Provost Joe Wood ordered a psychology professor to destroy the data he collected in violation of federal guidelines.

The decision came after nearly two months of investigation into the research methods of John Broida, associate professor of psychology.

“In effect the data has been destroyed,” said Wood. “I felt this was an appropriate decision to make sure that he and others understand how seriously we take this.”

Broida refused to comment on the decision.

Broida had been conducting research on the effect of technology on students’ ability to learn after receiving a $200,000 grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts in September of 1999. However, in the fall of 2000 he added personal questions to a survey he offered to all students in introductory psychology classes. There were 85 questions, asking things like, “Did you ever protect another family member from a parent who was drinking?” and “Did you ever feel responsible for and guilty about a parent’s drinking?”

The University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) and the Psychology Department ordered Broida to stop his research in late February after sophomore sociology/criminology major David Johnson complained to University officials after taking the survey.

Broida’s research is still under suspension. He must resubmit his proposal to the IRB, which will determine if it meets federal guidelines for research on human subjects. Approval could be granted later this month.

Johnson has had regular contact with University officials throughout the process. He has been a strong advocate for destroying Broida’s data.

“He got the data illegally. There’s no way he should be allowed to use it,” said Johnson. Johnson said Wood’s action speaks to the seriousness of Broida’s violation.

“The fact that Broida was instructed to `purge’ all of the data is significant in that it clearly establishes that his work was illicit and he was in violation of many rules,” he said.

However, after Wood’s decision, Johnson said he still has some concerns. He said he has doubts whether or not students should participate in faculty research at all. Johnson, who also serves on the Student Senate, said the Senate might form a panel to look at the issue.

In Broida’s research, students were offered extra credit on quizzes and tests for completing the surveys. Federal guidelines say that students must have an alternative method for earning extra credit so they aren’t coerced into participating in research they may not want to. In Broida’s research, there were cases in which students didn’t have any other option.

Wood has circulated a memo to all faculty members explaining Broida’s violation and the rationale behind his decision to purge the data. He said the University is working to impose stricter guidelines for research to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.

“After this, department chairs and deans will be a lot more aware of their responsibilities,” said Wood. “I think this was a teaching moment. It really wakes people up when something like this happens.”

News Editor Steve Peoples can be contacted at: [email protected]

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