ORI Awards 5 Conference Grants

ORI awarded five Research Integrity Conferences (RIC) grants through the Extramural Research Program, funding a total of $244,796. The RIC grants allows up to $50,000 in direct and indirect funding to support conferences designed to provide a forum for discussion and produce tangible outcomes related to at least one of the following themes: 1) responsible conduct of research training; 2) fostering an environment that promotes research integrity; 3) prevention of research misconduct; 4) handling of research misconduct allegations; 5) whistleblowing; or, 6) other topics clearly linked to research integrity and compliance with 42 C.F.R. Part 93.     

Principal Investigator Conference Title
Melissa Rethlefsen
University of Florida
"Educating for Reproducibility: Pathways to Research Integrity"
Daniel Acuna
Syracuse University

"Computational Research Integrity: Human-Computer Collaboration to Uncover, Investigate, and Deliberate about Research Misconduct Cases"
Sergio Litewka
University of Miami
"Second Inter-American Encounter on Scientific Integrity"
Lynn Bartholow
Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center
"Avera Research Integrity Conference: Creating and Promoting a Culture of Research Integrity"

Jeffrey Engler
Council of Graduate Schools
"Expanding Graduate Training in RCR: Big Data Ethics"


"Educating for Reproducibility: Pathways to Research Integrity"
PI:  Melissa Rethlefsen, University of Florida

Cultivating the next generation of ethical researchers is a key component of fostering a culture of research integrity. Research integrity training primarily focuses on the responsible conduct of research, covering a wide swath of topics designed to instill values and ethical and moral judgement into our trainees. One area that responsible conduct of research courses have covered less, if at all, is reproducibility. Reproducibility cuts across all research disciplines, but can be difficult to achieve due to the many ways irreproducibility can be introduced into the research process. The issues and many of the solutions are discipline-agnostic, similar to other responsible conduct of research education. Available training tends to focus on technological aspects of reproducibility, often centered on producing reproducible code and analysis. Movement towards more reproducible research and less research waste may require a change in educational and training paradigms, however, especially to reach the next generation of researchers.

We propose to host a conference focusing on reproducibility education and training at all levels of education, from undergraduate to continuing education for principal investigators. We plan to bring together educators, researchers, and administrators from a wide range of disciplines and institutions to discuss the challenges, opportunities, and existing programmatic examples in reproducibility education and outreach. 

This conference proposal is based upon the success of and lessons learned from three previous conferences focused on other aspects of research reproducibility at the University of Utah and University of Florida. We intend to model the structure of this conference after the University of Utah conferences, with modifications based on previously received feedback. We will focus on positive approaches to research integrity, with reproducibility as the overarching framework. A combination of expert panels, submitted papers and posters, roundtable discussions, and keynote speaker will enable participants to learn from a diverse set of perspectives and viewpoints from national and international experts. Attendees will be able to deeply engage in the conversation in the roundtables and poster sessions, a form of peer-to-peer learning.

The primary outcome for the conference will be increased knowledge of educational approaches to foster research integrity through reproducibility. The secondary outcomes will be to give attendees networking opportunities for brainstorming and collaboration, build awareness of reproducibility as a component of research integrity and responsible conduct of research education, and provide a forum for discussion. To measure outcomes, we will conduct a post-conference survey to capture participant feedback, determine anticipated behavior changes, and assess perceived changes in knowledge of educational approaches for increasing research reproducibility.

"Computational Research Integrity: Human-Computer Collaboration to Uncover, Investigate, and Deliberate about Research Misconduct Cases"
PI:  Daniel Acuna, Syracuse University

Research Integrity is a crucial part of the scientific enterprise as scientists build on each other's work assuming the veracity of results. If this trust is broken, the scientific process breaks as well. Unfortunately, tools that help scientists analyze data, create advanced visualizations, and disseminate results can also be used to falsify data, perform image forgery, and hide important details in analyses. Paradoxically, this also leads to easier to generate and harder to detect cases of misconduct. Previous researchers have investigated these issues using manual analyses, being able to discover only portions of the phenomenon at a slow pace. Only recently, researchers have investigated how deep and wide the problem is by using automated techniques. Previously, many of these cases had to be reactively investigated, but computational techniques have opened the door to significantly automate and scale the detection of potential falsification. 

While the US Office of Research Integrity has spent ample efforts training, disseminating, and promoting research practices aimed at solving these problems, most conferences funded so far have not been on computational approaches to research integrity. Interestingly, there are many researchers in other fields that study automated approaches for detecting falsification, but until now no conference has offered to directly network Research Integrity Officers (RIO) and computer scientists to help scientific misconduct investigations. In this conference, we propose to create such venue by bringing together experts from several fields and inviting researchers to present and discuss their work. When this conference finishes, RIOs, computer scientists, and other disciplines will have a better sense of the limitations and opportunities of each other's approaches. This proposal will disseminate the results of the conference as a website with the conference proceeding and as a journal article which will review these limitations and opportunities.

"Second Inter-American Encounter on Scientific Integrity"
PI: Sergio Litewka, University of Miami

The goal of this project is to foster an environment of research integrity in academic institutions in Argentina by promoting increased awareness of the benefits of institutional policy and training in responsible conduct of research (RCR) through the Second Inter-American Encounter on Scientific Integrity. This 2-day workshop, to be conducted in Spanish, will bring together researchers, educators, and upper-level administrators from Argentina’s top universities with representatives of scientific societies, research funding agencies, and Argentina’s growing bioethics community to hear formal presentations, engage in in-depth discussion, and draft and critique model policies to promote research integrity in academic science.
The specific aims of this overall project are to 1) characterize the types and perceived prevalence of misconduct in Argentina’s academic research environment; 2) develop a framework for institutional policies and procedures in Argentinian universities to prevent and respond to research misconduct and detrimental practices, particularly in international collaboration; and 3) build a multi-disciplinary network of academic researchers, educators, and administrators actively engaged in promoting integrity and preventing misconduct in Argentina, with links to the Mexican RCR network established through our earlier ORI grant.

"Avera Research Integrity Conference: Creating and Promoting a Culture of Research Integrity"
PI:  Lynn Bartholow, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center

Avera McKennan proposes to hold the inaugural Avera Research Integrity Conference: Creating and Promoting a Culture of Research Integrity, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on March 16-17, 2020.  The overall goal of the conference is to provide education to create a culture of research integrity to prevent research misconduct. At present, no conferences exist regionally that focus on this preventative component of research integrity.  The conference agenda features a number of national speakers. Additionally many statewide university systems as well as South Dakota Biotech will join Avera to recruit conference participants. Attendees and presenters will discuss how individuals and organizations can support researchers in establishing proper protocols to support transparency that results in an increased understanding of research compliance and decreased risk for research misconduct. As a result of this conference, the following outcomes are expected: increased knowledge on responsible conduct of research for attendees, increased collaboration among local research organizations and research staff, and increased number of mentees matched with a mentor.  Based on internal and external feedback collected post-conference, the momentum derived from the conference could garner enough local support to make this an annual event within the region.

"Expanding Graduate Training in RCR: Big Data Ethics"
PI: Jeffrey Engler, Council of Graduate Schools

Research using big data impacts our lives in many ways.  Researchers in diverse disciplines use data from phones, social media, web browsing and sensors to understand a broad range of human behaviors and activities. An increasing number of research disciplines and corporate interests embrace big data tools (such as algorithms and machine learning) to analyze these sources as they pursue important research questions and product development.  However, the methods used to gather these datasets, their size and sensitivity, and new tools for analyzing them challenge our existing ethical paradigms for data management, data integrity, privacy and protection of human subjects, topics frequently included within institutional training programs for the responsible conduct of research (RCR).  For example, aggregating data from different sources can make privacy protection for human subjects more complex.

Current attempts to identify and address these challenges are often focused within specific disciplines or corporate cultures and offer little opportunity to integrate these evolving ethical concerns within the broader graduate student and postdoctoral RCR training programs.

Graduate deans are a key group of institutional leaders who often oversee RCR training curriculum for graduate students.  Many graduate deans and other institutional leaders are not familiar with the specific challenges of big data research and need information and resources to embed training in these issues within the RCR curriculum in their institutions.  Graduate deans are uniquely positioned to present the ethical concerns of big data research to their university communities and to bridge potential silos that impede the sharing of best practices to address these ongoing and evolving challenges.

To address this gap in RCR training within institutions, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and its partner, PERVADE, an NSF-funded project focused on ethics in big data, proposes to host a one-day workshop at the CGS offices in Washington, DC, in February 2020, bringing together 15 graduate deans with 3 leaders in the ethics of big data research and with representatives from disciplinary societies and other agencies in the DC area.  

The short-term goals of the workshop are to increase graduate deans’ awareness of the impacts of big data on ethical conduct and to identify promising practices and resources that are available now or that need to be developed to be embedded in existing RCR training.  This increased awareness will be measured in pre-meeting and post-meeting questionnaires distributed to the participants.

The outcomes of this workshop will also be publicized through social media, blogs, articles, webinars and other presentations using CGS’ and PERVADE’s existing networks of graduate deans and leaders in the ethics of big data research.

The long-term activities of this workshop will increase the awareness of graduate deans to the ethical issues of big data and thereby to enhance RCR training within their home institution, foster an environment that promotes research integrity, and prevent future research misconduct that may result from the use of big data in research.  We expect that graduate students, as future leaders aware of the ethical issues of big data, can then apply these ethical values within their future careers in research, business, and industry.

Source URL: https://ori.hhs.gov/blog/ori-awards-5-conference-grants