Initiative focuses on reducing administrative barriers to community-engaged research
Importance of community-engaged research
As we work to improve population health outcomes, there is an increased emphasis on actively and meaningfully engaging with community partners in research. The collaborative partnerships that form the foundation of this type of research are critical to the success of our efforts to improve health outcomes.
There's the research and then there's research grant administration & management
Successful research partnerships encompass more than just the research itself. There are a host of administrative and fiduciary responsibilities involved in the management of federal grants that fund a substantial portion of health-related research in the United States. Academic researchers have access to significant resources when dealing with these responsibilities (such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Office of Sponsored Research), but community partners frequently do not have comparable infrastructure designed to support these research endeavors.
In discussing the barriers that many community members and organizations face in partnering on health-related research, Lori Carter-Edwards, PhD, research associate professor in the Gillings School of Global Public Health's Public Health Leadership Program and associate director of Community Academic Resources for Engaged Scholarship (CARES), a division of the NC Translational and Clinical Science (NC TraCS) Institute said, "There was a need to reach out to the [UNC-Chapel Hill] Office of Sponsored Research to really understand these issues [grants administration and fiduciary responsibilities] and figure out what are some of the ways that we can improve this together."
What are we doing to help address these issues?
The Community-Academic Grants Administration Translation (CAGAT) is an initiative to increase knowledge of university and federal policies, as well as the fiscal responsibilities, inherent in both the pre-award (application) process and in the post-award (management of grant funds) process for academic and community partners. The CAGAT Initiative and resources evolved from a collaboration between academic researchers, community partners, academic business office managers and leadership in the Office of Sponsored Research at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Carter-Edwards noted that "the whole goal of the CAGAT initiative is to increase the knowledge of the grants management process, both in the pre- and post-award period, and then improve the skills of both the investigators and the community partners in submitting grants together."
So far, the Initiative has resulted in several guides and a webinar series.
Academic Researcher's Guide This guide is designed for academic researchers who want to increase their knowledge of the pre- and post-award grants management processes critical to partnered research grants, as well as to increase their skills in both completing key procedures and in communicating about those procedures with community partners.
Community Partner's Guide This guide is designed for community members & organizations interested in community-engaged research who want to know more about the pre- and post-award grants management processes, as well as the key procedures required to submit and manage federally funded grants.
Introduction to the Academic Researcher's Guide Webinar Series Each webinar focuses on a specific stage of the grants management process – pre- and post-award. The webinars were originally held in 2016 but are available to view.
Where to next?
"We hope that this effort can start a dialogue across other CTSAs [Clinical and Translational Science Awards] and universities about common grants administration challenges in community-engaged research in order to develop recommendations for policy and procedure changes across multiple institutions," said Carter-Edwards.
To that end, Carter-Edwards and her team are holding community meetings and in-service trainings at the behest of other institutions and actively working in collaboration with Carolina leadership to disseminate the existing resources, as well as adapt the resources to other institutions and contexts.
To learn more about the initiative, to download a copy of either guide, or view one of the recorded webinars visit: tracs.unc.edu/services/cares/community-academic-grants.
NC TraCS is the academic home of the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The CTSA program is led by the NIH's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). NC TraCS combines the research strengths, resources and opportunities of UNC, its new partner RTI International (RTI) and planning partner North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (N.C. A&T) to accelerate clinical and translational research from health science discovery to dissemination to patients and communities.