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University earns AAHRPP accreditation

Binghamton University has become the first school in the SUNY system to earn accreditation for its human subjects protection program from the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs, Inc. (AAHRPP).

AAHRPP is a nonprofit, peer-driven educational model of accreditation for organizations engaged in research involving human participants. The association works with organizations that conduct human research to raise the level of protection for research participants and to promote ethically sound research.

“Binghamton University has built a reputation as an outstanding institution with state-of-the-art research activities and facilities carried out by excellent faculty, students and staff,” said Gerald Sonnenfeld, vice president for research. “AAHRPP accreditation assures our excellence in human research studies and reflects our commitment to responsible, high-quality research.”

The accreditation process took more than two years, said Raymond Romanczyk, chairman of the Human Subjects Research Review Committee, and featured “extreme detail” to documentation of policies and procedures.

Three AAHRPP officials visited the University and conducted a review that included interviews with committee members and researchers and examinations of meeting minutes and how research proposals are evaluated, Romanczyk said.

The accreditation took effect in March and lasts for three years.

“It’s equivalent to the Good Housekeeping seal of approval,” said Romanczyk, who is also director of the Institute for Child Development and a professor of psychology. “What it means to the campus community, the local community and those who participate in and conduct research is that we have met the standards of the highest accrediting body in the country. It is beneficial to researchers on campus because this level is acknowledged by granting agencies.”

The Human Subjects Research Review Committee meets once a month and includes volunteer representatives from the campus and community. Researchers are asked to write non-technical descriptions of their work and what will be asked of human subjects. Everything from medical research to student surveys must be reviewed if they involve humans, Romanczyk said, adding that the committee’s final decision cannot be overturned.

“The most important thing about the committee is that it’s not peer review,” he said. “It’s not researchers evaluating the research of someone submitting a grant. This is designed to say: Does the research provide undue risk or harm for human subjects who will participate?”

Romanczyk emphasized that the University received a note of distinction from
AAHRPP for the cooperation and interaction between campus researchers and the committee.

Romanczyk also praised the work of the committee members during the accreditation process. He pointed to Anne Casella, administrator of the Human Subjects Research Review Office, as the person who took the process from initial discussion to final submission.

“One needs virtually an encyclopedic memory and cross-referencing of this constant barrage of regulations,” he said.

To date, 175 organizations representing more than 830 entities have earned AAHRPP accreditation. Forty-two percent of the nation’s research-intensive universities and 36 percent of U.S. medical schools are now accredited.

“The accreditation of Binghamton University, Utah State University and the University of California-Riverside, as well as Pfizer, attests to the importance of protecting research participants at all universities and in industry, as well,” AAHRPP President and CEO Marjorie A. Speers said in announcing the accreditations.

Binghamton earned its accreditation on the first attempt, Romanczyk said, adding that it is a result of the University’s research growth.

“It’s a tough club to belong to,” he said of AAHRPP. “It’s a pat on the back to get it on the first try. It reflects the tremendous work that went into making sure all of our policies and procedures were in place and working before we attempted this. We really wanted to get it right the first time.”

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