Quality and Integrity @ LUMC – new job, new projects

A lot has happened in the last six months. It all started with moving from Berlin back to my Alma Mater in Leiden, but also shifting from a group leader in neurovascular epidemiology to a position as leader of the program Quality and Integrity of Biomedical Research. This program is a combined effort of the department of clinical epidemiology as well as the directorate of research policy, both at the LUMC. The goal of the program is both to understand and improve the quality of research. The tools of the trade will be research-on-research on one side and policymaking on the other – with the combination being our secret weapon.

The projects

Over the last six months a lot of ideas have already taken shape. Here are some examples:

  • Retractors and retractees– in this project, in collaboration with the people at retraction watch and the CWTS, we will look not only at just the retracted articles but also at the people behind the retractions, the “retractors and the retractees”.
  • Research on researchers – a lot of meta-research is based on publications and other “made to look good” output. This approach leaves the actual process during the research relatively untouched. I am looking to change that – meta-research should go from research on published research to research on researchers. This idea is also similar to the retractees project which focuses on the individual behind the retraction.
  • Understanding misconduct – in this project I will collect the decisions of all committees for scientific misconduct active in the Netherlands. By collecting these and subsequently making them available, we can not only measure the variability of the decisions, understand patterns over time, but also help to standardize future decisions and rulings.
  • Cohort of PhD students – All LUMC Ph.D. candidates enroll in this graduate school, and with ~150-200 Ph.D. candidates per year. I think this is the biggest graduate school in the university. I want to build a cohort of Ph.D. students, to follow their successes over time, and improve the way we train and prepare these young scientists for a future in science. I am also looking forward to building some much-needed training modules on the topic of quality and integrity.
  • Redesigning IRBs @ LUMC – When you do research in the Netherlands, there are various laws and guidelines that have to adhere to. An independent committee that looks at your research plans before you actually start is needed. The current system at the LUMC is outdated, and I have the task to help redesign the system.

The people

The last six months have also given me the opportunity to slowly build a team again. I have written about building a team before, with some lessons I drew from my experiences from starting my new job in Berlin six years ago. That time, I took over a team. This time, I am starting from scratch.

I will run the team together with FRR from the clinical epi, and JT from the directorate of research. I am quite happy with ALL, who is a young and bright Ph.D. student on the team. She will be working with me on most of the projects mentioned above, specifically the retractors project. Other Ph.D. students from the department are also likely to join the QI for a project, as an addition to their own research. The same will go for various colleagues of the department, outside the department outside the LUMC, or even outside the university (some old colleagues at QUEST come to mind).

I am now supervising two students (AdK and LP), both on the retractees projects. I am keen to have two to four students on at any given time working on either the research side or the policy side of things.  If you are a student looking for an interesting project, don’t be afraid to get in touch!

The Dreams for the future

One big dream of mine is to organize some summer labs: bring a group of roughly 10 young minds together into one room to tackle a problem within 4-6 weeks, pressure cooker style. I hope that this summer will be my first edition, but I am unsure if this is a realistic idea given the direction of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Netherlands.

Another ultimate dream is to build up a network, both within the LUMC and within the university, not unlike what we did with BEMC. Not just a social network for drinks, or a network of peers to learn from best practices, but a network that can help change policy for the better and both broaden and deepen research projects.

The other stuff

I will continue to work with some collaborators in the neurovascular field (both in Leiden and at the CSB). Some general epidemiological projects might also just find their way on my desk, but to make the best out of QI, I will need to focus. The only thing I now need to learn is to say “no” more often.