Recent media depictions of the dangers of biomedical research have fueled public and regulatory scrutiny of academic research institutions. The authors argue that if these institutions are to preserve the trust that the public has historically bestowed upon them, they must go beyond mere compliance with regulatory mandates. Several steps are suggested that institutions can take to strengthen and supplement ongoing compliance efforts, steps the authors believe will bolster the public's confidence in the integrity of academic research institutions. These steps grow out of the authors' analysis of three key components of institutional trustworthiness: (1) shared goals between research institutions and the communities they serve, (2) robust institutional oversight of research activities, and (3) training programs that build professional character. The authors' recommendations include the use of research advisory councils to assure the public that research goals reflect community interests, more collaborative relationships between institutional review boards and members of investigative teams, and educational programs that emphasize the importance of professional integrity in biomedical research. These efforts will help preserve public confidence that an institution's research priorities are appropriate and that the research it conducts is ethical. Preserving this public trust is central to the long-term success of biomedical research and the institutions in which such research takes place.
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