SOAR discussed ethical research practices

SOAR discussed ethical research practices

CW File

Faculty and graduate students from the University of Alabama met this Tuesday to hear from the community-based participatory research (CBPR) project known as SOAR  Sharing Opinions and Advice about Research. Three leaders of the project - faculty members JoAnn Oliver, Rebecca Allen, and Christopher Spencer - addressed faculty and graduate students from the Nursing School, School of Social Work, and others, on how to ethically conduct research.

SOAR spoke with their audience on their methods of establishing relationships with communities in Alabama. They discussed their origin and how they worked to grow communication with representatives in both Sumter and Holt County. 

“It’s a big deal that the University of Alabama came to them, a lot of rural people view themselves as second class citizens,” said Oliver, a nursing professor.

They explained that in setting up this communication, they created a Project Advisory Council for each county. The councils were made up of representatives from the community, varying in social class, race, and gender to ensure the best representation. They argued that this works best for determining what will work in one community verses another.

“The community is powerful," said Spencer, director of resource development in the Division of Community Affairs. "We can’t do it without the community," 

Beyond just talking about ethical treatment, the group reminded their audience of the growth in ethical research in the past hundred years. Audience members were asked to line up with pieces of paper about different historical incidents and line up when ethical progress occurred. From the Nuremberg Code to the modern Common Rule, the audience was reminded of these and how we must continue to strive for the most ethical treatment possible.

All three project leaders stressed the involvement in communities. They said researchers to not be afraid of going into the communities, and to just be honest and build trust with the people. 

“Building that relationship is hard work," Oliver said, noting that the community needs to be empowered to speak their minds. 

While they addressed primarily graduate students and faculty, Oliver, Allen, and Spencer said their goal is to get undergraduate students involved too. 

“The goal is to get as many people involved as possible, it impacts students too, not just faculty," said Allen, a professor in psychology.  

Over time, they plan to expand their operations to eleven additional counties through their partner, The Blackbelt Community Foundation.

For more information about their work, visit their Facebook page @SOARwithUA.

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