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Research and Innovation personnel provide expertise at ethics conference

Members of the Office for Research and Innovation presented virtually at the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics conference in February 2021.  Pictured is a screen shot of the conference Zoom meeting featuring 6 of the attendees.
Members of the Office for Research and Innovation presented virtually at the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics conference in February 2021.

At the 30th annual conference of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, members of the Office for Research and Innovation presented forward-looking and efficiency-building efforts that promote ethical research at Virginia Tech to a national and international audience.

The association is a comprehensive international organization dedicated to advancing scholarship, education, and practice in practical and professional ethics. 

Division of Scholarly Integrity and Research Compliance and Office directors were invited panelists who discussed internal quality improvements they have made to support ethical research and innovation. Kory Trott, director of the research integrity and consultation program; Cristen Jandreau, director of the research conflict of interest program and university conflict of interest officer; and Barbara DeCausey, director of the human research protection program, shared their perspectives on the division’s process improvement measures and education and outreach efforts that have been implemented in the past two years. 

Trott discussed the Division of Scholarly Integrity and Research Compliance’s unified, structured, and collaborative framework for ethics education. He shared that the unit’s portfolio of Responsible Conduct of Research training includes: the Investigator Series, a Half-Day Webinar Series, and the Research Integrity and Scholarly Excellence Lecture Series, each provides a different way to experience conversations about the importance of ethics in the design, conduct, and dissemination of research. 

Additionally, Trott highlighted Virginia Tech’s inclusive philosophy for ethics education which invites faculty and staff from around the university to talk about the role ethics plays in their research. This approach exposes researchers to new thought-provoking topics, while also highlighting Virginia Tech’s institution-wide commitment to responsible research and innovation. 

Jandreau discussed how the Research Conflict of Interest Program and Human Research Protection Program made changes to ensure timely conflict of interest review and redesigned their online presence to more clearly communicate with researchers, therefore increasing efficiency, while maintaining thorough review processes. 

DeCausey discussed how the Human Research Protections Program made changes to decrease project review time and thus, reducing a common source of tension among researchers. Combined with a renewed emphasis on customer service, these internal quality improvement efforts have built trust and improved Virginia Tech’s capacity for responsible research and ethical decision-making. 

In an additional panel session, perspectives on the connections between the pandemic and ethics in research were examined. Jandreau discussed core research values and how they have not altered because of COVID-19. Anna Steen, associate director of pre-award in the Office of Sponsored Programs, discussed the strain employees have experienced with the new work environment and the conflict experienced between the personal and professional in this new environment. They collaborated with Crystal Duncan Lane, instructor of human development and family science, who discussed being able to consider ethics through a privileged lens and how women are uniquely affected by this time in history.

Finally, Lisa M. Lee, associate vice president for scholarly integrity research compliance, presented with Rosalyn W. Berne, associate professor in science, technology, and society at the University of Virginia, on the ethical synergies between engineering and public health to solve a number of challenging problems we face during public health emergencies.