To ensure Western’s research environment promotes integrity, accountability and public trust, a new role assessing any compliance gaps and risks could soon lead to the creation of the university’s first research compliance office.
Grace Kelly, Western’s new Research Compliance Officer, will spend the next year developing a comprehensive overview of research compliance practices and requirements across campus in order to make recommendations for how to best move forward with new structures, policies, procedures and training opportunities.
“Compliance is important. Regulatory bodies and funders require we adhere to a growing list of requirements, and it’s very important we understand and implement processes to do so,” said Kelly, who has been in her new role for three months, having taken a one-year secondment from her role as Western’s Research Ethics Officer.
Research compliance at the university level consists of following ethics, safety and best practices guidelines in research when it comes to humans, animals and conflicts of interest that can potentially arise. These guidelines are outlined by federal and provincial governments, Western policies, as well as related Tri-Council, funding and regulatory policies. Compliance is subject to internal and external reviews.
“We need to re-examine our practices on campus to ensure we are in step with changing regulatory demands as we strive to increase our presence on the world stage,” Kelly added. “While all areas of compliance are currently being carried out, various leaders came together to ask if there was a way we could be doing this better.”
Kelly is already talking to key stakeholders across campus, along with colleagues from across the country and internationally, to document and understand the many facets of research compliance accountabilities at Western. Non-compliance not only puts the university at risk in terms of the participants, animals, students and researchers, she added, but it could also mean a decrease or loss in funding, which would be a tremendous blow to individual researchers and Western’s reputation as a research-intensive university.
In her previous position where she focused on ethics, Kelly played a small, but important, role in facilitating great research at Western and, going forward, was one of many voices on campus who saw the growing need to examine potential research gaps.
“By getting out and talking to key stakeholders directly involved in research, and seeing how all of the pieces of the puzzle fit together, I’m excited to help Western identify ways to better support its researchers who are conducting tremendously impactful research,” she said. “We’re at a key point in our history as we strive to increase our presence on the world stage, and maintaining high standards for how we conduct and support our research is key to taking this step.”
Now is the time for Western’s research community to have their voices heard in order to best understand how the university can best support them, Kelly added.
“Researchers are being asked for so much information from all different directions, and we may be able to identify opportunities to reduce some of the administrative burden they feel,” she said. “I plan to continue to get out into the research community and take an in-depth look at where we currently are to see how we can better support our scholars.”