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Eligibility and Expectations

User is defined to include both hands-on operators and recipients of analytical services, as well as faculty advisors or managers of these personnel (i.e., those involved in the funding and discussion of results).


Who are eligible users of the CharFac?

The Characterization Facility (all sites) is available to

  1. researchers from all departments and units internal to the University of Minnesota (students, faculty, staff) upon completing CharFac registration including a valid EFS-billing string (i.e., one with funds available and preconfigured to pay for facilities charges; please consult your accounting staff);
  2. educators on the U of M-Twin Cities campus who wish to incorporate demonstrations or hands-on usage into their class' lab experience;
  3. external users - whether from industry or from other academic institutions, or internal faculty and staff acting as independent consultants - via a purchase order mechanism.  All hands-on operators from industry must sign our Lab User Agreement.  Unless working in collaboration with a University of Minnesota principal investigator, recipients of analytical services, including those from industry and external academics from heavy usage institutions (defined as >$5,000/year), must sign a Service Agreement that is authored by the Office of General Counsel of the University of Minnesota, per Regents Policy.  Please contact Administrator for these documents

What does it cost?

Internal University of Minnesota users pay charges determined by the operations costs of the CharFac, beyond those costs defrayed by central subsidies from three Colleges (Dentistry, Medical, Science and Engineering) and the Office of the Vice President for Research.  Generally our instrumentation is NOT purchased with user fee income, rather from grants and matching funds.  (Thus our internal charge rates reflect only a fraction of the true cost of instrumentation, and only operational aspects.)

External US academic institutions garner slightly higher rates (to cover institutional overhead) than our internal investigators for instrument time (per federal rules, i.e., OMB Circular A-21) and for staff time in training for independent use; however, they are charged at commercial rates for staff time spent providing analytical services.

Industrial users, as well as non-US academic institutions, are charged at commercial rates for both instrument time and staff analytical time.  The commercial rates are set to be consistent with the US analytical services market, per federal requirements.  A reduced rate is invoked for staff time spent training external users, as this is not part of the analytical services market.  Instrument charges are discounted by 1/3 to members of our affiliated industrial consortium, IPRIME.  Internal faculty and staff acting as independent consultants are charged as non-member companies; IPRIME companies, if clients of the consultants, may choose to be directly charged by the CharFac for instrument time at the discounted rates.

A further comment to industrial users: In your interaction with the staff at the Characterization Facility, please note that facility operations are largely funded by the above user and client fees, not by University funding. Thus we request that you respect our staff's time and energy by

  1. not engaging the staff in initial project discussions without the strong intention of actually doing work at the Charfac;
  2. not expecting the staff to provide gratis consulting on analytical approaches, strategies and methods (i.e., our "IP");
  3. after the work is completed, not expecting staff to provide gratis discussion and further data analysis or report writing which was not initially requested (in the purchase order).

The time required to perform #1-3, for private companies or individuals, is a double loss to CharFac because it produces no revenue to help balance our bottom line while taking time away from serving our public mission.


What kinds of projects are eligible?

Any project of scientific, engineering or medical research is eligible for CharFac usage.  Educational usage is considered on a case-by-case basis according to available resources (instrumentation and staff).


What is expected from users?

Potential users are not expected to fully understand the analytical issues they face.  They should be able to fully explain the study or research questions, including (i) how the materials/specimens to be analyzed will be prepared and (ii) a basic overview of the research issues.  For industrial users a Nondisclosure Addendum, authored by the University's Office of General Counsel, can be included with the Service Agreement to enable an open discussion.

Users are expected to use. Some data have suggested that 20% of trainees do not go on to use the instrument(s) on which they have been trained, and another 20% use so little that analytical services by the CharFac staff would have been the better option. Training is never intended to be an end in itself. The CharFac does not charge nearly enough for training as a stand-alone commodity (typically $1,000-$3,000 in the marketplace). Training is intended to enable heavy usage of facilities in the context of lengthy research projects, usually spanning at least months and often years. It is an abuse of University facilities and staffing to seek training only to enhance one’s resume. Such behavior will be noted and reported.

Collegial and productive interactions between users and staff members are expected.  It is always appropriate to recognize the role of the Characterization Facility in a research project.  Co-authorship of papers can be appropriate when the CharFac staff member provides significant input to a final research outcome.  If not sufficient to garner co-authorship, a personal acknowledgment may be warranted.  Either of these gestures can have a positive impact on the CharFac's ability to attract and/or retain expert research staff.  It also communicates to the reader or audience the nature of expertise and cooperation one can access in the CharFac.

Whether or not the preceding applies, the following general statement of facility acknowledgement is required of all users:

"Parts of this work were carried out in the Characterization Facility, University of Minnesota, which receives partial support from NSF through the MRSEC program."

Further discussion of acknowledgements, in connection with cost issues, can be found here.

Publications and Presentations: Please send titles/abstracts of all journal publications and conference presentations that recognize the Characterization Facility to .  These are posted on our web site.


Questions and clarifications

Please email about administrative and billing issues (e.g., user documentation, purchase orders, invoices), or regarding policy issues and collaboration opportunities.