Survey: What do you think about a degree program in research ethics?

by Henry Silverman, MD, MA, professor of medicine, chair of the ethics advisory committee, and director of the Middle East Research Ethics Training Initiative at the University of Maryland School of Medicine

For more than 10 years, the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded several educational programs that aim to strengthen research bioethics expertise in in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).  Such programs offer intensive education on research ethics to in-country academics who then can enhance local ethics review of research, develop a local curriculum in ethics, conduct research on distinctive ethical issues in their countries, and contribute to the global discussions surrounding the ethics of health research.

Through the receipt of a Fogarty grant, my colleagues and I at the University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB) have been fortunate to direct a training program in research ethics for individuals from the LMICs in the Middle East since 2005. This program, called the Middle East Research Ethics Training Initiative (MERETI), has provided graduate-level education in the form of a certificate program  to more than 50 people from Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Lebanon, Yemen, and Syria. 

We are now ready to take our program to the next level by formalizing our training into degree programs.  Specifically, we are considering developing a research ethics concentration in our Master of Public Health (MPH) program at UMB (42 credits).  The MPH program is intended to highlight the importance of research methodology and research ethics for academics.  The MPH program will consist of courses taught face to face and courses that incorporate distance learning.  This blended format will minimize the time needed on the UMB campus.  We are also developing a formal certificate program in research ethics (12 credits) that will be offered entirely by distance learning.

However, we also want to open up these programs to people from the US.  When our Middle Eastern trainees have come to UMB to do their face-to-face training, we have always encouraged our MPH graduate students to take courses in research ethics and global ethics with our trainees.  The discussions and the bilateral learning that followed have truly been a highlight of our program.

Accordingly, we would like to invite you to take a short (five-minute) survey to share your thoughts and opinions regarding these programs and their teaching structure (e.g. face-to-face or distance learning) and whether you would be interested in applying for them. Your opinions would help us gauge the level of interest in these programs.  And, please visit our MERETI blogging website and learn more about our scholars and trainees and maybe even write a blog. Thanks for your help!