On March 17, UCR Interim Provost Thomas Smith and Vice Chancellor of Research and Economic Development (VCRED) Rodolfo Torres announced that UCR is strictly curtailing on-campus research activities to those that cannot be postponed or restarted and preparing for a possible complete shutdown of research on campus.
All on-campus research must have halted by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17, until and unless granted an exception from the cognizant dean. Deans may authorize specific projects or experiments to proceed if the only place the research activity can be conducted is on campus and if delaying the research activity would seriously undermine the project and have severe consequences for the future of the UCR research enterprise.
Smith and Torres wrote that students’ respective deans will inform them, if they have not already, of their process for receiving requests to continue research during the shutdown. The deadline for students to submit their request was. on Wednesday, March 18 by 5 p.m. Respective deans, in consultation with the Interim Provost and VCRED, took into consideration the consequences of stopping or delaying research in the larger context of the current pandemic situation and inform them accordingly. Smith and Torres stated that approved exceptions will be rare.
Curtailment of operations is not a reason to take shortcuts, risks or suspend their usual safety and research compliance protocols, stated Smith and Torres. Research will continue to be subject to the same existing compliance regulations. Torres and Smith reminded researchers that in no circumstance should researchers take materials other than secure laptops, data storage devices and other approved materials off-site to maintain research continuity during a curtailment.
“We will prioritize our future research capacity, including expensive instrumentation and facilities, unrecoverable biological materials, data, and artifacts. This will take precedent over current research that could eventually be restarted,” stated Smith and Torres. No undergraduate students will be allowed in any on-campus labs or research facilities during spring quarter. Assistant professors whose research is seriously curtailed can apply for “stop the clock” through their department and the Academic Personnel Office.
To prepare for the possibility that all research activities may be shut down, principal investigators (PIs) of approved research activities are required to submit a shutdown plan by Friday, March 20 at 5 p.m. to their dean. Guidelines for developing such plans for wet-labs and labs with animals will be distributed soon.
Smith and Torres wrote that this is a time to be reflective and creative about intellectual work, to complete data analysis and draft manuscripts. They encouraged researchers to write papers that they have never had time to start and to begin work on their next grant application. “We understand that closing down your lab will be hard, but the extreme conditions of the current pandemic justify it,” stated Smith and Torres.
They concluded their announcement writing, “Thank you for your understanding and cooperation and for all that you continue to do for our University and community. We believe in our faculty, staff, and students and that we will come out of this crisis stronger and more resilient. There will be many new opportunities that we cannot even imagine about future research and we are committed to help you take advantage of them.”