Saturday, 25 June 2011

What sort of user are you?

Back in April Tales of the Genomic Repairman discussed five core facility stereotypes; Core of ill-repute, High $ Hooka core, the Waiting by the phone for the core to call core, the High maintenance core and the Easy core next door. I hope my users see the core I run as an easy core next door.

I thought I’d follow up after a conversation around Genomic Repairmans blog at a recent Illumina user meeting in Chantilly where six core heads were on the same table at dinner. We all agreed that those stereoptypes exist but the same goes for users. Anyway, here is what we came up with...

The “the deadline is always tomorrow” user always professes that their experiment needs to happen now, the data is either needed for a paper (Nature, Cell or Science of course) or a looming grant deadline. If the core can’t deliver then this guy’s career is over. You meet them six weeks later in the pub after work and ask if the paper was accepted and they say, “sorry, I’ve not had time to look at the data yet”! We want to help when we can and my lab can run an array project in three days if samples are ready to roll. But whilst we all know priorities get changed you can't pull this too many times. Ever heard of the boy who cried wolf?

The “how can I do it cheaper” user always wants to cut corners to bring the cost of the experiment down. If you say four replicates they say “three”, when you say three they say “two, you can do stats on two can’t you?” Their experiments never quite seem to generate results that can be validated.

The “I didn’t quite follow the protocol” user brings their samples along but casually let you know that they had to skip a clean up or amplification step to get the samples in before heading off for the weekend. You can bet they’ll be disappointed when the job does not work and they are still asked to pay. This user is often unhappy with the quality of the work from the core.

The “I want to use this method that was just published last week” user can often lead to an exciting new application in the core. However this kind of user can also come back the week after and say forget about the last method, this ones really great. It can be difficult to know when they are coming in with the next big thing rather than a fad. This user is enthusiastic but can take up a lot of time, however most cores relish the conversations and the opportunity to work on new ideas.

The " " silent user. Most of us round the table thought many users were too quiet. Whilst they seem happy with services offered, with the quality and turnaround of data, their feedback is limited. We want these users to talk to us more. Tell us what they like and don’t like. They have the opportunity to shape how our cores develop with their comments.

The “thanks a lot” user. This user always says thanks when they get their results. Even better, they always acknowledge the work the core did in the paper and sometimes include core staff as authors if it is warranted. The core is always happy to see this person back again and will always try to give that little extra. Service for this guy comes with a smile.

A last comment: Users of core facilities should speak with the staff and mangers. If you have a Core that’s not so easy going then talk to them about it. Constructive criticism should be taken on board and who knows soon your Core of ill-repute could soon be as easy going as you’d always hoped for.

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