As we wrap up Member Appreciation Month, PRIM&R would like to highlight some of our members—individuals who work daily to advance ethical research on a daily basis. Today, we highlight Connor Bryant, Research Coordinator at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA.
Mr. Bryant shared with us what has shaped his professional experience so far and how PRIM&R events and programs connect him to the larger research ethics community.
PRIM&R: Tell us about how you got started in the research ethics and oversight field and what motivates you to stay involved?
Connor Bryant (CB): Personally, I became involved in research ethics when I took a course in biomedical ethics during my undergraduate studies at University of California, Davis. Learning the history behind the IRB and coming to understand what research was like before formal human research protections are two concepts that have stuck with me throughout my professional life. Professionally, I got my start in the field when I was offered a position as research coordinator at Liberty University. I was tasked with creating a functional IACUC and assisting with IRB protocol review. I had a vague understanding of both, having gone through the IRB once in graduate school and having briefly learned about the IACUC in my coursework.
As a research ethics professional, I am driven by the prospect of having an indirect role in promoting the health and well-being of both humans and animals through scientific discovery and innovation. As such, part of what motivates me to stay involved is my desire to promote quality research while reducing regulatory burden on investigators. I see the world of research ethics as a puzzle, and it is my role to figure out how best to apply the regulations to any number of situations without compromising the welfare of animals or the integrity of the research. I also have a healthy respect for what can happen when we don’t take ethics into consideration, so I am driven to guide others toward conducting research that is moral and ethical.
PRIM&R: What is one tool or resource that you use every day that you could not do your job without?
CB: The one resource that immediately comes to mind is the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. However, I probably learn more on a daily basis from the IACUC administration listserv hosted by Michigan State University. While I don’t always respond or post questions, this resource keeps me in the loop on the latest topics and exposes me to issues that I may not necessarily deal with on a day-to-day basis.
PRIM&R: Tell us the one thing you wish the general public knew about human subjects research/animal research?
CB: My biggest concern of late is the growing public mistrust of science and research. I wish the public knew how much of their daily life has been directly impacted by advances in research. I also wish the public could see that there are protocols in place for reviewing research proposals and that there are rules for how research studies are to be conducted. Too often I think the public hears a news story or sees a social media post and immediately assumes that those of us involved in research operate like mad scientists. There are rules, the rules matter, and the rules have allowed for great scientific discoveries to be made, all while operating within ethical and legal boundaries. Discoveries made using animal models often have a significant positive impact on both human and animal health; I wish more could be done to show the public that, as research professionals, we work to make sure that if animals are used, it is in the most humane way possible and for the greatest good.
PRIM&R: What is the professional accomplishment that you are most proud of?
CB: As of this moment, I would have to say that my greatest professional accomplishment is establishing an IACUC from the ground up at Liberty University. I came into my current position with a vague understanding of what an IACUC was and not a clue how to build one. Since then, I have come to a point where I am able to apply the regulations with confidence, have established a properly constituted committee, and maintain an efficient, compliant animal care program. While a few investigators may not appreciate the extra paperwork and oversight—despite my best efforts to reduce regulatory burden—I’m proud to know that our institution is capable of conducting quality, ethical research.
PRIM&R: What is one PRIM&R resource or event you would recommend to another young or emerging professional in your field?
CB: If possible, I would recommend attending one of the annual PRIM&R conferences. These conferences are, by far, one of the best ways to gather pertinent information and network with other professionals. I was fortunate enough to attend numerous PRIM&R events early in my career, ultimately earning the Certificate in the Ethical Foundations of Animal Care and Use. This certificate gave me the knowledge necessary to start off on the right foot as a young professional and continues to serve me well.
While there are opportunities to learn outside of the conferences, the ability to connect with peers in person has been invaluable. If nothing else, it’s always nice to be around people who know what an IACUC or IRB is!