Leland named University's first director of research integrity and assurance

Stuart Leland has been named Princeton University's first director for research integrity and assurance, to which he brings 20 years of experience in laboratory research and in research compliance. His appointment was effective Aug. 15.

Reporting to Dean for Research A. J. Stewart Smith, Leland oversees the campus committees that help Princeton researchers ensure that human, animal and biological research is in line with various regulations, laws, policies and guidelines. In addition, Leland will make sure that researchers are aware of and properly address any financial conflicts-of-interest in their work.

"Princeton is extremely fortunate to have recruited a national leader in the field of protections for research subjects," said Smith, who also is the Class of 1909 Professor of Physics. "Stuart's superb qualifications and warm personality make him the ideal person to work with our faculty and staff to assure that Princeton's research endeavor continues to operate safely, efficiently and under the highest standards of integrity and conduct."

In his position, Leland wants Princeton researchers — faculty, students and other researchers — to consider him and his staff in the Office of Research Integrity and Assurance as partners committed to conducting important and quality research. A part of that process includes abiding research rules and regulations, he said.

"A lot of compliance makes sense when people understand why these laws and regulations came into place. Part of my vision is to help demystify what compliance means and is, and help people understand the benefit and importance of doing it right the first time," Leland said.

"We want to be partners in helping Princeton remain compliant, so if there is a research proposal regarding animals or humans in any regard, we want people to feel comfortable calling us and asking questions," he said. "We can help walk them through whether or not their research proposal needs approval and help facilitate the process itself. I advise people to ask well in advance of putting their research proposals together. There are exceptions and exemptions to compliance guidelines, but those tend to be just that."

He also hopes to create an electronic management system to make Princeton's compliance processes both more efficient for researchers, and more effective at making sure that proposals have been thoroughly considered. Issues of tracking, accountability and document control will be better handled through an electronic management system, Leland said.

Leland came to Princeton from the pharmaceutical company Merck and Co., where he was director of North American animal welfare compliance. He oversaw a team that developed and implemented animal-welfare guidelines for the company's North American laboratories. Before then, he held positions as clinician researcher and veterinarian with drug companies Pfizer Inc., Wyeth Research and Aventis Pharmaceuticals.

He also has worked on the laboratory side, both as a researcher and an administrator. From 2000-01, Leland served as associate director and attending veterinarian for UPenn's Institute for Human Gene Therapy. From 1996-99, he was a staff veterinarian and instructor at UPenn's University Laboratory Animal Resources, and a research and clinical veterinarian at the University of Washington's regional primate research center before then.

Leland is a board-certified laboratory-animal veterinarian and completed his postdoctoral fellowship at Yale University. He received his doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the University of California-Davis in 1988 and his bachelor's degree in animal science from Cornell University in 1983.

Leland said his experience as a researcher and compliance administrator should allow him to approach his job from these two perspectives to the ultimate benefit of University researchers.

"I bring to this position a strong understanding of the research process," he said. "When I'm developing the compliance forms and processes, I'm putting on my researcher hat to identify language that might be confusing or could be better written, so as to not hold up a project. I'm always trying to make this as painless and useful a process as possible."