Monday, September 17, 2012

U.Va. Employees Legally Obligated to Report Child Abuse

Susan A. Carkeek, Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, sent the following in an email to staff on July 7th, 2012:

"In the 2012 legislative session, the General Assembly passed legislation on reporting suspected child abuse and neglect.  Specifically, the law requires "any person employed by a public or private institution of higher education" to report suspected instances of child abuse and neglect.  All University employees are now required to contact local or state Social Services if they see or suspect child abuse or neglect.  This law went into effect July 1, 2012.

University Human Resources has developed a web page at with the legal definition of a neglected or abused child, instructions on where and how to report suspected child abuse or neglect, and other resources.  I ask that you familiarize yourself with the basic definitions and requirements so that you know how to proceed if you encounter or suspect child abuse or neglect. 
All employees need to be aware of this new legislation, particularly those of you who come in contact with children as part of your teaching, research, or other operations.  I appreciate your support in helping us comply with this law, and encourage you to share it with your colleagues. If you have questions, please contact the HR Service Center at 982.0123 or email"
In the past, researchers were not obligated to report abuse (though they were highly encouraged!) but the new legistlation changes their status. If you or anyone on your research team interact with children, please be aware of the signs of abuse and how to report. For more information about working with this population, please see Child Abuse on our website.

Seen anything cute lately?

U.Va. researchers Gary Sherman, Jonathan Haidt, and James Coan demonstrated that seeing a cute object can improve your ability to handle delicate things. Participants in their study were shown either a "very cute" picture of a puppy or kitten or a "less cute" picture of an adult cat or dog. After viewing the images, participants were asked to play Operation, a game that requires very careful fine motor skills. The participants who viewed the "very cute" images had greater success in playing the game than the "less cute" image participants, demonstrating that viewing "cuteness" helped to engage the participants in more careful behavior. Alexis Madrigal of the Atlantic Journal highlighted their work in his June 7th article "Why the Puppy Cam Is About to Make the Whole Internet Better at Photoshop." The original article published by Sherman, Haidt, and Coan in Emotion can be found here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Is Pretend Play Crucial for a Child's Development?

The answer, according to UV.a. psychologist Angeline Lillard, is that the research in the past was not done very well and pretend play may not play a significant role in creative and intellectual development. Lillard and her team concluded after reviewing over 150 studies on the subject that better designed studies need to be done and previous researchers may have been biased in their approach. For more details, see the article on UVa Today.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Announcing the Sixth Annual Virginia IRB Consortium Conference

Join us at UVa's Newcomb Hall on October 12th for the Sixth Annual Virginia IRB Consortium Conference. This year's conference, Research Review Challenges: From the Small IRB to the Age of Technology, will feature Michael Zimmerman, PhD, an assistant professor in the School of Information Studies and the co-director for Information Policy Research at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Registration is free, though your registration form must be submitted by Sept 14th. To register for the conference and for more details about the events, please see our website.

Does Your Teenager Argue? Maybe It's Not a Bad Thing

The Daily Progress and NPR's All Things Considered highlighted research conducted by UVa psychology professor Joseph Allen and his team regarding young teenagers, research that was recently published in the Child Development journal. They found that young teenagers who argued assertively with their parents were able to take the skills learned from that exercise and apply it with their peers. The same teens were less likely to give into peer pressure and resisted taking drugs or engaging in other harmful behaviors that would otherwise be encouraged by peers. For more information, check out the article in the Daily Progress, the interview on NPR's All Things Considered, or the report in the Child Development journal.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Research at Curry Makes an Impact

Robert Pianta, dean of U.Va.'s Curry School of Education, recently reported to the Board of Visitors' Educational Policy Committee that Curry is making an impact in the education reform movement. Considered one of the top three institutions influencing education policy, behind Stanford and Harvard universities, (as reported in the annual rankings of education scholars reported by Rick Hess of Education Week and the American Enterprise Institute), Curry also continues to demonstrate excellence in both undergraduate and graduate programs. Research is playing a major role in providing Curry with the tools that it needs to enact change in education policy and in the classroom. Pianta cited teaching assessment tools developed by Curry faculty and researchers that are now used in more than 50,000 classrooms nationwide, including every Head Start classroom in the U.S., and early reading assessments being used in Virginia and other states. For more information about this report, please see UVA Today's article.

Blacks in Virginia

Michele Claibourn, a researcher in the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, Demographics & Workforce Group, recently published "Blacks in Virginia." The report shows that while blacks in Virginia have made significant improvements in education and employment, they are significantly behind their white counterparts. For more information, please see the UVA Today report and/or check out the original publication.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Preschoolers' Reading Skills Benefit from One Modest Change by Teachers

"A small change in how teachers and parents read aloud to preschoolers may provide a big boost to their reading skills later on, a new study found.

That small change involves making specific references to print in books while reading to children – such as pointing out letters and words on the pages, showing capital letters, and showing how you read from left to right and top to bottom on the page.

Preschool children whose teachers used print references during storybook reading showed more advanced reading skills one and even two years later when compared to children whose teachers did not use such references. This is the first study to show causal links between referencing print and later literacy achievement."

For the rest of this article, please see the post on ScienceBlog.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Giving an Endangered Language Back to Its People

Lise Dobrin, a faculty member in UVa's Anthropology Department and a member of the IRB-SBS Board was recently featured on UVA Today for her efforts to capture a dying language.

"April 4, 2012 — Most of the people who spoke Arapesh when University of Virginia linguist Lise Dobrin conducted field work in Papua New Guinea about 15 years ago have died of old age. Their children no longer speak the language, and their grandchildren have almost no knowledge of their ancestral tongue, she said." For the rest of the article, check out this link. 

Research Finds Autonomy Plays Pivotal Role in Adolescents’ School Engagement

The signs of students’ disengagement run the gamut, from daydreaming, doodling and covert texting to ignoring assignments, acting out and skipping classes. By the time they reach high school, about half are chronically disengaged from school, and this correlates with lower school grades and higher dropout rates, according to a recent study by researchers in the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning.
Increasing students’ opportunities for autonomy in the classroom may be a key factor in reversing the trend of disengagement, the study finds.
For more information about the study and it's lead author, Chris Hafen, check out this article.

University of Virginia's 'PureMadi' Brings Clean Water to Developing Countries

"Of the world's 7 billion people, less than 2 billion have a consistent supply of high-quality, regulated water, and about 3 to 4 million people die each year from waterborne diseases, including about 2 million children. We're looking to help reduce those numbers." James Smith, a U.Va. civil and environmental engineer, and Dr. Rebecca Dillingham, a U.Va. infectious diseases and international health physician and associate director of the University's Center for Global Health, co-lead the "PureMadi" project, an effort to develop a feasible method for delivering safe water to the developing word. For more information on the PureMadi project, check out this article on UVA Today.

Syphilis Experiments Shock, But So Do Third World Drug Trials

A few years ago, Wellesley medical researcher Susan Reverby unearthed documents indicating that Dr. John C. Cutler, the doctor who conducted the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis study, also conducted a similar study in Guatemala. Participants were infected with the deadly disease without their consent; 83 participants died over the course of the study. When the information that Dr. Reverby discovered was revealed, it resulted in a former apology by President Obama to the people of Guatemala. While the practices of the Guatemala Syphilis study are shocking, this ABC report highlights that issues still prevail in the developing world where medical research is conducted on the less educated and poor.