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Quest for Research Excellence 2012 Summary

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Held on March 15-16, 2012 in Washington DC, the Quest for Research Excellence 2012 conference provided an outstanding means to enhance the professional development and behavior of researchers:

  • Attendees learned about issues such as best research practices, research on research integrity, and research administration and educational programs,
  • Institutional officials responsible for handling research misconduct took advantage of the mini-bootcamp training session for Research Integrity Officers (RIOs),
    Graduate students and post doctoral scholars participated in an interactive workshop which explored responsible conduct of research issues specifically for them,
    Concurrent sessions focused on individual, institutional, and community responsibilities for research integrity; authorship and publishing issues, including research integrity in international collaborations; and novel pedagogies for teaching responsible conduct of research

Among the highlights of this conference were the plenary speakers:

  • Marlene Belfort gave the keynote address on the 1st day and discussed the difficulty many young researchers have in balancing their intensive research and their demanding personal life, an imbalance that can tempt them to cut corners and not adhere to the ethical code of research unless they receive nurturing, guidance, and mentoring.
  • Jonathan Beckwith delivered the keynote address on the 2nd day focusing on the responsibility of the scientist to take an active role in fostering an environment of research excellence, in conveying accurate information to the public, and in refuting popular misconceptions
  • Edward Gabriele addressed the challenges of research ethics leadership, saying Research Integrity Officers (RIOs) must truly be research integrity leaders; he also called for research institutions to work to become “communities of wisdom” where researchers can grow in the processes of ethical decision making. “Not just training but education. Not just knowing but embodying.”  

Panel discussions among experts addressed conflicts of interest; the role of scientists in society; and education in research ethics. Highlights of plenary talks included the following:

  • Kayte Spector-Bagdady talked about one of the most disturbing and unethical studies in contemporary research, which she called an immoral experiment, done in the 1940s in which Guatemalans were infected with STDs, often by painful methods,
     
  • A panel discussion provided a broad overview of the Research on Research Integrity (RRI) program, which just hit the 10-year mark, with 5 panelists weighing in on the first decade of research integrity,
     
  • The “Regulators’ Studio” emphasized public trust in scientific research and was moderated by Joe Palca from NPR and featured 5 panelists who talked about regulatory policies and who they impact .

More than 350 scientific researchers, research integrity officials, graduate students, post-doctoral scholars, and government officials attended the first national conference devoted to  research integrity and the responsible conduct of research.  The conference was co-sponsored by Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science, a multi-institutional consortium of medical research institutions dedicated to bringing new scientific advances to health care and to speeding improvements in human health. In addition to Georgetown and Howard, other members included MedStar Health Research Institute, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Washington Veteran's Affairs Medical Center.

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