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Hosting a Research Ethics and Integrity Conference in Sucre, Bolivia

The UMRPSXFCH Rector makes a toast at the closing ceremony to thank Touro University California and our Academic Partnership

I am a Public Health Professor at Touro University California (TUC), a university that proudly supports my global health work in Bolivia. Since 2018, I have partnered with Scarley Martinez, who is a research professor at the College of Biochemistry, Universidad Mayor, Real, y Pontificia de San Francisco Xavier de Chuquisaca (UMRPSXFCH) , to ensure the work being done in Bolivia is as impactful, applicable, and conducted ethically. With the support of the Sustaining Technical and Analytic Resources (STAR) Project’s Collaboration Laboratory grant, Scarley and I are working together to establish an Institutional Review Board (IRB) at UMRPSXFC. This committee will review research proposals for universal ethical requirements to protect research participants. As part of our academic partnership, in March 2020, we hosted a research ethics conference with national, regional, and international experts for Bolivian students, faculty, and researchers. The conference highlighted key ethical components for research proposals and outlined important areas for research integrity including plagiarism and conflicts of interest. There were over 200 students, faculty, and researchers at the conference. The organizers also celebrated the occasion with a question-and-answer session for committee members and a cultural show for the out-of-town visitors.

Left to right: The key conference organizers were Debie Lam (TUC student), Scarley Martinez, Sarah Sullivan, and Abigail Nina (IRB community member) Image: The cultural show featured traditional dancers at the luncheon for the out-of-town conference guests

University Rector and Vice-Rector Praise the Collaboration and Conference

Scarley and I have worked together for several years in the area of research and research ethics. With STAR’s Collaboration Laboratory guidance and support, we outlined steps to develop an Institutional Review Board at UMRPSXFCH. A key part of project success will be getting the university authorities “on board” to promote the new committee. The university Rector and Vice-Rector, similar to a university’s President and Vice-President, are the main decision makers. So, we were excited to hear the Rector’s comments at the closing ceremony: “…this partnership is not just monetary support but also an academic support for our university.” At the official ceremonies, both the Rector and Vice-Rector expressed their gratitude for the conference and their enthusiastic support for a new research ethics committee at UMRPSXFCH.

The UMRPSXFCH Rector makes a toast at the closing ceremony to thank Touro University California and our Academic Partnership

Restructuring University Research Infrastructure

Currently, UMRPSXFCH is reorganizing its research infrastructure, and the new IRB committee, will be an important component of the new structure. Under the new system, research proposals will require the committee’s approval before getting university sponsorship. New committee members will participate in an online course on research ethics and research integrity and practice case studies to review research protocols. At the end of the project, the Universidad Mayor, Real, y Pontificia de San Francisco Xavier de Chuquisaca will approve the IRB members, policies, and procedures, within the university research infrastructure, and UMRPSXFCH will have an officially recognized working IRB!

The UMRPSXFCH Rector joins the future IRB members and conference expert speakers


Promoting ethical research in low-and-middle-income countries is an exciting and rewarding project. By establishing an IRB at the Universidad Mayor, Real, y Pontificia de San Francisco Xavier de Chuquisaca, it will promote quality research, encourage international collaborations, improve UMRPSXFCH university rankings, and ultimately help protect future research participants! Please follow the new Research Ethics Committee on Facebook, and get more involved with research ethics by following international organizations like the Nuffield Council on Bioethics , the Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R), the Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED) and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Health Ethics. Join the conversation on Twitter with #researchethics, #globalhealth, #investigaciónética, and #saludglobal and tag us at @TouroCalifornia.

About the Author
Sarah Sullivan is a Global Health professional and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP). Ms. Sullivan has over 20 years of global health experience working in Mozambique, Angola, East Timor, Bangladesh, and Bolivia for organizations such as CARE International, USAID, and WHO and teaching at universities. Ms. Sullivan is currently working as an Associate Professor, Chair of the Global Health Concentration at Touro University California, College of Health Science and Education, Public Health program. Professor Sullivan’s research focuses on research ethics, digital health, human resources for health, and maternal and child health (MCH). Sarah Sullivan is a Fulbright Scholar and supports research ethics programs in public universities in Bolivia. She also has considerable experience working in health clinics as a PNP in the Bay Area serving low-income populations. Sarah Sullivan has a Master of Science in International Cross-Cultural Nursing and a Master of Public Health with a specialty in Maternal and Child Health (MCH) and International Health from the University of California, San Francisco and University of California, Berkeley.