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New Web Site Provides One-Stop Resource for Health Researchers

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

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

The project team created the site, www.researchtoolkit.org, to enhance the efficiency of research from start to finish, 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 their data and study larger and more diverse groups of people in various settings.

Collaboration helps studies achieve more "generalizability" (to other populations and settings) and greater statistical power. This makes it easier to definitively answer pressing questions about which kinds of health care work best to improve the health of Americans. The downside of multi-site collaboration is logistical difficulties, which the new website aims to ease.

"ResearchToolkit.org will enable clinical investigators from multiple institutions to collaborate more efficiently and effectively on health research," said National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) Director Barbara M. Alving, MD.

"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 (CTSA) 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.

To ensure the Web site 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 (PBRNs). As part of the survey, respondents were invited to contribute resources of their own, and identify unmet needs and barriers to doing research efficiently.

"The result is a site built by the researchers, for the researchers," said lead investigator Sarah Greene, MPH, a research associate at Group Health Research Institute.  

Programs such as the National Institutes of Health’s CTSA initiative and its recent Grand Opportunities (GO) 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 Web site was developed as part of a project known as PRIMER, or Partnership-driven Resources to IMprove and Enhance Research. PRIMER was awarded to the Institute for Translational Health Sciences (ITHS) at the University of Washington by the NCRR.

The study team included researchers from Group Health Research Institute and the University of Washington (both in Seattle, WA), Duke University (Durham, NC), and Wayne State University (Detroit, MI).

"The partnership among our teams ultimately helped strengthen the final product," according to collaborating investigator Anne Victoria Neale, PhD, MPH, a professor at Wayne State.  

"Working with multiple sites on budgeting, developing the science, initiating the research study, and writing manuscripts can be especially challenging," noted Rowena Dolor, MD, MHS, co-investigator and primary care research network director from Duke University Medical Center.

The "toolkit" on the Web site spans the entire life-cycle of a research project, allowing visitors to find everything from a link to regulatory training, to authorship guidelines, to 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 website is an efficiency measure itself. "There’s no need for researchers and project teams to start from scratch," said Laura-Mae Baldwin, MD, MPH, a co-investigator on the project, University of Washington professor of family medicine, and practicing clinician.

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