Plan to maximise resources

13 March 2006

Resource planning: Prof Anton le Roex (geological sciences) is director of UCT's new Core Equipment Facility.

Professor Anton le Roex (geological sciences) has been appointed director of the newly-formed Core Equipment Facility (CEF) that will oversee the university's diverse and valuable collection of core facilities and equipment.

The CEF, a virtual umbrella facility, will list UCT's major multiple-user equipment with a value greater than R250 000, and encourage implementation of procedures to ensure that the facilities are used to their fullest capacity.

In this endeavour, the CEF will also ensure that a balance is maintained between academic and commercial use, and, where appropriate, that facilities are accessible to the region's other academic institutions, avoiding unnecessary duplications.

Importantly, the CEF will oversee the acquisition and planned replacement of all major equipment, ranging from audio-visual studios to electron microscopes.

Le Roex's term as director of the CEF is for two years. He will be joined shortly on an operational committee by three academic staff members, who head major facilities, two senior scientific or technical officers and administrative staff from the Department of Research and Innovation.

The academics in charge of the various facility clusters will oversee the use, charge-out rate, repairs, replacement and quality of data emanating from their facilities. Scientific officers will see to the day to day running of the equipment, providing training and service support. Host faculties will provide electronic and electromechanical assistance for repairs by specialist technical staff.

Collectively, this team will report to the CEF board, chaired by deputy vice-chancellor (research and innovation) Professor Cheryl de la Rey. The board includes representatives of the University Equipment Committee.

"UCT spends a lot on major equipment and the intention is to maintain a first-world competitive edge with the right infrastructure," Le Roex said. "The CEF will make sure our core equipment is run in a cost-efficient way, providing proper pricing structures and records of output from these investments." He added that it was important for funding purposes to have medium- to long-term replacement plans for core equipment. The CEF will also act as an important conduit within the university.

"Motivations for replacements or acquisitions can be initiated by staff or faculties and will be evaluated and supported by the CEF. The CEF will take usage patterns into account, and the availability of existing equipment against clear research and teaching objectives, before being passed on to the UEC for approval." Between the health sciences, science and engineering faculties, UCT owns some very expensive and specialised equipment. The facilities will be expected to follow strict administrative procedures and income and expenditure records for the Department of Research and Innovation's database.

Facilities will also be expected to keep records of all users and hours of usage as well as details of publications and postgraduate theses emanating from use of equipment.

"Part of the CEF's role is to ensure we don't sit with any white elephants," Le Roex concluded.

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