To err is human, after all. Graphic by Miguel Tovar/University of Houston

To comply is to obey, or conform to instruction or official requirements. In a perfect world, research non-compliance wouldn’t occur and following the rules would be a behavioral norm. But the reality is, to err is human.

To err is human

Often times the judgement of our own, and others, poor decision-making is rooted in the innate tendency to view things in black or white – categorizing behaviors as either right or wrong, good or bad, thus deeming them as either ethical or unethical.

But this way of thinking often conflicts with the gray world in which we exist. So what happens when research decisions land somewhere in the moral gray area?

Before answering, here are two situations to consider that involve the over-enrollment of research participants:

Case 1:
The IRB has approved a survey for 40 subjects. The PI realizes after the survey has been open for several weeks that she forgot to set a participant limit within the survey program and 60 subjects have completed the survey.

Case 2:

A study involving a new drug to control diabetes symptoms is approved to enroll 30 participants. The study doctor thinks the drug may be beneficial, so she continues enrolling, for a total of 80 subjects.

The devil is in the details

Why is over-enrollment of subjects considered non-compliance?

Many institutions have agreed, within their assurance to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to apply the Common Rule to all human subjects research, whether the research is funded or not.

The Common Rule regulations found at 45 CFR 46.109(a) and 45 CFR 46.111 (1) state that the IRB shall review and have authority to approve, require modifications in (to secure approval), or disapprove all research activities. This includes the maximum number of research .

And what must the IRB review?

Under the above regulatory requirements, the IRB must evaluate all instances of non-compliance.

In these cases of over-enrollment, the IRB must review the number of subjects over-enrolled and assess any potential effects on additional subjects and/or the research, as well as determine if the noncompliant data may be used for research purposes.

What UH IRB says about Case 1:

While over-enrollment in a survey seems low-risk, depending on the content of the survey questions, the IRB could determine the issue to be more serious, such as for a study collecting data related to illegal substance use or questions about traumatic events (legal or psychological harm). The IRB must ensure that risks to subjects are minimized; only the number of subjects needed to statistically justify the research are approved. Depending on the number of subjects over-enrolled and the time period over which they participated, the non-compliance could also be considered continuing.

What UH IRB says about Case 2:

Investigational drug studies often pose more than minimal risk of harm to subjects. In these studies, it is even more critical to ensure that additional subjects are not exposed to potential harms without scientific justification

In a drug study, the PI may not continue a study based on opinion; the reason a physician is blinded to treatment assignment in many drug studies is to avoid potential bias.

Finding non-compliance: What can you do?

If the number of subjects enrolled exceeds the number approved by the IRB, a finding of non-compliance is justified. The IRB will review the numbers, the Principal Investigator’s reasons for over-enrollment and assess what procedures were conducted in these subjects. Often over-enrollment is inadvertent, however the committee also has the ultimate authority to determine whether the data may be used for research purposes.

Corrective actions, such as continuing education of the PI and/or study team to ensure this issue does not occur again in the future, are often required. In the most serious cases, the IRB may suspend or terminate approval.

If the non-compliance rises to the level of being serious (harms or has the potential to harm subjects or others) and/or continuing in nature, it must be reported to federal oversight agencies such as the Health and Human Services Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) and the FDA. These agencies ensure that the institution is monitoring for these activities and puts appropriate fixes in place.

The importance of intetrity

Non-compliant research can be due to inadvertent errors or deliberate acts of noncompliance. The results could be the same. Human subjects could be harmed. Funding and reputation at an institution conducting research could be negatively affected. In times of reduced federal funding for basic research, there are direct financial costs to the agencies when funds and resources are misused.

The responsibility of ensuring that research protocols are adhered to rests upon the shoulders of the researchers involved.

If you were a member on the IRB, what would you consider to be appropriate consequences for the PI in these situations?

It’s important to note that non-compliance, whether it’s a “little white lie/inadvertent error” or a deliberate violation of the approved protocol can undermine the integrity of both the research process and the academic research enterprise.

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This article originally appeared on the University of Houston's The Big Idea. Nitiya Spearman, the author of this post, is the internal communications coordinator for the UH Division of Research.

Managers can nurture creativity, even in workers who appear less creative, by building a supportive environment. Image via Pexels

Workplaces need to support and encourage creativity, according to Houston research

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Give a kid a toy car, a stuffed bear, or an armful of blocks, and she is off on an imaginative romp, staging epic battles, building palaces or creating new worlds.

Coaxing creativity from adults is more challenging. But if creativity in children develops their spirits, creativity in adults enriches productivity — especially at the office.

It’s simple math. Creativity is where ideas come from; ideas form the basis for innovation. In an increasingly competitive world economy, it’s innovation that allows businesses to survive and thrive. This makes creativity a prized commodity in the job market. For managers, cultivating creativity in their workforce is a crucial professional skill.

Identifying the best circumstances to make creativity bloom is one of the driving questions in a study by Rice Business Professor Jing Zhou and colleague Inga J. Hoever, a professor at the Barcelona School of Management in Spain.

To explore the mystery of creativity, the two scholars first reviewed the hefty body of research by organizational psychologists and management scholars who’ve studied innovation in employees and teams. Most early research in this field, published since 2000, focused on the creativity of the actor — the individual or the team — or else revolved around the work environment.

Current academic research takes a more holistic look. By studying the interaction between the character traits of the worker or the team, the leader or the supervisor, and the prevailing atmosphere at the workplace, researchers are unveiling new insights.

Studies show, for example, that the benefits of benevolent leadership expand when workers recognize creativity as an important component of their role. Not only that, creativity is highest in employees who experience high levels of both positive and negative moods and feel supported by their supervisors. Other research finds that leaders who empower their workers get a greater payback in creativity.

To explore these findings further, Zhou and Hoever developed a typology that sorts out research about workplace creativity based on interactions between the worker (which they call the “actor”) and the workplace (which they call “context”).

The best-case scenario is a positive actor in a positive context, a mix that is synergistic for creativity. Worst case: When a positive actor languishes in a negative context or, similarly, when a negative actor stews in a positive context. At the extreme end of possibility, a negative actor in a negative context is downright antagonistic to creativity, Zhou and Hoever found.

There’s one final type of employee-workplace interaction: the “configurational” experience, which includes factors that are neutral in shaping creativity, but, when combined with other factors, cause a kind of chemical reaction that boosts or blocks creativity.

Zhou’s research serves up some bad news and good news for managers. Choosing and hiring employees who are creative is not enough, it turns out. If your workplace is discouraging, creativity will wither in almost anyone. On the brighter side, cultivate a nurturing environment and creative tendrils may sprout even in the most no-nonsense workers. Best of all, good managers can build a nurturing greenhouse environment. Practically speaking, it means that companies can and should train supervisors to cultivate creativity in their management choices.

Plenty of research gaps remain, however. To fill them, Zhou has outlined an ambitious agenda for future research, including a close look at the impact of workplaces on collective creativity; exploring as-yet unidentified factors in workers and work settings that spark creative thinking; and seeking ways to vanquish the effects of unsupportive environments.

Making creativity happen at work, in other words, isn’t child’s play.

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This article originally ran on Rice Business Wisdom and was based on research from Jing Zhou, the Mary Gibbs Jones Professor of Management and Psychology in Organizational Behavior at the Jones Graduate School of Business of Rice University.

Detractors are suspicious of the anonymity that comes with blockchain technology. Supporters say it's exactly the point. Photo via David McBee/Pexels

Houston expert weighs in on the trustworthiness of cryptocurrency

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Interest in cryptocurrencies reignited during the pandemic, driven in part by trillions of dollars in stimulus money that left many investors with “free money” to put to work. And while bitcoin recently tumbled nearly 55 percent from its peak, it remains the most valuable crypto asset in the world, with a market capitalization of around $589 billion. Its investors argue that it’s still a safer bet than stocks during this period of economic upheaval.

A renewed interest in cryptocurrencies — digital currencies that rely on blockchain technology, in which transactions are verified and records maintained by a decentralized system that uses cryptography — is widespread. Large corporations like Tesla, Mass Mutual and KPMG Canada have announced plans to hold cryptocurrency assets in treasury or accept them as payment. Meanwhile, major financial institutions are offering customers more digital asset investment options. Twelve years after bitcoin’s birth, mainstream investors are honing in on the currency, too.

In the midst of this market fascination, a fundamental question still remains. What exactly is cryptocurrency, and why should we care? And what about other industry buzzwords, like blockchain, decentralized exchanges or non-fungible tokens (NFTs)? Are they all just fads that will fade away?

Some have called cryptocurrency a Ponzi scheme, a tool for illicit activities, or a short-term fascination that will be irrelevant in a few years. It’s an understandable mindset, since there’s no intrinsic value in cryptocurrencies — not unlike the U.S. dollar after it stopped being backed by gold in the 1970s. But it’s also a shortsighted one. Blockchain technology, which allows users to exchange information on a secure digital ledger, is extremely useful because it automates contractual arrangements through computer programming.

I’m a firm believer that cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology that underpins them are here to stay, and understanding how this technology has transformed our environment, and how it will continue to evolve, is critical to succeeding in business.

First steps

Bitcoin took the first major steps towards a truly electronic cash system in 2008, in the midst of one of the worst financial collapses of all time. Governments worldwide were bailing out financial institutions that had been deemed “too big to fail.” Perceptions of economic inequality spurred movements such as Occupy Wall Street, which was fueled by a distrust in banks.

Bitcoin, on the other hand, wasn’t created by a trusted source — in fact, no one knows exactly who invented it. In a 2008 white paper, “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System,” Satoshi Nakamoto — the pseudonymous individual presumed to have developed bitcoin — described the currency as a way to securely facilitate financial transactions between parties without having to involve a central intermediary. No longer would people have to put their trust in the large financial institutions that failed them during the financial crisis.

Detractors find the lack of a central authority with blockchain worrisome, but proponents say it’s exactly the point: You no longer have to trust the person or institution you’re dealing with. You only have to trust the algorithms that run the program — and presumably an algorithm will never run off with your money.

Instead, blockchain enables a cooperative of members to run the shared network ledger required to keep track of a currency’s credits and debits. No one can shut down the system so long as a group of computers anywhere in the world is able to connect to the internet and run bitcoin’s software.

Because of bitcoin, today we can uniquely own digital assets and transfer them with the certainty that people can’t spend the same cryptocurrency twice. The transactions that bitcoin-like applications make possible are registered in permanent and immutable digital records for all to see in a common ledger.

By enabling fast and easily verifiable transactions, blockchain technology is also streamlining business operations in banking, supply chains, sustainability, healthcare and even voting. Development in these sectors and others is continuing at an intense pace. Annual global funding of blockchain projects now runs in the billions of dollars. From 2020 to 2021 alone, it jumped from several billion to nearly $30 billion.

Second generation

Since bitcoin’s arrival, we’ve seen a second, more sophisticated generation of cryptocurrencies evolve, with Ethereum as their flagship. Ethereum has its own programming language, enabling users to write and automate self-executing smart contracts, allowing for the creation of tokens for a specific use. For example, imagine that when Uber was founded, it had created an Uber token, and only people who owned Uber tokens could use the rideshare service. Tokens currently power thousands of decentralized applications that give people more privacy and control in a variety of areas, such as internet browsing, financial services, gaming and data storage, among others.

Some critiques of cryptocurrency remain. One growing concern is that cryptocurrencies require a significant amount of energy to run their networks, leading to higher transaction costs, energy waste and limited scalability. Newer cryptocurrencies are attempting to find ways to verify transactions that require less energy.

Some people also worry about ongoing volatility in cryptocurrency markets. A third generation of cryptocurrencies has emerged to address this concern: so-called “stablecoins,” which are pegged to a government-issued currency, a commodity, assets, or basket of assets. For some, stablecoins are serving as an onramp into the world of crypto from the world of traditional finance.

Before a new technology becomes part of everyday life, we often see a long period of development, improvement and consumer adoption. Cryptocurrency and blockchain markets are still in this early development stage, but they’re also moving quickly into the mainstream. The total market capitalization of cryptocurrencies late last year briefly reached the $3 trillion mark, or roughly 15 percent of the U.S. GDP, and there’s been more than $100 billion locked into decentralized finance applications.

Large companies like IBM, Amazon and Bank of America are leading the way by tapping into blockchain technology in their daily business activities. It won’t be long until this market, previously characterized by speculation and wild volatility, will be transformed into a stable infrastructure framework. But companies need to get up to speed on the industry now. Those that commit to doing so will be the ones that thrive.


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This article originally ran on Rice Business Wisdom and was written by Manolo Sánchez, an adjunct professor of operations management at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University.

When taking research and innovation to the business sector, there are some disclosures you should factor in. Graphic by Miguel Tovar/University of Houston

University of Houston: Navigating compliance in on-campus research and innovation

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Meet Professor Doolittle, a biologist and chair of Genetics at Zoo U.

After studying genetic mutations in small-ear pigs to better understand coat color variation for breed preservation and development, Doolittle and his post-doc invented a genetic test and launched a startup called PigMentation. The post-doctoral co-inventor runs PigMentation’s day-to-day business operations; she receives no salary from PigMentation but receives equity in the company. Doolittle is the chief technology officer. Like many faculty startups, PigMentation licensed the technology from Zoo U to begin commercialization. Due to the fact that the company does not have a laboratory yet to scale the technology, funds were raised by PigMentation to establish a sponsored research agreement with the university to support R&D in Professor Doolittle’s lab on campus. The company ultimately hopes to receive a National Institutes of Health STTR award and subcontract to Zoo U to supplement further development.

In addition, Doolittle received additional research funding from a Hungarian agricultural company to study color variation in a large population of Mangalitsa pigs, the “Kobe Beef of Pork, ” in Hungary. As part of this project, he partnered with an institution in Hungary as part of a collaborative research program that allows U.S. students to work in the lab overseas and Hungarian students to come to the U.S. Before kicking off the project, Doolittle will purchase 1,500 units at $179 per unit from PigMentation to do the first phase of the study.

How many potential disclosures should Professor Doolittle make to Zoo U? How much potential risk does Doolittle present?

  1. External Consulting, Employment and Professional Activities
  2. Pending Relationships
  3. Related Party Interests
  4. Research Conflict of Interest
  5. Conflict of Commitment
  6. Dual Employment
  7. Foreign Influence
  8. Licensing

If you selected every disclosure listed in Professor Doolittle’s case, you are correct. But do you think Doolittle understands each little detail of his scenario and who manages that risk across the university? Is it the research compliance office, contracts and grants, human resources, legal or his department?

And even if he succeeds in disclosing it all, can each individual office manage their part without introducing a certain level of risk to the professor, the university and the funding agency?

Risky business

While Professor Doolittle’s case is complex, it’s not farfetched. Better managing risk for cases like Doolittle’s is top of mind for university compliance operations right now. As the regulatory environment becomes increasingly complex, there is more at stake today than what senior investigators are used to, and that creates risk.

“There are more regulations than in the past, there is more scrutiny. We’re not the same University we were 20 years ago,” said Lauri Ruiz, senior assistant in the University of Houston’s Office of General Counsel. “If researchers have an NIH grant, for example, they have to comply with federal regulations as well as state and institutional regulations.”

In addition to changing and expanding regulations, there is also enhanced enforcement of the rules, said Ruiz, making it critical for universities and their researchers to comply. The problem: It’s hard to know every single detail that needs to be disclosed.

“There are a lot of people with good intentions, but they may not know about the rules,” she said.

And then there’s the matter of doing it.

“Faculty want to do the right thing, but they don’t get around to disclosing it all,” said Kirstin Holzschuh, executive director of Research Integrity and Oversight at UH. “If we know about it, we can manage it before it becomes a problem.”

To complicate the matter, many universities like UH have offices across the institution that manage specific disclosures, making it more difficult for researchers to know what to disclose where.

“Universities tend to be very siloed and faculty get confused about what they have to do to be compliant, ” said Susan Koch, chief compliance officer at UH. “There is a significant need for universities to make a seamless, cohesive process that is easy for faculty to follow.”

According to Koch, Ruiz and Holzschuh, many top research institutions may have this process fixed for faculty, as they have been in the business of major research operations for many years now. For rising universities such as the University of Houston, compliance operations are scrambling to keep up with their university’s rapidly growing research and innovation enterprises — in addition to expanding regulations.

“It would be ideal to have a centralized operation that intakes all disclosures and works with specific university offices to manage certain aspects of a researcher’s case,” said Holzschuh. “But like many institutions, UH does not have the resources to support that kind of operation yet, so we have to find a different solution.”

Holistic risk management

Much like we go to our primary care provider who reviews our overall health before referring us to specialists to solve specific problems, university compliance should work the same way. Centralized compliance management may be the future, but it’s not quite possible for many universities at the moment.

“We have to find a way to move forward in a thoughtful way based on our available resources,” said Koch. “These are compliance challenges that are being discussed across higher education — everyone is trying to make strides in this area.”

To address this challenge at UH, the University has launched a compliance initiative to streamline all university disclosures and ensure that all touchpoints and processes are more understandable for faculty to follow.

Led by Koch, Institutional Compliance teamed with the offices of General Counsel and Research Integrity and Oversight to form a cross-disciplinary committee to consolidate the disclosure intake and management processes, as well as provide institutional training.

“We’re setting up a communication structure so that silos are no longer silos, ” she said.

Specifically, the UH team is working on a multiphased-approach that will involve the development of a user-friendly web portal that will prompt faculty to fill out certain disclosures based on their individual case. The tool will work by taking faculty down a decision tree, triggering a set of actions they need to take. Based on how they answer certain questions, faculty will be directed toward the disclosures they need to file.

“We want to design it in such a way that it is easy for faculty to navigate complex issues,” added Ruiz.

In addition to creating the disclosure portal, the team plans to update disclosure forms, streamline processes and workflows, reevaluate who has oversight, and design education and training to ensure compliance.

“The old paper-based processes don’t work anymore,” said Koch. “People can’t locate what form they need, so our processes need to be advanced.”

And while modernizing and simplifying the process for faculty is a great first step, the team is already thinking about how to better manage the process on the backend in a more centralized manner.

“We’re hoping to eventually have a central repository of disclosed information so that compliance teams across the university have access to the same information,” said Holzschuh. “It’s difficult to manage a case piecemeal, because all of the small details are very interconnected.”

The team will also make a major investment to “up their game” to better educate and communicate with faculty — and all those who support university research, including research staff and leadership.

“We are excited about the portal that will help faculty fill out the forms,” said Holzschuh. “But education is key.”

The big idea

In the coming year, the Professor Doolittles at the University of Houston — and hopefully other institutions across the nation — will better understand what disclosures need to be filed through simple, clear processes, thanks to the hard work and ingenuity of our university compliance teams. This could not be of greater importance, according to Ruiz.

“This just isn’t the university coming up with random things to create roadblocks,” she said. “Non-compliance with federal and state regulations could result in jail time and millions of dollars in penalties sanctioned against the University.”

To be quite frank, it’s in all of our best interest to comply with regulations — and make the processes easy to follow, especially if we want to continue to demonstrate our academic research integrity, keep monies in the university piggy bank and keep our people out of “the pen. “

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This article originally appeared on the University of Houston's The Big Idea. Lindsay Lewis, the author of this piece, formerly served as the executive director of communications for the UH Division of Research.

It’s time to better understand the galaxy of channels we use to shop online and in stores. Photo via Pexels

Houston research: It's time to upgrade how you think about where and how consumers shop

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Back in the Paleolithic Age of online marketing — say, 15 years ago — the idea of online sales as a significant business vehicle for brands such as Target or Walmart was almost unimaginable. Shopping meant going to a store, because stores were where sales happened.

Today, people shop with their computers, via watches and phones, even through their refrigerators. Sellers market on multiple platforms, digital and traditional, including the brick and mortar store. Even the glossy catalogues that arrive in the mail still prompt sales.

Advancing technology has made it possible for consumers to shop not only across a staggering number of channels — but to do so in a constellation of ways. Say a shopper has broken down and decided to buy a wildly popular all-purpose pressure cooker. She might start off using the internet to glean product details and prescreen options. Then she might visit a retail outlet to eyeball the product herself. Finally, after mulling for days, she may impulsively whip out her phone to make the order.

But what determines these particular choices of shopping venues? Rice Business professor Utpal M. Dholakia set out to map this new landscape of consumerism. Joining Dholakia were colleagues Barbara E. Kahn of the Wharton Business School, Randy Reeves of Macy’s Department Stores, Aric Rindfleisch of the University of Wisconsin, David Stewart of the University of California at Riverside and Earl Taylor of the Marketing Science Institute.

Consumer behavior, the researchers knew, is too complex — too all-over-the-map — to develop any sort of quantum marketing theory to explain it. So while interested in answers, the team aimed instead to frame useful questions. Their goal was to bring attention to the multi-channel retailing environment, creating a comprehensive but flexible way to investigate how shoppers navigate the intricate modern marketplace.

More specifically, Dholakia’s team wanted to learn exactly what consumers are finding. What do they do while using various internet and other tools to shop? When do different types of shoppers grab their devices and buy? What obstacles crop up as shoppers wend their ways through this maze of venues? Finally, the researchers wanted to map the vast scope of research issues surrounding this customer behavior.

It was fairly simple to answer the first question: Why do we use such diverse shopping tactics? Usually, it’s about getting the best deal. Some people, however, take their shopping seriously, savoring the idea that they are approaching their task both thoughtfully and thoroughly. Others get a genuine thrill out of the social experience of being part of a community, or from experimenting with different products and ways to buy them. And some shoppers head straight to a certain website or media source because they expect a specific price tag.

Many consumers, Dholakia and his co-researchers found, constantly change the means they use to shop. In one survey of 337 multichannel shoppers, for example, the researchers found that 52 percent reported migrating back and forth from offline to online channels across four product categories including books, airline tickets, stereo systems and wine. This hopscotching from brick and mortar to catalogues, to online and back, could be predicted by certain factors including price, the product they were looking for, how they evaluated the product and even waiting time.

The researchers also found that each type of shopper uses channels differently. Penny-pinchers don’t care where they buy, as long as the price is right. Generalists shop online or in the store because of the overall shopping experience. Traditionalists shun new ways of shopping, and multichannel enthusiasts happily bounce between stores, the internet and catalogues. Finally, the hard-core, store-focused customers will only shop in a place with doors and shelves.

To add a layer of complication, some don’t use channels to shop at all. They just want information. These are the shoppers who pop into to a store to test drive a phone before they buy it online. They study the pressure cooker in a catalogue before they go to the store.

And even within all the online options, there are innumerable detours to explore. Say you want a Nikon camera. You might go to an enthusiasts’ page such as Nikonians.org before you decide which model to buy, whether it’s online or at the local camera shop. Your friendly chat with the guy who owns the local camera store may now turn into a real-time virtual chat with a company representative.

The new marketplace, in other words, has become a dizzying landscape. Shoppers, clearly, have risen to the challenge. Nevertheless, it’s in the interests of sellers and buyers both to understand more deeply not only why we buy what we buy — but where.

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This article originally ran on Rice Business Wisdom and is based on research from Utpal M. Dholakia, the George R. Brown Professor of Marketing at Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University.

Innovation isn't always the safest field. Here's what to consider within incident reporting. Graphic by Miguel Tovar/University of Houston

University of Houston: Navigating incident reporting in the lab

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Exploding refrigerator? Chemical splash on the face? These are not just personally devastating lab incidents, they are also expensive.

For instance, awhile back, the University of Hawaii faced a total $115,500 fine for 15 workplace safety violations after a laboratory explosion where a postdoctoral researcher lost one of her arms. Beryl Lieff Benderly wrote in Science that the accident “resulted from a static electricity charge that ignited a tank containing a highly flammable, pressurized mixture of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide.”

Referred to as “incidents,” they are defined by University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) in this way: “An incident is an event that results in or causes injury or damage to someone or something, or an event that has the potential to result in or cause injury or damage.”

But when asked which incidents are reportable, the answer is uniform across all research universities: all incidents must be reported.

Incidentally...

There are websites dedicated to laboratory accidents, like this one at UCSB. It lists the two accidents mentioned in this blog’s first sentence. University of Michigan Environment, Health and Safety’s website said, “Being safe at the University of Michigan requires a positive safety culture where we learn from mistakes and near-misses in order to improve and prevent future occurrences. It is vital that you report all ‘incidents’ including near- misses, injuries resulting from your activities, non-compliance with safety and environmental rules, and general unsafe work conditions so that we can learn and grow.” Northwestern University’s website on Research Health and Safety said, “Always report ‘near-misses’ just as you would an incident that causes injury or harm to property.”

Near-missing

You may be asking, what constitutes a “near-miss”? At Western Kentucky University, for example: “A laboratory “near-miss” is an unplanned situation, where with minor changes to time or setting, could have easily resulted in damage or injury to person or property. A near-miss is characterized as having little, if any, immediate impact on individuals, processes, or the environment, but provides insight into accidents that could happen.” Laboratory near misses may cause chemical spills, explosions and bodily injury, but can be treated with first-aid.

Form finding

Most universities have a form to fill out if there is an incident that could have led to a severe injury or death. The form asks for a description of the incident and even asks, in some instances, “Why did it happen?” These should be made out comprehensively and quickly.

OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a reporting process, aside from what each university requires. They need information when you call. The OSHA website states: “Be prepared to supply: Business name; names of employees affected; location and time of the incident, brief description of the incident; contact person and phone number.”

There are even time limits for how quickly one must report a severe injury that requires an in-patient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye (24) or fatality.

(It’s eight hours.)

The fact that “losing an eye” is one of just four reasons to contact OSHA, you may wonder, “Are a lot of people blinded in the lab, often?” Also, “Where can I buy safety goggles?”

“Are a lot of people blinded in the lab, often? Also, where can I buy safety goggles?”

The big idea

There are many websites which detail lab disasters. Some are cautionary tales, some are avoidable situations. Just be sure to wear your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and be safe out there. Or rather, in there.

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This article originally appeared on the University of Houston's The Big Idea. Sarah Hill, the author of this piece, is the communications manager for the UH Division of Research.

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Houston startups raise funding, secure partnerships across space, health, and sports tech

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It's been a new month and a few Houston startup wrapped up November with news you may have missed.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston startups and tech, three Houston startups across health care, space, and sports tech have some news they announced recently.

Houston digital health company launches new collaboration

Koda Health has a new partner. Image via kodahealthcare.com

Houston-based Koda Health announced a new partnership with data analytics company, CareJourney.

"This collaboration will aim to develop benchmarking data for advance care planning and end-of-life metrics," the company wrote on LinkedIn. "Koda will provide clinical and practice-based expertise to guide the construction of toolkits, dashboards, and benchmarks that improve ACP programs and end-of-life outcomes."

Koda Health announced the partnership in November..

“Beyond the checkbox of a billing code or completed advance directive, it’s important to build and measure a process that promotes thoughtful planning among patients, their care team, and their loved ones,” says Desh Mohan, MD, Koda's chief medical officer, in the post.

CareJourney was founded in 2014 in Arlington, Virginia.

"I'm hopeful next-generation quality measures will honor the patient’s voice in defining what it means to deliver high quality care, and our commitment is to measure progress on that important endeavor," noted Aneesh Chopra, CareJourney's co-founder and president.

Sports tech startup raises $500,000 pre-seed investment

BeONE Sports has created a technology to enhance athletic training. Photo via beonesports.com

Houston-founded BeONE Sports, an athlete training technology company, announced last month that it closed an oversubscribed round of pre-seed funding. The company announced the raise on its social media pages that the round included $500,000 invested.

Earlier in November, BeONE Sports completed its participation in CodeLaunch DFW 2022. The company was one of six finalists in the program, which concluded with a pitch event on November 16.

Space tech company snags government contracts

Graphic via cognitive space.com

The U.S. Air Force has extended Houston-based Cognitive Space’s contract under a new TACFI, Tactical Funding Increase, award. According to the release, the contract "builds on Cognitive Space’s work to develop a tailored version of CNTIENT for AFRL to achieve ultimate responsiveness and optimized dynamic satellite scheduling via a cloud-based API.

The $1.2 million award follows a $1.5 million U.S. Air Force Small Business Innovation Research award that the company won in 2020 to integrate CNTIENT with commercial ground station providers in support of AFRL’s Hybrid Architecture Demonstration program.

“The TACFI award allows Cognitive Space to continue supporting AFRL’s vitally important HAD program to help deliver commercial space data to the warfighter,” says Guy de Carufel, the company’s founder and CEO, in the releasee. “CNTIENT’s tailored analytics platform will enable HAD and the GLUE platform to integrate modern statistical approaches to optimize mission planning, data collection, and latency estimation.”

Houston airport powers up new gaming lounge for bored and weary travelers

game on and wheels down

Local gamers now have a new option to while away those flight delays and passenger pickup waits at Hobby Airport.

Houston's William P. Hobby Airport is now one the first airports in the country to offer what's dubbed as the "ultimate gaming experience for travelers." The airport has launched a premium video game lounge inside the international terminal called Gameway.

That means weary, bored, or early travelers can chill in the lounge and plug into15 top-of-the-line, luxury gaming stations: six Xbox stations, five Playstation stations, four PC stations, all with the newest games on each platform. Aficionados will surely appreciate the Razer's Iskur Gaming Chairs and Kraken Headsets, along with dedicated high speed internet at each PC station.

The Gameway lounge pays homage to gaming characters, with wall accents that hark to motherboard circuits Crucial for any real gamer: plenty of sweet and savory snacks are available for purchase to fuel up on those fantasy, battle, or sporting endeavors. As for the gaming console stations, players can expect high definition screens, comfortable seating, and plenty of space for belongings.

Make video games a part of your pre-flight ritual. Photo courtesy of Gameway

This gaming addition comes just in time for the holiday rush, when travelers can expect long lines, delays, and are already planning for extended time for trips. As CultureMap previously reported, Hobby will see a big boost in travelers this season — the largest since 2019. Now, those on a long journey can plug in, decompress, and venture on virtual journeys of their own.

Texan travelers may be familiar with Gameway; the company opened its first two locations at Dallas Fort-Worth Airport. The buzzy lounge an industry wave of acclaim: Gameway was awarded Best Traveler Amenity in 2019 at the ACI-NA Awards and in 2020, voted “Most Innovative Customer Experience” at the Airport Experience Traveler Awards, per press materials.

Two new locations followed in 2021: LAX Terminal 6 and Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The first of Gameway's Ultra lounge brand opened in September at Delta's Terminal 3 in LAX.

Gaming culture is a way of life in the Bayou City , which hosts Comicpalooza, the largest pop culture festival in Texas, and is home to several e-sports teams, including the pro esports squad, the Houston Outlaws.

A delayed flight never seemed so ideal for gamers flying out of Hobby. Photo courtesy of Gameway

“Gameway is the real reason to get to the airport early,” said Co-Founder Jordan Walbridge in a statement. “Our mission is to upgrade the typical wait-at-the-gate experience with a new stimulating, entertaining option for travelers of all ages.”

Here's guessing Hobby might just see an increase in missed or late flight arrivals — as travelers simply must beat those big bosses, solve puzzles, or win sports matches in the lounge.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.