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Find information regarding management of your University Core Facility below. 

Proposed Language for Rigor and Reproducibility Guidelines

The guidelines below are open for comments through December 31, 2019. In order to provide comments, use this link to Core Facilities Rigor and Reproducibility Guidelines Feedback.

Service Cores Recommendations (Cores to evaluate if each recommendation applies to their work):
  • Overall statement concerning rigor and reproducibility required on website
  • Cores should document how it verifies that the service meets the technical requirements of the requestor
  • Core should document principles of protocol development/optimization
  • Core should be able to provide traceability in process flow
    • Materials
    • Coding
    • Procedures
  • Cores should document how people, equipment or new processes are certified prior to being offered on a fee for service basis
  • Cores should publish the QC procedures
  • Cores should have procedures to notify customer of limitations of data use
    • Publication guidelines / requirements
    • Data archiving expectations
    • Limitations due to discovery of an issue after data return
Instrument Cores Recommendations (Cores to evaluate if each recommendation applies to their work)
  • Overall statement concerning rigor and reproducibility required on website
  • Core is responsible for evaluating fit for use of a technique before training a new user
  • Cores should provide a public SOP for each instrument
  • Core should develop a formal process with success criteria for certification of
    • New instrument
    • Instrument after failure
    • New user
    • New trainer
    • New sub supplier
  • Instrument history should be tracked
  • Calibration and performance testing of instrumentation should be made available to end users
  • Cores should develop protocols to notify users when measurements or materials created are at risk of being out of expected range
  • Core should develop systems to limit ability to change parameters to those that need to be optimized for data collection and provide a mechanism to return to the default configuration in the case of common component failure (i.e. hard drive), misalignment or other manually adjusted software/hardware setting
Data Management (currently approved by the Core Facilities Advisory Board)
  • Cores should post data lifecycle and how data is treated on website
  • Cores should offer mechanism for faculty to move data to their own network site
    • Faculty are expected to take ownership of data collected by users and data returned in reports
  • CFA recommends that cores utilize RDSS or Box and an automated backup system where possible as the final data destination
  • Cores are allowed to use network based storage or other central access points to facilitate data workup and retrieval. Costs for maintaining systems can be passed on to users through recharge.
  • Cores should retain copies of data generated in collaboration or related to quality assurance / quality control for an appropriate period of time


  • It is expected that a Core Facility serves the needs of the research community at large extending across multiple departments and, ideally, schools. A substantial percentage of user fees received by the facility should be from investigators outside of a single department.
  • It is expected that a Core Facility will have a Faculty Director who oversees the operation and finances of the facility, and an Operations Director who handles the day-to-day management of the facility including technical support for the users.
  • It is expected that a Core Facility has a Faculty Advisory Committee that meets on a regular basis and provides advice for the Director(s). Members of the committee should be users of the facility and represent multiple departments. Ad hoc members of the committee include the Director(s) as well as faculty who are non-users with expertise in the technology or management of core facilities.
  • It is expected that a Core Facility will submit an Annual Cost Study and obtain approval from the Office of Cost Studies before the start of each fiscal year (see Cost Study section, below).
  • If relevant, it is expected that a Core Facility will submit information annually regarding Unrelated Business Income to the Office for Research (see UBI section, below).
  • It is expected that a Core Facility will submit an Annual Report to the Office for Research. Submission of a complete Annual Report is required of any facility that wishes to request support from the Office for Research.
  • Each year the Office for Research will conduct an annual User Survey of each Core Facility (see User Survey section, below). Results of the survey will be provided to each Faculty Director and Operations Director of a facility so that it can be incorporated into the Annual Report. The latter must include the results of the survey and address any major concerns by users and how such concerns will be remedied.
  • Based upon the User Survey and Annual Report, it is expected that the Faculty Director and Operations Director will work with the Office for Research to outline objectives for the coming year.
  • It is expected that the Operations Director will maintain an up-to-date website and database of users, income and expenditures.
  • It is expected that the Operations Director will regularly update the contact information and resource list in the database used by the Core Facilities Search Engine.
  • It is expected that the Faculty Director, Operations Director and core staff that submit equipment grant proposals will participate in the Core Facilities Review Panel when requested by the Director of Core Facilities.


Annual Reports

Any core facility that is supported by or plans to request support from the Office for Research should submit an Annual Report by May 1st (5:00 PM).

The report should be emailed to Andrew Ott, Director of Core Facilities in the Office for Research and/or Jeffrey Weiss, Director for Research Core Planning, Feinberg School of Medicine.

The narrative section should be submitted as a PDF file, and budget and usage data should be included using Excel templates provided online (either as a single file with separate tabs or as separate files).

Note: When answering questions about the “past year” for the Usage Reports, please use the April 1st to March 31st calendar year (not fiscal or calendar year). For the Budget Projections, refer to the fiscal year calendar (September 1st through August 31st).

Scoring Criteria and Annual report components have been updated on 2/14/19. Please see information below.

Core Facilities Administration will award all cores receiving 75% (60/80 pts) or more of available points  the “Core Facilities Service Excellence Award.” Cores acheiving an Outstanding or Excellent rating in six or the eight review areas will typically receive this score. All core staff with 75% or greater effort in the awarded core will receive a nominal financial award under this program from CFA.

Scoring Criteria (80 pts possible) – based upon assessment of data provided in 2019 Annual Report as well as other considerations pertaining to the operation of the facility; each category (admin, research & technical staff, etc.) has a maximum of 10 pts possible and an overall rating as follows:

Outstanding = 10 pts
Excellent = 8-9 pts
Very Good = 6-7 pts
Good = 4-5 pts
Weak = 0-3 pts


1. Administration and Governance (Section A-C, Q) (10 pts)

a. Overview

  • 1 pt – Mission Statement accurately articulates main focus of core (>50% of activities) 

b. Faculty director and faculty advisory committee:

  • 1 pt – Effort provided for administrative activities appropriate
  • 1 pt – Representation from multiple departments
  • 1 pt – Committee represents user base and has appropriate expertise
  • 2 pts – FAC met at least twice in the past year and meeting notes provided

c. Business Administration

  • 1 pt – Business administration for the facility identified and appropriate

d. Report Approval

  • 1 pt – FAC chair approved and sign the annual report

e. Research Safety Certification and Business Continuity Plan


2. Research & Technical Staff (Section D) 
Note: Confederated core scores are prorated for each sub core. 10 point maximum

a. Technical expertise

  • 2 pts – Qualifications of technical staff are appropriate and adequate to meet the needs of the user base

b. Coverage

  • 1 pt – Full-time technical support for the facility
  • 1 pt – Staffing sufficient to meet user needs
  • Adequate backup coverage identified to cover common staffing interruptions (i.e. no single point of failure for mission critical activities)

c. Professional development

  • 2 pts – All/most technical staff attend training course, workshop or conferences
  • 1 pt – Staff presents at regional / national meeting
  • 2 pts – Staff are co-author on publication or is acknowledged or has contributed text/figures to grant
  • Bonus point if presentation is related to core facilities (still 10 pt max)


3. Resource Management (Budget file, Section G)

a. Financial Operations

  • 1 pt – Core has < 2months deficit and report is clear/accurate
  • 1 pt – Core has  <2 month debt (if >2 mo. surplus, explanation required)
  • 1 pt- Core has > 90% recovery
  • 1 pt – Core has multiple sources of revenue (grant, endowment, FSM).  Backstop of deficit not included
  • 1 pt – Core bills using recommended pricing based on cost study and external guidance

b. Equipment/Service line stability

  • 2 pts – Equipment is healthy and plans are in place to replace aging equipment / train additional staff needed for continuity

c. Capability Growth – 3 pt max (Note that in cases of confederated cores, points are normalized based on the numbers of outward facing cores (i.e. if 2 cores are confederated, each would receive 0.5 pt for each service line and maximum of 2 pts/core)

  • 1 pt – Awarded for each new service line
  • 1 pt – Awarded for each external grant submitted (core must receive >50% of award)
  • 1 pt – Awarded for each external grant funded (core must receive >50% of award)
  • 1 pt  – Awarded for each internal grant funded


4. Customer Base & Satisfaction (User Survey Results / Usage Report / Section G – H)

a. Services provided are state-of-the-art / not available through other means

  • 2 pts – Equipment/ Services provide unique capabilities to Northwestern research groups (i.e. capitally intensive, difficult to maintain/train or state-of-the-art)

b. Size and diversification of customer base (Diverse is >10 PI’s with significant revenue (>$10K), >10 PI’s > 5% usage, >5 Dept’s or multiple schools >10% revenue. No PI can be >33% revenue). Confederated cores are treated as a single core

  • 4 pts – large ($500Kor more total income) and diverse
  • 3 pts – medium ($200K-$500K total income) and diverse
  • 2 pts – small (under $200K total income) and diverse
  • 1 pt – large and not diverse
  • 0 pts – small and not diverse

c. 2016 User survey results – based upon facility’s relative ranking of weighted score  (confederated cores ranked on average ranking of each core)

  • 4 pts – Good response/ highly rated (>30% of users / >4.5)
  • 3 pts – Good response / well rated (>30% of users / >4.0)
  • 2 pts – Poor response / highly rate (<30% of users / >4.5)
  • 1 pts –  Poor response / well rated (<30% of users / >4.0)


5. Customer Publications & Grants (Section L / Comprehensive publication list can be pulled from NU Scholar or other resource by administration. Cores do not need to pull
Note that confederated cores should show 3-5 publications/ grants per core. Faculty data pulled independently by CFA

a. Faculty Productivity

  • 2pts – Faculty highly productive and usage clearly linked to core (>10 publications or grants by major user annually)
  • 1 pt – Faculty moderately productive and usage clearly linked to core (>5 publications or grants by major user annually)

b. Publications

  • 1 pt – Publications listed highlight capabilities of each core
  • 1 pt – Publications are in highly rated journals
  • 1 pt – 3 or greater publications / core
  • 1 pt –  Multiple departments represented in list

c. Grants

  • 1 pt – Grants listed have unique contribution from core
  • 1 pt – Multi PI grants included
  • 1 pt – 3 or more grants publications / core
  • Multiple departments represented in list


6. Educational & Outreach Activities (Section M-N) 
Note: Confederated core scores are prorated for each sub core. 10 point maximum

a. Formal educational

  • 3 pts – Core leads courses or course is centered on core usage
  • 2 pts – Core actively participates in courses managed by someone else
  • 1 pt – Core provides services to courses

b. Seminar / Speaker Series

  • 3 pts – core hosts seminar series with external speakers
  • 2 pts – core participates in symposia
  • 2 pts – core organizes regular internal presentations
  • 1 pt – core hosts speaker

c. Workshop

  • 3 pts – Core leads workshop involving external users
  • 2 pts – Core leads workshop involving internal users
  • 1 pt – Core assists with workshop


  • 1 pt – Core hosts Research Experience for Undergraduates / Resesrch Experience for Instructors

e. Outreach

  • 3 pts – Core organized events for K-12 students (2 pt /activity)
  • 2 pts – Core participates in event for K-12 students (1 pt /activity)
  • 1 pt – Core is involved in pilot testing (per activity)


7. Communication of Services (Section N)
Note: Confederated core scores are prorated for each sub core

a. Web Presence (6 pts max)

  • 0-2 pts – Information on Core, Center, FSM, and CFA sites are accurate
  • 0-2 pts – Site content is updated regularly
  • 1 pt – Search of common keyword / core name / northwestern shows core near top of list
  • 1 pt – Home page and key landing pages have easy mechanism to contact the core director or begin a projects (i.e. online survey)

b.  Alternate Mechanisms (4 pts max)

  • 0-2 pts – Core holds regular user group meeting to broadcast new capabilities / obtain user feedback
  • 1 pt – Core participates in research fair (per activity)
  • 1 pt – Core actively involved in faculty recruitment


8. Self-Assessment and Goals (Section O-P)

a. Self-Assessment

  • 1 pt – Concerns from user survey addressed or no negative comments / weaknesses
  • 2 pts – SWOT analysis uncovers actionable items and clearly identifies stakeholders
  • 2 pts – Feedback from FSM/CFA’s previous year addressed

b. Goals

  • 2 pts – Meaningful progress made on last year’s goals
  • 3 pts –  Next year’s goals follow SIMple format and are time based: SIMple = Specific, Important, and Meaningful


Program Review

The process of program review is one of the most significant and successful collaborations between the faculty and administration at Northwestern University. Initially proposed by the faculty, the systematic review and evaluation of all academic and administrative units of the University has had a profound effect on University decision-making. Although the principal focus of program review is “evaluative,” its primary goal has always been the constructive improvement of all aspects of the University. In regard to core facilities, the process is organized and supported by the Office for Research and administered by the Director of Core Facilities and the Associate Vice President for Research.

For more information about the program review, download the Reviewer’s Guide here.

User Surveys

The Office for Research in cooperation with the Feinberg School of Medicine conducts an annual university-wide User Survey of each core facility. Directors and Managers of core facilities will be notified in February of the survey’s availability and how to access it on the web. It is the responsibility of each Director or Manager to send out a request to their users to complete the survey in a timely manner (within two weeks). Results of the survey will be provided to each Director and Manager of a facility so that it can be incorporated into their Annual Report (due in May). The latter must include the survey results and address any major concerns of users and how they will be remedied.


NUcore is a transaction processing system that permits core facilities to accept and track orders, and to bill for their services. NUcore was developed by the Feinberg Research Office in collaboration with the NU Office for Research and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center (RHLCCC).

NUcore is available to all shared facilities at Northwestern University. Facilities that receive funding from the Office for Research, FSM Research Office, or the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center are highly encouraged to use NUcore or an equivalent program. If you are interested in using NUcore, the first step is to contact the appropriate office to schedule an overview presentation. This 90 minute introduction covers all aspects of NUcore, including the design and goals of the system, types of products that the system handles, workflow, billing, account management and the user experience.

To request support, please email

For more information about NUcore, please visit this site.

NUcore Tech Talk Recordings