Frequently Asked Questions

Please review the following frequently asked questions for additional background on UC Berkeley’s research operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have a question or concern that is not addressed below, please submit it by e-mail to: vcr@berkeley.edu.


FAQ Topics


Current Research Operations

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UC Berkeley Facilities Access and Protocols

Since March 17, 2020 access to campus buildings has only been available to essential research staff. We expect that regular access to campus buildings will be limited at least until the end of the local shelter in place order. Please review details here on the Phase 2 research recovery
If you are a faculty member and need access to your office on a one-time basis to retrieve research materials and/or equipment, please contact your department chair. Graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and other research personnel should obtain approval from their faculty advisor first. ORU staff and faculty should consult the relevant ORU Director. Once approved, please coordinate building access with your building manager.

 

Each employee who is authorized to work on campus is required to follow the guidelines that are shared with them before they are authorized to return to campus. Please review the current list of requirements here.

 

As of early March 2021 the campus is not yet taking vaccination status into account when approving laboratory/space density or campus access. This status is likely to evolve as new guidance is issued and incorporated into state, county and City of Berkeley health orders.

Currently all on-campus employees must continue to wear a facial covering, practice 6-foot distancing, and pursue regular testing, regardless of vaccination status.

Please monitor the campus coronavirus site and weekly Response and Recovery newsletter for updates.

 

Yes, the VC Research Office will continue to review Critical On-Campus Research Continuity Requests on an emergency basis, if your office or lab resides in a building that has not opened for Phase 2 research ramp up. Please complete a Critical On-Campus Research Continuity Request here

If your office or lab resides in a building that is cleared for Phase 2 research ramp-up, please do not complete a Critical On-Campus Research Continuity Request. Instead please contact your Building Oversight Committee to request access, and/or update your list of essential personnel.

Please be sure that all special safety and regulatory requirements associated with on-campus research during the COVID-19 pandemic are maintained at all times. As a starting point, be sure to review the guidelines you receive once approved for on-campus access as well as the relevant sections in this FAQ. If any of your essential personnel feel ill - particularly if they have a cough - they must remain at home. This is important not just for your group, but also others who share your floor/building.

 

Undergraduate students may participate in selected on-campus research activities that take place in approved research buildings if they fall into one of the following categories: Students working in paid positions, including work-study; enrolled in a formal campus apprenticeship and fellowship programs (SURF, URAP, SPUR); enrolled in a course that offers course credit for research conducted in a lab; or conducting honors thesis research. Undergraduate volunteers and other volunteers are not allowed in campus laboratories until further notice.

All undergraduates must be counted in the research group/unit’s density budget, and must complete all required training and be granted ‘essential personnel’ status prior to coming to campus.

 

Lab/research group members are empowered and encouraged to report recurring noncompliant practices to the lead faculty/PI of the noncompliant group or to their own faculty lead/PI or department chair. Neighboring faculty/groups should make every effort to resolve the problem locally if possible. If safety deficiencies are not resolved locally in a timely fashion, the issue should be escalated to the appropriate department chair, dean, or building oversight committee for swift correction. Any lab member may also submit a confidential concern to the VC Research at vcr@berkeley.edu. Other options for initiating an evaluation of unresolved safety concerns are through anonymous reporting on the EH&S website or through a campus Improper Governmental Activity (“Whistleblower”) Report.

 

Please review up-to-date parking information on the Parking and Transportation website here.

 

Currently the campus remains closed to non-authorized employees, contractors or affiliated personnel.  Please move all of your meetings and consultations online, as long as local health authorities advise residents to shelter in place.  Please email researchrecovery@berkeley.edu with questions about specific situations.

International Visiting Scholars and Researchers:  Due to ongoing uncertainty around travel restrictions and visa approval/processing times, research groups are encouraged to continue postponing visiting scholar and visiting student researcher appointments until at least summer 2021 if the person has not yet traveled to campus. Contact the Visiting Scholars and Postdoc Affairs Office at vspa@berkeley.edu to alert them of deferrals. Consult the Berkeley International Office (BIO) for all visa questions, review their COVID-19 related resources and inform them at jscholar@berkeley.edu of any deferrals of international visiting scholar appointments. 

Updated guidance about summer and fall 2021 visiting scholar/researcher appointments will be forthcoming in March/April 2021.

 

All UC Berkeley managed field stations are open to limited visitors. Please contact the onsite field station managers or check their website for current status.

 

To reduce the potential transmission of the coronavirus in the coming weeks, those campus labs and research facilities that have been permitted to continue essential research activities must follow the safety protocol that was approved with your request. In addition please review the following guidelines:

Protect your colleagues and campus support personnel: Require that all research group personnel approved to perform essential on-campus work wear face coverings, as described in campus guidelines and above. Require that all research group personnel who feel ill to any degree but especially if they have a cough remain at home to avoid risk of spreading COVID-19 to other lab members, or to support staff (OLAC staff, facilities staff, building personnel who share your building/spaces). Other occupants of research spaces and laboratories are to practice social distancing and good hygiene measures. Occupancy should be dramatically reduced (though never below thresholds dictated by proper safety practices) and separation of at least 6 feet should be maintained.

Work remotely: The campus has transitioned to a dominant mode of research work that is performed remotely, where feasible. Except for essential personnel described in the PI proposal, all other research group personnel should be operating remotely.

Social Distancing: For those whose on-campus presence is required to sustain research, we direct PIs to implement social distancing and density reduction measures. In addition to those proposed in your proposal, please consider:

  • Increasing social distancing between individuals (>6 feet between individuals at all times: at workstations, in seminar and break rooms, and in similar shared spaces).
  • Scheduling personnel to work in shifts. Be sure that shared equipment, surfaces and spaces are cleaned between shifts. Shared calendars are a good way to manage on-campus schedules. Consider having 2 people on site for safety if personnel are in a building for an extended period. Make sure all staff have the UCPD emergency number handy: (510) 642-3333; Non-Emergency: (510) 642-6760.
  • If personnel are joining research group conference calls, join remotely from workstations, or sit at least six feet apart in seminar/conference rooms.
  • Increase cleaning of shared equipment and spaces. Facilities Services is conducting regular cleaning of conference rooms, bathrooms and doorknobs, but research groups should initiate their own regular wiping down of shared chairs, keyboards, tools, lab benches, equipment and instrumentation, and communal-use items such as white board markers/erasers, coffee pots, etc. *NOTE: Facilities Services cleaning schedules are likely to change in the coming days/weeks. The VCR Office or Building Managers will update PIs on schedules as they change. For disinfection, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.
 

While an exception is being granted during this time of pandemic response, all safety, regulatory and compliance requirements associated with your research must be maintained.

1) Environment, Health & Safety: All safety standards must be followed, including: all hazard assessments must be completed; required use authorizations are received (e.g., use of radioactive or biohazardous materials, lasers, controlled substances, toxic gases, human, and animal); standard operating procedures are written, signed and followed; appropriate training is completed, and personal protective equipment is donned.

Please note that EH&S is here to help, albeit in a limited capacity. The following EH&S services remain available:

  • Dedicated Urgent Response Team is available for spills and other urgent EH&S related issues.
  • Lab Coat fittings for laboratory personnel permitted in labs in need of properly fitted coats (and other lab personal protective equipment).
  • Respirator fit tests.
  • Hazardous waste pick-ups will continue as needed.
  • Research oversight committees will continue to meet as needed.

Please contact EH&S at ehs@berkeley.edu with any questions related to safety and regulatory requirements or if you need assistance with any issues above or others not noted.

2) Human Subjects Research must follow Phase 2 Research Recovery guidelines. Please contact OPHS at OPHS@berkeley.edu, if you have questions.

3) Animal Care: Please follow the Phase 2 Research Recovery guidelines for animal research. OLAC will continue daily animal care in OLAC facilities throughout the shelter-in-place unless otherwise announced. Please limit or discontinue removing animals from OLAC-managed facilities, unless for the purpose of tissue collection. If you have IACUC approval to keep animals in the laboratory, research staff will continue to be responsible for their care. If you anticipate this may be a problem, please contact OLAC to identify alternate care plans. All animal-related research must be accomplished between the hours of 7am-7pm or.  7-9pm depending on the building or room your animals are housed in.

  • Facility Access: If you have any issues accessing the facilities and are on your PI’s VCR-approved list of essential personnel, please contact the UCPD or OLAC. Do not contact OLAC after hours (contact UCPD at (510) 642-6760). You should not be in the animal facilities after hours.
  • Training: Contact the OLAC Trainers.  They will guide you to the best way to get this accomplished.

Managing Research Budgets and Personnel

 

Agencies and entities are continuously updating their guidance on COVID-19. Please refer to the Office of Sponsored Projects (SPO) website for up-to-date links to the most recent guidance provided by funding agencies and entities, as well as links to federal COVID-19 research funding opportunities.

SPO continues to operate during normal business hours with staff working remotely.

 

Please instruct your research analyst to track expenses related to COVID-19 by using the pay codes and chartfields provided by the Office of the CFO

 

In order to help address the financial impacts of COVID-19, the campus has implemented a number of budget-conserving actions. One such action includes instituting a campus-wide hiring freeze effective April 1, 2020. For details, please refer to this announcement as well as this FAQ and other resources on the UC Berkeley People & Culture website.

 

As of March 17, 2020 all UC employees  are eligible to receive a one-time allotment of up to 128 hours of paid administrative leave to be used no later than June 30, 2021, based on certain conditions. Managers and supervisors are asked to grant their employees permission for these requests and to be flexible as their staff adjust to the current situation. Please review details on the UC Berkeley People & Culture website. You can track COVID-19 related paid administrative leave in CalTime as "CV19-Admin Leave with Pay." President Napolitano’s March 17 Executive Order is available here.

 

Yes. As a recipient of federal awards, UC can charge salaries and benefits to such awards if it does so in a manner that is consistent across all funding sources, federal and non-federal. President Napolitano’s order is one of UC’s institutional policies that is used as a basis for charging sponsored contracts and grants. This approach is supported by costing policy guidance recently issued by the federal Office of Management and Budget. This guidance must be implemented by federal sponsors, so please check the Berkeley SPO COVID-19 resource page for further information on a particular agency.

 

The UC system is continuing to evaluate the support of the projects and research staff through what the federal sponsors have recognized as unexpected and extraordinary circumstances. Please review the People&Cultures COVID-19 website for further details and updates.

 

Certain agencies, like NIH, have expressly recognized the hardship that the COVID-19 situation will create for projects. Its leaders expect to review requests for supplemental funding on a case-by-case basis. Other agencies, like the NSA, have stated that remote work will not be eligible for funding. Check the Berkeley SPO COVID-19 resource page for further information on your project’s funder and contact your agency program manager/grant officer to request supplemental funding.

Resources to Support the Work of your Research Group

 

If staff or faculty would like home delivery for a Bearbuy order, please email the Procurement Office at bearbuyhelp@berkeley.edu to ask for a home address exception, so that the order can be shipped directly via BearBuy. Please refer to the Berkeley Supply Chain Management COVID-19 resources for updates.

 

Please review these tips from the campus Information Security Office regarding telecommuting securely, COVID-19 related phishing, and other resources to help guide you and others during this time.  Download UC Berkeley branded Zoom backgrounds here.

 

Research IT is providing virtual consulting for research computing and data management questions, including for those who use or are interested in systems that can be accessed remotely (Savio HPC and AEoD Virtual Machines). Send email to research-it@berkeley.edu or visit research-it.berkeley.edu for more information or to schedule a consultation.

IT Client Services continues to provide basic computer support to campus, and is helping procure computers and tablets. For more information about contacting ITCS, visit https://technology.berkeley.edu/contact-us.

 

If you are looking for reimbursements for cancelled research travel due to COVID-19, please review the directions provided by the Office of the CFO here.

UCOP has directed the UC community to temporarily avoid all non-essential university-related travel to countries designated with a CDC warning Level 2 or 3. UC has defined “essential faculty travel” to be travel required to preserve 1) the safety of a patient or research subject or 2) the results of research activity. 

At UC Berkeley, all requests for ‘essential’ travel to these countries, including travel for field research purposes, must be approved in advance. Consult the Berkeley Global Engagement Office website for the approval protocol. UC defines all staff travel as “non-essential” unless the campus grants an exception.

Guidance for travelers from countries planning to visit or returning from an area with community spread of COVID-19 is available from the CDC website.

Also note that the State Department advises US citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global spread of COVID-19. Review State Department guidance here.

Based on the UCOP guidance document, we offer the following campus guidance:

  • Cancel all non-essential UC-related travel to CDC Level 2 and 3 countries.
  • We strongly urge that you cancel travel and attendance at scientific conferences, and attend meetings via phone or videoconference. Many scientific conferences and other research community meetings have moved to a remote participation format.
  • We strongly urge that you cancel or postpone field research trips, as they present unique risks because of shared housing, communal meals, and challenges to “sending someone home” should they become ill during an extended trip. Review updated UCB Field Safety Guidelines. 
  • Review current campus travel guidelines and enforce self-isolation as necessary: Ensure that all lab employees, students and visitors (including visiting scholars and researchers) who have traveled to or from a Level 3 country in the last 14 days self-isolate for 14 days since the date of departure from the country. All other travelers should monitor for symptoms for 14 days. Refer to the most-up-to-date guidance on the campus COVID-19 website.
  • We urge that you postpone visiting scholar and visiting student researcher appointments if the person has not yet traveled to campus. Contact the Visiting Scholars and Postdoc Affairs Office at vspa@berkeley.edu to alert them of deferrals. Consult the Berkeley International Office (BIO) for all visa questions, review their COVID-19 related resources and inform them at jscholar@berkeley.edu of any deferrals of international visiting scholar appointments. 
 

Principal Investigators and research managers should work with each of their students and postdoctoral trainees to develop a personalized plan that allows each person to conduct research remotely to the fullest extent possible, e.g., performing data analysis, literature review, modeling and computation, writing manuscripts and applications, and planning. COVID-19 related resources for graduate students are provided by the Graduate Division here.

 

Note that UC Berkeley visiting scholars and researchers currently on campus must follow all UC Berkeley campus COVID-19 guidance regarding working remotely etc.

Visiting Scholars/Visiting Student Researchers scheduled to arrive on campus: Please contact the Visiting Scholars and Postdoc Affairs (VSPA) Office at vspa@berkeley.edu and for international postdocs and researchers the Berkeley International Office (BIO) at jscholar@berkeley.edu to alert them of deferrals. Visitors with any questions about their visa status, and/or returning home should consult the Berkeley International Office.

 

Due to the changing nature of US immigration policy, the evolving COVID-19 outbreak and its impacts on global travel, the Berkeley International Office (BIO) does not recommend international travel. Please refer to the guidance provided by BIO for important information on US immigration policy, Executive Orders and travel advisories. 

BIO offers remote advising appointments for international students and researchers. The BIO website provides updates and FAQ regarding immigration policy COVID-19.

COVID-19 Research Funding and Special COVID-19 related Research Protocols

 

Please review COVID-19 related funding opportunities here. New opportunities are added on an ongoing basis.

Many of the COVID-19 related funding programs that are emerging at this time have imminent deadlines that make it difficult to comply with internal SPO deadlines. To make it possible for UC Berkeley PIs to contribute their expertise, SPO’s internal deadlines have been modified. Please refer to the SPO resources on COVID-19 proposal review for details.

 

All principal investigators must have institutional biosafety committee approval prior to performing any coronavirus research or work on campus (including to help state and federal agencies to screen patient samples), and must undergo Committee for Laboratory and Environmental Biosafety (CLEB) review and approval. This includes requesting or accepting COVID-19 samples (patient or otherwise). 

Please review special COVID-19 related funding opportunities here.

 
Due to the rapidly evolving concerns and risks related to the COVID-19 outbreak, the UC Berkeley Committee for Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS) and Randy Katz, Vice Chancellor for Research are recommending that study investigators plan to take and implement specific actions to limit transmission of the virus by delaying or otherwise modifying non-essential interactions with human subject research participants. An advisory was sent to all investigators with human subjects research on March 14, 2020, and is available on the OPHS website. For more information, or if investigators have questions, contact the OPHS at OPHS@berkeley.edu.  
 

No special guidelines. Invention disclosures may be submitted as usual online here.  The Office of  Intellectual Property & Industry Research Alliances (IPIRA), including the Industry Alliances Office (IAO) and the Office of Technology Licensing (OTL), continue to operate during normal business hours with staff working remotely.  

Please review these updated research data use and access agreements for researchMaterial transfer agreements for tangible materials to be sent from and to campus will continue to be negotiated and signed.  It is unclear at this point if service delivery disruptions will occur or if special measures will be taken by shipping and receiving units to manage or inspect the contents of shipments.  

 

 


Environment, Health and Safety

The Office of Environment, Health and Safety (EH&S) continues to operate per normal schedule with staff mostly working remotely. EH&S is prepared to support the campus with decontamination, should it be needed.  EH&S is helping to identify and prepare appropriate mass isolation areas should they be needed. EH&S is also supporting researchers pursuing work with the coronavirus.