Four Ways Research Compliance Supports Baylor Faculty Researchers

November 6, 2023

Any discussion of research compliance can grow complex very quickly. That’s why the six members of Baylor’s research compliance staff have, between them, two law degrees, 5 Master's degrees  and multiple certifications.

Deborah Holland serves as Assistant Vice Provost for Research in Research Compliance within Baylor’s Office of the Vice Provost for Research. She and her team are accustomed to questions that are very specific—for example, how to meet various regulations within a grant a professor has earned. They also get questions more philosophical in nature—like, “why is all this necessary?”

The answers to those questions are less complicated than most of the regulations themselves. Baylor research compliance exists to protect the people and institutions involved in research at Baylor, ensuring that research is done in an ethical manner while meeting the regulations required by funding agencies like the National Science Foundation or National Institutes of Health.

Below, Holland shares four functions of research compliance:

Ensure ethics and compliance

“Codifying ethics can be challenging. In the U.S., our regulations concerning research have arisen from our nation’s Judeo-Christian history. So, in a way, I see ethics as something we always strive for—the highest ideals. Compliance is what we as imperfect beings can achieve.

In a way, ethics is like the Great Commandment: ‘Love God with all your heart and soul and mind.’ Compliance gets into the specifics like the Ten Commandments, ‘Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not bear false witness.’

Navigating all of that can be challenging. We walk alongside faculty to ensure they’re meeting regulations and considering ethical standards to free them to actually do the research without missing key deadlines or having to backtrack.”

Protect everyone involved in research

“Inevitably, it comes down to protection—for the researcher, for the institution and for their participants. That’s what compliance is for. There are plenty of approvals that faculty need, and those forms can fill like a burden. But it all goes back to a requirement that is based in law.

In the early 2000s, both Duke and Johns Hopkins universities had their funding stopped for several months because of a few bad actors. It’s not fun and it can be a death knell to an organization. It’s hard to imagine that can actually happen, and it’s unlikely here—because we take compliance seriously and we’re looking after the best interests of Baylor and our faculty.”

Facilitate great research

“We're here to support faculty in what they need to do. We're not a police force, but an education and training unit. It’s about facilitating the research as quickly as possible and avoiding getting caught up in red tape. There are instances in which regulations may impact how a faculty member can conduct his or her research. We can help them modify their approach to fit the guidelines. We're here to facilitate the research as fast as possible, not to tell them, ‘No, you can't do that.’ We can look for ways to modify their research to get the same end results within the guidelines.”

Live out Baylor’s faith mission

“We take our Christian faith to heart in compliance. Before I got to Baylor, I had been in research compliance for 15 years. At other institutions, ethics may not always have been on the highest part of the compliance pedestal. It was more of an emphasis on regulations.

At Baylor, I saw an opportunity to ensure that ethics are at the top of our compliance ladder, because ethics are at the foundation of our faith. That even matters when a mistake is made. We never got into rehabilitation or forgiveness at other institutions. At conferences, it isn’t touched on. This is challenging work and we’re all human, and so we treat our colleagues how we want to be treated.”

Click here to read Vice Provost for Research Kevin Chambliss’s thoughts on Baylor’s missional focus on research ethics and compliance. Faculty with questions about research compliance can reach out to their URA or email Deborah Holland at