Faculty of Science - Leading creativity and innovation in the sciences

Frequently asked questions and contact information for Auckland Science Analytical Services (ASAS)

If you have any queries or concerns please contact Sunita Bajaj and she will be more than happy to answer any questions about ASAS. Email: sunita.bajaj@auckland.ac.nz

What is ASAS?

ASAS is an initiative within the Faculty of Science to bring analytical centre equipment and expertise together under one administrative umbrella.


What is a centre?

A centre is typically a set of similar or complementary pieces of analytical equipment and their expert operators. Equipment centres are virtual, not necessarily physical: a centre can be located in a single room or across several sites, within a single department or across several schools/departments. In the case of expertise services such as bioinformatics and statistics, a centre consists of experts offering advice and assistance.


How will ASAS manage the operation and promotion of centres?

Grouping of multiple equipment items within a centre

Centres are presented as comprehensive packages of functionally similar and complementary equipment, skills and services that deliver and support the research and educational outputs of this University.

Single UoA website portal for all centres

The new ASAS website within the University of Auckland’s site will present information which describes and promotes all of the centres in a single online portal. This site will contain contact details for centres technical staff, equipment capabilities, and links to each centres portion of iLab for making enquiries and obtaining quotes.

Centralised booking/sample submission via iLab

Access to centres (booking equipment, submitting samples for analysis) will be facilitated through a central web-based software platform, iLab Solutions

Centralised financial administration

iLab Solutions software also coordinates billing and journalling processes, with automatic verification of internal University of Auckland financial account information and easy generation of invoices for UniServices and other external centres customers.


Will centre equipment be moved from where it is physically located now?

It is unlikely that any equipment will be moved.  Centres will tend to be virtual aggregates of equipment rather than physical aggregates.


Why was ASAS established?

What benefits will be derived from the ASAS centre model?

There are several areas from which benefits will be derived from working within ASAS.  These include:


Benefits for departments:

  • Deploying iLab will provide a single & consistent electronic interface for searching for resources, requesting service, managing approval, and updating project progress enhances the ability of researchers to collaborate within and across institutions and saves time by reducing errors and streamlining the billing process.


Benefits for centre staff:

  • Streamline reporting and increase transparency into centre usage, budgeting, and forecasting;
  • Administrators can generate and review reports that show usage across centres and provide insight into usage within a single centre (what services are used, how often, by whom, etc.);
  • Administrators and managers can view pending requests and work that has been completed but not yet billed or received, providing greater visibility into projected revenue;
  • Centres can track actual usage of equipment, which can readily be compared to scheduled reservations;
  • ASAS reflects the University and Faculties commitment to career development of all of its staff.  This will be achieved through encouraging and assisting support staff to attend relevant conferences and workshops, attend University provided training sessions (software, people management etc.);
  • Improved visibility of colleagues supporting centre equipment in other departments will promote the sharing of ideas, methodologies, equipment and reagents leading to improved efficiencies and associated cost savings.


Benefits for academic researchers:

  • Improved visibility and consistency of presentation of centre equipment across the faculty through the ASAS website and iLab centre equipment management software;
  • Ability to view technical characteristics of all centre equipment and complementary and support equipment across the Faculty of Science at one site;
  • Ability to view and direct your enquiries to key people supporting centre equipment with the Faculty;
  • Ability to view and book centre equipment across the Faculty at a single site;
  • Researchers can find all institution-supported or partner-supported services in one central location and request services through a common process using their institution logins.
  • Consistent UoA single sign-on functionality available in iLab;
  • Researchers can monitor the status of their requests at any time;
  • File attachments, communications with the centre, and billing information are all linked to their specific request, providing quick reference when needed.


Benefits for centre facilities

  • Staff can import usage data directly from hardware or other software systems for billing;
  • Centres can easily update the status of a request or project and post scientific data in a shared space, relieving the burden of providing ad hoc updates to customers.


Improved financial controls

  • Flexible approval work flow ensures all appropriate managers review orders before work begins or after work is completed but before funds are transferred.
  • Encumbrance ensures funds will be available when fund transfer is initiated.
  • Invoicing is auto-generated in the system where the centre and administration can leave comments and PI’s can give final approval.


Centres within ASAS

What existing facilities will transition into ASAS?

Major equipment items within the Faculty of Science will form part of a centre within ASAS. Specialist bioinformatics and statistical analysis services will also be available through ASAS and are available for expertise in experimental design and data analysis for all research, in or outside of ASAS equipment services.

Planned centres in ASAS include:

  • Genomics (from CGPM sequencing and next-generation sequencing)
  • Bioinformatics and statistical consulting (from Bioinformatics Institute and Statistical Consulting Centre)
  • Imaging (from SBS microscopy)
  • X-ray (from School of Environment XRF/XRD)
  • NMR (from School of Chemical Sciences)
  • Mass spectrometry (from CGPM proteomics/metabolomics and School of Chemical Sciences)


What items of equipment does a centre contain?

Two types of equipment will be administered within a centre:

  1. Equipment that required a business case for purchase and/or that operates under a user-pays, cost recovery model will be accessed through a centre. This includes equipment funded in part or whole by departmental CapEx, an external funder, MIRE, or the Faculty’s strategic CapEx fund. 
  2. Equipment that is associated with or complements the centres functional theme will be presented as part of that centre, even in cases where equipment is accessible without a user charge.

For example, the Imaging Centre includes electron and confocal microscopes which operate under a user pays model, but also includes other smaller microscopes, microtomes, and similar equipment which don’t attract user charges.

Similarly a piece of equipment may be presented in more than one centre based on complementary functional similarities. 


Why include “uncharged” equipment in a centre?

Even though support equipment items without user charges don’t make any financial contribution to centres income, they are included in these facilities so that their researchers can access and book the full suite of functionally complementary equipment necessary for their research.


Accessing centre services

How will I know what’s available by way of centre equipment and expertise?

ASAS has its own section within the Faculty of Science website describing equipment, equipment location, the services offered and who to contact in each of the centre.  Typically, major centre equipment will be relatively specialised items such as mass spectrometers, NMR spectrometers, x-ray analysers and imaging equipment including microscopes.  However, the full suite of major, support and complementary equipment available will be described in detail on the ASAS website and in other promotional and informative materials.


What is iLab?

iLab Solutions is the leader in providing centre management software. This software helps reduce costs and increase utilization of shared resources. Over 1,000 centres at 100+ institutions around the world use iLab’s Core Facilitity Management software today.

iLab offers a suite of web-based tools for academic research management. This functionality includes centre service request management, enhanced sample management functionality, equipment reservation and usage tracking, billing and invoicing, and reporting. The system allows each user a consolidated view of their recent activity in the system as well as the ability to search across all equipment, services and centre in the system.


How will I get access to centre equipment and expertise?

Each item of equipment in a centre will be viewable within the ASAS equipment management website and via iLab which in turn is accessible from the website or at a standalone address. This visibility will include information about technical staff, a booking calendar (where appropriate), and a mechanism for submitting samples for analysis (where appropriate).  Both self-use equipment and equipment run by centre staff will be accessible within iLab. Depending on the analytical technique in use, you may present a sample to the relevant technician for analysis, or may book a time for your own use of the equipment if you’ve received training in its use. Only authorised trained users may book and use self-use equipment.

If you require advice in experimental design and/or data analysis, you may arrange bioinformatics or statistics assistance services in a similar way using iLab.


How will postgraduate students be able to make use of centre equipment for research?

Postgraduate students will be able to access any suitable centre equipment for their research on a user-pays basis, similar to any other UoA staff member.


How will centre equipment be accessible for teaching/student use outside of user-pays models?

Students will have appropriate access to centre equipment.  The most appropriate method for each centre will be developed and agreed to between that centre facility’s Advisory Board and its host department(s).


Charges for equipment use

What is the financial model for ASAS core centres?

The charges for equipment use will be agreed at an amount designed to recover the OpEx costs (any salarys, consumables, repairs and maintenance).

How will I be charged for equipment use?

In iLab, at the time of booking equipment or submitting a service request, you will be required to select a valid UoA cost centre and project code or to indicate if you require an invoice (for external funding sources or users). Booked equipment will be charged to that code for the period of the booking irrespective of whether you used the equipment.  Equipment bookings can be cancelled online, and any queued clients will be notified of cancellations so they may take up the vacated booking.  This feedback opportunity will greatly improve the utilisation of busy centre equipment.


External use of centres

Will centre equipment be promoted to external users?

Yes. External users will be able to access iLab and will see the same presentation of the centres and their equipment as internal users.


Management of centres

How will each centre be managed?

Each centre will have an Advisory Board consisting of two or three academic specialists, the technical contacts within the centre, and the ASAS Operations Manager.  The Board will advise on the centres technological direction, support of equipment purchases, staff appointments, and core facility performance.


What is the responsibility of the Advisory Board for each centre ?

The draft terms of reference for a centres Advisory Board are:

  1. To liaise with local and international researchers to provide comprehensive, short and long term strategic plans describing the direction research and associated technology are moving.
  2. To provide business plans to support agreed equipment purchases and appointments of centre staff. 
  3. To develop, report and review monthly on key performance indicators (KPIs) for the core.


How will a centre purchase new equipment through CapEx processes?

Advisory Boards will develop strategic plans detailing the research direction of the centre and anticipating future equipment needs.  Some of this equipment is likely to cost in excess of $100k and will therefore require a business plan.  The Ad Board will develop the business plan with assistance from the ASAS Operations Manager and Business Development Manager.

As large equipment items are likely to be used by more than one department, each user department will be approached for a prorated contribution towards the capital cost of that equipment.  These contributions will come from the departments’ CapEx allocation and will be subjected to the usual due diligence processes required by that department.

The MIRE Fund will be approached for the funding of expensive pieces of equipment over $250k.


ASAS success measures

How will ASAS ensure it satisfies researcher needs?

ASAS continues to seek ever-better information about the users of centre equipment.  Centralised use of iLab for tracking equipment usage will develop a “customer database”.  As the quality and completeness of this database improves, we will implement an online survey to review customer satisfaction. This survey will serve as our baseline for seeing increased customer satisfaction over time, but will also add to our appreciation of how well our key equipment fits our research and teaching needs both physically and with staff resources. Surveys will be repeated at regular but sensible intervals to monitor performance. 


Will “soft” metrics such as publications, grant successes, and student numbers be collected to help substantiate the Faculty support of future centre equipment purchases?

Soft revenues (e.g. publications, improved funding success, and increased student numbers) and the value of having equipment available for educational purposes are essential justifications for the existence of well-equipped instrument facilities.  ASAS staff are working with iLab and Library staff to develop methods to collect publication data which has benefitted from centre equipment. We will also work with the Research Office to quantify the grant-related value of the substantial commitment the University has made and continues to make in capital equipment.  We do not believe this process will add any additional administrative burden to researchers/academics.


Timelines and current status

When will a centre become part of ASAS?

Centre equipment and service structures will be rolled out in two waves as follows, going “live” for use in iLab at the end of the below periods:

Wave 1: November 2014 - Completed

  • Genomics (from CGPM sequencing and next-generation sequencing)
  • Bioinformatics and statistical consulting (from Bioinformatics Institute and Statistical Consulting Centre)
  • Imaging (from SBS microscopy)

Wave 2: November-March 2015 - On going

  • X-ray (from School of Environment XRF/XRD)
  • NMR (from School of Chemical Sciences)
  • Mass spectrometry (from CGPM proteomics/metabolomics and School of Chemical Sciences)

Please note that each piece of equipment will have its own legacy and may well require its own “customised” association with ASAS and iLab.  There is no assumption that one size fits all, and the initial association with ASAS will almost certainly evolve over time as the quality of the operation of each piece of equipment becomes more apparent by way of centralised reporting processes.   


What’s the current status of ASAS’ implementation across the Faculty?

The IT side to this project is complex. Successful implementation involves the establishment of a file that moves between PeopleSoft financials and iLab and back again each day.  This file contains any changes to registered users, their respective funds and any charges that may have been made for services provided. This is transparent for users and ensures smooth invoicing.

A key driver behind the ASAS initiative is to improve the visibility of equipment across the Faculty of Science.  Fundamental to this principle is the need to define and develop good communication so considerable work is going into this area.  We expect iLab to contribute substantially to the quality and consistency of communications and this will be augmented by improving communication within and between equipment centres.  


Training sessions

iLab PI, Lab Manager and user training session held in November 2014

Use of iLab Solutions Software in ASAS
Training presentation given during week commencing 16th March 2015 (6.7 MB, POWERPOINT)


How to register with ASAS-iLabs to place a service request and instruction manuals

In order to place a service request, it is necessary to set up an account by completing a one time, online registration with ASAS-iLab.  

Please see our How to register with ASAS-iLab Solutions page. 


User Manuals

Terms and Conditions

Our Terms and Conditions are available.