Core facilities can be defined as centralized shared resources that provide access to instruments, technologies, methods, services, as well as expert consultation and other services to scientific and clinical investigators. The typical core facility is a distinct unit within an institution and has dedicated personnel, equipment, and space for operations. In general, core facilities recover their cost of providing service in the form of user fees that are charged to an investigator’s funds, often FWF, ÖNB or other federal grants.

In general, a core facility’s cost may be limited by the terms of award and in general may only recover the allocable, allowable and reasonable direct cost of providing a service to an investigator. This is the case when the core’s infrastructure costs, commonly referred to as Facilities and Administration (F&A) or indirect costs are covered by the application of the institution’s indirect cost rate. Since these indirect costs are recovered by the application of the F&A rate to the indirect cost base of an investigator’s grant, a core may not collect these charges a second time.


General information

General core operating principles

The general best practice for a core facility is to ensure that:

  • The costs of providing a service are allowable, allocable, consistently applied and reasonable;
  • The rates established to recover these costs are documented and systematically evaluated against actual cost and revised on a regular basis to reflect actual costs;
  • These rates are charged to all users on a consistent basis, regardless of funding source(s) and employing a principle of “one service, one rate”.


Can a core facility accumulate profit?

No. Any operating surplus must be applied overall to reduce the rates charged to all users. In general, core facilities are expected to operate in a revenue neutral manner, recovering only their cost of providing service.


How often do cores bill for usage?

Billing should occur at regular intervals to assure timely and accurate accounting and cost recovery. The ZMF generally bills on a quarterly basis, but other cycles can be implemented as appropriate.

Charges to Users

How do the core facilities set charges for users – particularly for use on federally funded projects?
The costs of services provided by highly complex or specialized facilities operated by the Medical University of Graz are allowable provided they are budgeted and accounted for in accord with applicable Federal Cost Principles and the charges for these services take into account any income or other applicable credits.

What are the considerations for determining appropriate charges?

  • The costs of core facility services must be charged directly to the applicable awards in the form of user fees, charges or rates.

Rates must be based on actual usage of the services.

  • The schedule of rates should be established using a documented method.
  • Rates must be designed to recover only the aggregate costs of the services. The costs of providing each service normally consist of its direct costs only, or its direct costs and its allocable share of all F&A costs.
  • Rates shall be adjusted at least every other year, and shall take into consideration any operating deficit or surplus of the previous period(s). Records must be retained and made available to federal officials.

What are typical allowable costs for determining rates?
Typical allowable direct costs may include:

  • *Lab (salary and fringe for staff)
  • *Operating supplies and materials
  • Service contracts for core equipment
  • Depreciation on Medical University equipment  

*) According to the Rektoratsbeschluss from 17th of August 2011 only the immediate costs are charged in case of federally funded grants.

How should Core Facilities recover F&A Costs from Users?
The aggregate costs of services at a Core Facility include both direct costs and appropriate F&A costs. Currently, the Medical University of Graz supports its principal investigators (PIs awarded with federally funded projects) using cores with respect to the F&A costs. For other projects (especially contract research projects) the appropriate F&A costs should be allocated as part of the cost of using the facility.

Manuscript acknowledgment and authorship

How/Shall core services be acknowledged in a manuscript?
Personnel in core facilities provide essential services for their users and it is important to recognize their contributions to the scientific advancement of the projects. The type of recognition that is most appropriate may be different for individual projects, depending on the contribution that core facility personnel provides. Under what conditions is co-authorship warranted? When is an acknowledgment most appropriate? What if a user/collaborator refuses to acknowledge core personnel? And more importantly, how to handle situations when you feel it is warranted, but not offered (or offered when you feel it is not warranted)?

Commonly Recommended Guidelines for Authorship of Core Facility personnel on Manuscripts are available in the current literature.


The following guidelines and recommendations were adapted from The ABRF recommendation was published in Angeletti et al. in 1999 (FASEB Journal, 13:595), “Intellectual interactions between resource and research scientists are essential to the success of each project. When this success results in publication, a citation in the acknowledgments section of a manuscript may be appropriate for routine analysis. However, contributions from resource scientists that involve novel resource laboratory work and insight, experimental design, or advanced data analysis that make a publication possible or significantly enhance its value require co-authorship as the appropriate acknowledgment.” 


General aspectCore facilities must charge for services rendered according to cost accounting practices set up at each institution. Charging for services does not preclude authorship on manuscripts provided the Core laboratory individual has contributed to the research in a substantial way. If authorship is anticipated, it is preferably established at the beginning of the project so that both the customer and the Core researcher are cognizant of each other’s criteria.


Important reasons for acknowledging contributions from core facilities in publications, by co-authorship or by formal mention in the acknowledgments section, include

  1. ZMF Core facility personnel are specialist scientists. When they make a substantial intellectual and/or experimental contribution to a publication they deserve to be acknowledged just as any other co-author.
  2. The existence of core facilities depends in part on proper acknowledgment in publications. This is an important metric of the value of most core facilities. Proper acknowledgment of core facilities enables them to obtain financial and other support so that they may continue to provide their essential services in the best ways possible. It also helps core personnel to advance in their careers, adding to the overall health of the core facility.


Activities for which authorship are recommended:

1. Author should make substantial contributions to the project

  • Conception, design of project, critical input, or original ideas
  • Acquisition of data, analysis and interpretation, beyond routine practices
  • Draft the article or revise it critically for intellectual content
  • Write a portion of the paper (not just materials and methods section)
  • Intellectual contribution

2. Each author should have participated enough to accept responsibility for the content of the manuscript

The following activities do not represent intellectual contributions to a project and would not constitute authorship:

  • Providing funding
  • Collection of data (technical skill but not involved in interpretation of data)
  • General supervision of research group, but no intellectual input into the project

All contributors that do not meet the criteria of authorship should be recognized in the acknowledgements section, for example:

  • Paid technical help
  • Writing assistance
  • Financial and material support
  • Scientific advice