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Passing on the public trust: a case study in research administration education. (Case Study).


The purpose of this paper is to present in summary form the Research Administration Curriculum developed by the Office of Research Administration (ORA), Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC), for the Science and Engineering Apprentice Program (SEAP) of The George Washington University.

The paper will begin with a brief summary of the historical foundation of the Office of Research Administration (ORA) and consideration of the Science and Engineering Apprentice Program's (SEA?) historical parameters that provided the collaborative context in which this unique curriculum was able to evolve. The paper will then reflect upon the fundamental paradigm, characteristics, and structure of the curriculum itself as it was first conceived and as it continues to develop. A final section will provide a closing consideration upon the necessity, growth, and development of programs of enrichment for future generations of research administrators.

Ultimately, this paper and the curriculum it summarizes are predicated upon a particular perspective on the nature of education itself. Far beyond the mere rote learning of facts and figures, beyond the acquisition of skills however complex, education is essentially an act of leadership. Through personal example, through instruction, through experience, and through that critical form of reflection which scholars call praxis, students are invited to be led out of darkness and into successive spaces and temporalities of enlightenment and responsibility in the hope of real freedom, greater moral development, and that most ultimate of gifts, wisdom. None of these can be achieved or entered into lightly or quickly. They take time, maturation, and ripening. Education is as much about the experience of formation as it is about learning information. The eight-week summer research administration curriculum described in this case study is one attempt to shape and form future generations of truly informed research admi nistrators. However, this unique curriculum is perhaps symbolic of the maturing identity and appreciation of research administration as a professional service.

Research Administration Functions

Until FY1993, NMRC research administration needs were served by the Office of the Scientific Director. The emphasis was on scientific program development, the review and critique of project-specific experimental designs, and the evaluation of scientific progress especially in relationship to the requirements of higher authorities. Experimenting with a wide variety of management models, the Office of the Scientific Director was succeeded by the Office of the Scientific Administrator. This movement was made in the light of initiatives to delegate scientific direction to subject area expert leaders in the organization while maintaining for central institutional authorities a coordinating function for sponsor relations, support for particular research program areas such as animal or human use, and coordination of other special programs on an ad hoc or emergent basis. Neither the Office of the Scientific Director nor the Office of the Scientific Administrator were configured precisely as research administration s ubject area experts for the needs of the research community. Hence, the concept of establishing a research administration office was slow to emerge as a possible paradigm or model for future service. ORA, formed in 1997, now has four overarching service areas namely: (a) sponsored programs administration, (b) human subject protections program, (c) electronic research administration and research archives administration, and (d) Research-Education Partnership Program coordination.

The ORA-SEAP Research Administration Curriculum

SEAP History

In 1980, at the direction of the President, the Department of Defense initiated a unique program for the promotion of science and engineering careers among the youth of the nation. This developed into a large and comprehensive national program that became known as SEAP. It capitalized upon the experience and assets of Department of the Navy and Department of the Army laboratories in the Washington, DC area. Over time, SEAP developed six major objectives. First, SEAP looks to acquaint high school students with the mission and purpose of Department of Defense laboratory assets through summer apprenticeships in research and engineering. Second, SEAP provides young scholars with real time exposures to science and engineering processes in the laboratory context. Third, by allowing students the opportunity to experience Department of Defense laboratory life, SEAP provides a fuller appreciation of the contributions Department of Defense activities make to the nation and to scholarship. Fourth, by providing students with actual apprenticeships, SEAP promotes science and engineering careers among the young. Fifth, by providing students with professional experiences that require personal responsibility, SEAP encourages students to become role models for their peers. Sixth, SEAP reaches out particularly to underrepresented populations to encourage academic excellence and opportunity where previously individuals had no access to programs of enrichment in the sciences and engineering.

In general, the SEAP regimen is focused upon high school students for summer apprenticeships. However, SEAP also encompasses special programs for high school teachers themselves, for junior high school students, for select undergraduates, and for members of previously underrepresented populations. In addition, if participating individual institutions can provide additional resources beyond the funds supporting the summer high school program, summer students have the possibility of extending their scholarly experiences during the regular academic year.

It is important to note that at the present time over 10,687 students have been enrolled in SEAP apprenticeships since 1980. SEAP students are engaged in these experiences in 19 federal laboratories in the National Capital Region, 10 additional federal institutions outside the Washington, DC area, and at three non-federal institutions of distinction. But how did this unique program become intertwined with research administration and research ethics at ORA?

ORA Program Curriculum Development

In late 1998, there was a need to provide additional SEAP apprenticeships for a greater than expected number of applicants. ORA leadership proposed the potential development of a unique, experimental, scholarly apprenticeship for students in the area of research administration, research ethics, and research support services. As a result of this collaboration, the first SEAP Research Administration Curriculum was developed.

During the first summer of this new curriculum, students were placed in distinct and separate departments/areas of exploration and service -- sponsored programs administration and research archives, intellectual property and technology transfer, human subject protections, library and research information services, and research finance. In succeeding years, areas of exploration and service were limited. In 2000 and 2001, these areas of exploration and service were engaged largely as overlapping experiences as opposed to distinct and separate areas of service in separate departments.

In 1998, 10 students were chosen for scholarly ORA apprenticeships; in 1999, four; in 2000, two. Between 1998 and 2000, due to an unexpected availability of intramural resources, two students continued their summer scholar experiences during the regular academic year. In 2001, three students were interviewed and offered scholarly apprenticeships in research ethics and research administration. As a result of an additional request, these students were joined by an American Red Cross undergraduate volunteer exploring research ethics and human subject's protections theory and policy.

This unique application of the SEAP experience to research administration and research ethics in the Naval medical research and development context quickly became the subject of commendation from higher authorities. In 1999, the ORA-SEAP research administration curriculum (hereafter called the curriculum) received a commendation from The George Washington University and the Office of the Surgeon General of the Navy for its innovation and its outreach to young scholars in an area of intellectual and professional expertise never before explored.

The curriculum has become an integral part of the ORA Research-Education Partnerships Program. As the curriculum grows and develops, ORA leadership is looking to the potential augmentation of its curriculum by incorporating internships and clerkships for post-secondary students and also by exploring possible summer internships for secondary school teachers who would like to investigate the role of ethics and administration in the processes of scientific and engineering research.

Paradigm and Structure of the Curriculum

The formation of the curriculum was based upon a series of particular assumptions and foundations. Above all, the curriculum is based upon a paradigm of interactional education in which there is a dynamic interrelationship between academic, experiential, and integrational learning. To maintain the integrity of this paradigm, ORA staff members adopted three key characteristics upon which the components of the curriculum would be founded.

In the first instance, it was judged essential that the academic scholarship basis of the SEAP experience be of paramount importance. In each year of curriculum implementation, this has been a key component for staff and leadership. The experience must be clearly educational and not a work-study program. In the second instance, staff acknowledged that the incorporation of academic learning within professional daily service be of equal importance. Therefore, leadership and staff worked closely to develop experiential contexts for student projects that were realistic for each student's level of learning and directly related to the academic components of the summer experience. It was critically important that student projects and experiences address the student's level of learning and academic enthusiasm, while inviting students to exceed present levels and move to greater knowledge and acquiring of skills, values, behaviors, and attitudes as maturing persons of intellect and promise. In the third and final inst ance, staff considered it to be critically important that students be invited to integrate academic learning with experiential learning in a series of exercises and final projects that would meet general SEAP requirements but also result in demonstrable opportunities for success, personal growth, and achievement.

With these three assumptions as a firm foundation, the curriculum matured over time into a three-fold system of learning for student scholars. Through directed readings, lectures, field trips, daily projects, research papers, abstract/poster preparations, and weekly journals, student learning was developed as an intertwining of three critical components: (a) information, (b) formation, and (c) integration. The student learning goals from 2001 are in the appendix.

Information. Academic learning is imparted through a lecture series from staff faculty members. Lectures include areas such as the history of Navy medicine, sponsored programs, research financing, human subjects protections, animal welfare issues, intellectual property, technology transfer, and general considerations regarding the culture of research. Information is further imparted through required weekly reading periods, weekly literature seminars and weekly writing seminars in preparation for student research papers. Information opportunities are augmented by field trips to local sites chosen m connection with student research projects, e.g., the Holocaust Museum, the National Museum of Health and Medicine, and the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Department of the Navy.

Formation. Each student is responsible for professional service in appropriate projects accomplished under staff member leadership. Projects change with each year. Examples of such projects include updates to sponsored programs information systems, updates to human use protocol dbase systems, attendance at and assistance with IRB meeting proceedings, high speed document scanning for the ORA e-archives project, etc. Each student works with a senior member of the staff and has his/her work evaluated by the same. In addition, students are required to maintain a daily work journal of activities that includes personal reflections on one's learning experiences.

Integration. To fulfill SEAP and ORA requirements, students are directed in the preparation of a 10-page research paper on an assigned topic, the preparation of abstracts/posters for university presentation, and the keeping of the weekly apprentice journal. Students engage the ORA Director in a weekly process group meeting to assess and explore experiences and progress. In 2001, in addition to the program requirement of individual abstracts/posters, students additionally prepared a joint abstract/poster on the topic of research ethics and human subjects protections. This additional abstract/poster was scheduled for presentation at the university or the SEAP closing ceremonies and also for the annual meeting of the Society of Research Administrators 14-17 October 2001. The submission of this poster for the Annual Meeting of SRA was a distinctly new accomplishment for students and for the curriculum itself. The abstract/poster was prepared under the supervision of two department members and the undergraduate in tern who were named as co-authors and who ensured that student participation in this effort met the levels expected of a professional abstract/poster presentation for publication.

The paradigm, characteristics, and components of the curriculum have proven thus far to be a challenging and successful experience for students and staff. While the curriculum itself has posed particular challenges to staff, resources, and logistics, the overall experience has provided growth and development not only to student-scholars but also to staff as they continue to refine and evolve their self-understanding as research administrators.

The curriculum has also been successful as a particular adaptation of the SEAP experience beyond the normally expected parameters of the laboratory. Students have gained a wider appreciation that science does not just happen but that it requires the challenges of insight, oversight, and compliance. Therefore, the curriculum fleshes out the scientific experience in a way that presents the world of the laboratory from the perspective of the regulatory and administrative panorama and not just from the localized view under the microscope.

Conclusion: Passing on the Public Trust

The identity of research administration as a professional service has changed and evolved greatly over time. In the last half-century, research administrators have grown from being clerical assistants, to middle management administrators, to financial policy experts, to regulatory compliance overseers, to marketing and development officers. In essence, the identity of the research administrator and the definition of research administration have grown and evolved as rapidly as has the act of research itself. Ultimately, it is clear that research administration is an act of stewardship, a form of enabling insight and industry within a context of academic and professional integrity. But how is this identity fostered? How is it passed on? How will research administration remain a vital and proactive force within the communities of inquiry that are the contexts of research within which we serve?

In our society, education serves a wide and far-reaching variety of purposes, not the least of which is to pass on our legacy to future generations. Research administrators have a particular role in protecting and stewarding the hopes of those who invest in research. And that certainly is far different than most research administrators probably ever imagined possible. With this in mind, it is apparent that programs of education in research administration will flourish and grow and develop as research administrators become more and more aware of and claim with greater knowledge our inherent leadership within the process of research. Our role is not just about research support services but the utter basis of research that is found in insight, industry, and integrity. For all of this, research administrators are ethical leaders whose oversight and stewardship brings depth, dedication, and genius to the ethos (or fundamental character) of the research communities we serve. With this in mind, how then will we prep are those who must take our place so as to continue the good that we do?


Student goals.

By the end of the SEA]? Program, the student will be able to:

1. Articulate the nature of research administration and its importance for executive service of federally funded biomedical research efforts.

2. Identify the various constitutive parts of research administration service as it is evolving within NMRG.

3. Define the term military relevance regarding DoD/DoN biomedical research and discuss the importance of military medical research to public health needs.

4. Define relevant ORA terminology, concepts, processes, needs, and issues.

5. Address in summary fashion relevant ORA governing principles.

6. Address the general importance and at least three specific applications of computer technology in the development of electronic research administration.

7. Identify and explain four important general concepts of executive management in the professional work place.

8. Discuss ORA-related career pathways and programs of study/certification.

Edward F. Gabriele, DMin serves as the Director of the Office of Research Administration and the Human Subjects Protections Program at the Naval Medical Research Center, Silver Spring, MD and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine. He holds an appointment as Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Dr. Gabriele holds a doctorate in theology from The Catholic University of America. Since 1997, he has prepared over 35 professional publications, abstracts, posters, and multimedia presentations in research administration and human subjects protections theory.

This article was developed from a paper presented at the October 2001 Annual Meeting of SRA International, Vancouver, Canada. Colleagues who helped prepare the experience and original paper were Ms. Stephanie Gray, HM2 Jon Fletcher, USN, LT David Bacon, MSC, USNR, Dr. Adam McKee of the Naval Medical Research Center, and Ms. Mary Phillips, SEAP, The George Washington University, Washington, DC Contact the latter about SEAP at 202-994-2234. Examples of the summer 2001 syllabus are available upon request. Disclaimer. The opinions reflected in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense, or of the U.S. government. Address correspondence to Dr. Edward F. Gabriele, Director, Office of Research Administration & Human Subjects Protections Program, Naval Medical Research Center, 503 Robert Grant Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20910-7500. E-mail:
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Author:Gabriele, Edward F.
Publication:Journal of Research Administration
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
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