Arkansas Research Alliance Launches Core Facilities Exchange Program

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Several years ago, a female scientist needed a specific type of MRI machine to continue her research. There was only one in the state and she had no access to it. She spent several years writing grants so she could buy a similar machine. A new statewide program announced Tuesday (February 8) hopes to alleviate such problems for scientists, investigators, engineers and others.

The Arkansas Research Alliance has launched its Core Facilities Exchange (CFE) program. It is a curated online repository of sophisticated research instruments housed in laboratories and universities across the state.

The CFE provides a gateway for scientists to find, at no cost, the tools they need to advance their research ideas. The cost of using the equipment depends on the host facility. The CFE offers technical information on the capabilities of over 300 instruments as well as contact details for the host facility. Users are encouraged to contact the platform directly to discuss their research goals.

“Arkansas researchers can look to the entire state as their laboratory,” said Bryan Barnhouse, president and CEO of ARA. “The leadership of the six institutional partners represented at the CFE recognizes that research is a team sport. The CFE expands the collaborative reach of state investigators and opens more doors to federal grants, potentially injecting millions of dollars into the state’s knowledge economy.

The benefits of CFE go beyond convenience and competitiveness. CFE also has the potential to increase facility utilization and help avoid duplication and redundancy of capital expenditures. Equipment can be difficult to maintain over the long term if not used regularly.

CFE is led by an ARA-led partnership of the state’s five major research universities. They are responsible for over 90% of the federal research dollars that come into the state and include the University of Arkansas (UA), University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), University of Arkansas State (ASU), the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). This group has formally entered into a Memorandum of Understanding supporting COTF to recognize the importance of cooperation and collaboration in fostering a thriving and well-connected research community.

Additionally, the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) joins the partnership under a separate, long-standing Memorandum of Understanding between the Governor and the Commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration.

ARA program manager Amy Hopper took the lead on the new project. She worked with 59 researchers across the state to develop the program before it launched. The group was able to identify 39 distinct primary research areas. One of the goals is to help researchers, member institutions, and others collaborate at a higher level, which could lead to even more state grants.

“It’s a very exciting day today,” said UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson. “It’s an opportunity to access more technology and other resources.”

Arkansas State University Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said research and equipment can be very expensive for public institutions. Lack of access can hinder critical research in a multitude of scientific and technical disciplines.

“This is not a competition…we want to raise the research profiles of all of our universities in the state,” Damphousse said.

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