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COVID-19: Shutdown of All On-Campus Research

March 20, 2020
Dear Colleagues,
Yesterday, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CA Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay at home order for all residents. Through consultation with Deans, faculty, and leaders across campus, we have determined that:
  • All Principal Investigators shall work with their local administrators to begin a campus-wide UC Merced Research Facilities Shutdown. Research must be drawn down as soon and as safely as possible, and a plan enacted for on-campus research to cease by noon Sunday, March 22, 2020 until further notice. People conducting this shutdown effort for each group should be kept at an absolute minimum between now and noon on Sunday.
  • Under no conditions is laboratory equipment, chemicals, biologics, materisals, etc., be taken off-campus. Laptops and other mobile storage devices can be taken off-campus. All human subjects research requiring face-to-face, in person interaction shall cease immediately.
Please use the UC Merced Ramp Down Checklist to assist in your shutdown planning.
Expect the shutdown to last several weeks to months. Only remote research, defined as that which can be done remotely and does not require laboratory equipment and supplies, should be performed in this period without further permission.
If a Principal Investigator requires ongoing research to take place at a campus site during a shutdown, they will be required to fill out an Essential Research Request form in the InfoReady system. Requests to allow COVID-19 studies or the continuation of ongoing essential experiments must be submitted via the request form linked below. These requests will be reviewed by the relevant Deans together with the Vice Chancellor for Research and faculty representatives. Expect very few exceptions to be granted. Please note that this permission is only required for those activities which must be conducted on campus (the campus proper or other UC Merced facilities).
Details on Essential Research: Essential research functions are any functions that are necessary to maintain baseline research or scholarly operations and projects (e.g. vivarium management, clean room management, etc.), that if not continued will result in irreparable damage to instruments, samples or research programs. Any disruption to an “essential research function” could jeopardize the completion of sponsored projects (even if delayed), the reputation of faculty and the institution with sponsors, the prospects of future funding, and even the research capability itself housed at the institution.
We note that there are other important creative research programs on campus (music, dance, practice rooms, etc.) that will also need to be stopped on campus.
Note that students and trainees (including graduate students and postdoctoral scholars) are not mandated to serve as essential personnel. The decision to report to campus lies with the student worker. Consenting to serve in this capacity will require the signature of the graduate student or postdoc as well as the signature of a third-party individual (a School Dean or their designee). Please use our Essential Research
Trainee Certification form as a template.
No personnel should “rush” to campus or campus locations prior to March 22 to complete work. All efforts in the next days should be focused on shutting on-campus research down and transition to off-site research where possible.
Mitigating Impact On Our Researchers: The shutdown of on-campus research will create unanticipated delays, which can be cause for significant anxiety for many, and especially junior researchers. While there is no way to escape the loss of time, every effort is being made to assure that these actions will not damage careers or lead to excessive financial hardship. The Office of Research is working remote but fully operational and continuously updating its COVID19 website with agency guidance regarding research funding.
This is a difficult time for all of us and we do not take the cessation of research on campus lightly. Your sacrifices will help save lives. This is one of the most challenging times in modern history. Together, we can make a difference. We know the facts. We have a responsibility to take the lead.
Samuel J. Traina
Vice Chancellor for Research
UC Merced
Gregg Camfield
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
UC Merced