Professor Schmitt, who has been grumbling about his chemistry department’s antique, demon-ridden gas chromatograph mass spectrometer, discovers that the biology department installed a new one six months before. But when he wanders into their lab to have a look at it, the biology people aren’t all that happy to see him. If he uses it, they’ll have to let everyone use it. And who’s going to train them?

Gene D’Amour, associate provost at Tulane University, says this fictional scenario is played out at every university in the country. In an effort to eliminate this problem on its New Orleans campus, Tulane has raised more than $3 million for an approach it believes to be a “first”: a shared instrumentation center.

D’Amour says Tulane’s Coordinated Research Instrumentation Facility will create a central laboratory that will house five to seven “very big-ticket items” costing $400,000 to $700,000 or more each, and an...

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