Impacts of the Federal Government Shutdown on Berkeley Research

January 19, 2019

 Vice Chancellor for Research

 

Dear Campus Community,

The current partial shutdown of the US federal government is now the longest on record, and a resolution in the near-term does not appear likely. We want to provide you with an update on impacts to the Berkeley research community.

Many federal agencies–such as the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services (including the National Institutes of Health), the Department of Defense, and the Department of Energy–have been funded by Congress through September 30, 2019. Faculty and researchers funded through these agencies are expected to continue to receive their support without interruption for the remainder of this federal fiscal year.

Unfortunately, other parts of the government that are significant supporters of Berkeley’s research enterprise are presently shut down, including the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of the Interior. These agencies are unable to accept or review new proposals or provide funding for recently selected proposals. Renewal or incremental funding will be delayed, although many projects already received their renewal funding through the end of the federal fiscal year before the December shutdown. Please consult with your Research Administrator should you have questions on your project’s status. We are aware that in some cases program directors on assignment to these agencies from other institutions (e.g., IPAs) are still working, and Principal Investigators can contact them with questions about their grant status. We are also aware that projects contracted on behalf of these agencies may receive “stop work” orders, i.e., an instruction to immediately stop billing work to an authorized project. We have received such notification from at least one agency.

Our Sponsored Projects Office (SPO) maintains a website linked here with information for the Berkeley research community about agency-specific shutdown conditions and impacts on research grants and other sponsored projects. For now, work at Berkeley continues on the majority of existing grants. As outlined on the website, the Sponsored Projects Office will continue to submit proposals to federal sponsors in the normal manner to the extent proposal submission systems are operable, and will also process/negotiate awards received that do not require interaction with sponsor personnel or access to electronic systems that are not available during the shutdown period. SPO also will provide updates to the campus on how federal agencies are managing the partial federal shutdown as more information and guidance is provided. Notices from federal agencies will be posted on the SPO website as they are received.

The campus does not have a general mechanism for bridge funding, and Principal Investigators should work with their Research Administrators to ensure that existing projects do not significantly overspend their current allocations, though some modest overspending may be allowed. Principal Investigators whose projects are affected by the shutdown should consider ways to extend their funding, by eliminating non-essential travel, deferring hiring of research staff and students, and delaying equipment purchases. Principal Investigators are encouraged to think strategically about their budgets and how they can support their soft-funded staff, including graduate students, postdocs, and other researchers and support staff. We are in contact with the UC Office of the President and our counterparts at the other UC campuses to see what can be done systemwide to address the challenges of the Federal shutdown. We are also consulting with the Visiting Scholar and Postdoc Affairs Office and UC-w ide counterparts to explore options to support postdocs paid directly by federal agencies.

The longer this shutdown goes unresolved, the greater the potential damage done to universities across the country. It can be expected that no new funding will be awarded by affected agencies until the shutdown has ended, the timeline for review of proposals and future calls for funding could be severely delayed, and agencies could be forced to consider recissions to existing budgets.

My office is continuing to monitor the current and potential impacts to our campus so that we can take appropriate action in a timely manner. If you have questions that have not been addressed through conversations with the entities above, please contact my office at vcr@berkeley.edu.

Our thoughts are with our affected campus personnel during these uncertain times, and also with the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who have dedicated their careers to serving the public interest who are now working without pay or are on furlough, with vulnerable populations who are not receiving the support they deserve, and with the many communities and individuals who are being harmed. We are monitoring the situation closely and will keep our campus community apprised of the impact at Berkeley as new developments occur. Thank you.

Sincerely,

 

Randy Howard Katz
Vice Chancellor for Research

 

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