AVB Training Program Details:
Instruction in Responsible Conduct of Research
Rapid technological advances in genomics and proteomics have created a biomedical information explosion in the past five years that is unparalleled in human history. This new information has greatly accelerated the pace of medical research, leading to continuously escalating pressure on biomedical investigators to generate new ideas, exciting lab results, high impact publications, and large grants. These pressures have the potential for tempting investigators to compromise rigorous scientific methods, plagiarize ideas from grant and manuscript reviews, and misuse experimental data. These temptations may be perceived differently by different individuals from different backgrounds. Hence, it is critical that those individuals engaged in collecting, interpreting, and disseminating scientific data must have a common set of standards that are mutually respected and upheld.
This training program strives to ensure that its trainees know, understand, and follow these standards by implementing them through three complementary types of instruction. First, the Research Ethics Symposium is sponsored annually by the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and organized by its associate dean. Every graduate student is required to attend the symposium his/her first year, preferably before the first lab rotation, but certainly before beginning thesis research. Repeat attendance is encouraged as the symposium topics are revised. The Graduate School will not confer a degree on any student who has not attended and completed the symposium requirements. This six-hour presentation is divided into 3 two-hour blocks. The blocks cover:
- Use of humans and animals in biomedical and behavioral research
- Data ownership, authorship, and peer review
- Misconduct and conflict of interest.
This symposium is valuable in acquainting researchers with essential research ethics information, but it is not long enough to permit in depth discussion of many issues about which there may be uncertainty or difference of opinion.
To address this problem, a second type of instruction, a formal course entitled "Issues in Research Ethics for the Professional Scientist" has been organized and offered. The intent of this course is to:
- Create a better understanding of the importance of scientific integrity and ethical behavior on the individual scientist, the scientific community, and society
- Provide a set of guidelines and tools for assessing ethical dilemmas during one's scientific and academic career.
Instructors in this course include individuals from the faculty serving on NIH Study Sections, Office of Legal Affairs, Animal Review Committee, Human Subjects Review Committee, Center for Bioethics, Baylor Human Genome Center, and Baylor Misconduct Committee.
The third type of instruction comes from the individual preceptors in the AVB Program. The preceptor is responsible for helping his/her trainee understand the basic principles of research ethics and how they apply on a daily basis in the lab to such things as careful design of experiments (especially those involving humans and animals), accurate recording of different types of experimental data (e.g., direct observation, instrument output, computer output, reduced data), fair treatment of colleagues, recognition of conflicts of interest (reviewing grants and manuscripts), and accurate recording of discussions representing significant conceptual contributions.
It is important that the principles of ethical research not only be taught to students, but also reinforced with fellows. Accordingly, if fellows have not previously attended the Research Ethics Symposium at Baylor, they are required to do so as soon after entering the AVB Program as the Symposium is presented. They are also encouraged to audit the graduate course on Issues in Research Ethics. Finally, they are instructed by their preceptors in continual application of research ethics principles.