The field of human subject protection is behind the curve in terms of planning for its future. When you look around IRB offices on campuses and hospitals, often there aren’t many younger professionals ready to assume leadership positions once their predecessors retire.

It is this problem that has prompted HRP Consulting Group, Inc. (HRP) to take an active role in getting human research protection programs around the country to think more critically about how they develop the next generation of IRB professionals. The kickoff to these activities was the formation of LinkedIn group sponsored by HRP, titled, IRB Professionals: The Next Generation.

The mission of the group is to bring together younger IRB professionals to discuss issues and challenges facing tomorrow’s leaders in human subject protection. Through the group’s activities, HRP hopes to achieve enough interest from younger IRB professionals to begin meeting at national conferences such as PRIM&R and AAHRPP. “From there”, says Christina Palleschi, HRP’s Director of Operations and member of the LinkedIn Group, “we hope that organizations such as PRIM&R and AAHRPP will identify with the urgency of this cause and make succession planning an important part of their conference activities and respective missions moving forward.”

The problem of succession planning is twofold. On one hand, there is an issue of incentives. There has to be enough incentive for younger IRB professionals to make a career in the field of human subject protection a long-term priority. Alavy Sos, a member of the LinkedIn group says that, “You need to know that there is a career ladder in place and enough financial progression along the way to make IRB work worthwhile. If finances weren’t an issue, I would do this work for free. However, given the current economic state and increased cost of living, it’s unrealistic to think that the work itself can sustain me forever.”

On the other hand, IRB offices and human research protection programs need to take a more business-like approach to succession planning. They need to start identifying younger talent within their ranks and placing these individuals in more intensive mentoring programs so that they can develop the core competencies of running an IRB office or human research protection program.

“If both facets of the succession problem are not addressed, then IRB offices and human research protection programs will be certain to suffer from a knowledge deficit once the current leadership moves on”, says Jeff Cohen Principal/CEO of the HRP Consulting Group.

Cheryl Savini, Principal/COO of the HRP Consulting Group says that there are some simple steps that you can take to begin tackling the problem of succession planning. “If you are a younger IRB professional, go to your supervisors and express your interest in staying in the field of human subject protection. Talk to them about the kinds of things that you can do to develop your qualifications and competencies. If you are in a leadership position now, begin identifying your younger talent and mentoring them for the future.”

HRP encourages younger professionals to take the first step in getting involved in the succession planning conversation by joining the LinkedIn group. HRP also hopes to begin forming a network of experienced IRB professional and members of the human subject protection community who would like to mentor up and coming talent in the field.