Introducing IACUC17 Blog Squad Member Scott Niles

Hello from the other side…
No, I’m not reciting Adele lyrics (although I have been known to do so). I’m literally saying “hello” from the other side—the other side of research administration!

Until this past June, I was a pre-award research administrator in the Office of Sponsored Programs at Morehead State University in Morehead, KY. Essentially, I helped faculty find and apply for grants. While I gained a cursory understanding of human and animal research issues during this time, I knew there was a whole lot more going on. And now that I’ve been promoted to Director of Research Integrity and Compliance in the same office, I’m that much more aware of the breadth and depth of regulations, policies and procedures involved in the successful management of an animal research program—sometimes painfully so!

Even though these two jobs are different, research administration and IACUC/IRB administration are really two sides of the same coin. (For me, it’s two sides of the same office!) Both fields require an understanding of federal regulations and policies. Both are steeped in protection (protecting the institution, protecting research subjects and data, for example). Further, looking at results from PRIM&R’s 2015 IACUC Workload and Salary Survey (WLSS), we both cite communication breakdowns and inadequate technology as the main reasons for excessive workloads.

Finally, research administration is a growing field. Several surveys have indicated the majority of people in the field have already or are rapidly reaching retirement age, portending a need to recruit and train a new crop of administrators. This is reflected in the IACUC WLSS, which reported that 42% of respondents began their first full time IACUC job within the last five years.

I point all this out to say that despite our roles in the research enterprise, professional development and networking are extremely important, and this is why I’m excited to attend the 2017 IACUC Conference (IACUC17).
I am new to PRIM&R and this conference, and I am looking forward to meeting and learning from new colleagues. I was surprised to read that representatives from United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, and the American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care will be on hand for a question and answer session. I think it’s a tremendously beneficial opportunity to interact with policymakers and regulatory bodies, and I’m already creating a list of potential questions to ask.

Being a relative novice to the field, my first order of business was to register for IACUC 101: The Basics. As I further browsed the agenda, I was delighted to see a keynote address from a practicing researcher. I would bet most of us are fascinated with some of the research our faculty and/or scientists do, and it’s just plain cool to learn about some of the studies they’re conducting. The next realization I had about the agenda is that there are so many interesting and useful session options that it was honestly difficult to make choices. I had to consider my urgent needs as a rookie, as well as the size and scope of my institution. When I saw IACUC Challenges for Small Organizations, I smiled. It’s as if they created that session just for me!

In my experience, sessions are exceptionally helpful, but networking and meeting colleagues is equally important. The opportunity to attend IACUC17 for me means the chance to meet other professionals and learn from their vast and varying experiences. We do not do our jobs in a vacuum; we are beholden to the same rules, the same stakeholders, and often face the same issues. What better way to learn (and let’s be honest…sometimes bemoan) about our field?

So, I look forward learning a lot, asking a lot of questions, meeting awesome and intelligent new people, and gaining a foundation of knowledge that will continue to serve me as I navigate my way in this new, exciting and challenging role. Hope to see you at the conference!

Scott Niles, PhD, CRA, is the Director of Research Integrity and Compliance at Morehead State University (MSU) in Morehead, KY. Dr. Niles has more than 12 years’ experience as a grant writer and research administrator. In his current role as compliance director, Dr. Niles oversees the daily and long-range compliance management of grants and contracts, including sub-award negotiation, sub-recipient monitoring and the Responsible Conduct of Research. As MSU’s Institutional Official, he also directs the IACUC, the IRB, and the Intellectual Property Committee.