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Salivary Bioscience Bulletin

Live the search for better science: A solution for sustained integration of Salivary Bioscience into your research

Drop Date: July 2023

Live the Search for Better Science: A Solution for Sustained Integration of Salivary Bioscience into Your Research

Kristina Feghali and Douglas Granger

There is a natural ebb and flow to activity in research groups that apply biobehavioral assessments. Work phases through proposing, awaiting funding decisions, project management, data collection, laboratory analyses, data analyses, and eventually scholarship. Each phase has a different interval and focus, and phases may overlap. At the level of operations, research labs are subject to somewhat of a boom-and-bust business cycle. Notice of award can come somewhat unexpectedly, requiring the investigator to hire staff quickly and hit the ground running. Notice of award can be delayed, making it difficult to plan. At the end of the project period, project staff are reassigned to a new project or let go if future project funding is uncertain. This seasonality makes it challenging to hire and retain staff, maintain consistency in operating procedures over time, and support the salaries of specialized technical personnel that maintain laboratory equipment.

One approach to reducing the burden of the boom-or-bust cycle on the individual investigator is the shared resource model or core lab. Shared resources work well when there are enough local investigators cycling in and out of funding to collectively financially support a core staff and equipment infrastructure.

Unfortunately, when the collective does not have enough funding, the financial burden falls back on the unit’s home department or school. Given the financial strains on academic units, that burden has become less and less likely to be picked up by the department or school. Consequently, staffing is reduced, equipment is not maintained, calibrated, and certified. When the next award is received, the cycle has to be started over again from ‘go’, likely with a compromise in the accuracy and quality of the data that would be generated by a trained and experienced staff. As you can see, this cycle creates inefficiencies at several levels and distracts investigators from the most important thing: the science.

Figure 1, inefficiency and ineffectiveness when research activity misaligns with resources. The orange area represents inefficiency when the research activity exceeds the available resources, leading to constraints and inefficiencies. The blue area reveals when research activity is below capacity, resulting in unused or underutilized resources.

In our experience, salivary bioscience labs are examples of the boom-and-bust cycle. Only a few labs, operated by individual investigators, can consistently generate a funding stream to support sustained and consistent operations. Consequently, they are often staffed by students or temporary technicians. It’s also true that in our experience, efforts to create and maintain salivary bioscience core labs have not been able to support themselves, even when the local community of scholars is somewhat grant active. Budgets allocated for assay work are typically a small fraction of the overall project budget, and indirect costs returned to departments are often only a small fraction of the overall budget. The funds, are more often than not, insufficient to provide adequate support for a professional staff.

A Solution for Sustainable, Consistent High-Impact Research

To create a sustainable, best-in-class system with professionally staffed, high-quality equipment, and consistently applied operating procedures, we created the ultimate shared lab.

Salimetrics serves, in many respects, as an inter-institutional shared resource. Investigators have access to professional staff and best-in-class infrastructure when their projects are cycling through the phases needing these specialized services. Collaborating with investigators across institutions ensures that funding is consistent and steady, so when an individual investigator is ready, the unit can efficiently and effectively fulfill their needs. This system is ideal for small pilot studies as well as the largest nationwide surveys. It is able to quickly scale and return results rapidly, ensuring the highest quality by maintaining industry-standard quality control and assurance systems.

For 25 years, Salimetrics has operated in this manner and provided a resource to help investigators manage the boom-and-bust cycle of research. At its core is an assumption: investigators have precious time, which should be focused on the science. When investigators devote their time to operational details of this type, they are not devoting the time and attention needed for their science and scholarship.

Live the search for better science. Use this strategy to sustain quality and advance your science to the highest possible level of discovery and impact.

If you would like further details, we invite you to learn more about this resource by visiting the SalivaLab.

*Note: Salimetrics provides this information for research use only (RUO). Information is not provided to promote off-label use of medical devices. Please consult the full-text article.

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