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Research Cores/Service Centers (RSC), commonly referred to as recharge units and/or research core facilities, are operational units that provide goods, specific technical, or administrative services to UNC-Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) users or external entities.

The Research Core Development (RCD) Team will offer a resource and team to provide campus additional support for RSC management. The RCD team, in a partnership between the Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Research (OVCR) and the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP), will collaborate with OSP’s Cost Analysis and Compliance unit and RSC leadership to develop and implement new capabilities and business processes designed to streamline core management, rate development, business workflows, and general core facility administration.

Help us help you! To submit any additional items that you would like to see on our new webpage, please email RCD@unc.edu.

 

About


  • Ben Wright – Director of Research Core Development
    Ben has six years of experience at OSP as the point of contact for internal and external audits of sponsored projects and manager of the pre-audit, subrecipient monitoring, and post-audit functions. Ben has led UNC through multiple Statewide Single Audits, and numerous other audits of sponsored projects, and has been involved in business process, policy, and internal control improvements.

  • Partner with departments, schools, and existing recharge centers to develop a campus-wide Core strategy
  • Survey equipment and resources to establish a central asset repository
  • Consult on core management and business process improvement
  • Assist with solutions for marketing core facility services
  • Provide options for treatment of rapidly changing or volatile rates
  • Assist with more frequent rate reviews
  • Solicit feedback from campus regarding other beneficial services to consider and develop in the future

  • Engagement
  • Equipment/Resource Survey and Analysis
  • Financial Reporting Tools
  • Rate Review Support/Improvements
  • Central Website


Research Core Agreements

Process

A service agreement should be in place before beginning any work for an external client. UNC-CH has a pre-approved agreement template that may be requested and used. OSP’s Contracting team will work with RSCs to complete these agreements. Use the buttons at the bottom of this page to access the online fillable forms. Once the form is complete, select the “Submit” button to route the request to the OSP Contracting Team. Please see the guidance for more information. As a reminder, RSCs DO NOT have the ability to negotiate or sign their own agreements. Please contact OSPContracting@unc.edu with any questions.

To Request a Research Service Center/Core Agreement template:

Please submit a request using the Request New Template form on this website. The pre-approved UNC-CH OSP template will be sent to the submitter’s email. If the Core already has a template, then they can continue to use the current template. They do not need to request a new one.

The Core should use the template provided by OSP Contracting moving forward.

To Submit a Research Service Center/Core Agreement template:

  1. Complete the Research Service Center/Core Agreement template, attach the custom quote or rate sheet as applicable, and provide to the client to sign.
  2. Once the signed agreement is returned, upload the agreement using the Submit an Agreement form.
  3. Once the UNC-CH agreement has been signed by the client, work can begin without waiting for UNC signature.

If Core Template Needs Updates:

If the core needs an amendment to the original agreement with a client, such as an extension or service update, or the Core has recieved new or updated rates and they use a Rate Sheet in their agreements, this information and/or these new rates should be submitted via the Submit Update Request form. This is not needed if the Core uses the rates on their website or custom quotes for their agreements.

The OSP Industry Contracting team will work with the RSC and client to finalize an agreement. RSCs DO NOT have the ability to negotiate or sign their own agreements.

If Changes or Client Agreement is needed:

If the client would like to use their own agreement or would like changes made to the UNC-CH template, please submit a request via the Submit Change Request form. Provide a description of the requested changes, the client contact information and upload the client’s agreement, if available.

Use the buttons below to access the online forms. See the Research Core Agreements guidance for more information.

News & Events

Core Facility Workshops- Quality Audits of Cores: Awareness and Preparedness

Core Facility Workshops- Quality Audits of Cores: Awareness and PreparednessThursday 2/9/2023 (Registration Required)

Core labs that work with biotech/pharma companies or federal agencies may be subject to mandatory quality audits, based on company policy and GLP standards. In this workshop, we will discuss what a quality audit entails, how to prepare standard operating procedures (SOPs), and the resources available to ensure a successful audit. Dr. Chris Gregory, Director of the SOM Office of Research Technologies, will present this with the experience of having guided multiple UNC cores through the audit process and of undergoing quality audits at pharmaceutical companies—come with any questions about the process and how you can prepare ahead of an audit! Register here for an IN-PERSON session (held in Genetics Medicine Building) on February 9th – spots are limited.


Core Facility Workshops – External F&A: What is it, how do I monitor it, and how can I use it?

Jackie Schwamberger, SOM FiRST Services Manager, and Ben Wright, OSP Director of Research Core Development, will host a virtual informational and interactive session on external sales reserve (commonly referred to in the UNC core community as “F&A”). Topics to be discussed include how to calculate and track external sales reserve, allowable vs. unallowable uses of these funds, and how expenses should be documented.

Recording

Presentation

2022 Core Directors Webinar: 12/13/22 at 10 am

Recording

Presentation

This was a virtual meeting on:

  • Research Core Development initiatives, including:
    • Financial Reporting
    • Rate reviews
    • iLab
  • New Research Core Development webpage
  • External research core agreements portal
  • Upcoming workshops
  • and more!

Core Facility Showcase Fair

Participating core facilities will each have a manned table and will be giving short, TED-style talks in Kirkland Auditorium. Come talk to our core directors about your research and listen to research highlights in our core facilities. Lunch will be provided for attendees who have their registration card signed by the requisite number of core directors! Learn more here.

Where: Koury Oral Health Sciences Building (385 S. Columbia St) 1st and Ground Floor lobbies

When: Tuesday, October 11, 2022 from 11:00 AM to 1:30 PM


Contact Us

OSP Cost Analysis and Compliance

FAQs



FAQ Content

What is a core?


Research Service Centers, also referred to as recharge centers or core facilities, are formally approved, centralized, shared research resource entities that provide access to instruments, technologies, and services, as well as expert consultation and other resources to scientific and clinical investigators that are normally beyond the technical or financial capability of individual Principal Investigators (PIs).



In general, Research Service Centers recover their cost, or a portion of their cost, by providing services in return for user fees that are charged for services. A Research Service Center's primary purpose is to support University researchers; however, services may also be provided to external users. External users are defined as entities governed and administered independently from the University and may include other academic institutions.



To be considered an official Research Service Center, core facility, or recharge center, rates must be formally approved and reviewed by the UNC Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) every two years. Formal approval from OSP is required whenever a new rate is added, revised, or removed.

What is the difference between a core/shared resource and a "recharge" or Research Service Center?


In order for a core to be considered an official Research Service Center, or recharge center, rates must be formally approved and reviewed by the UNC Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) every two years. Formal approval from OSP is required whenever a new rate is added, revised, or removed.

How do I establish my core as an official recharge/Research Service Center?


Contact Research Core Development at RCD@unc.edu and we will assist in starting the process of becoming an official Research Service Center.

I would like to officially close a core/RSC. What do I do?


Contact Research Core Development at RCD@unc.edu and we will assist in beginning the process of closing the core/RSC.

I would like to discuss opportunities to improve a core's financials- what do I do?


Contact Research Core Development at RCD@unc.edu - we work directly with core management to identify opportunities to improve business processes and increase financial performance of core operations.

What is a fund balance?


There are two different terms related to fund balance - "book fund balance" and "actual fund balance".



Book fund balance is the difference between recorded revenues and expenditures from the time the RSC was first established to the present. (Sales minus expenses.)



Actual fund balance is the book fund balance adjusted for timing differences between when services provided are billed (revenue recognition) and when customer payments are received (accounts receivable collection). (Sales for which payment has been received minus expenses.)



A surplus is identified by a credit fund balance (revenues are greater than expenses)



A deficit is identified by a debit fund balance (expenses are greater than revenues).



Breakeven is achieved when the operating account's fund balance results in zero after all outstanding revenues and outstanding expenditures have been recorded and posted to the financial system as of a given point in time.



The actual fund balance may contain a surplus equal to or less than 60 days of working capital.



External sales revenue and depreciation contained in approved recharge rates should result in a planned surplus.

What is an open-access core vs. a member-only core?


Cores may be open to all users or may be restricted to only certain groups of users. For example, a core may provide services to all internal and external users or may only provide services to users within a specific department. Below are the classifications for cores related to users:



  • Open to internal and external users

  • Limited Access Core Facilities: Core facilities that exist to serve a restricted group of investigators associated with a specific grant, or to support investigators within a specific department or center.


    • Open only to UNC users

    • Open only to members

    • Closed (only departmental users)




Collaborative Core: Research-oriented cores that have special expertise and equipment that do not fit unit pricing. In many cases, investigators accomplish their work by collaborating with members of the core. These may be open-access, fee for service, or may instead operate with a different model such as expenses paid directly by PI grants. Typically, collaborative cores are not official recharge centers.


For more information on how to choose the correct Research Core Agreement online form to submit, please see the Research Core Agreements Guidance.

FAQ Content

How would I create a template agreement to provide to potential clients?


Please submit this request via the Request New Template form. After submission an OSP approved agreement template will be sent to the submitter. If a Core is using a template, they do not need to request a new one.

I already have a template agreement, do I need a new one?


No, if you are currently using a research core agreement template you do not need to request a new one.


I have a template agreement, what do I do in order to execute the agreement with the client?


Insert the applicable information into the template agreement. Once completed, send the agreement to the client for signature.



When the client returns the signed agreement, send the signed agreement to OSP Contracting for full execution. Work may be begin once the client has signed. UNC signature is not required to begin work. However, the agreement must be executed by OSP; core or departmental staff may not sign the agreement.

What do I do if the client has requested use of their agreement instead of the UNC agreement?


We strongly encourage you to push back to the client and ask to use the UNC agreement. Use of a client agreement may significantly delay the negotiation and execution process. You must submit any requests to change the UNC template or use a client agreement via the Submit Change Request form.



Once the information is received, OSP will reach out to client to begin the negotiation process. Once the agreement is fully executed, OSP will send a copy of the agreement to the client and to the UNC core contacts.

What do I do if the client wants to change language and/or terms and conditions in the UNC agreement.


We strongly encourage you to push back to the client and ask to use the UNC agreement. Use of a client agreement may significantly delay the negotiation and execution process. You must submit any requests to change the UNC template or use a client agreement via the Submit Change Request form.



Once the information is received, OSP will reach out to client to begin the negotiation process. Once the agreement is fully executed, OSP will send a copy of the agreement to the client and to the UNC core contacts.

What do I do if the Core Rates have been updated?


If you use a Rate Sheet in your agreements, then you will need to complete the Submit Update Request from. You do NOT need to do this if your agreements reference the rates on your website or if you use custom quotes.

What do I do if I need an amendment to an existing agreement?


You will need to complete the Submit Update Request from.

Can someone at the core or department sign the agreement on behalf of UNC?


No. The agreement must be signed by OSP on behalf of UNC.

When can the core begin work under the agreement?


The core may begin work under the agreement once the agreement is signed by the client. The agreement does not need to be signed by UNC in order for work to begin. However, the agreement must be executed on behalf of UNC by OSP. Core or department personnel may not execute agreements on behalf of UNC.



FAQ Content

Who is responsible for reviewing recharge rates?


Rates should be formally reviewed at least annually at the department level and every two years by the Cost Analysis and Compliance (CAC) unit in the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP). OSP maintains a rate review cycle and will contact you prior to your formal review.



Written approval by OSP is required whenever a new rate or fee is added, revised, or deleted. Contact OSP CAC at RSCSupport@unc.edu for a rate review or to add or modify rates.



RSC rates charged should be designed to achieve a break-even operation over a long-term period, usually two years.

I would like to add a new rate or modify a current rate for an existing RSC, what do I do?


Contact OSP CAC at RSCSupport@unc.edu to add or modify rates. OSP CAC will perform a streamlined review of new or modified rates- a full rate review may not be necessary. Written approval by OSP is required whenever a new rate or fee is added, revised, or deleted.

The Rate Development Worksheet I use does not have enough rate columns- what do I do?


Contact OSP CAC at RSCSupport@unc.edu to request additional rate columns on the RDW.

Can a core charge a rate lower than the approved recharge rate(s)?


Rates should be designed to achieve a breakeven operation over a long-term period. OSP recommends charging the applicable approved rates for all services, including charging the breakeven rate for internal users and sponsored agreements.



A core may choose to charge a rate lower than the breakeven rate. However, the department will be responsible for paying the difference between the approved rate on the Rate Development Worksheet and the lower rate charged to customers.

What is the difference between member subsidy and non-member subsidy worksheets?


The difference between the member and non-member subsidy worksheets is that the member subsidy RDW contains additional sections on the "ReOp1-Main Worksheet" tab and the "ReOp7-Subsidies" tab to identify pertinent information related to calculating discounted rates for a specific group of customers that require the products or services of the RSC. If the RSC does not have a specific subset of customers that receive a discounted rate, the non-member subsidy Rate Development Worksheet should be used.

What are the different rates and when should I use them?


The rate to be charged for a particular service is based on the customer:


Internal Breakeven Rate (RDW rate a): also known as the "breakeven rate".



  • Breakeven Rate = Total Estimated Annual Direct Cost / Total Estimated Annual Usage


Subsidized Internal Rate (RDW rate b): Internal Breakeven Rate less subsidized amount. May be charged to specific groups within UNC who are allowed a reduced rate (for example: within the department, school/college, etc.).


Internal Other Rate (RDW rate c): Internal Breakeven Rate less specific member subsidized amount. May be charged to specific groups within UNC who are allowed a reduced rate (for example: within the department, school/college, etc.).


Minimum External Rate (RDW rate d): Internal Breakeven Rate + F&A. This rate or the market rate, whichever is higher, should be charged for all non-academic external users (for example: GSK, Merck, Pfizer, Tessa, etc.)


Academic Rate: Internal Breakeven Rate + F&A. Also known as the Minimum External Rate. This rate should be charged for all external academic institutions (for example: UNCG, Duke, NCCU, Baylor). This includes UNC System institutions.



Examples:



  • A UNC PI wants a budget for a study sponsored by NCI or another federal sponsor. The Internal Breakeven Rate should be used.

  • A researcher at Duke wants to utilize your core and would like to pay by purchase order. The Academic Rate (also known as the Minimum External Rate) should be used.

  • A UNC PI wants a budget for a study sponsored by Merck. The External Rate should be used (higher of Minimum External Rate or market rate).

Can office supplies be included in the rate calculation process?


No, office supplies are unallowable and cannot be included in the rate calculation within the Rate Development Worksheet.



FAQ Content

Can a core provide services to non-UNC users?


Yes. While Research Service Centers/cores are established primarily to meet the needs of the University research community, there are circumstances in which services may be provided to external entities.



You should assess the core's capacity to serve a new or expanded user base to ensure there is personnel time and instrumentation time available to handle the added business. Service for external users should not negatively impact usage by UNC users.

Are UNC Health and other UNC campuses external users?


Yes. UNC Health and other UNC campuses are external users.

I would like to offer services to an external entity. What should I do?


A service agreement should be in place before beginning any work with an external user. The agreement should define the scope of work, deliverables, cost of services, payment, etc.



The Industry Contracting Group within OSP will work with you to create a fillable template service agreement for your core, which can then be used for any external entity, industry or academic/non-profit.



See Industry Agreements - Core Recharge Service Center Agreement here: https://research.unc.edu/sponsored-research/resources/industry-contracting.

What rate can I charge an external entity?


See #14 above for rate information. Questions about when to use a specific rate? Contact CAC at RSCSupport@unc.edu.

Can I charge a lower rate to an external entity in order to get their business?


You may not charge a rate lower than the rate charged to internal users (Internal Breakeven Rate). If the RSC elects to charge a rate lower than the external minimum rate, the department will be responsible for paying the difference between the approved external minimum rate on the Rate Development Worksheet and the lower rate charged to the customer.

Should I record revenue from external users differently than revenue from internal users?


Yes!



  • Sales from external users should be recorded using account code 441911.

  • Sales from internal users should be recorded using account code 441845.

  • Above-Cost External Revenue is exempt from breakeven requirements if it is documented appropriately.

How do I know if I have an external revenue operating surplus?


External revenue is comprised of two components: break-even portion of external revenue and above-cost portion of external revenue. Both components of external revenue must be monitored and separately documented by the operating unit.



Break-Even External Revenue: The break-even portion of external revenue is defined by the applicable internal rate multiplied by the quantity of service output supplied to the external user:



  • Break-Even External Revenue = Approved Internal Rate * Quantity Supplied



Above-Cost External Revenue: The above-cost portion of external revenue is determined by multiplying the service output provided to the customer by the difference between the approved external rate and the applicable internal rate.



  • Above-Cost External Revenue = External quantity * (External Rate - Internal Rate)



If the external rate used is the Internal Breakeven Rate plus F&A, Above-Cost External Revenue can be calculated as



  • Above-Cost External Revenue (F&A) = External Revenue / (1 + F&A Rate)



The External Revenue Operating Surplus is not subject to rate carryforward adjustments and can be set aside to be used by RSC management solely for the benefit and improvement of the RSC's operations.


Use of accumulated depreciation funds requires prior written approval from OSP CAC. If you would like to explore options for utilizing an accumulated depreciation balance, contact OSP CAC at RSCSupport@unc.edu.

FAQ Content

Can the cost of equipment be included in a recharge rate?


Equipment cannot be directly charged to the RSC, but in some circumstances the cost may be recovered via accumulated depreciation. Identifying the original funding source for the equipment is critical before any consideration of including the cost recovery in a recharge rate.



Equipment purchased directly with federally sponsored funds cannot be included in a recharge rate. Much of the research performed at UNC is federally funded. If equipment was purchased using federal funds, the government has already paid for the full cost of the equipment. Therefore, including equipment depreciation in the rates charged to federally funded researchers would be double-billing the government.



If the equipment was not purchased directly with federally sponsored funds and if the equipment is used solely for recharge services, then 100% of the cost recovery (depreciation) can be included in the associated service rate(s). If the equipment is shared between recharge services and other usage, only the percent of usage by the recharge facility can be included in the rate structure. There must be a means for accurate documentation of the levels of usage, either by usage log per instrument or another method.

What is depreciation and how is it calculated?


Because capitalized equipment lasts longer than one year, it would not be appropriate to include the full cost of the equipment in the rates for a single year. This would be overcharging the users in that one year and undercharging users in each successive year the equipment was in service.



Therefore, the cost of equipment should be expensed in equal portions over the entire span of useful life. This allows revenues produced by the use of the equipment to appropriately align with the expense of the original purchase. This is referred to as depreciation: we are using up a portion of the equipment over multiple years, so the cost is also spread over multiple years.



Each year's cost is the depreciation expense for that year. The total amount of depreciation expense recorded to-date is accumulated depreciation.



Depreciation expense (straight-line method) is calculated as follows:



  • Purchase Price / Useful Life = Annual Depreciation Expense

    *Other factors may influence depreciation expense, such as salvage value, timing of purchase during the year, etc.

If depreciation expense is included in a rate, how should I keep track of it?


Depreciation expense for a given piece of equipment must be applied to only those rates which utilize that specific instrument. Revenue derived from the depreciation expense must be tracked and accounted for as a component of the overall recharge fund balance.



Because recharge accounts are cost recovery systems, there are limits on the amount of carry forward balance that should be accumulated. Depreciation is exempt from this calculation since it is associated with a long-term expense, but you must have supporting documentation showing the amount of accumulated depreciation so that it will be allowed to carry over from year to year and not be considered surplus revenue from normal operations.



OSP CAC will assist with the calculation of accumulated depreciation during the rate review process.



When properly tracked, the accumulated balance of collected depreciation funds can be applied to the purchase of new equipment for the core, which is not normally an allowable expense for a recharge operation. Use of accumulated depreciation funds requires prior written approval from OSP CAC. If you would like to explore options for utilizing an accumulated depreciation balance, contact OSP CAC RSCSupport@unc.edu.


CrossLab iLabs core facility management is a web-based software solution for facilitating service requests, customer and project management, as well as billing and invoicing. iLab software can help core staff save time and money by streamlining lab administrative processes and developing better metric tracking and data collection. More information is available here: https://www.agilent.com/en/service/laboratory-services/lab-operations-management/core-facilities-management.

FAQ Content

How can I demo iLab and learn more about getting started?


Contact the SOM Business Office at coresupport@med.unc.edu.



FAQ Content

When do I need to keep documentation for expenses?



  • If a pass-through rate is used, or if bundled rates are used, documentation must be retained in order to support how the amount charged was calculated.

  • This documentation will be necessary to support costs in case of audit.

  • Documentation should include invoices or receipts for the supplies purchased to satisfy the customer's request. These costs should align with the amount invoiced to the customer.



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