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P.I. Program faculty, Drs. Alison Antes and James DuBois, sought to identify and study the habits of research exemplars—individuals who are doing high-impact, federally funded research while enjoying a reputation for research integrity. The project was supported by Dr. Antes’ NIH K01 award and the P.I. Program.

The project involved a rigorous nomination and selection process. Exemplars were nominated by at least two individuals—usually a research administrator and a research colleague. Nomination forms described the nominees’ high-impact research and how they exemplify research integrity. All nominations were accompanied by a curriculum vitae. A team of 9 diverse researchers divided the task of peer reviewing nominations. In the end, 52 individuals were selected as exemplars and were interviewed, including 29 exemplars from the biomedical sector, and 23 exemplars from the STEM sector.

Exemplars were very generous with their time, dedicating on average more than 1 hour to the phone interviews. The Research Exemplars webpage provides a brief bio for each participant. Interviews explored the traits, experiences, and work habits that help to explain why these individuals are considered exemplars. Papers from the project will be published in 2018.

With funding from the U.S. Office of Research Integrity, P.I. Program faculty will also compare the work habits of research exemplars to those of P.I. Program participants to explore whether any habits in particular might be valuable in avoiding lapses in research integrity or compliance.

P.I. Program instructors published an article in Nature presenting lessons learned from conducting workshops with researchers over the past 3 years. The take home lesson: Most researchers could find themselves in trouble with compliance or research integrity if they are not careful. Most of our workshop participants are talented researchers trying to do good work. But they have fallen into some common traps such as:

  • Getting overextended and not paying adequate attention
  • Being unsure of rules, particularly as they undertake new kinds of projects or regulations change
  • Not prioritizing compliance
  • Poor communication with team members, compliance officers, or others

Most people are not terribly adept at learning from the mistakes of others. But we hope that some researchers, at least, might take these lessons to heart and adopt lab management practices (such as holding regular meetings, developing standard operating procedures, and overseeing the work of others) that can help avoid a host of problems.

We are pleased that Nature has provided a venue for us to share our experiences. However, Nature not only “fixed” our American spellings, but they changed our title (we would never call our program “rehab”—that’s part of the point of the article) and cut our acknowledgements per their policy for Comment articles. Below we publish the Acknowledgements we submitted with the article.


The P.I. Program was initially funded by a supplement to the Washington University Clinical and Translational Science (CTSA) award (UL1 TR000448). The U.S. Office of Research Integrity provided funding to conduct outcome assessment of the P.I. Program and to compare participants to a national sample of researchers (ORIIR140007). We thank Tessa Gauzy, the former P.I. Program Coordinator, for her assistance in preparing data for this paper; our P.I. Program participants, who permitted use of their data for this paper; and all the members of the “RePAIR” program development team, who are listed on the program website,

Note: In 2017, this relationship was terminated by BRANY, which acquired the CITI Program from the University of Miami.

The P.I. Program recently established a partnership with the CITI Program at the University of Miami (CITI). CITI will serve as a program sponsor, coordinating the collection of program fees, providing P.I. Program participants with access to tailored refresher training on specific topics, and assisting in the promotion of the P.I. Program. We thank Dr. Paul Braunschweiger for championing this new partnership.

The P.I. Program will continue to be administered through Washington University in St. Louis and staffed by faculty from Washington University and Saint Louis University. All P.I. Program workshops for 2015 will be offered in St. Louis on the campus of Washington University School of Medicine.

James M. DuBois, ScD, PhD, Director of the P.I. Program, was lead author on a paper that received a 2014 Professionalism Article Prize from the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). The paper, titled “A Humble Task: Restoring Virtue in an Age of Conflicted Interests,” was published in Academic Medicine. The ABIM Foundation created this prize to recognize and encourage scholarship that advances medical professionalism.

HRP6-13The Health Improvement Institute bestowed is Annual Award for Innovation on the Professionalism and Integrity in Research Program for its “P.I. Program Workshop”.

Awards are given for demonstrated excellence in promoting the well-being of people who participate in research. Judges are drawn from academic, compliance, consulting, health services, legal, and research review organizations.


James DuBois, P.I. Program Director, received a grant from the U.S. Office of Research Integrity to develop assessment instruments, validate the assessments with a diverse sample of 700 researchers working in the U.S., and use them for P.I. Program assessment. Within the P.I. Program, all assessment will be formative—that is, used for educational purposes to provide feedback to participants. P.I. Program faculty—John Chibnall, Raymond Tait, and Jillon Vander Wal—will serve as co-investigators, with Michael Mumford serving as a consultant to the project.

Individuals who have used P.I. Program Workshop services offered the following testimonials. They are de-identified for obvious reasons.


From Workshop participants:

“This is a great program for anyone interested in learning new organizational and leadership skills for the high-paced, usually very stressful work that is academic research.”

“The facilitators are often profound about your specific situation–that often leads to positive outcomes for you.”

“The P.I. Program offers a well-balanced curriculum, with the small group discussion format being particularly informative. The program emphasizes on how to effectively conduct responsible research in the future. It allows the instructors and the participants to discuss critical issues in a positive environment. And it also enables the participants to exchange ideas among themselves and learn from each others. It is a high-quality education course which has improved my knowledge as an effective researcher.”

“The P.I. Program is a terrific learning experience led by compassionate and competent investigators.”

“At the time I came to the course, I was demoralized and convinced that I would be stuck in my situation indefinitely. It was such a relief to find the course was a place to dispassionately examine the factors that led up to problems, realize the roles played by myself and others, and to plan out how I could change constructively to accommodate the institution.”

“I found the course really helped me at a time when I was despairing that I might not be able to return to research. The focus on exploring how each participant entered into their particular dilemma was very informative. All the course staff really seemed to focus on helping the participants get through and beyond their difficulties.”

From a Referring Institutional Official:

“I will unequivocally state that the program has done exactly what it is intended in our case. The P.I. in question is now very much aware of and ardently following through with the responsibilities that come with a substantial federal grant. Different as night and day over the last few months – we’ll see if it keeps up but very happy so far.”

A growing body of evidence suggests that standard RCR (responsible conduct of research) instruction does not prevent wrongdoing or improve behavior or ethical reasoning—in fact, it may make behavior worse.

Antes and colleagues1 tested participants who were enrolled in 40 different RCR courses. They found that ethical decision making did not improve. In fact, participants’ business decisions got worse, and they were less likely to seek help or consider others’ perspectives. They were also more likely to support inappropriate responses, such as deception and retaliation.

Anderson and colleagues received surveys from nearly 1500 early-career scientists and found that training in research ethics was positively associated with problematic behavior surrounding data.2

Kornfeld examined Office of Research Integrity reports on 146 individuals found guilty of research misconduct. He determined that “these acts of misconduct were the results of individual psychological traits and the circumstances in which the researchers found themselves.

Therefore, a course in research misconduct, such as is now federally mandated, should not be expected to have a significant effect.”3 The P.I. Program is based on a fundamentally different model of fostering professionalism in research. We draw from the best available data in the fields of cognitive, social, and organizational psychology to help researchers operate professionally in today’s complex environments.


  1. Antes AL, Wang X, Mumford MD, Brown RP, Connelly S, Devenport LD. Evaluating the effects that existing instruction on responsibility conduct of research has on ethical decision making. Academic Medicine. 2010;85(3):519-526.
  2. Anderson MS, Horn AS, Risbey KR, Ronning EA, De Vries R, Martinson BC. What do mentoring and training in the responsible conduct of research have to do with scientists’ misbehavior? Findings from a national survey of NIH-funded scientists. Academic Medicine: Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Sep 2007;82(9):853-860.
  3. Kornfeld DS. Perspective: Research Misconduct: The Search for a Remedy. Academic Medicine: Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Jul 2012;87(7):877-882.

Washington University in St. Louis