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WSU partners with Duke, University of Washington and Group Health Research Institute to develop ResearchToolkit.org

October 19, 2009

Wayne State University, in partnership with the Duke University Translational Medicine Institute, the University of Washington’s Institute for Translational Health Sciences and Group Health Research Institute, has developed a new Web site to help researchers create and sustain successful multi-site research collaborations.

The team created the site, www.researchtoolkit.org, to enhance the efficiency of research, including developing research networks, launching and managing projects, and sharing study results or other products such as data sets, tools and training resources.

Researchers are increasingly finding strength in unity. By collaborating with investigators at multiple sites, they can pool data and study larger and more diverse groups of people in various settings. Collaboration helps studies achieve more “generalizability” and greater statistical power. This makes it easier to definitively answer questions about which kinds of health care work best to improve the health of Americans.

“ResearchToolkit.org will enable clinical investigators from multiple institutions to collaborate more efficiently and effectively on health research,” said National Center for Research Resources Director Barbara M. Alving, M.D. “Ultimately, this new, Web-based resource may help improve community engagement nationwide.”

The development of the research toolkit was funded by the Clinical and Translational Science Award program, which is led by NCRR, part of the National Institutes of Health. The CTSA program fosters collaboration to speed the translation of research into practice and to engage communities in clinical research. The research toolkit will be key in strengthening clinical and translational research.

Anne Victoria Neale, Ph.D., M.P.H., a collaborating investigator in the project, said the site is now available to all Wayne State University researchers.

“The site provides an assemblage of excellent research resources, particularly focusing on community-based and multi-site research,” said Dr. Neale, a professor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences. “However, some also apply to single-site research. We call it a toolkit because we focused on practical resources such as templates and checklists. We also included some theoretical resources that were judged as outstanding as well.”

The resources are organized under five headings reflecting the life cycle of a research project, from “Building Collaborations” to “Developing Proposals to Starting up a Study” to “Conducting and Managing Projects” and “Disseminating and Closing Research.” Under each heading are subheadings with a number indicating the number of resources that relate to the subheading.

“The final heading is ‘Resources for Training,’ which are excellent background and training materials,” Dr. Neale said. “On the left column of the home page are some excellent resources and utilities that we wanted to highlight as well (‘Cool Tools’).”

At the bottom of the home page researchers will find a “provide feedback” link, where they can suggest other resources or let site organizers know what they found “useful” or “not very useful.”

To ensure the site’s content is maximally useful, the team surveyed members of the CTSA program who conduct community-based research, along with leaders of Practice-Based Research Networks. As part of the survey, respondents were invited to contribute resources of their own, and identify unmet needs and barriers to conducting research efficiently.

“The result is a site built by the researchers, for the researchers,” said lead investigator Sarah Greene, M.P.H., a research associate at Group Health Research Institute, a non-proprietary, public-domain research institution. Programs such as the National Institutes of Health’s CTSA initiative and its recent Grand Opportunities funding opportunity have spurred substantial growth in multi-center research, she explained. “This means today’s researchers are challenged to quickly surmount the logistical and operational barriers to project development. We built the ResearchToolkit.org site to help them.”

The site was developed as part of a project known as PRIMER, or Partnership-driven Resources to IMprove and Enhance Research. The NCRR awarded PRIMER to the Institute for Translational Health Sciences at the University of Washington. The study team included researchers from Group Health Research Institute, Wayne State University, the University of Washington and Duke University.

“Working with multiple sites on budgeting, developing the science, initiating the research study and writing manuscripts can be especially challenging” said Rowena Dolor, M.D., M.H.S., co-investigator and primary care research network director with the Duke University Medical Center. The site’s “toolkit” includes links to regulatory training, authorship guidelines and templates for consent forms. Responses from survey participants and systematic searches of existing large research networks helped the team identify which tools to include.

Having these resources reside on a single Web site is an efficiency measure itself. “There’s no need for researchers and project teams to start from scratch,” said Laura-Mae Baldwin, M.D., M.P.H., a co-investigator on the project, University of Washington professor of Family Medicine and practicing clinician.

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Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit www.research.wayne.edu

For more information, contact Julie O'Connor, director of research communications, at ag2712@wayne.edu.