Online Program

Health research networks: Comparing collaborative approaches to advance knowledge

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 3:00 p.m. - 3:15 p.m.

Jessica Levin, BA, Public Health and Epidemiology, Abt Associates, Cambridge, MA
Lisa J. LeRoy, PhD, MBA, U.S. Health Division, Public Health and Epidemiology, Abt Associates, Cambridge, MA
Jessie Gerteis, MPH, Public Health and Epidemiology, Abt Associates, Cambridge, MA
Karin Johnson, PhD, MacColl Center for Health Care Innovation, Group Health Research Institute, Seattle, WA
Emma Oppenheim, BA, Public Health and Epidemiology, Abt Associates, Cambridge, MA
Therese Miller, DrPH, Center for Primary Care, Prevention, and Clinical Partnerships, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD
Background: The utilization of research networks to promote cross-disciplinary learning and teamwork in science is growing. Several reports have described a shift in interest (and funding) towards collaborative research, and away from the more traditional, siloed approach. Research networks are typically created to find solutions to a complex problem, develop innovative methods, build data infrastructure, and/or advance an emerging field. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ) Multiple Chronic Conditions (MCC) Research Network is a collaborative network aimed at improving care for patients with MCC through evidence-based research. Methodology: To understand the variation in research networks, and compare their characteristics with those of the AHRQ MCC Research Network, the authors identified networks that conducted healthcare research and supported collaborative research activities across multiple network sites. We interviewed representatives from eight federally and privately funded networks to compare research focus, duration and funding sources, organizational structure, methods used to facilitate collaboration, and barriers and facilitators to collaborative research. Results: Networks were formed to: advance a field of research, study understudied populations, pool study subjects or datasets, accelerate research to practice findings, and share methods and knowledge. All of the networks interviewed were comprised of geographically diverse research institutions and/or health centers, governed by a Steering Committee and supported by a coordinating center. Participant size and the number of research sites varied across networks, ranging from 5 to 25 participating organizations. Member expertise varied across networks, and was drawn from disparate fields (e.g. medicine, psychology, economics). Flexible and on-going funding, in-person meetings, pooled resources (such as data and patient populations) and trust among members were found to be key facilitators of collaborative research. Competing academic priorities for members, limited or restricted funding and time, and geographic dispersion were deemed to be the main barriers to success. Discussion: The use of research networks is a valuable method for encouraging knowledge sharing among researchers and may help accelerate the pace of medical and public health research. It is challenging to evaluate the success of networks, however, as many do not have measurable aims when established. Readiness assessment tools may be effective in gauging member's willingness to collaborate and evaluating stages of change prior to, during, and after participation in the network. Challenges and successes identified through this work can be used by funders and organizing bodies to help design and evaluate future health research networks.

Learning Areas:

Administration, management, leadership
Chronic disease management and prevention

Learning Objectives:
Describe the utility and characteristics of research networks; Discuss barriers and facilitators to implementing research networks; List recommendations for future funding, evaluation, sustainability of research networks

Keyword(s): Research, Collaboration

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am theProject Director for the AHRQ Multiple Chronic Conditions Research Network contract and oversaw all research and analysis activities.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

Back to: 3370.0: Health services research