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Readers Rate Core Labs: 2012 Edition

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People love to complain. Researchers complain about their core labs and core lab workers complain about their users. But how unhappy is everyone, really? Respondents to Genome Technology's fourth core lab survey say they are generally happy with their core labs, consistently awarding them a "good" rating for most metrics. Respondents were particularly pleased with the accuracy of results and the quality of support staff at their cores. Correspondingly, core lab workers said they valued results accuracy and support staff quality in serving their customers.

To gather this data, Genome Technology sent an email in mid-January to readers with a link to a survey, and followed up with a reminder email a week later. Of the 695 respondents, a little more than a quarter identified themselves as working at a core lab themselves, and they were asked separate set of questions about their facilities, while the rest of the respondents gave their feedback on using core labs.

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Of the non-core lab respondents, about 76 percent said that they make use of core services. Most frequently, they send DNA or RNA sequencing, microarray, and mass spec work to cores, while most respondents send oligo building work to an outside service provider — a breakdown that tracks with previous surveys. Meanwhile, the most common tools and technologies offered by core labs include DNA or RNA sequencing, PCR, and microarrays, followed closely by genotyping. About 6 percent of core lab respondents say their facility offers oligo building.
In the past year, core lab respondents say they have seen an increase in DNA or RNA sequencing, ChIP-chIP or ChIP-seq, and high-performance computing work, while the demand for other tools or technologies has remained steady. If core lab workers could, they'd like to bring in more sequencers and better bioinformatics, and that's OK with their users.

Core Lab Respondents
181
Non-Core Lab Respondents
514

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Core Lab Respondents

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Parsing Technologies

Top 5 Tools or Technologies Offered by Core Labs
DNA/RNA sequencing
PCR
Microarrays
Genotyping
ChIP-chip/ChIP-seq

Users' Top 3 Wishes for Tools to Be Included at Core Lab
Next-generation sequencing
Bioinformatics
Proteomics

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Core Lab Workers' Top 3 Wishes for a New Tool or Technology to Have
A benchtop sequencer
More automation
Better bioinformatics

What Core Lab Workers Consider Important for Improving Their Lab
Having higher throughput tools/technologies
Better software options
Offering more service
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Scientists (Non-Core Lab) Respondents

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Time to Pay
53.4% of non-core lab respondents say core lab costs are fixed, and they know the price ahead of time.
9.6% say costs are fixed, but they don’t know the price until the bill arrives.
24.2% say they occasionally negotiate costs.
12.8% say they negotiate all the time.

Troubleshooting
If there is a problem:
46.3% of non-core lab respondents say the core alerts them to the issue, and they work together to solve it.
31.2% say the core tells them about it and re-runs the experiment itself.
14.7% say they usually identify the problem themselves, but the core will fix it.
7.8% say they usually find the issue and have to pay to have it fixed.

Core Lab Pricing
49.7% of core labs are fee-for-service with tiered pricing.
32.4% are fee-for-service with flat pricing.
10.3% are free.
7.6% have some other pricing scheme.

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