- Author: Wendy Powers
Throughout the conference, we covered topics ranging from foreign influence and shadow labs to Title IX compliance to predatory journals. It is a bit alarming how all of these topics seem to intersect now. Also concerning was the number of federal agency speakers who made a point during their presentations to state "in the event of a government shutdown…" Perhaps another shutdown is imminent.
The most dynamic conference speaker talked about the 'normalization of deviation.' The speaker theorized that we ignore rules we consider burdensome, tedious, or energy-depleting when lack of conformance is not regarded as risky, unethical, or unacceptable behavior. When the deviator repeatedly and successfully 'gets it away with it' and there are no severe consequences, then the deviant behavior becomes the norm or the routine. The speaker provided examples most would consider as unethical behaviors such as the numerous violations of policy by BP employees in the Gulf who sought to save shareholders money. Also shared were less obvious examples such as NASA's knowledge of unreliable o-rings followed by misjudgment of the impact the lack of reliability would have on the unseasonably cold day that the Challenger launched. The speaker talked about organizational differences in policy interpretation. He compared Air Traffic Control where rule compliance ensures safety to NASA where risks are routine and a vital component of every mission. We need a mechanism to share new ideas and provide a thorough review and assessment. Otherwise, the innovator continues to practice their preferred way without perhaps full knowledge that the process has previously been tested and failed.
This week the Academic Assembly Council Personnel Committee (AAC-PC) met to talk about a new approach to preparing merit and promotion documents. The goal is to make the process less time consuming for candidates. Similarly, there is an approach under consideration that would do the same for the academic annual evaluation materials. Some institutions take the NASA approach and disclose evaluation criteria without any guidelines on how to assemble documents. Other institutions provide guidance documents, interpreted as rules that can be as lengthy as the candidate's review packages. I prefer the NASA approach; make explicit the criteria for success and leave it to the candidate to assemble their best case. However, I recognize that this can be uncomfortable for many who want a bit more structure and consistency between candidate packages for both merit reviews and annual evaluations. Next week the AAC-PC meets with the Peer Review Committee to pool ideas and develop a recommendation for me how best to proceed.
Lots to think about during my flight to Irvine. As one of the speakers commented in reflection on how their role has expanded over the last few years, "There is little time to be bored."
- Author: Wendy Powers
Please welcome Cindy Renee Kron who started today as an IPM Advisor, based in Santa Rosa, with programmatic responsibilities in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, and Lake Counties. Cindy fills a position that is one of the last from the 2016 Position Call.
The first part of this week I am at Emory University to attend the Research Integrity Officers (RIO) annual meeting. The meeting venue is a hotel located across the street from the CDC, a huge complex that is walled off for security. A sharp contrast to USDA facilities in Washington DC. The irony of being located across from CDC is that the hotel has no potable water due to a storm that passed through and disrupted the local water treatment plant. I feel like I'm in a third world country or Flint, MI.
I chatted with the RIO from the University of Pittsburgh who shared that an increasing portion of his responsibilities relates to Conflict of Interest. The reason for the increase is that faculty are now permitted to spend up to 20% of their time working outside of their academic position. Translation: a faculty member can serve as a CEO of a company, 1 day per week, and that company may sponsor research conducted in the faculty member's laboratory. This is a component of the institution's entrepreneurial efforts to offset repeated flat funding from the state. Note that state funding comprises only 13% of the institution's budget but has prohibited tuition increases in recent years. The scenario is not unique to this institution. As foreign policy changes and as data security concerns escalate, conflict of interest disclosure is likely to become far more complex than checking a box when one submit a grant application for review.
Later this week I will catch up with the Blue Ribbon Panel as they tour 5 of the RECs. They start their long week across CA tonight with a group meeting in the Woodland/Sacramento area then head to Sierra Foothill REC tomorrow morning. While I would have liked to avoid the schedule conflict that prevented me from joining the group for the full week, I will meet the Panel in time for the South Coast and Desert REC stops on Thursday and Friday.