core facilities

Interview with Janina Hanne, Stefanie Weidtkamp-Peters and Elisa May, managing director, chair, and former chair/co-founder) of German BioImaging, the German Society for Microscopy and Image Analysis (GerBI-GMB e. V.) on core facilities and hfp consulting’s unique workshop for Core Facility Management

What inspired the idea of a management course specifically for core facilities?

Elisa: At the time –2008– I was tasked to start managing my core facility, there were very few similar units running in Germany, so after having taken part in a Leadership course for scientists from hfp consulting in the past, I contacted Saso and together, with the help of Roland Nitschke –one of the few managers of a Core Facility at a University–, we worked on defining the contents of the workshop. After defining the basic concepts for the course, a first pilot workshop served to finetune the workshop by, for instance, translating the language from business and economics to that of natural scientists.  

Which needs does this course aim to address?

All: First of all, we detected a need for Core Facility Managers to be trained both in administrative and business concepts such as budgeting. On the other hand, the course was designed to help participants develop their self-awareness and negotiating skills, especially useful when dealing with heads of department, deans, and lobbying for their facilities: by raising awareness on the advantages of a centralised unit for instrumentation, for instance. A very important aspect, although not intrinsic to the workshop, was that –particularly at the beginning– it serves as a networking platform, not only because the interactions led to increased self-empowerment, but also as an entry point into a network of like-minded professionals. Similarly, that home institutions recognize the relevance of such a workshop already implies an acknowledgment of the importance of core facilities.

What exactly is the history of collaboration between the former German BioImaging network (GerBI), now GerBI-GMB e.V., and hfp consulting?

Elisa: GerBI’s history and that of the course are intertwined, and were developed hand-in-hand, as we were the first to offer/develop this kind of specific training in Germany, it also helped increase our visibility.

Do you think there are branch specific complexities to  running a core facility that may influence the course design?

Elisa: Walk-in facilities, or those where users are trained into using the technology themselves are different from external services where customer/user relations are not as relevant. 

Steffi: In our case, since we focus on bioimaging, we can say that our facilities are very interactive as opposed to sequencing facilities, for instance, that just provide data. And therefore, there is a higher need for proper problem solving and communication skills.

What is the most useful knowledge to gain from the course?

Steffi: From my experience, what really stuck were the aspects related to business concepts and the interactive exercise to negotiate/lobby with authorities. I think that it also helps increase self-awareness and develop the right attitude to apply administrative changes and develop our infrastructure.

How popular is the course among GerBI-GMB e.V.’s members?

Elisa: The course is generally in high demand although we see fluctuations which may be related to funding cycles. The Excellence Initiative and then the Excellence Strategy funneled substantial funds into the German University system and led to the creation of new facilities, increasing the interest in the course. Therefore, the course is typically full. 

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