School of Information Sciences

First Chinese Bioethics Fellows Graduate from Pitt’s International Research Ethics Program


A graduation ceremony was held on July 6, 2015 at the University of Pittsburgh’s University Club to honor the inaugural group of Chinese Fellows to complete a bioethics training program during their time spent here as visiting scholars. The event was well attended by senior faculty members from China, University faculty members, and representatives from the Provost’s Office and Department of Asian Studies.

The Chinese Bioethics Program (formally titled “Building International Research Ethics Capacity in China,”) is a trainer-of-trainers program that provides instruction in bioethics and professional development to Chinese faculty who will then return to China and provide training in bioethics to others. It is funded through a 5-year grant from the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health and additional funding from Chinese institutions and agencies.

The program's grant is administered through the School of Information Sciences (iSchool), and co-directed by Beth Fischer (visiting assistant professor at Pitt’s School of Information Sciences), and Michael Zigmond (professor at Pitt’s Department of Neurology). 

The iSchool at Pitt’s Dean Ronald L. Larsen attended the signing ceremony in September 2014, which kicked off the program and marked a formal collaboration between the University of Pittsburgh and Shangahai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (SHUTCM). SHUTCM is the largest collaborator on the program, but faculty Fellows can hail from and university or institution in China. Since January 2015, the University of Pittsburgh has hosted eight Chinese faculty as visiting scholars thanks to the program.

The overall aim of the program is to build capacity in international research ethics in China, with the objective of preparing its Fellows to establish or significantly enhance research ethics training programs, Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), and/or research ethics compliance offices at their local institution. The instruction provided is tailored to each Fellow’s individual needs, based on their prior knowledge, experience, interests, and the needs of their local environment.

The curriculum includes:

  1. instruction in research ethics offered through workshops, seminars, and coursework provided at the University of Pittsburgh, at other US institutions, and in China,
  2. training in professional development (e.g., publishing research articles, preparing proposals, project management, and evaluation) and aspects of responsible conduct associated with those skills,
  3. instruction and involvement in the design, development, and management of research programs,
  4. attendance at selected meetings of IRBs at the University of Pittsburgh, as well as discussions with the administrators of those units that focuses on preparing the Fellows to establish and direct such programs in China,
  5. visits to IRBs at additional institutions,
  6. a visit to the US National Institutes of Health and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and associated meeting with the National Science, and Johns Hopkins University to discuss critical issues in research ethics and science policy,
  7. instruction in the teaching of bioethics, and
  8. English language instruction.

Fellows are expected to initiate or significantly improve a course on research ethics with input from a mentoring committee consisting of at least two faculty members representing both the US and China, with oversight from the Program Directors and the Teaching Responsible Conduct program at University of Illinois. Fellows are also encouraged to engage in relevant research, and start up grants will be available on a competitive basis.

For more information on the Chinese Bioethics Program at Pitt, please contact Beth Fischer.

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