The New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center

A. Goals of the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center (NYONRC)

The goals of the NYONRC are as follows:

To bring and hold together, under the Center's umbrella, a critical mass of investigators of independently funded research projects who share a strong interest in the study of obesity-related problems;

To use funds allocated for the support of pilot and feasibility projects and for program enrichment to promote and test new research ideas, stimulate productivity, foster the development of new investigators in the field, and persuade scientists in disciplines not ordinarily concerned with obesity (e.g. in molecular biology, molecular genetics, biophysics) to become involved in obesity-related research problems.

To provide participating investigators of funded projects relevant to obesity research with valuable laboratory, technical, and educational services that otherwise would not be available to them, or available only at a prohibitive cost in effort and expense.

To train basic investigators, clinical investigators, medical students, doctoral students in basic medical sciences, and post-doctoral fellows, in obesity and related eating disorders research.

To engage in enrichment activities that will inform and stimulate the scientists attached to the Center to greater research productivity in the field of obesity.

These five objectives have been pursued throughout the NYONRC's twenty-nine year period by the collaborative efforts of the Center's Director, working with the Associate Directors and with the NYONRC's Executive and Advisory Committees, its Administrative Core, its Core Laboratories, and its Users (Research Base).

B. Introduction

The broad objectives of the NYONRC have been set forth above. In this section the focus will be on the objectives of the Administrative Core as they relate to the provision of services to participating investigators, which include the following:

To ensure smooth operation of the NYONRC;

To ensure that the Core Laboratories provide services of high quality to all participating investigators (Users);

To encourage and foster collaboration among the Users of the Core facilities to enhance productivity and open new directions of research endeavor;

To facilitate experimental design, data processing, and statistical analysis for individual Users as well as Core Laboratories;

To provide Users of the Center with services that will enrich and enhance their own programs, such as carefully planned seminars, symposia, speakers, and visiting scientists.

To administer the Pilot and Feasibility Program in accordance with NIH requirements and the policies set forth by the Executive Committee;

To train young investigators in obesity research, in both basic and clinical areas; and to enhance training of medical students and health professionals in the areas of obesity and eating disorders;

To carry out meticulously the administrative commitments made to the NIDDK.

C. Background

During its twenty-nine years of existence, the NYONRC Administrative Core has acquired a substantial experience in the administration of a multi-disciplinary, coordinated program designed to provide a wide array of research-related services to cooperating investigators. In particular, the Administrative Core has evolved experience-based policies relating to the setting of priorities for allocation of Core resources and the development of guidelines covering eligibility for Pilot/Feasibility grants. In addition, the Administrative Core has developed procedures for formalizing the recording of Executive Committee and Advisory Council meetings, writing progress reports of the Center, disseminating announcements of outside speakers, scheduling Columbia Seminars on Appetitive Behavior, and in maintaining careful records of subcontracts, P/F awards, purchases, and expenditures.

The Administrative Core has dealt with a number of organizational changes over the years. In 1985, when the second cycle of funding began, the amalgamation of the obesity research programs of St. Luke's/Roosevelt, Rockefeller University, and Vassar College created the need for modifications to encompass this larger framework. Under the direction of the Administrative Core, this was done smoothly, and services and collaborations were extended to a wider family of Core Laboratories and Users. With the deletion of the Vassar program in the 1990 renewal application and the formation of the two new Cores form Cornell Medical College (Ingestive Behavior and Mass Spectroscopy), further changes ensued. Also, we dealt with the move of Dr. Matthews and his laboratory to the University of Vermont and of the Rockefeller program to Columbia University. We also re-organized dropping the Cornell Cores and adding a Core at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, along with a number of new Users there. The experience of serving Cores and Users who are geographically separated is well documented, and there has been little problem in extending to the new sites.

D. Rationale

Experience has shown that an Obesity Research Center needs an Administrative Core for a variety of reasons: (i) To "administer" the Center, which includes managing the organization and bookkeeping work; (ii) to serve as a nerve center for the Research Core Laboratories and cooperating investigators (Users); (iii) to provide centralized services to the Center participants, particularly services of an educational nature (lectures, seminars, symposia, etc.), bibliographical services, and computational and biostatistical services; and (iv) to function as a guidance system that will keep the Center on the course set by its Director, Executive Committee, and Advisory Committee. These activities require the maintenance of strong communication links between the Administrative Core, the Core Laboratories, and the participating investigators.

The Administrative Core has four principal aims: (i) to exert leadership in coordinating and integrating the components making up the total program of the Center, fostering communication and cooperation among the scientific associates; (ii) to build up the Core Program of the Center by attracting and keeping staff capable of adding scientific strength to the Center, (iii) to conduct and supervise multi-disciplinary research directly relevant to the problem of human obesity; (iv) to develop a scholarly climate within the Center capable of attracting for training superior students and young investigators interested in obesity and ingestive behavior.

E. Staffing

Administrative responsibility for the NYONRC rests with the Director, Dr. F. Xavier Pi-Sunyer and Associate Director, Dr. Rudolph Leibel. The Administrator, Ms.Cherie Ilse, and the Financial Administrator, Ms. Debbie Aloisio are directly responsible to the Director. Ms. Aloisio has a degree in business administration and experience as a research administrator in the Medical services of St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital Center. Ms. Ilse is in over-all charge of budgets, accounting, announcements, arrangements of meetings, running the Pilot/Feasibility program (sending out announcements, speaking to potential applicants, compiling the applications, sending the applications out for review, collecting the critiques, sending the critiques to the Advisory Committee, convening the Advisory Committee to set priorities on funding, managing sub-contracts for the P/Fs which are outside our institution, gathering annual reports, maintaining contact with the past P/F awardees and their research endeavors).

The Administrative Core provides leadership, coordination of activities, exchange of information and ideas and common resources for the Users of the Center. All mailings, announcements of meetings and programs, correspondence with visitors and seekers, and correspondence with trainees and awardees are done through the NYONRC office. In addition, the Columbia University Faculty Seminar on Appetitive Behavior is coordinated out of this office.

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