School of Medicine Wet Lab Research Space Policy

Date: August 26, 2022
Number: SOM-RES-020
Status: Approved

Contact Office
Assistant Dean for Research
Dean’s Office, School of Medicine
Office of Grants and Contracts
PO Box 800793
Charlottesville, VA 22908
phone: 434-982-3967

Oversight Executive
Senior Associate Dean for Research
Dean’s Office, School of Medicine
PO Box 800793
Charlottesville, VA 22908
phone: 434-243-7088

Applies to
Principal Investigators (PIs) who have wet lab research space.

Reason for Policy

The University of Virginia School of Medicine (SOM) will provide a safe environment for students, faculty, staff, patients, and visitors. Effective planning, management, and control of space are vital to SOM’s strategic planning and operational effectiveness. This policy establishes and sets forth guidelines for the assignment, allocation, and effective use of SOM owned and leased wet lab research space. SOM, its employees, and faculty will promote and enforce efficient space utilization in accordance with this policy. This policy applies to only Wet Lab and Lab service for SOM facilities (see definition of terms below).

As an institution supported by public funds, SOM will responsibly use the funds with which it has been entrusted to realize its strategic goals. As owner of its physical assets, SOM aims to ensure the best use of its facilities for health sciences education, research, patient care and other activities that support and are consistent with the university’s mission.

University of Virginia is the sole owner of its physical assets. No group or individual within SOM has ownership rights to physical assets owned by the institution. Space is assigned to specific departments or business units, based on business need, current business volumes and staffing needs. Space assignments are subject to ongoing review and redistribution to maximize the benefit to SOM as a whole. As a limited asset, space is to be shared and used in a flexible and collaborative way to achieve the best outcome for SOM and its mission.

Long-term planning studies will be prepared in accordance with the SOM Strategic Plan and SOM’s Mission, Vision, and Values. The Dean of the SOM and Executive Vice President of Health Affairs will determine the order in which these long-term planning studies are completed, and formulate actions and space reassignments as determined by studies.

Definition of Terms

Research Investigator (RI): A SOM faculty member or other scientist (excluding trainees) who has University permission to submit proposals and receive awards as a Principal Investigator (PI) for external funding.

Laboratory space: physical laboratory (including “dry lab”) space directly associated with research programs including clinical trials.

Wet lab research: laboratory space equipped with appropriate plumbing, ventilation, and equipment to allow for hands-on scientific research and experimentation. The wet lab space may include an attached small office. This policy applies only to wet lab research space owned and managed by the SOM. This does not include space operated and owned by the University of Virginia Medical Center.

Dry lab research:  space that involves applied or computational mathematical analyses for a wide array of different applications. These analyses are completed on a computer-generated model, which means that computers and similar types of electronics are the main forms of equipment that are used in a dry lab.

  • For Research Investigators (RI), this includes the sum of assigned lab service. For departments and centers, this includes the space assigned to RIs within the unit’s portfolio plus the unit’s common spaces.

Lab support space: A space that directly serves one or more research/non-class laboratories as an extension of the activities in those spaces.

  • Description: Includes only those spaces that directly serve a research/non-class laboratory. Included are projection rooms, telecommunications control booths, coat rooms, preparation rooms, closets, material storage, balance rooms, cold rooms, stock rooms, dark rooms, equipment issue rooms, temporary hazardous materials storage areas, and similar facilities, if they serve research/non-class laboratories

Other 0ffice/work space: Workspace for graduate students, research scientists, senior research scientists, post-doctoral fellows, visiting scientists or other lab personnel.

Total departmental wet lab research space: wet laboratory + lab support space

Definition of Funding

Extramural funding: includes grant expenses received from Federal, Non-Federal and Commercial sponsors for research. This will exclude commercially-sponsored clinical trials. The funding metric for this policy will be based on the average of the last 3 years.

Total Research Expenditures (TRE): the sum of direct expenses plus indirect expenses less outgoing subcontracts and less commercial clinical trial agreements.

Expenditure dollars: credited to the PI only except as noted below.

Credit for Program Project Grants (PPG) awards will be allocated to individual project PIs. This will provide credit to individual faculty members who are not award PIs but manage portions of projects here internally at the institution.

Funding criteria

Expenditures from start-up funds are not research funding. New faculty are not subject to research space policy for three (3) years after beginning employment or as stated in their letter of offer. Space will be allocated on an assessment of grant funds being transferred to the Institution.

All of an investigator’s research expenditures are proportionally credited to their research space if they have space in multiple buildings

Policy Statement

Roles and Responsibilities: The following individuals are responsible for managing, allocating, or using research space within the SOM campus.

  • Dean of the SOM is the steward of all space at the SOM, including research space, and is responsible for ensuring that this space supports the academic and research mission of the University.
  • Senior Associate Dean for Research supports and promotes research activity at the SOM, integrates research into the academic mission of the University, ensures research is compliant with University and government regulations, and consults on research space needs with the Dean.
  • Assistant Dean for Research assists in the stewarding of space allocation for SOM and develops productivity metrics and measures for space allocation assessments
  • Department Chairs and Center Directors are stewards of all space allocated to their units from the Dean and are responsible for allocating and maintaining this space to support the programmatic needs and priorities of their school/college/unit.
  • Faculty members effectively utilize space under their direction to meet the research and educational needs of the school/college/unit.
  • Research Space Review Committee (RSRC) will advise the Dean’s office on space allocation reviews.

A. Criteria for Evaluating Research Productivity

Three criteria for evaluating research productivity are listed below in descending order of importance:

  1. Total Research Expenditures (TRE) per net square foot of research space,
  2. Total indirect cost recoveries per net square foot of research space, and
  3. Research-related scholarly activity.

In each case, the need for research space must be justified based on the quality of the principal investigator’s research program as well as the current level of funding.

A.1. Total Research Expenditures (TRE) Per Net Square Foot of Research Space

This evaluation criterion is applied to all principal investigators, and each researcher evaluated using this criterion must demonstrate that research wet lab space is required. Although the amount of grant or contract support for a research project is neither the exclusive nor even the major criterion for evaluating worthiness or productivity of the research, it is the criterion that is most easily objectively evaluated. Furthermore, extramural support assures that the research was evaluated by experienced investigators outside the institution and that funding has withstood widespread competition among investigators nationally or regionally.

Therefore, this measure of productivity is the principal investigator’s TRE divided by the principal investigator’s total net square feet of wet lab research space and lab support space. This total excludes their personal office. For this initial measurement of productivity, TRE as defined above attributed to a principal investigator must be from external sources.

Reasons for focusing on extramural expenditures for this initial measurement of productivity include: 1) Extramural funding sources provide additional indirect dollars important for paying overhead for research space, and 2) the vast majority of these extramurally awarded funds support research that requires wet laboratory space, the focus of this research space policy. Expenditures from Designated or other accounts may be associated with legitimate needs for wet laboratory space, and although they will not be included in the initial measurement of productivity outlined above, can be considered later in the process of research space evaluation.

The productivity target is:

  • Wet lab research space: TRE$/NSF measure is $600 TRE/NSF.

A faculty member who either exceeds or falls below these metrics on a three year average will be reviewed by the Research Space Review Committee (RSRC). The review of the faculty member by the RSRC is outlined in Section B below to determine whether either an increase or decrease in space assignment should be recommended to the Dean.

A.2. Total Indirect Cost Recovery per Net Square Foot of Research Space

This evaluation will be considered as a second criterion as needed in an individual case, demonstrating that wet lab research space is required. Although the amount of grant or contract support for a research project is neither the exclusive nor even the major criterion for evaluating worthiness or productivity of the research, in common with TRE cost recovery, indirect cost recoveries are also an important parameter.

This measurement of productivity will be the principal investigator’s total indirect cost recovery (ICR$) divided by the principal investigator’s total net square feet (NSF) of wet lab research space (i.e., ICR$/NSF). Indirect cost recoveries are defined as those funds reported through the University’s financial record system (Workday) on research expenditures from all extramural sources.

The productivity target for

  • Wet lab research space ICR$/NSF measure is $250 ICR$/NSF.

A faculty member who either exceeds or falls below these metrics on a three year average will be reviewed by the Research Space Review Committee (RSRC). The review of the faculty member by the RSRC is outlined in Section B below to determine whether either an increase or decrease in space assignment should be recommended to the Dean.

A.3. Research-Related Scholarly Activities and Non-traditional Funding

These and other criteria will be taken into consideration upon failing to meet thresholds in A.1 and A.2.  These criteria will be applied to individual research programs that are directly and negatively impacted by space reassignment, and not to entire departments. Each researcher wishing to be evaluated using these criteria must demonstrate that research space is required. The purpose of using A3 is to allow the evaluation of the research space needs of a principal investigator who is not meeting the productivity metrics stated above as described in Sections A.1 and A.2 above. The evaluation is based on productivity as measured by non-traditional funding sources, such as research involving clinical trials or industry-sponsored research, that were not subjected to conventional peer review such as an NIH study section. Other criteria that may be evaluated when considering wet laboratory research space reassignments are scholarly parameters such as patents and royalties, or the number and quality of current publications related to work performed in the research space under consideration.

B. Evaluation Procedure

Evaluations will be conducted by a standing Research Space Review Committee (RSRC) appointed by the Dean and consisting of:  two Chairs from the research departments, two Chairs from the clinical departments, a committee chairperson selected at large from the senior faculty, the Senior Associate Dean for Research (ex-officio, non-voting), the Assistant Dean for Research, Grants and Contract (ex-officio, non-voting), and the Director of Facilities and Space Planning (ex-officio, non-voting). The RSRC chairperson will serve a term of two (2) years, is expected to alternate between the research and clinical departments, and is not eligible to serve continuous terms longer than two (2) consecutive years. The term for each committee member is two continuous years, maximum. Appointments on the RSRC are staggered, so that there are no more than two-three new members each year. The RSRC reports directly to the Dean and acts in an advisory capacity to the Dean.

B.1.Semi-Annual Analysis

On a semi-annual basis, the Senior Associate Dean for Research, Assistant Dean for Research, and Space Director of Planning and Operations will analyze the productivity of the wet laboratory research space for all principal investigators according to Criteria A.1.and A.2., and report the findings to the RSRC. The TRE and indirect cost recoveries per net square foot of research space are calculated by the Dean’s office for principal investigators in every department and will be verified with each department. The chair of each department is given the opportunity to review their faculty space assignments and expenditure information prior to its communication to the RSRC to ensure its accuracy, and to explain variances in indirect cost recovery.

B.2. Recommendations Regarding Increased Space for Productive Principal Investigators

Principal investigators who are identified as being above the research productivity metrics in section A.1. and A.2. may submit applications to the RSRC for increased space allocation. The RSRC will makes recommendations to the Dean after conferring with the department chair and the principal investigator, and after determining whether a need for additional space exists. The decision of the Dean is final.

B.3. Reassignment of Principal Investigator Space and Description of the Appeals Process

Research space assignments to principal investigators who are below the thresholds as defined in Section A utilizing the three-year average are further scrutinized by the RSRC. A letter will be distributed by the committee to individual faculty members who are under performing below $600 per square foot alerting them that their space is in jeopardy.

B.3.a. RSRC evaluates the principal investigator according to the criteria stated in Section A and meets with the principal investigator’s chair. If the RSRC is satisfied with the explanation by the chair, then the Dean is informed of the RSRC’s recommendation for retention of space, and decides on reassignment of space. The decision of the Dean is final.

B.3.b. In the event that the RSRC finds that there are grounds for recommending reassignment of space, this recommendation is forwarded to the principal investigator and the chair. The principal investigator and chair may request a meeting with the RSRC within 30 days to appeal the decision and request retention of space. The request must include any new and/or relevant data to support the request. The RSRC will make a recommendation to the Dean. Before space is reassigned to another principal investigator, the chair will be given the opportunity to make a case to the Dean for reassignment or retention of space within the department. The decision of the Dean is final.

B.3.c. The Dean may temporarily exempt a principal investigator from further review on the basis of institutional priorities, as discussed in C.1.

C. Exemptions from the Reallocation Process

C.1. Institutional Priorities

A principal investigator may be allowed to retain, temporarily, more space than permissible under Criteria A.1 and A.2.during a reasonable period of program development (a maximum of three years, but reviewed no less often than annually) if such retention is in accordance with the School’s overall strategic  plans (see C.2.). For example, under-utilized space might provide the opportunity for a department to attract new leadership or to launch a new program. Therefore, departmental or School of Medicine plans for such new ventures are considered by the Dean before reallocation of space.

C.2. Special Circumstances

The Dean may reassign or approve retention of space for an individual principal investigator or department under special circumstances.