COMMUNITY NEWS: New Association Provides Resources for RIOs

COMMUNITY NEWS

New Association Provides Resources for Research Integrity Officer
Interview with Co-Founder, Lauran Qualkenbush

Research administrators have several professional associations that they can turn to for resources and training. Additionally, research administrators commonly have several colleagues within the institution with whom they can collaborate. For handling allegations of research misconduct, institutions often have only one person who is responsible, the Research Integrity Officer (RIO). Consequently, finding assistance and support (specifically for handling research misconduct) within an institution can be challenging for RIOs. 

To help address this issue, the Association of Research Integrity Officers (ARIO) was formed unofficially in 2013 and formally incorporated as an association in 2016.  ARIO was formed by five colleagues: Anne Ackenhusen, Sheila Garrity, Debra Schaller-Demers, Lauran Qualkenbush, and Diane Wender.  This group recognized the need for a forum for research integrity professionals and took it upon themselves to create it. ARIO’s mission is focused on creating a professional network for RIOs that includes resources to support their work in protecting and promoting research integrity.

To find out more about the organization, we interviewed one of its co-founders, Lauran Qualkenbush, RIO at Northwestern University.

What was the rationale behind forming ARIO?

Lauran QualkenbushQualkenbush: Working as a RIO myself for a number of years, I rarely encountered other RIOs at professional meetings, let alone found opportunities to discuss common issues or best practices.  After speaking with some colleagues at the April 2013 “ORI at 20” meeting in Baltimore, we decided to try to get RIOs together for this very purpose. 

RIOs often work in isolation, on highly confidential and extremely complex matters, so the simple opportunity to build networks of experienced RIOs and share resources was the fundamental benefit on which ARIO was based.

What was the response from the community to ARIOs formation?

Qualkenbush: The response was immediately positive, and the community was overwhelmingly receptive.  The first meeting was hosted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 2013, before we even had a formal association; the meeting had over 80 attendees. The more we reached out to identify institutional RIOs and tell them about ARIO, the more momentum the group gained. By our second annual meeting in Chicago, we had over 100 attendees, and ARIO has continued to grow. My experience has been that as people participate in ARIO activities, they immediately recognize the benefits of engaging with a professional community dedicated to protecting the integrity of research. Additionally, regional groups took off after the Chicago meeting and have developed strong local networks of resources and contacts.

Tell us about your current membership. How many institutions are involved and how do they contribute to ARIO?

Qualkenbush: ARIO is composed of the participating RIOs, their support staff, and their counsel and does not yet have formal membership. However, the Board of Directors developed a membership structure that will be rolled out over the next year.  Because this is still a grass-roots effort, “member volunteers” are responsible for all ARIO activities. Each annual meeting is hosted by a volunteer institution, and regional efforts are driven by the participating RIOs. There are many opportunities for professional growth and contribution to this strong and valuable professional organization. Additionally, the Board will be putting out a call for volunteers for our standing committees to help drive new initiatives and bring more robust resources to our members.  Anyone interested in becoming more involved can contact me or any Board member directly.

This year's ARIO Conference is scheduled for September 25-27, 2017, in San Diego, CA. How is this conference different than other meetings for research administrators?

Qualkenbush: ARIO is targeted to RIOs, their staff, and their counsel. As such, the meeting content is focused on the roles that RIOs play in promoting research integrity and investigating research misconduct. Often research compliance administrators have responsibilities for multiple compliance areas. The ARIO meeting is targeted at those with a direct role in the research misconduct review processes, unlike other more general research administrative conferences that cover a variety of compliance topics. Topics covered include practical and operational discussions related to handling research misconduct allegations, presentations from federal oversight partners, discussions on the new National Academies Report on Fostering Research Integrity, case studies, and much more. Additional details and program agenda can be found online at: https://sites.google.com/ucsd.edu/ario2017/home.

How do you see ARIO evolving in the next 5 to 10 years?

Qualkenbush: ARIO will continue to grow, especially as more individuals get involved. The initial inertia from the steering group has brought us to a place where now we are really poised for others to get more involved and help develop the future of ARIO. Personally, the Midwest regional group has really solidified with strong participation from a number of institutions; however, I’m also happy to hear new people join our monthly calls almost every month. We are planning to roll out the formal member structure and institutional membership fees over the next year, and with that will come additional resources, a formal online community, and hopefully more regional activities. 

Additionally, there is great potential in fostering collaborations with international research integrity networks, for example the European Network of Research Integrity Offices (ENRIO), to build collective resources and share best practices.  This is something that I personally think will make a significant contribution as ARIO participates in the global research integrity dialogue.

I think we’re all hopeful that ARIO will be sustainable for many years to come, and as the regulatory world evolves, we anticipate that ARIO can be nimble enough to meet those needs and that of our members.

What services does ARIO currently provide or plan to provide in the future?

Qualkenbush: ARIO is in the process of creating an outward facing website as well as a private, online member site where information can be shared securely. This will include listserv support, job postings, and other online resources. As ARIO members become more involved and the standing committees begin their work, it is expected that these resources will continue to grow.

Additionally, many regional groups are very active and have created local networks of resources and contacts for RIOs. For example, the Midwest region to which I belong hosts monthly conference calls and has created a Wiki site to share resources like institutional policies, templates, and checklists. The Midwest group also has hosted annual regional meetings for the last three years in an effort to create more resources to share. The Mid-Atlantic group has hosted regional meetings and continues to host regular conference calls, and groups are beginning to form in the Southeast and West Coast regions.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) recently released a report entitled "Fostering Integrity in Research." The report gives 11 recommendations for handling challenges in research integrity. How do you see ARIO’s role in in meeting these recommendations?

Qualkenbush: ARIO hopes to play a role in addressing the recommendations from the NASEM report.  In particular, I think the perspectives from RIOs and their counsel are important in shaping the national agenda for tackling research integrity. Until ARIO was formed, RIOs didn’t have the formal structure to contribute to the national dialogue. There is value in the experience and knowledge this group can provide.  ARIO hopes to find ways to collaborate and contribute to the initiatives that spring from this report and welcome any opportunity to advance research integrity through working together with the many stakeholders.

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