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URMC / Clinical & Translational Science Institute / Stories / September 2023 / New Course to Train Translational Scientists in Ethical Awareness and Competency

New Course to Train Translational Scientists in Ethical Awareness and Competency

Competing ethical challenges can arise when translational science researchers are also clinicians working with patients. They must often balance their roles as researchers and caregivers for the patients in their clinics, as the two do not always have clear ethical compatibility.

Funding from the National Institutes of Health was recently approved for “Capacity Building in Bioethics for Scientists across the Translational Spectrum,” a project to develop a course that builds capacity in emerging translational researchers as they work to generate knowledge and interventions for the benefit of their field, their patients, and their communities.

“While we do well at offering guidance and training for fulfilling our ethical duties as clinicians and as researchers, we do not yet have good guidance on how to navigate both of those roles simultaneously,” said Assistant Professor Jon Herington of the Department of Health Humanities and Bioethics, the project’s lead investigator.

These ethical challenges may include repurposing anonymized data that was collected in clinical contexts without patients’ explicit consent to use in research, developing machine learning algorithms that may draw from sources that have biased, inaccurate, or confidential data, or changes in hospital policy around prescriptions that may affect treatment choices for patients.

“One challenge many researchers face is figuring out when we should report back individual-level results to people, particularly when they are not formal participants in a study,” Herington said. “For instance, if someone is conducting lead testing of area playgrounds, what is the ethical responsibility of the researchers to report adverse findings that may impact the community?”

The course will help emerging researchers develop the awareness of and tools necessary to engage with these ethical tensions. The grant is part of an ongoing collaboration between researchers at the Department of Health, Humanities, and Bioethics and UR CTSI.

“The opportunity to embed ethics into translational science is important for providing clinicians and clinician-scientists with the skills and tools they will need throughout their careers,” said Dean’s Professor and Chair Lainie Ross, MD, PhD.  “We look forward to exploring additional opportunities for collaboration with UR CTSI because proactively addressing the ethical, legal, and social issues that a study raises will lead to more useful and implementable research.”

The course is anticipated to be offered in the spring of 2024 to postdoctoral associates, K-grant awardees, and KL2 trainees affiliated with UR CTSI who are working on clinical trials involving research volunteers.

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The project described in this publication is a supplement to the University of Rochester CTSA (number UL1 TR002001) from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

9/7/2023

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