All on-campus research at UC Santa Barbara has been suspended in an effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, according to Vice Chancellor for Research Joseph Incandela.
If researchers would like to continue their work, it must be conducted remotely until the outbreak is contained.
Researchers were given two days to cease any ongoing on-campus research, according to a memo from Incandela sent out on March 18.
“The shutdown of on-campus research will create unanticipated delays, which can be cause for significant anxiety for many, and especially junior, researchers,” Incandela wrote in the memo.
“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,” he continued.
However, the memo does provide some exceptions to the remote research mandate, including those who are researching coronavirus.
“Requests to allow COVID-19 studies or the continuation of ongoing essential experiments” can be submitted through a form for consideration, the memo read, but “few exceptions [are] to be granted.”
Research equipment, such as chemicals, are not allowed to be taken off campus. For laboratories or equipment that require continued maintenance or activity, the memo asks researchers to “spell out why and what continued tasks are necessary and identify a minimum number of essential personnel who will be responsible for this critical maintenance.”
Incandela said funding for researchers’ pay was a concern early on, but that the federal agencies, which provide most of the funding for researchers, would continue to fund research now conducted at home. New information regarding employee wages is being made available to researchers as well, Incandela said in an email.
Mahdi Abu-Omar, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry whose research focuses on renewable energy, said that despite the shutdown, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“We’re experimentalists, but there’s work that we do offline in terms of writing papers and preparing and planning and processing data,” Abu-Omar said.
“Of course not being able to do experiments is holding us back a little bit. But [writing and preparing data] for the next several weeks is manageable.”
Before the coronavirus outbreak, Abu-Omar had been anticipating the arrival of a scientist and a professor from overseas this summer, but after UCSB’s research shutdown, “both of these jobs are postponed until we figure out what’s going on,” Abu-Omar said.
Despite the shuttering of research on campus, there are still alternatives for student researchers, such as proposing ideas for future projects, Incandela said.
“Students can read and learn a lot about how the research they planned to do is connected to previous results. This is just one example, and I am sure there are many other possibilities like running simulations or brain-storming about something completely new,” Incandela explained.
“This may be an unprecedented period of thought and reflection that brings many new ideas to campus for future research.”