University officials are nearing the end of their investigation into the conduct of a psychology professor accused of violating federal guidelines in his research of students.
The organization that funded the research is also investigating the matter.
The research methods of Associate Professor of Psychology John Broida have been under investigation since mid-February when the Psychology Department and the University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) ordered Broida to stop his research following complaints from a student.
“I would hope that early in the week I’ll have an announcement,” said Provost Joe Wood.
Wood will decide if any further action is necessary, though he said he would largely base his decision on the recommendation of the IRB.
IRB Chair Susan Vines said the board would not likely suggest anything beyond the suspension of the research that has already taken place. This is because Broida didn’t intentionally break any rules, according to Vines. She said Broida told the IRB that he simply didn’t understand current federal standards.
Broida could resume his research as soon as early April if Wood gives his approval.
Sophomore criminology/sociology major David Johnson, who first called attention to Broida’s research methods, has voiced his concerns regarding what he feels is an attempt “to sweep this thing under the rug.”
He said he would like to see the University continue its investigation into the matter.
“This thing is pregnant with information to suggest a deeper investigation is needed,” said Johnson.
Broida said he was conducting research to study the effects of technology in the classroom. However, a large part of the survey he distributed for the project asked students for personal information about family alcoholism.
Broida’s study was funded by part of a $200,000 grant from the Pew Grant Program in Course Redesign. Though the money from the program originated from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Center for Academic Transformation at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) directed the program and decided to give the money to Broida.
The Pew Charitable Trusts is currently investigating the matter to determine if the allegations against Broida warrant the termination of funding. But because RPI directed the program from which Broida directly received funding, RPI would likely be responsible to determine consequences, according to David Morse, public affairs director for the Pew Charitable Trusts.
A representative from RPI said that Broida should answer to the University directly, because the $200,000 wasn’t given to Broida, but to the University, even though Broida was named as the project director.
As a result of the Broida incident, many University departments will meet before the end of the semester to discuss current regulations regarding research on human subjects.
“This kind of incident requires us to look around,” said William Gayton, chair of the Psychology Department. “I can’t imagine this won’t have a positive impact on how the department does its business.”
News Editor Steve Peoples can be contacted at: [email protected]