Scientific Instrument Reservations and Billing (SPINAL)

SPINAL (Scheduling and Payments for INstruments And Laboratories) is a unified Research Computing system that lets researchers sign up for time on instruments, and optionally allows departments to bill for that time.

Getting to SPINAL

SPINAL is at http://webapps.sciences.fas.harvard.edu/spinal/

Getting into SPINAL

Anybody with a Research Computing ("RC") account can login to SPINAL. If you don't have an account, request one here, and mention that you want to use SPINAL in the Comments field. If you can't login, please try to login at http://rcapps.fas.harvard.edu with your RC account information. Then email rchelp@fas.harvard.edu explaining what error message(s) you received.

Once users log in, they will only see information relevant to them. So researchers see instruments they can sign up for, and lab administrators see the labs they are responsible for.


SPINAL is designed to give responsibility to the person who knows most about a particular topic. So lab administrators choose which codes researchers can use; instrument administrators choose who can use which instrument; portfolio managers can check codes for the PIs they manage; and departmental financial administrators generate bills.

Before a researcher uses an instrument:

  1. The researcher trains on an instrument
  2. Instrument administrator uses SPINAL to allow the researcher to sign up for the instrument
  3. The researcher requests a 33-digit expense code from their lab administrator
  4. The lab administrator receives an email with a link to go to SPINAL and approve an expense code for that instrument
  5. The researcher gets an email saying they can now sign up with that expense code

From then on, each time a researcher wants to use an instrument, they simply log in to SPINAL, click on the instrument they wish to use, and pick a time (or possibly the number of samples they will be running), along with one of the expense codes they're allowed to use for that instrument.

At the end of the month, the financial administrator for the instrument facility generates invoices, which are emailed to the lab administrators for each PI.

Additional Resources

 SPINAL Usage Guide for Laboratory Administrators

 SPINAL Usage Guide for Researchers

 SPINAL Expense Code Guide for Laboratory Financial Administrators

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