Bioethics Blogs

The Joy of Networking

by Rebecca S. Ohnemus, MAA, CRA, research officer at University of the Incarnate Word

When it’s your first time attending a professional conference, things can feel… well… overwhelming. There are few (if any) familiar faces. Everyone else seems to know where they are going, while there you are: walking up the wrong staircase—bewildered—and getting frowns from the convention center staff.

The first friends I made at the PRIM&R 2014 Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference were during the Common Ground Networking Lunch. While wandering around, trying to find a seat, I ended up taking an empty spot at a table for those at governmental agencies. The people already seated were warm, welcoming, and immediately waved off my concern that I didn’t work at a similar institution.

I knew my seating choice was fate when the woman to my right peeked at my badge and said, “San Antonio! I’m from San Antonio, too!” We chatted for a while, talked about the types of projects that were common at our institutions, the challenges of implementing new systems, and (of course) how much warmer the weather was in Texas.

When we said our goodbyes, we promised to keep in touch, continue to share our experiences, and help build a collaborative relationship between our institutions. Little did we know, within two months we would be working together.

This started, as most of my adventures do, with a panicked phone call from an investigator: “Rebecca, what’s a Federalwide Assurance? Do we have one of those? What about an IRB number? Or do we just have an IRB, but not a number?”

After answering the questions, I asked, “So, whatcha working on?”

Anyone who has ever asked that question braces for a few different possibilities, ranging from a quick reply to being invited to work on the project.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.