OVPR – News

NE Underwater Research, Technology & Education Center Closure

UConn’s Northeast Underwater Research, Technology and Education Center Closes

Exploration and Research that Made a Difference

 

The University of Connecticut’s Northeast Underwater Research, Technology and Education Center (NURTEC) officially closed on December 31, 2017 after 34 years of activities across the global ocean and large lakes of the world.  Reduced funding and retirement of key personnel necessitated this action.  The Center was established at UConn in 1983 with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Undersea Research Program (NURP) and began fieldwork with research submersibles, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and advanced wet diving technologies in 1984.  Over the next three decades the Center compiled a remarkable record of scientific accomplishment, technological advancement, and operational safety along with developing unique education and outreach programs.  Using the scientific results generated by this work, the Center also influenced ocean policy and management.  A brief retrospective of the Center recognizes that it was guided both by the mandates and mission of NOAA, focused on conservation and sustainable use of ocean and large lake resources and by the spirit of innovation and exploration that runs deep at UConn.

For the first 25 years NURTEC operated as one of six regional National Undersea Research Centers (NURC’s), soliciting, reviewing and funding undersea research projects that required placing scientists directly, or virtually, underwater.  After federal budget priorities shifted and NURP was eliminated, NURTEC operated as a University cost center for 11 more years, based on a diversity of grants and contracts.  Over time, the Center used 9 different occupied submersibles, ten different remotely operated vehicles, and multiple approaches for wet diving systems including surface supplied, mixed gas and rebreather technologies.  The Center’s annual request for proposals was based upon NOAA’s national and related regional research priorities and was distributed to over 2,500 scientists across the nation.  Over this period the Center brought in over $43 million of federal funds that supported 246 peer-reviewed undersea research and education projects.  While research was focused primarily off the northeast and U.S. Great Lakes, projects also spanned the globe including Antarctica and U.S. Arctic waters, South China Sea, Eastern Tropical Pacific, African Rift Valley Lakes, Lake Baikal in Russia, Gulf of California, Mediterranean, Red Sea, and the northeast Atlantic off Portugal.  Scientists supported by the Center produced 213 peer reviewed publications with data collected from over 8,750 dives.

map of NURTEC dives
Location of NURTEC supported dives

Staff scientists at the Center and those supported at other institutions, often working with NOAA partners, made direct contributions to improve management and conservation of ocean resources.  Center scientists took results from their underwater studies to State governments, regional Fishery Management Councils, the U.S. Congress, the United Nations, and even the White House.  Some notable examples include the use of research results to significantly influence the development of essential fish habitat and deep sea coral provisions in national fisheries legislation, implementation of fisheries closed areas off the northeast US to enhance sustainable fisheries, identification of management plan alternatives for National Marine Sanctuaries, development of measures to protect vulnerable ecosystems on the high seas through the United Nations, and designation of the first Marine National Monument in the U.S. North Atlantic by President Obama. Such research also aided decisions about Long Island Sound in regards to assessing impacts of a proposed liquid natural gas terminal and impacts of the disposal of harbor dredge material on seafloor habitats.

Studies with other partners focused on the use of underwater technologies to explore our nation’s rich maritime history.  ROVs were used to identify and survey the remains of the steamship Portland, a sidewheel passenger steamer that sank in 1898 in a surprise storm with loss of 192 lives including crew and passengers.  Called the “Titanic of the Gulf of Maine,” the exploration was featured on Discovery’s Science Channel. Thirty-five additional shipwrecks were surveyed while working with NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary program, four of which have been provided additional protection by placement on the National Register of Historic Places.  Further, the Center surveyed the wreck of the Lightship LV-51 that sank at the mouth of the Connecticut River, resulting in its being designated as Connecticut’s second submerged heritage site.

Since its inception the Center played a leading role in developing underwater sampling tools to meet the needs of sponsored researchers working on a variety of diving technologies.  In 1987 the Center initiated its remotely operated vehicle (ROV) program with the purchase of the first commercially available low-cost vehicle, the MiniRover, capable of diving to 1,000 feet and collecting samples using a simple manipulator arm. Over the next thirty years the Center acquired, operated and upgraded a number of ROVs to better serve the research community, culminating with the development of the 1,000-meter Kraken2 (K2). The K2 is widely recognized as one of the most capable and affordable “science class” ROV’s in the country and conducted a wide range of missions in support of ocean science and infrastructure.  Over the past decade the K2 has provided subsea maintenance to help keep the NSF Ocean Observatories Initiative’s Pioneer Array, located on the continental shelf south of Martha’s Vineyard, operational; recovered NOAA’s $500K HabCam towed imaging system that was lost on the wreck of the Bow Mariner; supported numerous projects focused on deep sea corals in the Gulf of Maine, Atlantic seaboard, Gulf of Mexico and National Marine Sanctuaries off the coasts of Oregon and California; and surveyed over 65 nautical miles of subsea cables for the U.S. Navy operating from the Research Vessel Connecticut.

Recovering the K2 ROV onto the RV Connecticut following a dive in the Gulf of Maine
Recovering the K2 ROV onto the RV Connecticut following a dive in the Gulf of Maine

Ocean science education was an enduring mission of the Center with a focus on the unique contribution that underwater technologies make to the advancement of science and the engagement of students and teachers.  The High School Aquanaut Program, conducted over the course of 20 years, engaged students and teachers in hands-on field science using submersibles, remotely operated vehicles and acoustic technologies.  The NSF-funded Classroom of the Sea program developed innovative ocean science education approaches for deaf and hard of hearing students.  Most recently, the Center led one of the 14 Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) funded by the NSF – COSEE-TEK – Technology and Engineering for Knowledge that utilized ocean science and technology to provide professional development for high school teachers, and engage and expose students to ocean sciences and engineering career opportunities, including dozens of undergraduate students from the New England Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.

While NURTEC has ceased to operate, the legacy of excellence and innovation will continue within the Department of Marine Sciences.  Former Center Director Ivar Babb is now a Research Scientist within the Department with a focus on science education and the broader impacts of ocean research.  Research Professor Emeritus and former NURTEC Science Director Peter Auster, who has had a faculty appointment with the Department since 2002, continues his studies on the ecology and conservation of marine fishes, human impacts on the sea, and the use of marine protected areas as conservation tools.  The Underwater Vehicles Laboratory and ROV operations, led by Kevin Joy, will now be directed by the Department’s marine operations program.

 

Elimination of Graduate Research Assistant Tuition on Grants

April 4, 2017

 

Dear Colleagues:

In our continuing effort to reduce the costs of research at UConn and UConn Health, we are eliminating the requirement to charge any portion of graduate research assistant tuition to research grants, effective Spring 2017.

From 2009 to 2016, University policy required that 60% of full-time in-state tuition per graduate assistant be charged to external grants funding faculty members’ research projects. In Fiscal Year 2016, we reduced the impact of this policy on grant funds by returning an amount equal to half of the tuition collected from grants to faculty investigators’ indirect cost return accounts.

Beginning with charges for the Spring 2017 semester, faculty will no longer be required to charge any portion of graduate research assistant tuition to their grants. Faculty will also no longer be required to include [tuition] charges for graduate research assistants on future grant applications, thus increasing their competitiveness with funding agencies. Savings from graduate research assistant tuition charges can now be applied toward other direct cost needs for faculty research projects. This applies to all sponsored projects, including those being conducted at UConn Health.

Researchers with existing grants or grant applications that include graduate research assistant tuition for Spring 2017 and beyond should rebudget those dollars into other direct cost items, at their discretion within sponsor specific rules. For questions or to request assistance with the rebudgeting process, please reach out to your department grant administrator or your regular contact person in Sponsored Program Services within the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Although this is another positive step towards increasing the buying power of grants for our faculty, we recognize that it does not directly address a major concern contributing to the high cost of doing research at UConn and UConn Health: very high fringe rates relative to our peers and aspirants. While these rates are controlled by the state, we will continue to seek solutions for this important issue.

Despite significant financial constraints, we will continue to pursue creative solutions to decrease the cost of doing research at UConn and UConn Health. Some of the recent initiatives to accomplish this include: providing financial support to PIs impacted by large increases in fringe rates in 2016, establishing direct IDC returns to PIs for the first time at UConn Health, non-research IDC returns for the first time in Storrs, and supporting the NIH-driven increase in minimum salaries for postdoctoral fellows.

Thank you for your continued contributions to UConn/UConn Health’s success as a leading research institution. We look forward to supporting you in your future research activities.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jeff Seemann
Vice President for Research UConn/UConn Health
Dr. Jeremy Teitelbaum
Interim Provost & Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Scott Jordan
Executive Vice President for Administration &
Chief Financial Officer

ResearchMatch now available to UConn researchers

Research MatchThe Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) is pleased to announce that UConn is now part of the ResearchMatch Network. ResearchMatch.org is a national online recruitment tool, funded by the National Institutes of Health and maintained at Vanderbilt University. ResearchMatch connects interested participants with research studies that might be a good “match” for them through its secure, online matching tool. There is no cost to UConn researchers who use ResearchMatch to conduct recruitment feasibility analysis or participant recruitment.

For more information, including the process for using ResearchMatch as a recruitment tool, please contact Ellen Ciesielski in the OVPR Research Compliance Services at 860-679-6004 or email researchmatch@uchc.edu.

New Export Control Policy

The Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) would like to announce a new policy related to Export Control compliance, effective 12/14/2015. Intended to protect national security and support foreign policy, export controls are federal laws that regulate how certain controlled information, technology, software, services and goods can be shipped, transferred or transmitted to individuals or organizations overseas.  They also regulate the release of certain information to foreign nationals who are in the U.S. and their ability to work with or have access to certain technologies and software while in the U.S.  This policy has been put in to place to ensure that the University and its employees remain in full compliance with federal regulations, has been approved for all UConn campuses, and can be found at the University’s Policies & Procedures page.

The OVPR has developed resources related to Export Controls to assist faculty and other members of the University community that are available on the Research Compliance Services page.

If you have any questions relating to Export Control and/or this policy, please contact:

Dr. Wesley Byerly
Associate Vice President for Research, Research Compliance Services
Office of the Vice President for Research
(860) 679-2230
byerly@uchc.edu

University Intellectual Property & Commercialization Policy Update

October 22, 2015

 

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce that an updated version of the University’s Intellectual Property and Commercialization Policy was approved by the Board of Trustees in early October and is now available online. This comes as the result of a substantive collaboration between the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Provost’s Office, the Office of the General Counsel and faculty and staff at both UConn-Storrs and UConn Health.

Although most of the substantive elements remain the same, the policy now provides a more comprehensive, consistent, and clear explanation of relevant issues, such as the use of University resources by a faculty-affiliated company, conflict of interest disclosures, and the hiring of students to work in faculty-affiliated companies, among others.

We are confident that this streamlined policy document, which applies to faculty, staff, and students at all UConn campuses, more accurately reflects the University’s belief that teaching, research, and economic development are enhanced by the intellectual property generated at UConn.

Should you have any questions related to the updated Intellectual Property and Commercialization Policy, please contact:

 

Gregory Gallo, PhD
Director
Technology Commercialization Services
Office of the Vice President for Research
Tel. 860-679-3992
gregory.gallo@uconn.edu

 

Sincerely,

js_signature

Dr. Jeff Seemann
Vice President for Research
UConn/UConn Health

 

 

UConn_research unleashed

IRB Policy Change: Review of Research Methods Courses

The UConn Storrs Institutional Review Board (IRB) previously required that a protocol application be submitted to the IRB for any study for which human subjects research is the intent and the researcher proposes to use or involve human subjects student research projects conducted as part of Research Methods Courses.

As of July 1, 2015, that policy has been revised as follows:

A protocol application must be submitted to the IRB for any Research Methods Course where student human subjects research projects meet the regulatory definition of research: “Research means a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.” Examples of this include: whole class projects where students are assisting the faculty member to collect data for the faculty’s own research purposes, those classes where each research project is designed to support a Master’s Thesis or a Dissertation, research projects intended to generate data that will be directly used for publication or presentation, or research projects designed to support further research (e.g., having students collect pilot data to support a future grant application or larger research project). Currently approved Research Methods Course protocols that meet the definition of research must be submitted for re-approval.

Any Research Methods Course where the goal of the student human subjects research projects is solely to provide an educational experience for the students that does not meet the regulatory definition of research will no longer require submission of a protocol application to the IRB.  Presentations of the data in the context of the class does not meet the definition of research.  Any individual or group projects within this course that do meet the definition of research must be submitted to the IRB as stand-alone protocols for review and approval.  Note that any currently approved Research Methods Course that does not meet the definition of research does not require submission to the IRB for re-approval.

Course instructors are encouraged to contact Doug Bradway at 860-486-0986 or by email at doug.bradway@uconn.edu with any questions.