Introducing the AER15 Blog Squad: Michael Kraten

AER15 Blog Squad: Michael Kraten

By any chance, do you remember me? I was a new blogger for Ampersand  at last year’s AER Conference in Baltimore. I was also a new member of PRIM&R, having joined because of my recent appointment as Chair of the Institutional Review Board of Providence College.

So it’s one year later, and how do I feel? My goodness, what a difference a year makes! I now feel like a grizzled veteran, enlightened by a year’s worth of research experience.

The most important lesson I learned from last year’s activities is to remain proactive while facing the challenges of engaging in human subjects research and managing the IRB oversight function. As I mentioned in my Ampersand posting of April 9, 2015, for instance, the Baltimore AER Conference prepared me to manage our IRB reviews of time-urgent medical research projects that were necessitated by a campus outbreak of meningococcal infection.

What prepared me for this responsibility? To my surprise, I relied heavily on the knowledge that I had gleaned at last year’s AER Conference regarding the outbreak of the Ebola virus. I had attended those AER sessions regarding Ebola out of sheer curiosity, never imagining that I would need to apply that procedural knowledge on my own campus a few months later. Yet that is precisely what I needed to do, once the outbreak of meningococcal disease occurred.

This year, having mastered the fundamentals of my IRB Chair’s role, I’m looking forward to accessing more advanced material at the AER Conference. The proposed modifications to the Common Rule, for instance, will undoubtedly be a featured topic at conference sessions. The concerns of researchers who are continually gravitating towards broader adoption of web-based data collection and aggregation applications will certainly be emphasized as well.

Just as valuable to me, though, are the professional networking opportunities that occur between sessions, during meals, and over cocktails throughout the days of the conference. Because these opportunities are dispersed throughout the conference complex, attendees from different corners of the research sector can mingle and compare notes.

Nevertheless, the most satisfying aspect of serving as an active blogger is the manner in which the reporting responsibility compels me to focus on learning experiences. Instead of simply drifting through each day, I feel the need to identify sessions and activities that might provide stimulating information for me and for our Ampersand readers. And the very act of explanatory writing serves to ensure that I truly understand the intellectual content of the presentations.

That’s why I am honored to serve, the second time around, as a member of the Blog Squad. It’s an extremely valuable activity for me, and I hope you’ll find my commentary helpful too.

Learn more about our AER15 Blog Squad members here.