As the director of the Human Research Protection Program (HRPP), Barbara DeCausey will play a vital role in ensuring the safety and compliance of ethical human research as part of Scholarly Integrity and Research Compliance (SIRC).

As the university embarks on its next phase of growth, including the integration of the new medical school and expansion in life and health sciences, a professional with DeCausey’s experience is critical to facilitate and support ethical and compliant research at Virginia Tech.

“It’s a really exciting time to come aboard,” said DeCausey. “The program is growing to support Virginia Tech’s goal of becoming a top global research university. Everyone is committed to this growth. It’s very exciting coming into a position with this in mind.”

DeCausey will oversee the growth of a robust, university-wide human research protection program. She will lead a team of professionals experienced in Institutional Review Board (IRB) protocol development and review, provide support to the IRB committee, and coordinate with other units around campus to protect human volunteers in research.

Perhaps most importantly, she has the mandate to reimagine the role of the HRPP at Virginia Tech, updating and streamlining the ways the university approaches human subject-based research.

“Ethical decision making and protection of human research participants is every investigator’s responsibility, and we are working to align the purpose and processes of the HRPP to support Virginia Tech investigators in executing this responsibility,” said Lisa M. Lee, associate vice president for research and innovation and director of SIRC.

To facilitate this, DeCausey believes the best strategy for supporting researchers is communication. “The most important thing to do is to ensure everyone knows what is expected so that there are few misunderstandings,” she said. By educating researchers about their responsibilities toward research participants and keeping in constant communication about regulations and protocol development, the university is able to keep its research initiatives compliant and of outstanding quality.

Communication with potential research subjects is also critical. “We must ensure that people who choose to participate as research subjects understand the risks and benefits of their participation. They must know that the investigators have minimized the risks and maximized the potential benefits to the extent possible, and that there are regulatory processes in place meant to protect them,” said DeCausey.

DeCausey comes to Virginia Tech after a decade of management experience with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. For five years, she served as the director of the Human Research Protections Office, and most recently as the deputy chief for the Tuberculosis Clinical Research Branch, which manages the international Tuberculosis Trials Consortium. She has managed staff, directed business operations, and worked closely with investigators to develop human subject research protocols. Her focus has been on ensuring ethical and compliant research both nationally and internationally.

DeCausey said she is “thrilled to join the Virginia Tech family, and eager to work with the faculty and HRPP to facilitate ethical and compliant research.”

DeCausey and her team can be contacted by email at IRB@vt.edu or by visiting with HRPP staff during office hours at locations across the university. Please see the main SIRC webpage for more information on locations, dates, and times.