Last week, Martin Hamilton and I attended the S-lab conference at the BBSRC Rothamsted Research. S-lab is an initiative that supports world class science through engaging the discussion on efficiencies around laboratory equipment and facilities.
The conference kicked off with a few keynote speakers. David Parfrey of BBSRC said that the recipe for a bioeconomy is a combination of mind-set, innovation and capability. And by capabilities, he meant facilities that are ready for sustainable use. Parfrey mentioned the Wakeham review and highlighted the steps that BBSRC has made to implement the recommendations. To note, £72 billion in savings have been enabled by BBSRC over the past couple of years. He ended his keynote by mentioning the critical things that are required to achieve and demonstrate value for money. Before planning, buying and implementing, Parfrey advocated that we need to “identify the needs well” and the solutions.
Equipment sharing session
After the keynotes, Martin and I ran a session on equipment sharing to give an update on the market research and our plan for next 12 months. We had a full house. It probably helps to be the first one presenting!
I attended 3 other sessions:
- The update from Chris Wilkinson on the work they are doing at Cambridge University around equipment sharing. 74% of the university’s equipment is currently being shared on equipment.data. The major issues they are encountering: contracts and a standard way of booking.
- John Davey from Warwick University gave an overview of the system they have implemented to avoid cultural resistance around sharing equipment. The university developed 6 research technology platforms (RTP) that support and manage equipment centrally. Researchers and departments don’t have to use the RTPs, but if they do, then the university makes a financial commitment to investment in the maintenance of the kit. They launched in August 2014 and they have already seen a decrease of 15% in costs, and an increase of 25% in usage. The RTP system was built with advice from Ian Smith at Monash University. John is going to spend a few more months in Australia to learn and plan how to take the RTPs to the next level.
- Dean Flanders from the Swiss FMI talked through the Open IRIS – a platform for sharing and booking equipment used by 73 organisations across 26 countries in Europe. The platform is free to use by researchers, but providers can join a consortium for €5,000 if they wish to receive any support and need any enhancements. Dean has dealt with many of the issues that institutions in the UK are facing – flexibility of booking forms to allow additional requirements before reserving a piece of kit, integration with federated access, billing and no-show policies among others.
Across the sessions we attended and the discussion we had during the conference breaks, the key themes and challenges that came up around equipment sharing were mostly touchin g up on contracts and charges when sharing, and finding good enough booking systems that would replace Quartzy and not be as expensive as Stratcore.
This in fact, is an area that we would like to take forward at Jisc over the next 12 months, along with developing usage statistics that would demonstrate sharing and testing some of the features recommended in the market report. We welcome any suggestions, comments, and questions, or if you would like to get involved, then please email firstname.lastname@example.org.