March 1, 2017
With events unfolding at lightning speed, 2017 is proving to be a whirlwind of uncertainty, an overwhelming call to action, and a relentless need to just get things done. I’m very proud of the town hall that we held last month countering the executive order on immigration and standing up for UCSF principles. My advice to everyone is to channel the negative energy and emotions many of us are struggling with into positive actions, both here and throughout the world.
Our work continues. In this month’s Expresso, I revisit my October story about do’s and don’ts of political advocacy. Why? Since then, to steal a phrase from the musical “Hamilton,” the world turned upside down, and every day I hear from colleagues who want to take action not only as individuals but as an institution. And since coming together as an institution has so much to do with upholding our shared values of Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Diversity and Excellence, I’ll describe the impact that branding has internally—helping us stand strong as “One UCSF”—and externally in our work to advance health worldwide. To that end, I’ll also share an update on what’s new regarding the services and programs that support your work as researchers.
And while we’re on the subject of shared values, remember that on March 31, we will observe Cesar Chavez Day, honoring the civil rights leader who did so much for the rights of farmworkers and immigrants who helped make this country strong.
This month’s topics:
- Advocacy Do’s and Don’ts Revisited: The rules still apply
- The UCSF Brand: Why it matters
- Research in Review: Updates from 2016
I know you’ll have thoughts about some or all of it. Please share them with me at [email protected].
Advocacy Do’s and Don’ts Revisited: The rules still apply
Last October, in advance of Election Day, I offered some guidelines for what type of advocacy is permitted by employees of the University of California acting in their official capacity or using University resources. Paul Takayama, assistant vice chancellor for Community and Government Relations, noted that, as employees of a major nonprofit, public institution, certain rules and responsibilities govern our actions. In particular, we are not allowed to use University resources, or our position at UCSF, to campaign for or against any candidate or particular ballot measure.
But, some folks were confused when Chancellor Hawgood issued a call to support UCSF’s efforts to develop a building at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (ZSFG). Some of you have wondered: Why did we caution you last fall about political advocacy, and then spur you to action? Did something change?
Actually, no. UCSF’s efforts to develop a building did not involve advocating for or against a candidate or ballot measure, so the legal restrictions regarding political campaigning that apply to UC as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and as a public entity did not apply to UCSF’s involvement in that matter. The University is permitted to engage in legislative advocacy related to its interests, and can inform members of the University community of its position and encourage them to support the University’s efforts.
Regarding ZSFG, based on the Regents’ approval of the project, the chancellor and I each sent messages to the UCSF community regarding the UCSF plan to design and build a state-of-the-art research and academic facility that would bring together nearly 800 UCSF clinicians, clinical researchers, staff, and trainees now dispersed among several buildings. We asked you to contact the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and, if possible, go to their meeting to support this effort. The chancellor renewed the call in January, when the city was balking over parking at the new building. Those who responded to this request by UCSF leadership to help support the University’s position were part of a coordinated University effort, and thus, were authorized to provide an opportunity to advocate on behalf of the University in this instance.
The UCSF community responded in a big way, and the supervisors approved the plans. (Thank you to everyone who called, emailed, or came to a meeting – you helped save a project that is critical to our mission of serving people in need!)
Then in February, the president issued his executive order barring entry to the U.S. for people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, and this time leadership at both UCSF and the entire UC system sprang into action, opposing the order and supporting efforts to rescind it.
Several of you have asked whether you should use your UCSF.edu email or your personal email to disseminate information about certain actions related to the policies coming out of the Trump administration. As we took care to note last fall, you do not surrender your rights to engage in private political activity when you take a job at UCSF. However, you must take care not to state or imply that you are representing the University unless you have been authorized to do so, and should use only personal resources (e.g., time, equipment, letterhead) when engaged in purely private political activity. So, as a rule, a University employee may not use University resources to engage in personal political activities.
In regard to being prepared for other changes in policies or actions from the new administration that may adversely impact the work and values of the University of California and UCSF (e.g., new policies about DACA, changes in the ACA, reduction in support for the NIH, curbing the functions of the FDA, removal of safeguards to protect the environment), we have formed a “rapid response team” that has regularly scheduled meetings to touch base on current events, maintain contact with the UC Office of the President (UCOP), and plan for UCSF responses in as proactive a way as possible. We are keeping on top of things in Washington, working closely with UCOP and with other research universities, and continuing to work through Keith Yamamoto, vice chancellor for Science Policy and Strategy, and Natalie Alpert, assistant director, UCSF Government Relations, in Washington, DC.
As for a possible reduction in NIH funding – at the moment, our assessment is that there are more than enough members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who will protect the NIH and related budgets because they fully understand and appreciate the benefits of science on society. Nonetheless, we will continue to monitor proposals coming out of Washington with the aim of steadfastly upholding the importance of rigorous, data-driven scientific inquiry.
Some of you have voiced interest and support in the March for Science, scheduled for April 22 in Washington. While it is uncertain at the moment whether the University will take an official position on the march, I know many of us plan to attend and bring the same positive energy that was demonstrated at the Women’s March on January 21, whether in D.C. or at one of the local sister marches.
I’ll repeat what I said at the last town hall:
I know I speak for most of us, but not every single one of us, when I say these are deeply unsettling and frightening times. There should be no question that the first two weeks under the Trump administration indicate a dramatic change, in some ways already an unprecedented change, in the direction of our country, directly affecting our university, and thus all of us….
I respect that we all hold and are entitled to differing political opinions and want to stress that the University response to recent events, including last month’s forum, is not solely about politics but, more importantly, about principles, principles that are core to our mission and constitute our very reason for being.
And that’s the final point. UCSF is not engaging in partisan politics here. Instead, we are advocating on behalf of our institutional mission (in the case of ZSFG) and our core values (in the case of the executive order). We are making sure we follow the parameters allowed, and we want to make sure that you do, too.
The UCSF Brand: Why it matters
“One UCSF” conveys our unity. It’s much more than a brand, it evokes community. That’s the power of coming up with a few choice words to quickly express who we are. In both good and challenging times, we celebrate our accomplishments and seek strength as “One UCSF.”
Most of us have seen our very own UCSF shuttles with the faces of our colleagues magnified tenfold. Behind those vibrant images is a talented team of professionals in University Relations who are working hard to ensure that a vivid image comes to mind when you see or hear “UCSF.” As an individual staff member, scientist, teacher, clinician, or trainee, we also should be keen to do our part in the UCSF branding efforts.
These days, an identifiable associative brand is critical. Right away it informs everyone about who, what, and why, so having a strong UCSF brand identity is imperative to our collective story. It plays a significant part in attracting patients, students, donors, and partners—all of whom help your work and our university flourish. The clearer we are about what our mission is and what we’re trying to achieve, well, that’s when the UCSF brand starts to work for all of us.
“UCSF’s place in the broader public eye has changed over the last five years, requiring us to communicate our story consistently and with a renewed passion,” says Barbara French, vice chancellor, Strategic Communications and University Relations. UCSF is making a significant impact on the local economy, and we have a global presence that is renowned, but even more important is the interdependency across the university that makes this possible.
According to Barbara, that’s the result of many factors, all benefitting from leveraging a unifying brand in the research, academic, and clinical landscape:
- The changing nature of research and science. Increasingly we’re seeing a growth in funding from foundations, not on the NIH side. Branding is a way to broadly communicate UCSF’s revolutionary innovations and advances.
- The increasing role of the clinical enterprise as a source of support for all three of our mission areas. Clinical work brings in 60 percent of our revenue, which provides support for the research and academic missions. Strong branding positions UCSF Health to successfully attract patients (and provide them with the best care!) in a very competitive environment.
- The need to partner. Branding is highly external and essential. While UCSF has always been strong on collaborations, universities have traditionally been very internally focused. “I remember a comment I heard ten years ago,” Barbara says. “Someone asked, ‘Why do we have to market? Everybody we need in the academic and science world already knows about us.’” The playing field has changed, so when it comes to partnering and collaborating with others at different universities or with corporate entities, we can no longer make this assumption.
- The importance of philanthropy. “That’s a big change within the last five years,” Barbara says. “We need to compete for philanthropic dollars. We need to grow an endowment. The need to fund faculty, students, and programs through philanthropic dollars is much stronger than it was.” Branding is the UCSF elevator pitch that can catch the eye and ear of prospective donors.
When Barbara first came to the University twelve years ago, people told her they couldn’t possibly come up with ways to describe UCSF because it was so complex and multifaceted. “There couldn’t be a phrase to capture everything that was UCSF,” she says. But, key attributes surfaced while talking to people across the University. “First, UCSF is a magnet for the best and brightest, second, we are a public institution, and third, we are the leading university exclusively focused on life sciences and health, and, by creating the succinct and unifying brand position phrase ‘through our stated singular focus, we are leading revolutions in health,’ these characteristics are easy to convey,” says Christine Omata, assistant director of brand communications.
The entrepreneurial and collaborative spirit of San Francisco and the Bay Area heightens the opportunity for scientists to pursue their dreams. According to Christine, “What I hear a lot from faculty is that they came to UCSF because of the ‘open source’ nature of the place, and because of the way people are happy to share ideas, collaborate, and celebrate one another’s success. That’s what makes us different. That’s the story we want to help faculty tell.”
For Shuvo Roy, a professor of bioengineering whose lab works with clinicians, scientists, and other engineers on new medical device development, UCSF’s reputation [brand] as a home for creative faculty ready to collaborate is part of what brought him here from the Cleveland Clinic eight years ago. “I came to UCSF because it was known as a place that values cross-disciplinary interactions and whose faculty are hardwired to innovate to improve patients’ lives. In the last few years, I think UCSF has become increasingly recognized for these qualities by the larger community, which helps interest industry, philanthropy, and patients in our work.”
I encourage you to dig more deeply into some of the highlights and nuances of our Brand Positioning Statement, which lives on UCSF’s Identity website. There are also templates and widgets you can use to make posters and build your website, and it will give you key messages to disseminate online, on social media, and in conversations with patients, collaborators, and even your neighbors and other community members, to effectively publicize your work, celebrate your achievements, and reflect your unique contributions to “One UCSF.”
Research in Review: Updates from 2016
An additional goal of Expresso is to keep you informed about the myriad efforts to better support our research enterprise (i.e., funding opportunities, process efficiencies). What follows is an update on three areas I discussed in early 2016, and a new initiative within Campus Life Services to better protect the instruments we use.
My team checked in with Research Development Office (RDO) Director Gretchen Kiser about considerations for 2017. Here are some tips and recent opportunity updates to keep in mind:
- The early part of the year is the best time to assess your research funding portfolio. Especially in this time of uncertainty, it is important to strategically move to a diverse funding portfolio with support of different sizes, from different sources, or shared with different collaborators to help keep your research lab fiscally fit and poised for innovation.
- Have you ever found yourself looking for an example of NIH’s new Authentication of Key Resources Plans – or some other section? The RDO maintains a ‘library’ of grant components on the UCSF Library Guides website.
- The end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 brought fantastic news on the philanthropic front. Private funds sponsor several areas of research, and we have had the privilege of receiving substantive donor funding for a number of research funding programs:
- The long-standing and very successful Program for Breakthrough Biomedical Research;
- The UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences Program in Neuroscience Innovation was announced in 2016. We anticipate a 2017 funding cycle announcement in early summer;
- Last but not least, the Chan Zuckerberg BioHub.
- And don’t forget about crowdfunding – it’s starting to generate “real” money for research support. Check out the numbers at Crowdfunding at UCSF.
The IRB team sent an update on progress with improving its service. With support from CTSI, they’ve completed a multivariable data analysis of one of the process improvement projects that was mentioned in the March 2016 article—reducing the number of studies sent back to PIs with questions before the committee review. The results were very positive and statistically significant:
- Number of studies sent back with pre-review questions was reduced by 41%
- Median approval time was reduced by 31%
Also, out of 1,149 satisfaction surveys completed by PIs and study coordinators in 2016, 95% of respondents are satisfied with the timeliness of their IRB review. This represents a 26% increase in satisfied customers compared to 2014–2015.
In 2016, Larry Carbone, DVM, PhD, joined the Institutional Animal Care and Use Program (IACUP) as the new director, overseeing several important initiatives started by Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer Terri O’Lonergan. During previous decades of IACUP operations, over-interpretation of regulations, accreditation standards, and agency rules have had a significant impact on our administrative practices. IACUP is now systematically reviewing all of its policies, procedures, and training requirements to ensure that they comply with regulations without adding unnecessary administrative burdens. The goal is to balance animal welfare and quality science, while lessening red tape and bureaucratic delays. Here’s what is in store for 2017 and beyond:
- Since i-Inspection has reduced the amount of time IACUP staff spends post-inspection on report-writing, they are exploring ways their staff can provide additional support for the animal research enterprise by reallocating some staff time to review and evaluate all of the IACUP-required training to reduce both the number and length of required trainings wherever possible.
- Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) panel meetings will occur at both Parnassus and Mission Bay (one meeting per month at each site) to more fully engage with animal researchers. New approaches and processes will be piloted with the Mission Bay panel to determine how submission and review processes can be further improved (more on this in the coming months).
- With an eye toward continuous improvement, they plan to update and improve the Research Information Online system, which will rely on user input, so contact Larry with all your ideas and suggestions.
- Last but not least, the IACUC website will get a long overdue update. Using the familiar UCSF branding templates, it too will be streamlined and filled with information valuable to the IACUP and our animal research program.
In earthquake country, it’s paramount to have a safe environment for our researchers, students, trainees, and lab personnel so that they can perform their critical work. Seismic bracing of equipment, such as freezers, incubators, and large monitors is necessary but can be a frustrating and costly experience at UCSF. To reduce the cost of seismic installations and create a more efficient process, Facilities Services recently brought together a group of people including facilities managers, customers, IT and electrical engineers, the state fire marshal, and trades personnel at a mini-kaizen to address comments, feedback, and overall dissatisfaction from faculty and other internal clients.
One of the outcomes of the workshop is easy-to-understand documentation describing the equipment that needs seismic bracing as well as training for our community regarding these requirements. This is a first step towards improving safety and next steps include:
- Developing a two-way communication plan for status updates during a seismic installation project
- Providing a flow chart with expectations to customers prior to beginning a project
- Simplifying the design and installation processes
- Creating standard work and checklists to aid with execution
So what about the expense? Costs will be reduced once the process becomes more streamlined. For instance, with an annual building permit from the state fire marshal, the initial application and review fees as well as time will be eliminated.
Remember those pictures from the 1989 quake—doorways being blocked by toppled equipment? Kudos to this group for proactively advancing safety at UCSF farther into the 21st century.
Dan’s Tip of the Month
I don’t want you to get the idea that I spend much time playing games on my iPhone, but a few months ago I came across a review of MONUMENT VALLEY and, well, I couldn’t help myself. Described as “an illusory adventure of impossible architecture and forgiveness,” it’s a phantasmagorical, peaceful, soothing journey into a world inspired by M.C. Escher and Japanese print artists. If nothing else, it’s an absolutely guaranteed, albeit all too brief, respite from the daily news. Available for $3.99 for iPhone and Android. (NB: I have no conflicts of interest for anything I recommend in my monthly tips!)