Helping Basic Scientists Engage With Community Partners to Enrich and Accelerate Translational Research

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Engaging basic scientists in community-based translational research is challenging but has great potential for improving health.


In 2009, The Rockefeller University Center for Clinical and Translational Science partnered with Clinical Directors Network, a practice-based research network (PBRN), to create a community-engaged research navigation (CEnR-Nav) program to foster research pairing basic science and community-driven scientific aims. The program is led by an academic navigator and a PBRN navigator. Through meetings and joint activities, the program facilitates basic science–community partnerships and the development and conduct of joint research protocols.


From 2009–2014, 39 investigators pursued 44 preliminary projects through the CEnR-Nav program; 25 of those became 23 approved protocols and 2 substudies. They involved clinical scholar trainees, early-career physician–scientists, faculty, students, postdoctoral fellows, and others. Nineteen (of 25; 76%) identified community partners, of which 9 (47%) named them as coinvestigators. Nine (of 25; 36%) included T3–T4 translational aims. Seven (of 25; 28%) secured external funding, 11 (of 25; 44%) disseminated results through presentations or publications, and 5 (71%) of 7 projects publishing results included a community partner as a coauthor. Of projects with long-term navigator participation, 9 (of 19; 47%) incorporated T3–T4 aims and 7 (of 19; 37%) secured external funding.

Next Steps

The CEnR-Nav program provides a model for successfully engaging basic scientists with communities to advance and accelerate translational science. This model's durability and generalizability have not been determined, but it achieves valuable short-term goals and facilitates scientifically meaningful community–academic partnerships.

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