In my March 17, 2020 message to UCI’s research community, I informed you of the need to ramp down and curtail UCI’s research activities. Now, with Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-33-20 (EO), all individuals living in the State of California are required to stay home or at their place of residence until further notice “to preserve the public health and safety, and to ensure the healthcare delivery system is capable of serving all, and prioritizing those at the highest risk and vulnerability…”
The EO also clarifies that people may leave their homes or places of residence to report to work for an essential job. Conducting critical research is an essential job.
Because the health and safety of faculty, staff, and students is UCI’s top priority, I am writing clarify what the EO means for UCI’s research enterprise, and to update and expand upon the information contained in my March 17 message. Above all, and to be abundantly clear, the expectation of UCI’s leadership is that everyone in the research community consistently follow the below guidelines.
The following applies to all non-critical research carried out on the Irvine or Orange campuses, or at facilities at other locations that are owned, leased, rented or accessed by UCI:
- Research activities that cannot be carried out at home must be halted by 11:59 pm today.
- Research activities that can be carried out at home (with or without telecommuting) should continue to the greatest extent possible.
- When carrying out non-critical research at home, each team member must work from their own home/residence. All communications between team members must be conducted by phone or other electronic means.
- Computers, storage devices, lab notebooks and papers may be removed from laboratories to facilitate working from home.
- Office supplies used in the course of research may be taken home only for the purpose of conducting UCI research and business.
- Under no circumstances should specimens, animals, research supplies (other than office supplies used in the course of research), equipment, instruments, etc. be removed from laboratories without the prior approval of the cognizant dean or research unit director (as applicable) and the Vice Chancellor for Research (or designee).
- Designate a primary and backup emergency contact for each research group. With prior approval of the PI or Lead Research, these individuals may access the group’s research space periodically, but not frequently, to check on the status of the lab/space and equipment, as well as troubleshoot any problems reported by research group members (e.g., rebooting computers, etc.). While doing so, they should exceed the social distancing guidelines and clean high-touch surfaces to the extent possible. Emergency contacts must not conduct non-critical research in the research space while the EO is in effect.
- Ensure that up-to-date emergency contact information for each research space is posted on all doors leading to the space.
A detailed definition of critical research can be found on the Critical Research definition page on the Research Continuity website. The following applies to all critical research carried out on the Irvine or Orange campuses, or at facilities at other locations that are owned, leased, rented or accessed by UCI:
- To conduct critical research during EO effective period, Principal Investigators (PIs) and Lead Researchers (LRs) must obtain approval for critical research from their cognizant dean or research unit director. Deans and Directors are setting up review processes for such approvals. We expect very few exceptions will be granted.
- Critical research activities must be conducted in a manner to ensure that the human physical distance between employees exceeds the social distancing guidelines.
Human Subjects Research
Non-critical human subject research activities that cannot be carried out with both the researcher in their own home and the subject in their own home must be halted by 11:59 pm today. Human research that is non-critical and can be carried out from home must comply with the requirements noted in the Non-Critical Research section above.
The general guidance posted on the Research Continuity website under the Human Research Protections section remains current for critical research, but is subject to change as circumstances evolve, so please check back frequently.
Domestic and International Field Research and Research at Sea
Research activities currently being carried out in the field must be halted unless the research team can ensure that the human physical distance between team members will consistently exceed the social distancing guidelines. In the case that research is halted, the PI is responsible for ensuring social distancing is practiced to the maximum extent practicable when traveling back to UCI.
Research activities currently being carried out at sea should continue for the duration of the voyage, but the PI is responsible for ensuring that the research team members practice social distancing to the maximum extent practicable. To the extent applicable, researchers returning from sea must also observe CDC travel guidelines.
Field research and research at sea that has not yet commenced must be postponed until further notice.
Students and Postdocs
- Faculty and PIs/LRs are encouraged to work creatively with students to ensure they can remain on track for graduation despite disruption to research activities.
- Undergraduate student, graduate students and postdocs are not and cannot be mandated to serve as essential personnel.
- Students or postdocs have the right to refuse to conduct critical research.
- Students and postdocs should follow the guidelines established by their department, school and UCI leadership regarding whether they should remain on campus or stay at home.
Laboratory Ramp-Down Checklist
The Laboratory Ramp-Down Checklist should be used to prepare for halting non-critical research and preparing to minimizing activities associated with critical research.
Research Personnel Health and Safety
PIs and Lead Researchers (LR) must require that all research personnel work from home if feasible. They are also responsible for ensuring that all essential personnel under their direction follow the social distancing guidelines. For critical research, PIs and LRs are responsible for reducing the density of people working in their research space.
Any researcher (regardless of their position or rank) must not come to work if they are sick. This includes essential personnel, which is why redundancy in all aspects of preparedness planning (and especially in communication plans) is vitally important. Be sure to establish a system by which research team members can and will check the status of each other. We must look after not only our physical health, but also consider mental health and the impact that a pandemic event can have on our most valuable asset – the immensely creative and dedicated people that make up UCI’s research community.
COVID-19 Related Expenses
To the extent your lab incurs COVID-19 related expenses, please ensure that your lab staff requests funding for and codes those expenses as indicated by DFA: https://www.budgetoffice.uci.edu/covid-19-funding-request/index.php.
Please direct questions regarding how the above actions may impact research to the following:
- For sponsored awards, please direct them to the officer in Sponsored Projects Administration or Beall Applied Innovation assigned to your unit, or to Nancy Lewis, Executive Director, Sponsored Projects Administration at email@example.com.
- For human research, please direct them to the staff in Human Research Protections, or to Beverley Alberola, Director, Human Research Protections at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jessica Sheldon, Acting Manager, Minimal Risk Teams at email@example.com.
- For animal protocols, please direct them to IACUC@uci.edu.
- For animal care and veterinary services, please direct them to Claire Lindsell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For the laboratory ramp down checklist, bio safety, radiation safety, occupational safety, etc., please direct them to EH&S staff, or John Sterritt, Executive Director, EH&S at email@example.com.
- Questions regarding local matters should be directed department, school, or research unit leadership.
- Other questions may be directed to Pramod Khargonekar, Vice Chancellor for Research by phone at 949-824-5796 or at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Bruce Morgan, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Administration by phone at 949-824-5677 or at email@example.com.
To be consistent with the Executive Order, this ramp down and curtailment period will last until further notice. Please visit the UCI Coronavirus website for important updates about COVID-19 and the status of UCI operations. Please continue to monitor your e-mail and regularly visit the Research Continuity website for updates regarding the status of Office of Research operations, as well as general guidance to the research community.
Now, more than ever, we must make difficult decisions regarding our research, but they are made easier knowing that we are doing our part to “flatten the curve” to disrupt the SARS-CoV-2 virus and to help prevent our healthcare delivery system from being overwhelmed.
I greatly appreciate all that you are doing to protect our collective health and safety.
Pramod Khargonekar, Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor for Research
Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science