Union Graduate College (UGC), in partnership with Vilnius University, currently offers a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Fogarty International Center (FIC)-supported graduate level online/onsite advanced certificate program to build research ethics capacity in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Now in its eighth year, by the end of the current funding cycle this program will have graduated 54 "fellows" from 17 countries: Belarus, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Romania, Russia, and the Ukraine. Additionally, six graduates will have received additional training and education in research ethics (a Master's of Science in Bioethics) through the Bioethics Program of Union Graduate College and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine (MSSM). Fellow and alumni accomplishments of note include: the establishment of a national bioethics center in Poland;the creation of new research ethics committees at several institutions, including the first such committee in Moldova;numerous peer-reviewed manuscripts and papers in research ethics;the development of new courses in research ethics and scientific integrity;and new online resources in research ethics, including publicly available courses in various local languages. The UGC-Vilnius partnership is applying for a five-year extension to train an additional 30 fellows and to support the network of 53 alumni in their efforts to develop and strengthen research ethics infrastructure at home. Select fellows and alumni will also continue to have opportunities to: 1) obtain additional training and education in research ethics (the MS in Bioethics);2) serve as mentors for future fellows;and 3) accept positions as faculty in the Union-Vilnius program. The current program will also be changed to: 1) revise and update the curriculum in response to external and internal reviews;2) increase recruitment and retention of fellows from underrepresented countries;3) provide additional support to alumni by way of in-country grants and additional pedagogical training;and 4) strengthen existing relationships with other FIC-sponsored programs, such as the New York State International Training and Research Program (NYS-ITRP).
The recent growth of clinical trials to the post-Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia illustrates the need to develop research ethics capacity and infrastructure in that region. Failing to do so put the 400 million residents of the region at risk;their safety and their rights as research subjects are likely to b compromised unless there is a robust system of regulatory review and oversight. In this proposal, Union Graduate College (US) and Vilnius University (Lithuania) will work together to train a cadre of fellows from this region to function independently as research ethicists, educators, and advocates.
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