Administrators and the Responsible Conduct of Research

Administrators and the
Responsible Conduct of Research

Although not directly involved in the research, administrative staff play an important part in promoting the integrity of the research enterprise. Frequently, administrators encounter ethical decisions in an environment of competing obligations and responsibilities. In order to function effectively and make appropriate ethical decisions, administrative staff need to develop the skills to

  1. identify when situations present ethical conflicts,
  2. reason among possible courses of action, and
  3. effectively implement their best solution to the problem.

Administrative staff function in an environment governed by regulations and policies. They also must abide by a core of ethical principles in order to do their jobs properly. While institutions and academic disciplines have codes of conduct and statements of principles that apply to researchers, a similar resource is available to administrative staff. The National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) has published a Statement of Principles. That document offers excellent guidance for administrators in the performance of their responsibilities related to sponsored programs.

The tutorial currently has modules in five instructional areas:

Over time, we will be adding modules covering a number of other areas including research misconduct, intellectual property, research involving human participants, and research involving animals.

The modules are designed to provide a review of the regulatory and policy environment as well as a discussion of the ethical issues that administrative staff may experience. It is not possible to anticipate every ethical decision point one might encounter, so it is important to give examples of hypothetical situations and discuss them. We have done that through the use of case studies that will engage the reader. The modules are not identical in format. Some are presentations that are balanced between instruction and case studies. Others rely more on one technique or the other. Finally, each module will have a short quiz that is valuable as a self-assessment tool. Once each module is completed a certificate is offered as evidence of completion.

The case studies accompany the tutorials in order that the reader can attain a greater understanding of the issues. The cases elaborate the principles articulated in the tutorials, and offer practical examples of how to apply the information found in the tutorials to "real-life" situations. We strongly encourage readers to read both the tutorials and the case studies and discussions as integrated elements of the program.

The program contains three resources that are available for general use. First, there is a page contains hyperlinks to relevant regulations and policies. These references are also accessible by running your cursor over the highlighted text in the modules. Second, we have included a glossary that is easily accessible and includes terms and references contained in the modules. As you are progressing through the modules, you will see certain highlighted words that will reveal a definition if you run your cursor over them. Finally, we are providing a bibliography that contains excellent resources for background information and future reference.

Administrative staff will achieve the following learning objectives from the modules:

  1. An understanding of ethical issues covered in the modules.
  2. Improved skills and knowledge on how to work with researchers.
  3. Improved knowledge on how to identify conflicts of interest and how to handle allegations of conflicts of interest.
  4. Improved knowledge in the administration of funding and other financial responsibilities.
  5. Improved knowledge of the responsibilities of research mentors and trainees.
  6. Improved skills in administration of collaborative research between organizations and researchers.
  7. Improved knowledge of the responsibilities of researchers to collect, store, manage, report, and share data.

We hope you enjoy each of the modules and find them both useful and instructive as well as a valuable resource for future reference.

Stephen Erickson, Ph.D., Director
Office for Research Compliance
Boston College

Karen M.T. Muskavitch, Ph.D., Program Coordinator
Responsible Conduct of Research
Boston College