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Research restructuring leads to net reduction in jobs

| 14 September 2009

In mid-July, Vice Chancellor for Research Graham R. Fleming announced that the dire budget circumstances facing the Berkeley campus necessitated taking a hard look, as quickly as possible, at the structure of services and deployment of resources administered from his office. A complex process was launched to determine how this reorganization would take shape and form a new infrastructure for research.

As the next step in a budget-driven restructuring of Berkeley's research units, Fleming announced today elimination of a number of administrative positions within units reporting to his office and creation of a smaller number of new jobs in a centralized business support unit with a net loss of approximately 20 campus jobs.

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For some of the affected research units, administrative services will no longer be provided within each unit but will instead be provided by Research Enterprise Services (RES) effective December 1.

RES, which reports to Fleming, currently provides a varied menu of administrative services to nine research units on the Berkeley campus. The unit already serving a number of research units was created to streamline services in areas such as human resources, purchasing, and grants management, to help investigators navigate smoothly through the campus's administrative process.

"RES has assumed the key grant management operations of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Program, which allows us to focus on the important areas of training and research," says Robert T. Knight, MD, Evan Rauch Professor of Neuroscience and director of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute (HWNI). "RES staff members have been extremely responsive to the needs of our faculty."

RES currently manages business services for a wide variety of research units. Investigators supported represent a wide range of departments and fields with portfolios ranging from grants of $5,000 to grants of tens of millions of dollars. The unit relies on a set of metrics to assess its responsiveness and invites feedback from researchers on a regular basis.

According to Fleming, the nature of the budget crisis called for quick action. "Time is our enemy. For each week of delay, at least one more layoff would be necessary," said Fleming. "We consulted broadly with the units and adjusted the plan as a result, but it's my job to make these difficult choices. By transitioning these units into RES, an existing model with a proven track record, we have our best chance to maintain what we value within the constraints of the budget crisis and maximize opportunities for affected staff."

Fleming notes that based on consultation with the research units, he extended the time period to complete the process by an additional 6 weeks and focused more attention on placing RES staff in locations that are easily accessible to the units being served.

Affected units considered their budget options and worked with Fleming to determine how many employees would be reassigned as part of the restructuring. Approximately 60 Berkeley employees received letters today notifying them of the opportunity for reassignment and informing them that they are eligible to apply for the new administrative positions within RES.

Only these reassigned employees are eligible to apply for the new RES jobs, and Fleming stressed that for those employees, the hiring process is completely open and selection will be based strictly on merit.

According to Fleming, while the current restructuring process was launched in response to the budget crisis, the campus can use the restructuring to position itself for renewal and growth in the future. In addition to reducing the overall cost of research, the overhaul will improve service and opportunity for campus researchers and decrease compliance risk.

Working with the Chancellor's Cabinet, Fleming has begun a strategic planning process to move toward new opportunities. "My office is launching an inclusive bottom-up process of creating a strategic plan for Berkeley research," said Fleming. "We'll hold workshops, develop white papers, and identify new funding opportunities, all with the goal of positioning Berkeley to play a leadership role in tackling the grand challenges of the 21st Century."