Friday, November 26, 2010

Survey: One-Third of UConn Researchers Dislike CITI Program

A 2007 survey of researchers at the University of Connecticut found that more than one third were dissatisfied with the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) program in human subjects research.

The UConn IRB and Office of Research Compliance offered the survey to about 350 researchers, of whom 114 (33 percent) returned it. Part of the survey asked respondents about the CITI Program:

7 Questions asked respondents to rate different aspects of the CITI course on a scale of 1-7 (1=least, 7=most). 4 out of these 7 questions asked if the CITI course increased understanding of risks and protections for human subjects in research. There were no statistical differences in the answers received on this group of 4 questions.

53% rated this group 5 or above
16% rated this group 4, moderate
31% rated this group 3 or below

Similar rates were received for overall satisfaction with the CITI course:

54% rated it 5 or above
9% rated it 4, moderate
37% rated it 3 or below

The course did appear to have an impact on the respondent's understanding of the Federal
Regulations. On this criteria,

72% rated it 5 or above
4% rated it 4, moderate
24% rated it 3 or below

The course had a negative impact on the respondents' willingness to join an IRB:

29% rated it 5 or above
13% rated it 4, moderate
58% rated it 3 or below

These figures suggest wider dissatisfaction with CITI than one of its founders, Paul Braunschweiger, admitted in a 2006 presentation. That presentation (slide 60) reported that principal investigators gave the program an average of about 7.8 on a 10 point scale on overall satisfaction. Though the presentation did not show the distribution of researchers' responses, it would be difficult to get so high a mean if 37 percent of researchers offered negative assessments. We need more data.

The UConn survey also offered researchers the chance to write open-ended comments. The most common suggestions were that the training should be shorter, and that the course content "should be limited to a researcher's area of research." Researchers were happy with the online form of the course, with 74 asking for no change, and only 12 choosing the next most popular option: video instruction.

All of these results suggest the potential for online courses that are shorter than CITI and targetted to a specific research discipline, such as Macquarie University's Human Research Ethics for the Social Sciences and Humanities.

UConn also surveyed researchers on their views of the UConn IRB. But the university has only reported the mean ratings, not the distribution of responses, so it is impossible to say if the IRB earned as many unsatisfactory grades as did the CITI program.

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