The Science Center Equipment Committee (SCEC) plays a pivotal role in the governance of decisions related to scientific equipment investment: maintenance and repair, service contracts, replacement, expansion, and innovation. Its members are representative of the sciences. Science Planning Committee (SPC), which is responsible for articulating the strategic priorities of the Science Center, assists SCEC in setting its priorities for equipment investment (this takes the form of a rubric for equipment investment, updated annually). SCEC reports regularly to SPC (summary of decisions made, reported at least once a semester; 5-year equipment capital plan, endorsed annually). Connections between the two committees will be strong, with the Faculty Director of the Sciences and Administrative Director members of both committees and one additional member of SPC also serving on SCEC.
SCEC is comprised of individuals who have familiarity with existing equipment and expertise in using, selecting, and maintaining equipment. It is a committee of experts who will make and will be seen to make decisions fairly with the interests of the wider community in mind. SCEC members will have strong connections to departments, programs, centers, and other units and their budget holders. The existence of SCEC and the creation of an equipment capital plan for the sciences as a whole will not alter individual budgetary authority and responsibilities, but both are intended to increase transparency, coordination, and advance planning. Through better asset management and partnership with the Provost’s Office and Finance & Administration, we aim to improve the availability of resources and timeliness of investment for the benefit of the Science Center as a whole. Regular consultation and reporting to SPC and the Associate Provost will help ensure that equipment investment decisions are aligned with the Science Center and College strategic plans as well as consistent with the fiscal circumstances of the College.
Some illustrations suggest how we imagine SCEC and the new practices associated with it will work:
- The Science Center directors will work with colleagues based in departments, programs, centers, and other units to estimate the useful lives of existing equipment and plan for replacement. Where feasible, grants will be written to replace essential instruments. Where grants are not available, appropriate timing and specifications for replacement will be estimated and agreed in advance.
- Departments will work with the Associate Provost and Provost to recruit new tenure-track and tenured faculty, agreeing start-up equipment budgets as appropriate. SCEC members are available as consultants, if desired. Once a start-up equipment budget is agreed, SCEC requests relevant details to incorporate in its equipment capital plan and to permit identification of future equipment investments (e.g. service contracts).
- Individual faculty members who receive research grants exercise budgetary authority for their grants and are accountable for spending in accordance with the grant. SCEC members are available as consultants, if desired, when equipment is specified (at both the grant writing stage and the equipment purchase stage). Once grant-funded equipment budgets are approved, the PI is asked to supply details to incorporate in its equipment capital plan and permit identification of future equipment investments (e.g. service contracts).
SCEC facilitates an annual process of equipment capital planning. SCEC will work with a range of administrative partners to ensure both the Science Center and the College has a holistic picture of current and future equipment investment requirements in the sciences: maintenance and repair, service contracts, replacement, expansion, and innovation. Central to the process are equipment investment proposals from departments, programs, centers, and other units. Annual proposals underpin a multi-year Science Center Equipment Plan. The principal responsibilities of the Committee will be to gather, evaluate, and prioritize equipment requests; to monitor our equipment inventory’s fiscal health and useful life data; and to report to, and work closely with, SPC as well as the Provost’s Office and Finance Office in an ongoing evaluation of strategic reinvestment strategies. In practice, SCEC will advise and work with the Science Center directors to make decisions about equipment replacement, renewal, and service contract commitments. When proposals involve expansion of capacity or substantial innovation of equipment type and research area, they may be channeled or referred to Cabinet decision-makers or College committees (e.g. CMP) that take the lead for the College in strategic decision-making.
SCEC will prioritize equipment replacement and new service contract proposals received for consideration for funding from equipment funds managed by the Science Center. Prioritization will be consistent with both the Science Center and institutional strategic plans. SCEC will incorporate information about other categories of equipment investment and priorities set by or jointly with Senior Administration in the Science Center Equipment Plan.
Advisory role to Science Center Directors
SCEC acts as a consultative and advisory body to the Science Center directors about equipment repair, maintenance, existing service contracts, and other operational decisions related to equipment. The Science Center directors (and other relevant budget holders in departments, centers, and other units) will use their discretion to make decisions about smaller equipment investments (including repair and maintenance, acquisitions <$10k) and address emergency requests.
Advisory role for other decision-makers and committees
SCEC may act as a consultative and advisory body to the Provost’s Office and College-wide committees (e.g. CMP, ACCR, Classroom Committee) in relation to equipment investment proposals related to innovation, expansion, or significant programmatic changes. (No changes are imagined in startup grant funding arrangements or approval of external grant proposals. The Provost’s Office has discretion and decision-making responsibility for faculty hires and external grant management. There will be coordination of information between SCEC and the Provost’s Office to ensure that existing and future commitments are fully reflected in the Equipment Capital Plan.)
Equipment Innovation and Capacity Expansion
It is worth emphasizing that innovation and expansion are the gray areas of our new governance arrangements. No one wishes to forgo innovation. No one wishes to sacrifice robust and timely renewal of existing equipment. In practice, many replacement proposals will include an element of improvement and innovation. It is a judgment call to define the boundary between what SCEC can reasonably consider as “repair, maintenance, renewal, and replacement” and the proposals for expansion and innovation that need other decision-makers to weigh in and – in some cases – make decisions. After six to twelve months of facilitating the new equipment capital budget process, SCEC will almost certainly be in a better position to judge the best way to handle these gray areas: to define more precisely when proposals will be referred elsewhere; to decide whether to request funding to establish an innovation or venture fund so some (smaller) innovation proposals can be addressed within the Science Center; and if it is necessary to establish a completely separate process for the consideration of expansion and innovation in scientific equipment.
Its membership will be drawn from Science Planning Committee and others coopted to serve on the committee because of their expertise, position, or to achieve representation across the Science Center. It is encouraged that members wear multiple hats as one means to keep the size of the committee effectively small.