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The Front Line
The Front Line: Charles D. Blanke, MD, SWOG Chair

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SWOG 101: How We Make a Variety of Decisions -- Part II

Jan 31, 2014 - As promised, I have an exciting follow-up to last week's column, in which I will detail our approaches to policy and administrative decisions, as well as SWOG's means of conflict management.

How We Set Policy:
Changes to formal policies (as spelled out in the Policies and Manuals section of the website) are often made in response to decisions formulated by the NCI. For example, the changes to membership and governance policies which we are now hashing out are needed to align the Group with the National Clinical Trials Network guidelines soon to take effect. The new product generally follows extensive review and discussion by our EAC and other stakeholders; sometimes new working groups or task forces are convened to wrestle with particularly difficult issues (e.g., term limits). Per Group by-laws, all proposed changes to formal policy are reviewed and voted up or down by SWOG's Board of Governors. Less rigorous, less formalized go-forward decisions are made by me, but input is still sought from the leaders and others mentioned above, in many cases. Group members wishing an evaluation of or changes to a policy (this recently happened with our election laws) are welcome to talk to me directly.

How We Make Administrative Decisions:
Every Wednesday we convene a conference call that brings together me, Deputy Chair Dr. Anne Schott, and senior administrative staff from Operations, the Statistical Center, and the Group Chair's Office, to review and make decisions on pressing administrative issues. It's rather surprising how many issues come up in a simple seven-day period! This process is rounded out by weekly one-on-one meetings with members of my staff, and of course many project-focused meetings. I also regularly visit the Operations Office and the Statistical Center -- not to mention The Hope Foundation -- to benefit from face-to-face interactions with our people.

How We Manage Conflicts of Interest:
The scientific credibility of SWOG clinical trials, and public trust in the results, clearly depend on the integrity and objectivity of the investigators who have any role in the design, conduct, or analysis of Group research. Our Conflict Management Committee monitors the research process, to ensure that the Group's disclosure, oversight, and management of real and potential financial conflicts of interest conform to U.S. Public Health Service regulations. SWOG's Financial Conflict of Interest Policy (Policy 35) spells out when a member must disclose a financial relationship, when the Conflict Management Committee will implement a management plan for a potential conflict, and when the Group may limit an investigator's participation in certain Group activities.

I'll post additional SWOG 101 columns in the future. SWOG is your Group, and you should have opportunities to learn how it works. If there are specific aspects of Group function you would like to know more about, please let me know!


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