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Team up to accelerate recruitment for aging research

Cerise Elliott
Program Director,
Division of Neuroscience (DN)

A common criticism of a lot of aging research is that it reveals much about relatively wealthy white people and little about everyone else—because that is the group who volunteer so willingly for research. Much as we really appreciate their willingness, how do we diversify our samples? We do know now that truly inclusive recruitment requires building trust in a community, commitment from the research group, and sustained effort even well after recruitment has closed. How do we do all that?

Figuring out how to do that is the idea behind Examining Diversity, Recruitment and Retention in Aging Research (PAR-18-749). With this FOA, NIA encourages building new, collaborative teams to target gaps in recruitment and retention methods and outcomes, as well as establishing the community infrastructure needed to accelerate studies. Proposed teams should include community members and can involve communications and other experts to brainstorm and test innovative approaches. 

The goal is to generate new processes, breakthrough ideas, engagement practices, communications strategies and recruitment success with community members. Projects will:

  • Develop and evaluate innovative approaches to recruitment and retention
  • Test new approaches and disseminate methods to the field
  • Engage, educate and motivate community members to participate in research; facilitate their enrollment and demonstrate measurable success
  • Incorporate community members and patient/volunteer liaisons into the recruitment infrastructure and enable them to be active partners in recruiting additional community members.
  • Provide sustainable participants to active NIA funded clinical research

Community is the centerpiece of the team

Innovative relationships and new targeted community members should be the highlight of the application. The collaborative teams need to significantly involve community members from targeted regions and financially compensate community members, groups and organizations for their active participation on the team.

Teams should prioritize understanding how values and beliefs link with differences in background to influence participation. We are also looking for research that examines factors in research institutions that either impede or facilitate community involvement in research. There should also be a focused evaluation of research institutions and their relationships with targeted communities.

Resources help guide inclusion, strategies

The NIA Health Disparities Research Framework helps define environmental, sociocultural, behavioral levels of analyses that provide a primer set of inclusion factors for clinical research studies. The National Strategy for Recruitment and Participation in Alzheimer’s Disease Clinical Research, due out later this summer, will outline practical, proactive approaches to help study sites and researchers recruit and retain diverse volunteers for a growing number of studies. Many of these strategies will also likely be applicable for clinical studies of other chronic diseases of aging.

Talk to us

We strongly encourage interested applicants to contact program staff to review approaches and responsiveness to the announcement. To help, we’re hosting three pre-application webinars to discuss the announcement objectives, help you plan your applications, and get answers to your questions. These will be held from 10 – 11 a.m., Eastern time, on:

  • Tuesday, June 12, 2018
  • Tuesday, August 14, 2018
  • Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Participants must register and submit questions in advance.

NIA staff will also be presenting information about this announcement at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on July 23 in Chicago, and at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of American in Boston, in November.

Improving recruitment methods in all aging research studies is a priority for the NIA in the next few years. We look forward to talking to you about your new and innovative approaches to engaging and including diverse communities in research.

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