Planning Committee Profile: Ivor Pritchard

Planning Committee (PC) Profile: Ivor Pritchard, 2010 Advancing Ethical Research Conference PC Co-Chair

How might you explain your work to someone who is new to the field of research ethics?
I work for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Our office—the Office for Human Research Protections—has regulatory authority over how people are protected when they volunteer to participate in research studies of various kinds, including clinical trials.

The regulations require independent committee approval of research studies and ordinarily require consent from the people involved before they start participating in research. Our office coordinates education events, develops policy, and carries out enforcement activities related to the regulations.
What motivated you to choose a career in research ethics?
I got into a career in research ethics largely by accident. As a graduate student in philosophy, I was assigned to be a teaching assistant in a medical ethics course, and the course included the ethics of experimentation. I later included medical ethics among the courses I taught as a college professor. Later on, after I moved to a position in the research program office of the U.S. Department of Education, I was asked to attend a meeting in 1990 about whether the department should join with other agencies in adopting regulations about the protection of human subjects in research. This, of course, turned out to be the process leading up to the adoption of the Common Rule in 1991. The rest is history.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
What’s most personally rewarding is when people learn something valuable from an educational presentation. What’s most intellectually rewarding is figuring out better ways to shape policy regarding regulatory provisions and the practice of ethical research.
How did you become involved with PRIM&R?
When I was at the U.S. Department of Education in the early 1990s, Congress was debating various legislative proposals related to surveys asking students for sensitive personal information about themselves. PRIM&R asked me to come and talk about those proposals at some of their meetings. (Eventually, the legislation was passed as the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment.)
What are your goals for the 2010 Advancing Ethical Research Conference?
To be all things to all people: I want beginners, old hands, IRB members, IRB administrators, human subjects, oncologists, ethnographers, philosophers, and even Yankee fans to be able to find good learning experiences somewhere during the conference.

Which topics will the conference program address that you find most intriguing, or in need of attention, especially given today’s ever-changing regulatory environment?
The topics I find most intriguing are the ones where the ethical principles collide, such as when the principles of respect for persons and beneficence point in contrary directions. What needs the most attention is how well—or how poorly—the ordinary routine practices of human research protection programs serve to advance the goods that we’re trying to achieve related to protecting the rights and welfare of research subjects.

In addition to the keynotes, panels, and sessions, our conference has so many other highlights (i.e., networking sessions, book group, and more). What are you most looking forward to?
Meeting people who don’t live near Washington, DC, both people I know and people I’ve never met before.

Where is your hometown?

For most of my childhood I lived in Waccabuc, NY, which at that time wasn’t even a town.
What’s playing on your iPod? (What music do you listen to?)
Sarah McLachlin, Randy Travis, Eric Clapton, Sade, Matchbox 20, Cheryl Wheeler, Ray Charles, Alison Krauss, Fayrouziat Fadi, among others.
What are you reading?
Commuting on the Metro, I read The New Yorker magazine religiously. The last book I read was Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

What is your favorite type of food?
Italian and Lebanese. (My wife is half Italian and half Lebanese, not coincidentally.)
If you had to choose one…
Sweet or salty? Salty

Classical music or rock? Rock

Circle or square? Circle

Dogs or cats? Dogs

City or country? Country

Silver or gold? Gold

Swimming or hiking? Hiking