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ODU's Langlais Leading National Initiatives in Responsible Research Conduct

Philip Langlais, the vice provost for graduate studies and research at Old Dominion University, is one of the leaders of a national study group looking into the formulation of new initiatives to improve the way responsible conduct in research (RCR) and ethics is taught to graduate students.

Langlais is the co-author of an article that appeared in a recent U.S. Office of Research Integrity Newsletter describing general measures to promote RCR that the study group identified at a meeting this spring in Washington, D. C. (The article is on Page 6 of the Newsletter found here http://ori.dhhs.gov/documents/newsletters/vol17_no3.pdf.)

Mike Kalichman, who directs of the Research Ethics Program at the University of California, San Diego, is the other author of the article. Kalichman and Langlais organized the study group meeting and it was hosted by the national Council of Graduate Schools (CGS).

The two academicians, in summing up the consensus of the study group, said RCR standards should be set for the entire nation encompassing "mentoring, laboratory management, how to ask questions and whistleblowing, all of which are vital to scientific and scholarly integrity."

Currently, they added, the research community has little information about the effectiveness of RCR education programs that have been implemented. "Research studies are needed to better understand the cultural and regulatory factors that support or undermine scholarly and research integrity and to examine the effectiveness of current training programs in promoting good research practices and in reducing misconduct and misbehaviors."

Participants in the spring meeting recommended clearer definitions and expectations pertaining to ethics, professional standards and responsible conduct, as well as to training in these fields. Also, according to the newsletter article, the group called for a major initiative among presidents, provosts, chancellors and other leaders of research institutions and agencies to promote ethics and professionalism, and for a central clearinghouse of RCR training materials.

"A single national organization that could represent, coordinate and advocate for ethics and RCR education and assessment was discussed" at the spring meeting, Langlais and Kalichman state in the article. "Recommendations will be more fully considered at future meetings."

The study participants, who include representatives of federal agencies and professional organizations as well as academic institutions, have continued to work in small groups through the summer and will soon plan a second meeting of the full group tentatively set for February. "We intend to move forward with establishing a national educational and training resource center and conduct a national survey of current and perceived best practices," Langlais said.

Ethics, professional standards and responsible conduct training for graduate students have been the focus of an ODU initiative launched by Langlais five years ago.

ODU was part of the CGS pilot program that began in 2004 to develop best practices for comprehensive ethics and RCR education in graduate programs. In 2006, ODU successfully applied for support in the second wave of the CGS program, which was funded by the National Science Foundation and expanded upon the original work. Langlais has led ODU's participation from the beginning, including creation of a task force that has done research on campus to gauge student and faculty perceptions and skills regarding ethical decision making and to frame a general plan for the ethics training.

In 2007 he led an RCR seminar at the Summer Workshop for Graduate Deans, which was held by the CGS in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The PowerPoint outline for that presentation was later posted on the CGS Web site.

This article was posted on: October 7, 2009

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