24
Nov2014

by Michael (Mike) Kraten, PhD, CPA, IRB Chair at Providence College

PRIM&R is pleased to introduce Mike Kraten, PhD, CPA, a member of the PRIM&R Blog Squad at the 2014 Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference. The PRIM&R Blog Squad is composed of PRIM&R members who will blog here, on Ampersand, about the conference to give our readers an inside peek of what's happening December 4-7 in Baltimore, MD. 

When I was first asked to consider accepting an appointment as chair of the institutional review board (IRB) of Providence College, I blinked. Then I blinked again.

Me? Really?

Me?

After all, I'm an accounting professor in a liberal arts college. I teach debits and credits in a Catholic and Dominican institution with a mission "in pursuit of the truth, growth in virtue, and service of God and neighbor." I was hardly a "typical" faculty member.

So why was I asked? I think I became a potential choice because of my experience in risk management, my research in behavioral accounting, and my interest in applied ethics, which were also the very traits that compelled me to join Providence College's School of Business in the first place. The institution focuses on values-based leadership, and it relies on the accounting principles of transparency, objectivity, and oversight to protect the interests of its students and other constituents.

It just so happens that those principles also serve as the foundation for human subjects protections, and thus I was invited to become the IRB chair three months ago. Taking the leap, I accepted the invitation.

So how is it going?

Well, it's been one challenge after another, after another.

First, came the need to immerse myself in policies and procedures. Although I had served as an IRB member for two years, and I was familiar with the requirements of the responsible conduct of research activities, it took some time to for me to familiarize myself with the details of my new administrative duties.

Then came the transition from a paper-based system to online technologies. Should we restrict our public online presence to web pages and PDF files, or should we embrace blogging platforms as well? Should we mandate online filings of research applications, or should we continue to accept paper documents?

And what about the structure of our application review activities? As a reflection of our communal philosophy, all members of our IRB had always been personally apprised of every application. Whether exempt or expedited or full in nature, each study was summarized—and when appropriate, fully vetted—at meetings of the full board. The recent growth of the college, however, resulted in an increase in the volume of research applications. Could we possibly continue to process all applications in this manner? And if not, how could we streamline our operations while strengthening our oversight functions? All while maintaining our communal traditions?

Working with my fellow board members, we’ve been able to address all of these challenges. But of course, we're only three months into our academic year. There are, indeed, many challenges yet to come.

Did we actually make all of the right choices? We may never know for sure, but I'm delighted to have an opportunity to learn from the experiences of others at the 2014 AER Conference. After all, the best way to identify best practices is to share knowledge and experiences with colleagues, and what better place to do that than at a PRIM&R event?

Check back and use this link to read more of Mike’s posts throughout the conference.

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