UGA has several options for providing appropriate education to graduate students, post-doctoral trainees, faculty, and staff regarding the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR). All are designed to be in full compliance with the stringent policy requirements for RCR education promulgated by NIH in NOT-OD-10-019, issued November 24, 2009. They provide substantive contact hours utilizing face-to-face discussion and lecture formats combining didactic and small-group discussion, and they are led by experienced research faculty members.

Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research (ILS students)

To ensure that students are exposed to RCR very early, while they are still in their first rotation, an introduction to RCR occurs in the Professional Development course (GRSC 8010), which meets for 14 hours in 7 two-hour blocks during the first half of the first semester in graduate school. The third meeting of this class covers the official policies on ethics at the University of Georgia. These include: 1. The University of Georgia Responsible Conduct policy 2. Examples of scientific misconduct – plagiarism and misrepresentation 3. Official University of Georgia computer use policy and 4. Grievance procedures. In the second hour of the class, students discuss three assigned readings, listed below, that cover aspects and examples of research misconduct:

Hayden, EC. 2008. Chemistry: Designer debacle. Nature 453: 275-278.

Martinson, BC, MS Anderson, and R de Vries. 2005. Scientists Behaving Badly. Nature 435: 737-738.

Peterson, DA. Images: keep a distinction between beauty and truth. Nature 435: 881.

After this course, ILS students enroll in a section of GRSC 8550 during the latter part of their first semester of graduate school. This course meets for 16 hours in 8 two-hour blocks starting in the middle of the first (fall) semester of graduate school, which is around the first week of October. The course is currently taught by Dr. Richard Meagher, who is Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Genetics and a T32 trainer. In the first meeting Dr. Meagher introduces the format of the course and leads a discussion of what is an ethical question and how is it distinguished from, for example, a legal question, a scientific question, or questions of custom, habit, and personal preference. He then covers 5 key ethical considerations that students are instructed to relate to their own research and RCR-topic presentations. These considerations are: 1. Respect for persons affected, 2. Harms vs benefits (minimizing harm and maximizing benefits), 3. Fairness (benefits and costs distributed equitably among affected groups), 4. Authenticity (achieving a resolution in a manner consistent with what is most valued about a thing or activity), 5. Stewardship (responsibility toward others less fortunate, toward other higher organisms, or toward the environment). For the remainder of the classes, students form groups and then choose topics from a list on which they will give a short presentation to facilitate a discussion with the class, which is mediated by Dr. Meagher. Each class, two groups present their topic (one group per hour). Student groups initially choose four topics of interest and then are assigned a topic to present. In this way, all of the areas of RCR are covered and most groups can be assigned a topic in which they are particularly interested. Dr. Meagher curates an extensive web site with over 130 publications linking bioethical considerations with the modern practice of biological research to facilitate student research in their specific topics. The topics that have been covered in this course are:

  1. Ethical Treatment of Human Subjects and Informed Consent
  2. Patenting Genes
  3. Stem Cell Research
  4. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): Foods
    1. In General (pest control, weed control)
    2. Golden Rice (Vitamin A & nutrition)
    3. Accidental Release of Engineered Plant Germplasm
  5. Genetic Testing and Counseling
  6. Authorship, Credibility, and Responsibility
  7. Animals from Cloned Embryos
  8. Transgenes in Animals for Pharmaceutical Production of Human Proteins
  9. Organ Donation
  10. Eugenics and the Genetics of Intelligence
  11. Scientific Fraud
    1. Vaccines, autism and fraud (Wakefield case)
    2. Stem cells (Hwang case)
    3. Immunology (Imanishi-Kari case)
  12. Vaccination Policies and Enforcement
  13. Bioethics, Biotechnology, and Bioethics Policy in the USA
  14. Synthetic Genomes
  15. Food vs Fuel (i.e., corn vs alcohol)

At the end of their first semester, ILS students have received 18 hours of instruction in RCR between the two courses. RCR instruction is then ongoing for students, through a variety of mechanisms, ranging from discussions in formal courses (e.g. GENE 8880, Student Seminar in Genetics), to informal discussions in group or laboratory meetings. On average, UGA students receive 20-26 hours of RCR training over the course of a five-year doctoral program.

 

Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research (non-ILS students)

The Graduate School offers four sections of GRSC 8550 (Responsible Conduct of Research) each academic year. The instructors are Dr. David Knauft, former Associate Dean of the Graduate School and Dr. Suzanne Barbour, current Dean of the Graduate School. Both are active researchers in the biological sciences. Each section meets approximately 1 hour/ week for 15 weeks, totaling 15 hours of formal instruction. Each class meeting starts with a case discussion led by a student, followed by a brief presentation and then one or more additional case discussions led by students. The goals are for the first case to introduce the topic of the presentation and for the final cases to emphasize key points related to the topic. The topic areas include the following:

  1. Intro and Professionalism
  2. Ethics
  3. Research Misconduct
  4. Data Management
  5. Authorship
  6. Peer Review
  7. Collaboration and Conflict of Interest
  8. Intellectual Property/ Industry-Academia Collaboration
  9. Mentoring
  10. Use of animal subjects
  11. Use of human subjects
  12. Ethics in the classroom/ Teaching responsibly
  13. Whistleblowing and Dispute Resolution
  14. The last two class meetings are reserved for discussion of cases that are written and led by the students.

Although there is no required text for the course, students are referred to two excellent books on research ethics that have recently been revised: Responsible Conduct of Research (3rd Edition, 2015) by A. E. Shamoo and D. B. Resnik, or Scientific Integrity (4th Edition, 2014) by F. L. Macrina, which are on reserve in the library. The instructors also use RCR Resources from the Office of Research Integrity, Resources for Research Ethics Education, the Online Ethics Center Resources for Engineering and Science Ethics, the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, and the National Academies On Being A Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research as sources of suggested readings and cases for discussion.

The course is graded on a A-F scale, with 55% of grade allotted for classroom participation, 25% for leadership of class discussion and 20% for a student-authored case, that is presented at the end of the semester. Enrollment is limited to 25 or less, to promote active discussion.

In addition to GRSC 8550, there are other discipline-specific RCR courses currently being taught in individual units at UGA. Examples of these include: 1) Pharmacy 7230, Ethical Issues in Research, a course on ethics of research with animal and human subjects, fraud, scientific misconduct, and conflicts of interest and 2) Qualitative Research 8595, Research Ethics in the Professional and Social Sciences, a course exploring ethical dilemmas in conducting research in the social, professional, and human sciences and the sources of ethical principles and practices used to address these dilemmas. The discipline-specific courses may be audited or taken for credit by NIH trainees in lieu of GRSC 8550 in fulfillment of the NIH requirements for RCR.

Additionally, workshops or class presentations are regularly scheduled on individual RCR topics, such as Use of Animals in Research, Conflicts of Interest, and Conduct in Science (Misconduct). Attendance at the animal research lecture is an institutional requirement for any individual proposing to use animals in research. Web-based training and certification, offered online through the Collaborative Institutional Training initiative (CITI), is an institutional requirement at UGA for any individual participating in studies using human subjects. Through these mechanisms, RCR instruction is ongoing for UGA graduate students. On average, UGA graduate students receive 20-26 hours of RCR training over the course of a five-year doctoral program.

Most recent update: October 2017

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