UC Merced Connect: University’s first Ph.D. grad now leading the class

UC Merced’s first Ph.D. graduate is back on campus. But this time, Ricardo Cisneros isn’t enrolled as a student; he’s a professor.

Cisneros, who earned his doctorate in environmental systems from the School of Engineering in 2008, is the first environmental health professor hired in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts for its public health program.

Cisneros got experience researching air quality for the U.S Forest Service before and after his graduate studies, and his year of working with UC Davis’ Department of Public Health Sciences as a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow made him a natural choice to fulfill UC Merced’s opening in environmental health, according to Paul Brown, director of the university’s Health Sciences Research Institute.

“Ricardo’s passion for making a difference in the Valley and his extensive experience with public policy, environmental science and management put him in a position to provide our students with a unique learning experience that is focused on relevant, real-world applications,” Brown said.

Cisneros looks forward to sharing his passion with UC Merced students as he builds a lab of solution-oriented researchers and assistants to continue studying the effects of forest fires on air quality and respiratory diseases.

“My area of research is not about just identifying environmental problems, it’s about devising practical solutions to those problems,” he said. “We don’t see problems as ‘closed doors,’ we see them as opportunities for progress. Our solutions may not be perfect but they will be improvements upon the status quo.”

In that vein, Cisneros is joining the HSRI’s collaborative valley fever research project. Cisneros will examine exposure to the spores causing the disease to see if infection can be prevented.

“We’re looking at everything from the time of year when most cases are contracted to the weather and environment,” he said. “Can valley fever be avoided? That, I don’t know. But we are going to do our best to find out.”

UC adopts open access policy regarding publicly funded research

University of California researchers produce 2 to 3percent of peer-reviewed articles published worldwide and receive an estimated 8percent of all U.S. research money. Unfortunately, most of that research is hidden behind hefty paywalls and journal subscription costs.

But that’s about to change.

After several years of consideration, the UC’s Academic Senate passed the Open Access policy in July. The policy covers faculty at all 10 UC campuses and paves the way for scholars to make their research more broadly available to the public. The policy sends a strong, collective message to publishers about the university’s values and mission and what UC scholars envision for the future of scholarly publishing. Other universities including Harvard, Duke and MIT have adopted similar policies that aim to make publicly funded research accessible beyond the traditional academic library.

The UC Open Access Policy will be implemented in phases beginning in November with faculty at UCLA, UC San Francisco and UC Irvine. Faculty members on these campuses will be asked to deposit copies of their publications in eScholarship – – the California Digital Library’s institutional repository. UC Merced faculty members will likely begin taking part in November 2014.

When subscription barriers are removed, authors can maximize their research's reach. Repeated studies have shown that scholarly articles are downloaded and cited more often when published in reputable open-access journals or deposited in an open-access repository. In addition, important research funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation have adopted policies that require grant recipients to make their research output accessible to the public.