Army maintains 'highest ethical standards' for human research program

June 14, 2016

By Joyce M. Conant, ARL Public Affairs

Story Highlights

  • ARL human subjects research meets the highest requirements of AHRPO
  • Command engagement and education is critical to success of program
  • IRB is responsible for reviewing all nonexempt human subject research

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (June 6, 2016) -- The Army takes extraordinary precautions to maintain the highest ethical standards when using humans in research studies.

Recently the Army Human Research Protections Office conducted its tri-annual review of U.S. Army Research Laboratory programs.

The laboratory's Human Research Protection Program conducts many studies throughout the year using human subjects. The audits ensure ARL research meets the highest requirements and provides the Army and DOD assurance allowing ARL to conduct human subject research.

ARL's Dr. Laurel Allender, director of the Human Research and Engineering Directorate and the ARL Institutional Official, is responsible for the program, which is managed by Theresa Straut, human protection administrator. The program is not only a function of HRED, but all of ARL. "This program is designed to review and provide oversight of ARL studies that involve human subjects," Straut said. "The program is a vital part of our business practices and provides a thorough research review, training and education, and monitoring. The protection of our volunteers is essential."

As part of the HRPP, Straut manages the Institutional Review Board, or IRB, which is made up of two co-chairs, nine scientific and nonscientific members and a number of qualified alternates. Most of the members are from ARL and its field offices and includes military personnel, the safety office, and members from the U.S. Army Public Health Center. The IRB is responsible for reviewing all nonexempt human subject research.

Robb Altenburg from ARL's safety office has been a non-technical member of the board for more than four years and this will be his second time taking part in an audit.

"Theresa has brought a lot of awareness to the program since she took it over and has ensured the committee integrate with safety better than in the past," Altenburg said. "It is crucial to monitor and ensure compliance with best practices, laws and standards when it comes to the protection of human subjects in research."

Col. Molly Klote, director of the AHRPO, provided a briefing outlining the Army's upcoming regulatory changes related to human subject research protections. This included governing regulations, background for change, changes to Army Regulation 70-25, alignment of other research regulations, and Research Development and Engineering Command-specific issues.

In summary, Klote said the AHRPO exists to facilitate compliance at the command and local level and they work to build community among the human protection administrators.

"Command engagement and education is critical to the success of this program," Klote said.

Straut said the results of the audit were positive and ARL's assurance was renewed for an additional three years.

"Programs such as this are absolutely critical to our mission and we must ensure we are executing our mission for the Army," said Dr. Phil Perconti, acting-director of ARL. "I commend the work of the Human Research Protection Program and the IRB to ensure ARL continues to be in compliance."

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.


Last Update / Reviewed: June 14, 2016