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Rebuilding Ethical Foundations and Saving Careers: The P.I. Program

The P.I. Program

All universities at one time or another are faced with what to do when an investigator’s conduct is less than honest or careless in how they conduct their research activities. Universities are often conflicted about how to handle these cases. Many either dismiss the offender or let the offender off lightly with a “slap on the wrist,” neither of which is very satisfying and usually does not solve the problem. In 2011, James DuBois, DSc. PhD. received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop a novel remediation program to provide researchers who had struggled with regulatory compliance or research integrity a second chance. The Professionalism and Integrity in Research Program (P.I. Program) consists of personalized assessments and a three-day group workshop where participants:

  • Share their stories.
  • Learn how to manage urgency and stress.
  • Explore their strengths and challenges.
  • Acquire good professional decision-making skills.
  • Write a professional development plan (PDP). Faculty assist participants in implementing their PDPs through follow up coaching calls.

The P.I. Program (formerly known as RePAIR) is hosted by Washington University in St. Louis with support from faculty at Saint Louis University and sponsorship from the CITI Program. We have now run nine sessions, serving 39 researchers from 24 organizations. Approximately one-third of participants have been referred for human subjects compliance concerns; one-third for research integrity violations; and one-third for diverse reasons including animal care and conflicts of interest. The program has received high marks from participants—on faculty expertise (4.7/5) and the quality of workshop discussion (4.8/5), with most participants strongly agreeing that they would recommend the program to a colleague who is in a similar position (4.5/5). Our preliminary outcome data indicate significant improvements in professional decision making, attitudes, and use of good professional habits (such as holding regular meetings with research staff or contacting compliance offices when uncertain of expectations). In 2013, the P.I. Program received the "Annual Award for Excellence in Human Research Protections for Innovation" from the Health Improvement Institute.

For more information on the P.I. Program visit http://integrityprogram.org. To refer a participant to the P.I. Program, contact the program coordinator at integrity@wustl.edu. Participant confidentiality is a hallmark of the Program; we will provide institutional officials with guidance on our policies. We believe that the P.I. Program benefits researchers, research organizations and the research community through professional development and integrity. Please contact us with your questions.


About the Author

James M. DuBois, DSc, PhD
Steven J. Bander Professor of Medical Ethics and Professionalism Division of General Medical Sciences, Washington University School of Medicine

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Last Updated: Dec 26, 2016 10:59PM EST

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