Reorganizing to Enhance Service

The University of Texas at Austin (UT) — awarded full AAHRPP accreditation on March 17 — has expanded and reorganized its Office of Research Support and Compliance, assigning new staff members to specific research disciplines to strengthen relationships  with faculty and enhance their understanding of human research protections.

When the reorganization is complete, the Office of Research Support and Compliance will have four dedicated, professional IRB staff members. Each will be assigned, in accordance with his or her qualifications, to several of the following disciplines: pharmacy, sociology, psychology, kinesiology, biomedical engineering, nursing, social work, educational psychology, curriculum and instruction, advertising, marketing, government, chemistry, anthropology, communication sciences and disorders, human ecology, and special education, among others.  The changes will enable the office to better meet the needs of faculty, particularly those in the social and behavioral sciences, who often find it more difficult to apply human research protection regulations to their protocols. Under the reorganization, faculty will know precisely with whom to consult on specific questions. They also can be confident that their assigned staff member has both the appropriate credentials and the knowledge of the research protocol in question.

According to Lisa Leiden, Ph.D., C.I.P., Director, Office of Research Support and Compliance, the expansion and reorganization were prompted, in part, by UT’s preparation for its recent AAHRPP accreditation site visit. “As part of that process, we met with faculty to discuss our compliance efforts and ways that our office could serve them better,” Dr. Leiden explains.

“Based on their feedback, we developed what we believe is a more customer-friendly approach, one that will make a significant difference for faculty while increasing institutional awareness of the research that we review.” She views the new organizational structure as an opportunity to help faculty understand human research protection regulations, work with them to minimize the risks and increase the potential benefits of research protocols and, above all, safeguard research participants. She also envisions increased, mutual appreciation.

“When you’re involved in research, it’s what you live and breathe, and you want this office to feel similarly involved,” Dr. Leiden says. “You want your calls answered by someone who is familiar with your research and committed to helping you proceed in the right direction. You want customer service, which is exactly what these changes are designed to provide.”

From the Summer 2006 AAHRPP Advance. Full PDF available from AAHRPP.