Way too long since I last posted on the blog….one excuse was being occupied with moving lab kit and consumables, installing equipment and getting organized in general. A couple of lab issues still have to be resolved, e.g. our water-cooled -80C freezer needs to be plumbed in and a variety of pieces of ESI lab equipment still need to be set up (or go through procurement). We will soon also colonize a small part of the downstairs lab for filtration equipment, as this is where we will bring in larger (waste) water samples that are not welcome to the clean lab upstairs. Compare with last posts picture:
The main issue keeping us busy is the ordering process however. European funding rules require us to have three competitive quotes for every item bought (even if an item costs one pound). We have been provided with a spreadsheet with three quotes for common lab items, but not all items (or suppliers) are on there and it does not take into account that package sizes can differ, so this requires some additional research. Luckily, in specific cases, i.e. when using a reagent to which methods have been standardized, we can argue going for an item that is not the cheapest option. In addition to this system for consumables, we have separate ordering systems for primers, service contracts, lab running costs, waste bags, stationary, travel and computers (there are two separate systems for the latter category actually). We are fortunate that because our work falls under clinical science we are VAT exempt for consumables orders. This does mean though that we need to bring a signed VAT exemption print-out to another building for every single order.
Once an order has been sent to finances, it can take a while before it is ordered due to problems with codes or prices being out of date or subject to specific discounts (for example, we today discovered a university discount of almost 3000% on one commonly used consumable that we were unaware of). When an item is ordered, we are provided with an order code. Because many orders contain multiple items, they often arrive in different batches as they can be out of stock or have to be delivered by a different courier as they are on ice. It is unfortunately not possible to get our names on the orders, so we have to sift through stacks of boxes with print-outs of order codes in hand. Orders are either delivered to our reception, our storage hall or to the post room in the Biosciences building, which means it sometimes takes a while to confirm that everything has arrived. Orders on ice are moved to a fridge or freezer in the Biosciences lab, but actually about half of these arrivals just disappear, which means we have to cancel planned experiments.
We are also starting up a lab in the hospital in Truro (I have to post about this sometime soon!). Unfortunately many of our orders for Truro were delivered to Tremough and I had to move them by car. One company billed the hospital for the items we ordered even though we had already paid for them. This, understandably, was not well-received by the hospital finance department. Although I sorted it out with the company, they were unfortunately billed for the same items again recently. Let’s just say that ordering is not the most rewarding part of the job. We will switch to an entirely new ordering system in the summer. Although we are not necessarily looking forward to a change in procedures, it will hopefully be for the better.
P.S. A lot of the work described has been done by new technician Daniela Farina, who I will introduce in the next post.
P.S.P.S. For an excellent recent read, check Britt Koskella’s post on how to deal with rejection of grants and papers, something everyone that works in science can relate to (and which may be an eye-opener for those who do not).