For graduate institutions to advance research and scholarly integrity across degree programs, they must show a strong commitment to developing a comprehensive approach for promoting responsible conduct of research (RCR). As an Affiliate of the Project for Scholarly Integrity, the University of West Florida (UWF) has worked strategically to assess our university’s needs in RCR education and has developed activities in a range of areas.
UWF is eager to share the results of its current work in one area in particular, the development of graduate curricula for the responsible conduct of research. We have approached this task with close attention to the particular mission of our university, a master’s intensive institution with approximately 2000 graduate students. The university offers twenty-six master’s degrees across 17 departments. Rather than treating RCR as a separate training experience, we have elected to infuse RCR into existing graduate research courses (and undergraduate research courses) for the purpose of enriching the existing curriculum. The decision is based on several points of rationale: (a) the already full curriculum requirements for students provides little room for additional coursework; (b) the establishment of new courses requires considerable time in obtaining approvals and course development activities; and (c) the infusion approach provides a natural integration of research integrity into the existing discipline via the existing research course within the discipline. This approach has been highly successful, engaging faculty in the process of addressing RCR in ways that are relevant to their discipline and resulting in courses that make RCR core to graduate learning.
This infusion process included the following activities:
- The establishment of a task force focused on RCR comprised of faculty from all departments within the institution;
- A survey of the faculty regarding the current status of integration of RCR and the needs of the various disciplines relative to the implementation and monitoring of RCR;
- The assessment of syllabi for existing research courses within all of the disciplines relative to the inclusion of RCR content;
- The use of rubrics and departmental discussions regarding the content that is infused into existing research and related courses and the degree to which it is integrated;
- Invitational visits from members of the institutional review board (IRB) to discuss RCR within department meetings;
- The establishment of a website of resources and announcements of events and webinars related to RCR monitored by the graduate school;
- Spreading RCR information through faculty meetings such as the Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment monthly meetings and workshops; and
The highlighting of disciplines relative to their specific infusion activities within the institution by the RCR task force.
We invite you to respond to a number of questions and issues that this initiative has raised for us at UWF:
- Does your university have other suggestions for infusing RCR into the existing curriculum?
- Do you use other approaches for promoting RCR within the curriculum, and do they vary by degree type or field? What have been their lessons or outcomes?
- What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of embedding RCR training within existing courses, versus introducing RCR as a separate learning experience?
As the discussion continues we are eager to describe our experiences with various academic disciplines as well as the different RCR components. We are looking forward to your comments.
Richard Podemski, Graduate Dean and Carla Thompson, Associate Professor
University of West Florida, Pensacola, Florida