By-Laws

Graduate Group in Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Ratified: February 24, 2020

Introduction and Objectives

The Graduate Group in Epidemiology and Biostatistics (GGEB) is responsible for developing and administering the Ph.D. degree programs in epidemiology and biostatistics as well as the MS program in biostatistics. The Ph.D. programs train individuals to be rigorous independent investigators, who develop and apply methods in epidemiology and biostatistics to address biomedical questions. The objective of the M.S. program in biostatistics is to train individuals in the basic theory and applications of statistical methods, especially as applied to problems in the health sciences.

 

The GGEB comprises faculty with research interests in Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and related fields. The GGEB is amember of the Biomedical Graduate Studies Program (BGS) in the Perelman School of Medicine, and has a significant affiliation with the Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Informatics (DBEI).

 
Organization and Governance

The Graduate Group is governed by the University of Pennsylvania Handbook for Faculty and Academic Administrators, Section 1.F., Organization and Responsibilities of Graduate Groups (https://catalog.upenn.edu/faculty-handbook/i/i-f/), as well as the GGEB handbook (https://www.med.upenn.edu/ggeb/graduate-training-programs-in-biostatistics.html).

 

The Graduate Program Structure

Two Ph.D. programs currently exist within the GGEB: Epidemiology and Biostatistics. An M.S. program in Biostatistics is also offered by the GGEB.  Students apply and are admitted to one of these programs. While each has a unique curriculum, students have flexibility to determine the extent to which they engage in cross-disciplinary training andresearch. To meet their stated goals, each program designs and implements its curriculum, develops and assesses lab rotations, devises and implements qualifying exams, and organizes program-specific activities and events. Each program admits and recruits its own students, advises these students, and organizes and supervises dissertation committees. Each program is responsible for maintaining and making available the component of the GGEB handbook that describes the individual programs. Establishment or disbandment of programs requires approval by two-thirds of the membership of the Executive Committee and must be ratified by more than half of the GGEB membership. Each Program individually determines changes in the composition of program-specific committees and procedures with approval from the GGEB chair. Major changes are subject to ratification by the Executive Committee.

 

Students do not typically switch between GGEB Ph.D. programs. Matriculated students who wish to switch between programs must meet the requirements of their current program and receive approval from the GGEB and program-specific chairs to pursue a new degree. Students in the Biostatistics M.S. program who are interested in one of the Ph.D. programs must formally apply through BGS to be considered for acceptance to that Ph.D. program.  

In addition to their role in developing and administering program-specific activities, the programs work with the Executive Committee of the GGEB in its oversight role of activities related to the Responsible Conduct of Research, Scientific Rigor and Reproducibility, the code of student conduct, and student advising that may require interpretation of rules at the level of Biomedical Graduate Studies or the University of Pennsylvania. Importantly, the programs work with the GGEB Executive Committee to identify areas of synergy, where cross-disciplinary cooperation may enrich the individual programs. Cross-disciplinary programs of mutual interest, involving major changes to existing program structures, will be pursued upon approval by GGEB members.

 

GGEB Executive Committee

The Executive Committee comprises the Graduate Group Chair, the Program Chairs, and two At Largerepresentatives from each program selected by the GGEB Chair and the chairs of the Biostatistics and Epidemiology Ph.D. Programs. The Executive Committee meets monthly to discuss issues that affect the Graduate Group as a whole and/or its individual programs. The Executive Committee annually reviews and votes to ratify the handbook describing the graduate group. The GGEB and Program Chairs and determine the Chairs of the program-specific committees (Academic Review, Curriculum, Student Recruitment, Awards, Examinations, and Admissions) who are then ratified by the GGEB Executive Committee.  Membership of the program-specific committees is determined by the program-specific committee Chairs. The Executive Committee also reviews and approves all new GGEB faculty members and renewals of existing faculty members. The Executive Committee also adjudicates any formal written student appeals related to coursework or dissertation work. The Executive Committee may identify and recommend approaches for integration of the two educational programs, approval of major changes in policy, and degree requirements.

 

GGEB Chair

The Chair of the Graduate Group is elected by the Graduate Group membership and is subject to approval by the Director of BGS, the Dean of the School of Medicine, the Vice Dean for Research and Research Training, and the Vice Provost for Education. The Chair serves for a term of three years and may serve successive terms if re-electedby the members of the GGEB. During the third year of the Chair’s term, the GGEB Executive Committee will nominate one or more faculty members from the Graduate Group to stand for election as Chair. Members of the Graduate Group will be requested to provide additional names for the ballot; self-nominations are welcome. The new GGEB Chair will be elected by majority vote by closed ballot. If only one candidate runs for this position, then an election will not be held, and the candidate will automatically assume the GGEB Chair position for another three-year term. 

 

The Chair is responsible for coordinating the administration of the Graduate Group’s educational programs, particularly to ensure that GGEB is in compliance with the requirements of Biomedical Graduate Studies and the University of Pennsylvania. The GGEB Chair helps to resolve academic and personal difficulties of individual students, and meets monthly with student representatives from each program to discuss any concerns the student body may have. The GGEB Chair schedules and determines an agenda for meetings of the Executive Committee and serves as the representative of the GGEB to the Biomedical Advising Committee. The GGEB Chair may form ad hoc GGEB-wide committees to provide guidance to the Executive Committee and to the programs on matters relevant to the membership as a whole. The GGEB Chair is responsible for the appointment of faculty to BGS and campus-widecommittees. The GGEB Chair holds annual GGEB faculty meetings in which all new policies, curriculum changes, and GGEB initiatives are presented and discussed. The GGEB Chair is responsible for final approval of doctoral dissertations. 

 

Biostatistics and Epidemiology Program Chairs

The program members elect a Chair of their respective program for a three-year renewable term. Candidates for the Chair position can be nominated by any program member; self-nominations are also allowed. Following elections, selection is subject to approval by the GGEB Executive Committee. If there is only one candidate running for a program Chair position, elections will not be held, and the candidate will automatically assume the Program Chair position for another three-year term. Program Chairs are responsible for the administration of their individual program, which includes working with the appropriate program committees and program membership to design and implement an appropriate curriculum, and ensure appropriate academic advising and supervision of students occurs. The program Chairs oversee the organization and supervision of dissertation committees, subject to GGEB Chair approval. They work with the Admissions committee to screen and recruit prospective students, and with faculty to organize program-specific activities and events. Program Chairs approve the MS thesis and/or doctoral dissertation of each student in their program. The program Chairs are responsible for determining suitable funding plans for the students within their programs, subject to approval by the Executive Committee.

 

The program Chairs are responsible for maintaining components of the GGEB handbook describing their individual Programs and for working with the GGEB Chair to maintain the handbook describing the functions of the overall graduate group. Members of the individual programs will meet annually to consider and ratify changes to the program-specific components of the handbook. Program Chairs also work with program-specific committees, as well as the membership, to continually evaluate GGEB programs and initiate potential changes as needed. Program Chairs regularly hold meetings to communicate issues under discussion by the various committees to all program members, and to solicit feedback. Program Chairs summarize results arising from these meetings to the Executive Committee. 

 

Standing Committees

Graduate Group standing committees within the Biostatistics and Epidemiology programs include Curriculum, Admissions, Examinations, Academic Review, Awards, and Recruitment Committees. Chairs of the standing committees are appointed by the GGEB Chair and approved by the individual program Chairs. The members of each committee are appointed by the committee Chairs in consultation with the program Chairs. The Curriculum, Recruitment, and Awards committees will also have at least one student representative, subject to the approval of the Executive Committee. Each committee will be composed of at least four and usually no more than ten members. All substantive changes to policies suggested by these committees will be presented to the GGEB faculty at the annual GGEB faculty meeting. Any major changes, as deemed by the GGEB Chair, will seek approval from the GGEB faculty (or program-specific faculty, as appropriate) prior to ratification by the Executive Committee. 

 

The Curriculum Committees shall meet to consider major or minor revisions to the curriculum. Minor actions such as suggestions to individual course directors may proceed without approval of the membership. Major revisions of the curriculum must be approved by the Curriculum Committee Chair and program-specific Chair. A Standing Committee Chair from one of the program-specific Curriculum Committees will sit on the Biomedical Graduate Studies Curriculum Committee, where they will present ratified changes to the GGEB Chair and the BGS Curriculum Committee for BGS-level approval.  In collaboration with the program Chair, the Curriculum Committee reviews course evaluations and suggests approaches for remediation as needed. Changes to the curriculum will be presented to GGEB faculty at the annual GGEB faculty meeting. Any major changes will be brought to the GGEB faculty for discussion and approval before ratification. 

 

The Admissions Committees review applications from prospective students of the corresponding program, select the most promising applicants for interviews and recruitment, and subsequently, with final approval from the GGEB Chair, identify those who will be offered admission. The Admissions Committees are responsible for organizing and implementing the interview and recruitment process. The Admissions Committees do not have student representatives, although students may be asked to participate in admissions processes, such as open houses and interview day activities. 

 

The Examinations Committees are charged with overseeing the creation, administration, and grading of the qualifications examinations for their respective Programs. The Examinations Committees do not have student representatives.

 

The Academic Review and Advising Committees track the performance of all students in the Program, serve as formal advisers to students, and assist program Chairs in resolving academic problems. In serious cases, the latter may involve the GGEB Chair. Each Committee meets at least twice per semester to review student progress, provide advice on course availability and selection and suggest improved programs to ensure student success. The Academic Review and Advising Committees do not have student representatives. 

 

The GGEB Awards Committee is a GGEB-wide committee that nominates students for awards both within the University and nationally. The Committee also selects award winners for the Winegrad Award, and for other BGS and GGEB awards. Membership on the committee includes faculty and students from the Biostatistics and Epidemiology Programs.

 

The Student Recruitment Committee conducts outreach to undergraduate and Master’s programs to increase the pool of talented applicants to our biostatistics graduate programs. These activities include the annual Open House, university and conference visits, and on-site meetings with interested students upon request. The Student Recruitment Committee also fosters faculty engagement in undergraduate student research. The Student Recruitment Committee allows students to participate on this committee. 

 

Additional Program Committees

Each Program may form committees as needed for specific functions. These committees are subject to GGEB Executive Committee and Chair approvals. 

 

Faculty Membership

GGEB members include faculty with expertise in epidemiology and biostatistics who have a demonstrated research and teaching interest in these or related fields. Members must be from the standing, associated, or emeritus faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. Depending on their field of expertise, and their own preference, faculty are appointed to membership in one or both programs. At minimum, members must be qualified and able to supervise the thesis or dissertation research of a GGEB graduate student. 

 

New Members

Faculty interested in joining GGEB must be nominated by either a current GGEB faculty member or the Chair of the Program to which they are applying.  The sponsor will reach out to the GGEB Chair, who will send a letter inviting the faculty member to apply for membership via the submission of a cover letter briefly detailing their qualifications and anticipated contributions to the GGEB and a current CV. The application will be reviewed by the GGEB Executive Committee. If the Executive Committee votes to grant membership, the application will be forwarded to BGS for final approval.    

 

Membership Expectations                                 

Members must provide an average of 50 hours of service annually over a three-year period. Service activities must involve PhD students (and/or MS students in the Biostatistics program). These activities include: advising a student; serving as a member of a thesis/dissertation committee; acting as a course director or course lecturer/seminar leader in which PhD students are enrolled; serving as a PhD-specific track or program leader; reviewing student manuscripts, grant proposals, and protocols; attending student presentations; participating in the CCEB and/or Biostatistics seminar series; and serving on one or more of the Graduate Group’s committees. Other activities will be considered upon request by the GGEB.

 

Every member must participate in a bioethics/Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training Program at least once every three years. This requirement may be met by serving as a discussion leader of a BGS bioethics or RCR workshop or by participating in other relevant BGS-approved bioethics courses or symposia. In addition, mentors are required to lead semi-annual RCR and Scientific Rigor and Responsibility (SRR) discussions during lab meetings with their mentees and staff who work with them, per BGS policy. To this end, faculty have access to BGS-provided case studies to use as discussion pieces, which can complement their own resources or examples drawn from their own experience. RCR and SRR events should be interactive discussions that include all graduate students in the GGEB faculty member’s lab. After mentor-led sessions are completed, faculty members complete the online form found here: https://www.med.upenn.edu/bgs-rcr-exdes/

 

Note that “lab meeting” is interpreted here to mean working group or other research entity that involves graduate students. Because the classroom serves as a lab during the students’ first two years, a “lab meeting” may be defined as a classroom discussion of issues related to RCR and SRR during this time. 

 

Membership Renewal

Members are appointed for three-year, renewable terms. Each member is required to fill out a form indicating their interest in renewing their membership, listing their contributions from the previous three years, and providing a list of planned contributions over the following three years. Nomination by a current GGEB member is not required for membership renewals. However, lapsed members will be considered as new members, and they must be re-nominated by a current GGEB member, submit their credentials, and be approved by the GGEB Executive Committee. A faculty member whose membership is not renewed may appeal the decision to the appropriate programChair. The GGEB Executive Committee will vote again on reappointment after this appeal.

 
GGEB Policies and Procedures

The GGEB Chair, in collaboration with the Executive Committee, develops and approves policies and procedures specific to the administration and operation of GGEB. The documentation of these policies and procedures will be made publicly available to the GGEB membership. Substantive revisions to the By-Laws will be shared with the GGEB faculty for input, and will then be accepted if ratified by the full Executive Committee.