Re: Supporting Research
To: Research Faculty
Sept. 28, 2021
Last week, senior leadership met with faculty and deans to discuss concerns about the campus’s support of the research enterprise. These concerns included the recent launch of the Oracle financial system and associated changes to the purchasing system, difficulties in supporting research grants, a lack of staffing in the schools to support faculty complications with the chemical purchasing process and inventory tracking system, and the unavailability of the Biomedical Sciences and Physics (BSP) facility.
We greatly appreciate faculty participation in last week's town halls and the clear expression of your concerns and, in many cases, suggestions for improvements.
We recognize the issues you face are not just a result of the pandemic, but also a byproduct of years of accumulated decisions. That said, it is our intent and responsibility to support your research and actively pave the way to becoming an R1 institution. Consequently, we will take the following actions.
Immediately, we will:
- Assign six staff members from the Center for Business Services and Solutions (CBS2) to an in-person Faculty Support Center that will open in October in the Kolligian Library.
- Mobilize our temporary labor pool to provide immediate and direct support for each school’s Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) to assign.
- Use a recently assembled Procurement Task Force to learn from our high-volume users how the Oracle user interface could be improved to streamline processes.
- Ensure key support staff (e.g., RAs, CAOs), as well as the organized research units, have access to the Oracle system to see the financial information required for them to do their jobs expediently and accurately. Training will be provided as needed.
- Create a dotted-line reporting structure for Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) to the Vice Chancellor for Research’s office to ensure efficient exchange of information and address impacts that maximum allowable quantities have on purchasing delays.
To address mid-term needs, we will:
- Provide two new staff members in each school to serve as liaisons to the campus’ centralized services (e.g., CBS2, Contracts and Grants Administration). These liaisons (one CBS2 staff member reporting to CBS2 and one temporary staff member reporting directly to an assistant dean) will help to ensure activities required for research are stewarded through the system.
- Authorize each school to hire a permanent FTE to replace the embedded CBS2 staff member.
- Add four staff members to EH&S. These positions are currently in recruitment.
Our long-range changes are focused on what is needed to ensure our financial information is provided in an easily accessible and usable format.
- We are assessing Division of Finance and Administration (DFA) workflow to optimize management of the Oracle system. This optimization will require additional staffing in DFA and we have initiated planning in this area.
- We will create a dotted-line reporting structure between the schools and DFA to ensure individuals in the schools responsible for financial information are supported and using the same information.
- To increase support of research, we will add Contracts and Grants Administration staff focused on financial activities such as invoicing and reporting.
- We will conduct a comprehensive analysis of our campus’ financial structure to determine where other efficiencies can be achieved to further support the research community.
We will develop a website that documents and tracks these short, mid- and long-range efforts, as well as provides important contacts and information. This will include publishing service level agreements that reflect our existing capacity to support the research community. In addition, Physical Operations, Planning and Development (POPD) will provide monthly updates on topics that impact research, such as the status of the BSP facility.
These aggressive steps represent a significant infusion of personnel and investment of resources to address the issues you have raised. It is our shared goal to continue to raise our profile as a cutting-edge research university well on its way to R1 status. The actions outlined here also align with our inaugural Strategic Plan to guide UC Merced’s present and future as a campus on the rise.