Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Laboratory Management Institute: A Model for the Professional Development of Scientists

Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Laboratory Management Institute: A Model for the Professional Development of Scientists

Article excerpt

Introduction

While announcements of new scientific discoveries appear almost daily, there also are reminders that some discoveries, such as the cloning of human cells by Dr. Hwang Woo-Suk from South Korea, are fabricated (Wade & Sang-Hun, 2006). Accusations of research misconduct are costly to an institution's recruitment, enrollment, funding and reputation. Increasingly, multiple million-dollar fines are levied by the federal government against universities for misuse of grant monies. Of the more than $200 billion invested in research annually in the United States (U.S.), the collective and less egregious errors and inefficiencies of scientists cost millions of dollars (Pascal, 1998). Excuses for research misconduct and inefficiencies include pressures to succeed, carelessness, poor recordkeeping, a breakdown of the peer-review system, lack of oversight of laboratory personnel, and the confusion and misunderstandings that sometimes can occur among personnel with diverse backgrounds or value systems. These rationalizations aside, misconduct and inefficiencies lie ultimately in the character and abilities of the individual researcher. Fortunately, leadership and management skills and, to an extent, integrity can be learned, but do researchers seek out and have time for this education, and do institutions have the necessary educational resources available for this learning to occur? The Laboratory Management Institute (LMI) was created to develop and use new educational resources to motivate researchers to acquire greater knowledge, abilities, and skills for establishing and managing their programs responsibly and efficiently.

1. Rationale

Research administrators have a broadly defined responsibility to ensure that the institutional culture promotes and facilitates excellence in the conduct of research. Through federally mandated committees such as the Institutional Review Board (IRB) and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), and through campus administrative units such as Environmental Health and Safety, research administrators approve and monitor the practices of researchers to help assure they comply with regulations governing the study of humans and vertebrate animals, as well as environmental protection. Through pre- and post-award services, research administrators help ensure the fiduciary responsibilities of the university and its personnel. Personnel involved in research funded by certain federal agencies now are required to receive education in the responsible conduct of research. Frequently, this responsibility also is being met by research offices. In the Office of Research at UC Davis, an experiment was conducted to expand the scope of education in responsible conduct of research to include laboratory management.

Protecting the Research Enterprise: Multiple Reasons for Providing Education in Scientific Management

While graduate students and postdoctoral scholars are likely to receive excellent education in their research discipline, they are less likely to receive formal education in the leadership and management skills essential for the day-to-day operation of a research program and laboratory (Pascal, 1998). Currently, academic institutions have invested limited resources in leadership and management education for graduate students and scholars because they expect this education to be provided adequately and equitably by faculty mentors. However, many mentors view such education as secondary to guiding the students' or scholars' research project. In addition, mentors sometimes lack education in management skills themselves, or the resources to teach the skills consistently and efficiently to their students and scholars. Also, they may lack experience to guide their students and scholars in developing professional skills for employment positions outside academia. A simple scan of advertisements for research positions will reveal that employers prefer applicants with good communication skills and an ability to work well within diverse teams. …

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