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Addressing Impediments to Research

October 27, 2021

To the faculty of UC Merced,

Over the past month, we have held a number of town halls and meetings to discuss how to further support the research enterprise on campus. These meetings have been extremely productive, and we greatly appreciate your participation and engagement in the process.

Many of the insights and recommendations shared have focused on the Oracle design and rollout.

Therefore, as we continue our trajectory toward Carnegie R1 it is imperative that we find ways to partner this new platform with end-users that effectively and efficiently support our shared aspirations. Our substantial actions thus far are itemized below, which will be followed – in time – with further decisions, adjustments and investments to advance the research and academic enterprise at our campus:

  • We launched the Procurement Task Force, which includes faculty and other campus constituents, to gain insight into a number of standard procurement processes.
  • We are investigating all user-friendly changes we can make to the purchasing process.
  • We are investing significantly in staff who will work with Oracle to support the research enterprise. The immediate needs are training and clearing the backlog of ServiceNow help requests. To support this effort, we will hire 11 additional staff (six net new positions – three funded by the Division of Finance and Administration and three by the Office of the Chancellor – and five backfill positions) in the Center for Business Services and Solutions (CBS2).
  • These 11 new staff positions will focus predominately on clearing the large backlog of purchasing requests on campus. We anticipate this will take approximately two months to complete.
  • Three of the six staff from CBS2 staff have been assigned to each school, one embedded in each school, and we have other CBS2 staff at the Faculty Support Center in Kolligian Library, providing additional in-person support for high-touch procurement needs. These staff are available at their current location or can come to you directly.
  • Following the clearing of the backlog, we will assign an additional CBS2 staff member to each school (for a total of two per school) to directly support the departments’ procurement needs. These staff will learn departmental needs and facilitate training and support to advance research productivity, as we assess — with department chairs and deans — the possibility of making the assignments permanent. We will keep the Faculty Support Center open for the near term as we transition to this department-support system.
  • We will hire two additional research administrators in the Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED) to support the provision of accurate and timely financial data regarding grants and contracts. One will be funded by ORED and one by the Office of the Chancellor.
  • Financial Planning & Analysis also has been authorized to hire one additional staff member, funded by the Office of the Chancellor, to directly support Academic Affairs as the liaison to school-based staff.
  • We have granted all campus research administrators and chief administrative officers a higher level of access within Oracle, and the Office of the Chancellor will fund four additional staff positions to improve workflow within DFA. The staff granted this enhanced access will receive training in relevant Oracle components over the next month, after which they will be able to generate financial reports.
  • As of two weeks ago, we are happy to report that faculty are beginning to move into BSP.
  • Finally, to address challenges with chemical purchasing and faculty access to research facilities and labs in BSP, the Chancellor has funded two net new positions in Environmental Health & Safety (currently in recruitment) and three net new positions in the area of building and fire safety and facilities management of the Project 2020 buildings.

All of these actions are based on the understanding that the purpose of our financial system is to support the entire campus and enable us to achieve our collective goals of research, teaching and service. It must support our decisions, not drive them.

While these investments – 18 net new FTE at a cost of $2.1 million (including benefits) – will add to our budget deficit and limit our ability to make other key investments until our enrollment increases, we believe taking this financial risk is necessary at this moment to facilitate research productivity as we strive toward Carnegie R1 classification. We look forward to your continued partnership on this path toward success.

Kurt Schnier | Interim Vice Chancellor & Chief Financial Officer

Marjorie Zatz | Interim Vice Chancellor for Research

Patrick Lenz | Interim Vice Chancellor & Chief Operating Officer