given at least thirty (30) days to move. It often takes approximately thirty (30) days for the space committee to evaluate a request. For this reason, it is optimal that the department, college or unit discuss potential space assignments and recruitments early with the VCR Office so as not to delay placement of a newly hired faculty member.
Reduction in space
Faculty who have a space metric lower than the campus average may be asked to share a laboratory space with another faculty or move their office and/or laboratory to another location if a laboratory assignment is still warranted. Emeritus faculty, unless they have independent research funding or a high likelihood to receive funding that requires laboratory space, will not be assigned laboratory space and may not be assigned an office unless actively named and collaborating on funded research.
All relocation costs of moving are the responsibility of the faculty, their department, or college/institute. Costs include reversal of renovations that have been made and may include additional costs if the laboratory or spaces are not reasonably emptied and cleaned.
- If a faculty member changes department or unit, an MOU must be signed between the two units. This MOU should define what equipment will move to the new department and set expectations for any relocations, in cooperation with the appropriate space committee(s). The cost of the move and any replacement equipment required, or financial arrangement to support the use of shared equipment that is owned by the former department or unit would be the responsibility of the new department or unit.
Request for Research Lab Space Renovation
Research buildings and labs, particularly newly constructed or renovated buildings and spaces, are designed to meet the needs of a broad range of investigators. HVAC requirements are also assessed based on current research configuration. For all these reasons, any request for renovation, whether for a new or existing faculty, including placement of new hoods, must be pre-approved by the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Resources and appropriate FMP leadership before work is initiated. The renovation changes, if approved, must be returned to the previous state when the individual leaves that space. The financial responsibility for renovation costs and cost of returning space to normal are generally those of the investigator, such as their start-up funds and/or their department or college. Any renovations made to the space are required to be returned to its previous configuration at the expense of the faculty or their department or college when that faculty leaves or moves, if not useful to the next occupant.
Master Facilities Database
Maintaining an accurate space assignment database is necessary for assuring safety, security and other operational reasons. Once a research space assignment is made in any building, or any time an assignment is changed, the unit chair, dean or director is responsible for informing the VCR Office within thirty (30) days of the change to update the Master Facilities Database.
Procedure for Leaving a Laboratory Space
When a faculty plans to exit a space, whether leaving the institution, retiring, or moving, they and/or their unit leadership are responsible for completing the faculty departure checklist. Faculty and the department should partner with Environmental Health and Safety on appropriate close-out procedures to include disposal of chemicals or waste in the laboratory, removing all their equipment and supplies or requesting assistance with dispersal to other investigators, and cleaning the space for final checkout. Failure to complete this laboratory check-out procedure and/or damage found when the faculty leaves could result in charges submitted to the department for repair or clean-up. As above, any renovations made to the space by the faculty or unit should be returned to its previous configuration at the expense of the faculty or their department or college when that faculty leaves or moves.
- For more information, contact the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Resources.
- UNMC Space Request
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