RESEARCH

 

Dual-Career Couples on the Academic Job Market​ (2021-2024)

I've recently been awarded a 3-year grant from the National Science Foundation—“Partnering Through It: Building a Research Base for Dual-Career Academics”—that is focused on university hiring practices for and job market experiences of dual-career academics. With long-time research collaborator Prof. Torin Monahan, this Co-PI project will empirically investigate researchers’ perceptions of dual-career academic job searches and the effects of university partner-hire policies upon their research productivity and career advancement, while also documenting the formal policies and mechanisms used by universities to support dual-career hires. Leveraging the empirical findings, the project will culminate in the publication of an online “scorecard” of the dual-career-friendly status of all research-intensive universities in the US, along with an accompanying report for university officials and academic associations. The scorecard in particular is intended to serve as an intervention to nudge universities into adopting more partner- and family-friendly policies to correct gender, race, and other inequities in faculty hiring and retention.

Food Allergy Clinical Trials (2020-2022)

I have launched a new qualitative research project focused on clinical trials for food allergies, especially peanut allergy. Funded by the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases (NIAID), this two-year project is called “Exploring the Ethical Dimensions of Peanut Allergy Immunotherapy Research.” Using ethnographic research methods, the project investigates the on-the-ground ethical challenges that emerge in these clinical trials. In particular, the project explores how stakeholders—investigators, caregivers, adolescents, patient advocates, FDA officers, and pharmaceutical company representatives—define and understand acceptable risks and benefits from food allergy treatments, both in terms of research protocols and the eventual products to be used in clinical practice. The project’s empirical findings will then be mobilized to develop a framework for the ethical conduct of peanut allergy clinical trials that attends to the myriad interests that drive biomedical research, including the search for therapies that meaningfully improve the lives of children with food allergies, the need to design and conduct clinical trials to meet the regulatory standards required by the FDA for the approval of products, and the commercial context in which investigators and companies have financial conflicts of interest that motivate the successful development of new therapies. 

 

Healthy Volunteer Clinical Trials (2012-2022)

With funding from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), I conducted a five-year qualitative study designed to explore the participation of healthy volunteers in Phase I clinical trials. We called the project HealthyVOICES or “Healthy Volunteers On their Involvement and Clinical Experiences in Studies.” Rather than simply focus on why healthy people decide to participate in clinical trials, this project examined how these individuals participate in Phase I trials. Our primary questions were:

 

  • How do healthy people view and assess the risks and benefits of participating in Phase I studies?

  • How do they decide which studies to enroll in and which ones to avoid?

  • How does their identification as “serial participants,” professional “guinea pigs,” or “lab rats” influence their behavior, including how they take care of their bodies?

 

We enrolled 180 healthy volunteers with different levels of experience participating in Phase I studies. Over the course of a three-year period, they participated in five interviews and maintained “clinical trial diaries” (CTDs), surveys recording their ongoing participation in Phase I studies. These two sources of data allowed us to compare how they talk about their clinical trial activity in their semi-structured interviews with their actual behavior as represented by their CTDs. More details about the design of this research study can be found here.

 

For more information, please visit the HealthyVOICES Project website.

 

 

Continuing this line of research, we created the Comparative Model Organism Research Ethics (CMORE) for Healthy Volunteers project to develop a novel evidence-based approach to the protection of Phase I healthy volunteers. The project has the following aims:

 

  • Describe and normatively evaluate the limitations of current research oversight in Phase I trials by analyzing data on healthy volunteers’ perceptions of clinical trials, including through a non-human animal research “model organism” lens;

  • Compare the ways in which Phase I researchers, non-human animal researchers, bioethicists and policymakers, regulatory and research oversight staff, and healthy volunteers conceptualize: a.) similarities and differences between healthy volunteer and non-human animal research and b.) ethical, policy, and translational science problems particular to each arena; and

  • Develop ethics and policy guidance for Phase I healthy volunteer research that a.) extrapolates from the model organism framework, b.) is attentive to the structural features of Phase I research, and c.) is vetted by expert stakeholders.

 

For more information, please visit the CMORE Project website.