Building a research team: A Cochrane US Network experience focusing on racial health equity
Background: Cochrane US Network (Network) was established in 2019 and comprises 23 US-based organizations producing and disseminating Cochrane and other high-quality evidence informing healthcare decisions. Network members had little experience working together but solidified common goals and objectives for increased use of evidence to inform healthcare policy, practice, decision-making, and standards of care.
The first large-scale partnership project awarded to the Network is for prioritizing racial health equity in evidence synthesis in the US. This Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) grant facilitated multiple partnerships throughout the Network and brought together multi-disciplinary health professionals from diverse backgrounds, with diverging opinions and various levels of experience.
Methods: An informational partnership between the Network and RWJF began in 2019 through connections made at the Network launch. Over three years, conversations among the Network, RWJF, and CDC progressed through several project ideas and concepts, concluding with a defined project in October 2022. Being the first large-scale collaborative, funded project of the Network, it served as a pilot towards informing protocols and procedures for partnership building, funds management, project team development, and cohesion across agencies. Diplomatic and open conversations, as well as expertise and availability, played key roles in deciding project composition – both from an organizational and individual standpoint. Use of technology accelerated this process and is a key tool in project management and research methods. A milestone payment system enhances accountability across sub-contractors and fosters project success.
Results: Preliminary results are encouraging. Clear communication and expectations guided us towards a cohesive project team. Given the team expertise, dedication, and lived experience, we look forward to achieving improved prioritization of racial health equity in evidence synthesis in the US and abroad. Discussion: Though time from initial conversations to the award was three years, time from award to project start was limited. Despite time constraints, unfamiliar working partnerships, and divergent methodological experience, we assembled a diverse and dedicated project team within a month. Understanding the flexibility, restraints, and institutional requirements of project team organizations is crucial to a successful delegation of responsibilities.