Acknowledgement of Core Facilities

in scientific publications
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Published on the 9 July 2020
Contributions to scientific output is key metric for core facility management, as it allows to get funding, grants, and to ensure continuous high standards of operations. That is why acknowledging a core facility in publications is an important matter. It helps the core to assess its scientific impact.
For a core facility, being able to show its input within the scientific community is one of the important parameters to maintain its funding and investments. This can be achieved by measuring the number of users and bookings, the activities, and visibility through workshops, seminars, and demonstrations. And also, through the publications made by its users, when they acknowledge the core facility that has supported their research project. Keeping track of those can be tricky to maintain as it requires ongoing communication between the authors and the core facility.

1. Why acknowledging core facilities is important?

Being quoted in publications allows core facilities to value their scientific impact as part of the facility performance assessment. Indeed, most facilities deliver an annual report to their board or to the institution administration. Most of the time, this report includes a topic on publications by users during the past year. A list of metrics to assess the content of annual reports can be found in a 2016 article, “Metrics for Success: Strategies for Enabling Core Facility Performance and Assessing Outcomes”. [1] For example, in the “Scoring criteria for annual reports”, customer publications count for 5 points out of the maximum score of 80.

The Number of customer publications may be seen as an indicator of the “success” of the facility.[2] In a study conducted by the Association for Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU) Council on Research (CoR), in 2019 on 58 CROs, CROs were asked “How do you characterize the success of a care facility?”. “Publications” was amongst the more given answers.

In addition to annual reports, publications also help to prove transdisciplinary collaboration and coordination as supporting evidence for grants requests.

Image by Library of Congress on Unsplash

2. It is more complex that it looks

Of course, quite some time may pass -sometimes years- between the results are obtained at the facility and their publication in an article, making it harder to track and properly credit. This requires good and continuous communication with users to get informed of their advance.

“In practice, however, months or even years may pass until data obtained in the CF appear in a manuscript and, hence, students or PIs may simply forget who helped them in getting the beautiful images.”   [3]
“Some things are within our power, while others are not” as the stoic Epictetus used to say [4]. They are a few points on which facilities can be proactive.

In addition to maintaining a relationship with users after the end of the research project, cores can actually act on users’ awareness. Promoting authorship policies can be part of the users’ education, to remind users how essential their acknowledgement is:

  • At the beginning of the project: when defining the role and missions at the start of a project, authorship and acknowledgment can be discussed, and can even be drafted into an agreement when important involvement of the facility is to be planned.
  • Inside the facilities: a poster may be displayed to remind users.
  • After the end of the project within the facility: by automatizing a “thank you” email, reminding users to acknowledge you and your facility in grants and publications.

Internally, staff should also be aware of the publications policy guidelines.

And of course, the collection of potential core-user publications can be semiautomated. An article published in 2012 [5] provides a method to track core-contributed publications, using PubCrawler and EndNote, as alerting service scanning through databases such as PubMed

3. Authorship for core facility staff

Authorship is important for Core facility staff, as scientists. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) clearly defines why authorship matters. [6]
Core facility staff are partners in the advance of science and knowledge and when they bring contributions to a research project, it is only fair that it should be recognized. [7]

“That can range from a note in a publication’s acknowledgments — when a researcher is simply using the core lab’s services — to co-authorship when a core scientist is heavily involved in planning the experiments.” [8]

“Personnel in core facilities provide essential services for their users and it is important to recognize their contributions to the scientific advancement of the projects. The type of recognition that is most appropriate may be different for individual projects, depending on the contribution that core facility personnel provides.”   [9]
The ICMJE recommends that authorship should be based on four cumulative criteria. The Biotechniques journal has for instance taken the same criterium to define its Author guidelines.

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  • Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

The contributors not fulfilling these criteria could be quoted in the acknowledgments.

 

The association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities (ABRF) has issued dedicated authorship guidelines.

The Royal Microscopy Society (RMS) has also released a generic Core Facilities Publication Policy, that can be adapted and used by any facility.

Authorship policy can be made visible on the core’s website, you will below a few examples to inspire you to redact and promote your own.

Sources:

[1] “Metrics for Success: Strategies for Enabling Core Facility Performance and Assessing Outcomes”, table 2, P.B. Turpen et al., Journal of Biomolecular techniques 27(1), 2016, https://doi.org/10.7171/jbt.16-2701-001

[2] https://www.srainternational.org/blogs/srai-jra1/2019/12/09/operational-fiscal-management-of-core-facilities

[3] “Advanced light microscopy core facilities: Balancing service, science and career”, E. Ferrando-May, et al., Microscopy Research and TechniqueVolume 79, Issue 6, April 2016, https://doi.org/10.1002/jemt.22648

[4] The Enchiridion, 135 BC

[5] “Method for Tracking Core-Contributed Publications”, C.A.Loomis, C.L. Curchoe, Journal of Biomolecular Techniques 23:122–127, 2012, https://doi.org/10.7171/jbt.12-2304-003

[6] ICMJE authorship page 

[7] Northwestern University publication guidelines

[8] “Core facilities: Shared support”, J. Gould, Nature 519, 495–496, 2015, https://doi.org/10.1038/nj7544-495a

[9] https://abrf.org/authorship-guidelines

 

Related terms: grants, funding, authorship and acknowledgment policies, accountability, Laboratory information management systems (LIMS)

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