What is a community?
Some common elements of community are:
- Locus (a sense of place) - city, village, neighborhood, workplace, etc.
- Sharing (sharing common interests and perspectives)
- Join action (joint actions that bring people together)
- Social ties (family, friends)
What are some barriers to community engagement?
- History of leaving community concerns and interests out of the research agenda, leading to caution on the part of communities
- Topics selected without determining if they addressed perceived needs of the community
- Studies conducted "on" communities; only community involvement was community members as research subjects
- No mechanisms for sharing research findings or continuing successful programs
- Communities felt they seldom received benefits from the research
- Time: research often an additional responsibility for already overworked individuals in organizations with their own mission and mandates to fulfill.
- Unclear distinctions between research, advocacy and administrative change can lead to unrealistic expectations.
- Time: building partnerships, negotiating, planning and communicating are all time consuming activities over and above regular research opportunities
- The community-engaged research approach may not fit neatly within the academic status quo, leading to funding and promotion challenges
- Expectations for dissemination of results:
- Community members often expect to hear about results soon after the research is completed; don't want to wait the months or years it takes to appear in academic journals
- Some academic journals (e.g., New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA) will not publish articles who findings have been previously disseminated via newspaper, TV, etc.
- Given the above, how to give results to the community in a timely manner without compromising the researcher's ability to present findings in academic venues.
- Please see the resources on the "Community Engagement in Practice" page for assistance in overcoming these barriers.
What are the benefits to community-engaged research?
Meaningful community involvement can improve the research process itself, and therefore the ultimate findings:
- Develop research questions concerning health issues of concern to the community
- Help recruiting participants - people more likely to support the research and researchers when they understand the purpose of the research and how the results may affect them.
- Identify risks associated with participation and help develop appropriate ways to protect participants.
- Improves study and instrument design through community input to produce user friendly, culturally sensitive, accurate and valid practices and measures.
- Involvement in analysis and interpretation can provide important explanations of results, and local interpretation may provide ideas the researchers had not considered.
- Opportunity to build greater trust and respect between researchers and communities. This may lead to future research collaborations.
- Research may be more likely to lead improvements in community health.
Why choose community-engaged research over traditional research methods?