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Rating Core Labs

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Core labs might be the overlooked, underappreciated sidekick in the research world, but this survey of 841 Genome Technology readers says that users are happy overall with their cores.

For this survey, our third on the topic, we asked about your experiences with core labs. About 23 percent of the respondents worked at a core lab themselves, and they were directed to a separate set of questions asking about their facilities, while the rest of the respondents gave their feedback on using core labs — 66 percent of those respondents send work to cores.

Most commonly, researchers take advantage of core labs for DNA sequencing, microarray, mass spectrometry, and 2D gel projects — a similar breakdown as in our previous two surveys — while sending out oligo building to outside service providers. They do, however, prefer to do PCR and cloning in their own labs. Accordingly, the top services offered at cores are DNA sequencing and microarrays, while many facilities also offer PCR and genotyping services.

And the users are pretty happy with those services. Most users rated their cores as "excellent" or "good" overall and were particularly pleased with the accuracy of their results, the core staff, and the reliability of the service at the core. Indeed, when asked if they would switch from using their core lab to an outside service provider, respondents overwhelmingly — 64 percent — said that they'd stick with the service they are using now. The users do, however, see some room for improvement in speed of service, cost, and the range of services offered; cores were more likely to be rated as "good" on those points.

For their part, managers and staff at core labs say that accuracy and reliability of results are among their top priorities, followed by the quality of their support staff and the ease and efficiency of their work flow. Core lab workers also report that their prices are often tiered. For example, in-department researchers might receive a better rate than those from other institutions, followed by flat rates (though some cores do offer subsidized or even free services).

A little more than two-thirds of core lab staff also say that they are seeing more work this past year than before — which they also noted in the 2008 and the 2006 surveys.

Check out the results here (PDF).

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