The Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED) has established a set of business continuity plans for the research enterprise should the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) impact our campus. These plans are staged, based on the severity of such impacts if they should indeed occur. Please recognize that if an outbreak of COVID-19 virus does occur in this region, the research enterprise at UC Merced may be affected.
Consistent with the continuity of educational operations, continuity of research at UC Merced is anchored in the following principles:
· personal safety for the entire campus community; and
· ensuring ongoing technical and administrative support of research operations when possible.
This will require us to be flexible with campus-based research protocol and proposal submittal deadlines. I’d like to discuss several areas of operation that could impact the research community:
1. The preparation, review and submittal of proposals can happen entirely electronically, so as long as the Departmental Research Administrators and ORED staff are not severely impacted with the virus, these activities should occur on time and without interruption.
If a number of staff are personally impacted, we will suspend all internal submittal deadlines. Under these conditions, it will not be possible to completely review all proposals prior to submittal, but they will be submitted as long as the sponsors are still accepting applications. (All federal agencies have a provision for late submittals of proposals in the event of natural disasters, including pandemics. ORED will work with extramural sponsors to address delays in research productivity resulting from and impact associated with the COVID-19 virus at UC Merced.)
The selection process for limited submission proposals will expedited if needed to ensure that proposals from UC Merced can meet the submittal deadlines posed by extramural sponsors.
2. The operation of core facilities managed by ORED will continue unless general campus operations are suspended. In the event that a particular core facility cannot accommodate your needs due to closure or the illness of the technical support staff, we will assist you in finding access to facilities at another campus if they remain open.
3. The Division of Animal Research Services (DARS, the vivarium) operates continuously, 365 days per year. DARS has a formal emergency management plan that directly addresses the topic of human disease outbreaks and pandemics. I encourage animal users to discuss this topic directly with the Campus Attending Veterinarian, Kate Clark and/or the Director of DARS, Roy Hoglund.
4. Natural Reserve System (NRS) facilities will remain open and available for use as long as general campus operations continue, however operation of the Yosemite and Sequoia Field Stations will be contingent upon the status of and access to Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks. If general campus operations are suspended, essential research-related activities may proceed at NRS facilities, as long as NRS staff are not severely impacted with the virus. Please consult with Faculty Director Jessica Blois on any questions related to your specific upcoming reserve use.
5. The Office of Research Compliance and Integrity will continue to function across its areas. If necessary, meetings of the IRB and IACUC committees can occur through video conferencing.
To reiterate: Should COVID-19 impact the Merced region, the UC Merced research enterprise may be affected. Research personnel transactions, research procurements and travel are all handled by units external to ORED. The ongoing operations of activities in these areas will likely be contingent upon the availability of staff. Please consult with your school and ORU offices to address questions in these areas. Principle investigators are encouraged to review their own research continuity plans to determine how best to handle a possible interruption of activities.
For the latest guidance on travel and other issues pertaining to the university’s response to the COVID-19 virus, please see the UC Merced Emergency website.
Samuel J. Traina
Vice Chancellor for Research