A New Approach to Strengthening Community-Academic Research
BACKGROUND: Partnerships between academic and community-based organizations (CBOs) can richly inform the research process and speed translation of findings. Although immense potential exists to co-conduct research, a better understanding of how to create and sustain equitable relationships between entities with different organizational goals, structures, resources, and expectations is needed. OBJECTIVE: We sought to engage community leaders in the development of an instrument to assess CBOs' interest and capacity to engage with academia in translational research partnerships. METHODS: Leaders from CBOs partnered with our research team in the design of a 50-item instrument to assess organizational experience with applying for federal funding and conducting research studies. Respondents completed a self-administered, paper/pencil survey and a follow-up structured cognitive interview (n = 11). A community advisory board (CAB; n = 8) provided further feedback on the survey through guided discussion. Thematic analysis of the cognitive interviews and a summary of the CAB discussion informed survey revisions. RESULTS: Cognitive interviews and discussion with community leaders identified language and measurement issues for revision. Importantly, they also revealed an unconscious bias on the part of researchers and offered an opportunity, at an early research stage, to address imbalances in the survey perspective and to develop a more collaborative, equitable approach. CONCLUSIONS: Engaging community leaders enhanced face and content validity and served as a means to form relationships with potential community co-investigators in the future. Cognitive interviewing can enable a bidirectional approach to partnerships, starting with instrument development.