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Research Policy Committee

The Research Policy Committee addressed the majority of its 2010-11 initiatives:

  • Continue to increase awareness of ethical research standards and make Ethical Research Awareness Day an annual event.
  • Explore potential conflicts of interest in sponsored research as they relate to publishing and doctoral dissertations.
  • Identify ways to provide support to the University’s undergraduate research initiative.
  • Identify tools for promoting ethical research.
  • Address the need for increased fellowships for graduate students.

The 2010-11 chair of the Research Policy Committee was Paula Poindexter of journalism; vice chair was Eileen Fowles of nursing. Rebecca Bigler of psychology was unanimously elected chair for 2011-12.

The Research Policy Committee held six meetings and sponsored the first Ethical Research Awareness Day, a University-wide program devoted to increasing awareness of ethical research. As minutes in Appendix A describe, guest speakers at committee meetings included: Dean Neikirk, chair of the Faculty Council, who discussed sponsored research and potential conflicts of interest issues; Paul Woodruff, dean of the undergraduate school, who discussed his vision for undergraduate research, and Alyx Stevens, chair of the senate’s undergraduate research committee, who discussed the state of undergraduate research report; Susan Wyatt Sedwick, associate vice president for research and director of the Office of Sponsored Projects, and Amy Always, project director on the Research Management System (RMS), discussed the Research Management System replacement project.

In addition to guest speakers, one meeting was devoted to online survey software programs, which are used for increasingly popular web-based surveys. At that meeting, Research Policy Committee member Sean Banks made a presentation about REDCap, the online survey software developed by Vanderbilt University and used by the Population Research Center.

The highlight of 2010-11 Research Policy Committee activities was the first Ethical Research Awareness Day, held Wednesday, September 29, 2010. Ethical Research Awareness Day was conceived of by the 2009-10 Research Policy Committee as a way to increase awareness of ethical research, including the new standards of ethical research developed and refined by the two previous Research Policy Committees. As the program in Appendix B shows, the Ethical Research Awareness Day program was organized around three panels: consequences of scientific misconduct, case studies, and student perspectives. Panelists included administrators, faculty, and graduate and undergraduate students, including Dean of Graduate Studies Victoria Rodriguez and Vice President for Research Juan Sanchez. The panels were very engaging, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and news coverage was generous. In addition to articles in The Daily Texan and On Campus, stories were posted on the website of the Office of the Vice President for Research and the School of Journalism.

The final Research Policy Committee meeting of the year addressed proposing resolutions and the Ethical Research Awareness Day for next year. It was decided not to put forward any resolutions. However, the committee agreed to sponsor a second Ethical Research Awareness Day to be held in the early fall.

Following the last committee meeting, there was one more piece of business. Vice President for Research Juan Sanchez asked the committee to give its opinion on revisions to the Board of Regents’ intellectual property policy. Paula Poindexter requested email input from the committee and received responses from two members, which she reported to Dr. Sanchez. One committee member approved the proposed revisions and the other committee member indicated that these changes should have broader faculty discussion because the changes seemed to benefit only the Board of Regents and to disregard faculty and student intellect and creativity that produced the intellectual property in the first place. Dr. Sanchez welcomed suggestions for bringing these proposed revisions before the faculty. (Please see proposed revisions in Appendix D.)

Concerns and Recommendations by Outgoing Chair. The chair who has served on the Research Policy Committee for two terms completes her term with concerns and recommendations. The biggest concern is lack of participation by members. Some of this is due to conflicts with meeting times but some may be due to apathy or perceived lack of importance. Perhaps the process of selecting committee members should be reviewed and discussed and members should be selected based on their interest and availability to attend meetings and contribute to the committee’s work.

The Faculty Council might also consider adding a third office to the committees: that of secretary who would be responsible for organizing meetings and taking minutes. This would help share the committee work and involve more committee members.

The 2010-11 chair also recommends that the Ethical Research Awareness Day be institutionalized so that it will be a regular fall event at The University of Texas at Austin. Activities beyond a half-day program need to be developed to increase awareness of ethical research, including the ethical research standards listed in Appendix C, and expand involvement by departments and graduate programs. It is hoped that in the future a resolution to continue the Ethical Research Awareness Day will be proposed by the committee and endorsed by the Faculty Council.

This was the first year that effort was directed toward being more engaged with undergraduate research, a major initiative on campus. It is recommended that the Research Policy Committee continue to be involved with the undergraduate research initiative.

Paula Poindexter, chair