Linking practice-based research networks and Clinical and Translational Science Awards: new opportunities for community engagement by academic health centers

Acad Med. 2010 Mar;85(3):476-83. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181cd2ed3.


Purpose: Practice-based research networks (PBRNs) are a part of many National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) sites. PBRNs, groups of primary care practices committed to collaborating on practice-relevant research, are unfamiliar to many CTSA leaders. Conversely, the CTSAs, as new research structures designed to transform clinical research, are unfamiliar to many PBRN directors. This study examined the extent to which these programs have congruent goals and expectations, and whether their engagement is likely to be mutually beneficial.

Method: The authors sent a Web-based survey to 38 CTSA community engagement directors and a similar survey to 114 PBRN directors during the fall of 2008.

Results: A total of 66% (25/38) CTSA community engagement directors and 61% (69/114) PBRN directors responded. Two thirds of responding CTSAs reported working with PBRNs, and over half of responding PBRNs reported a CTSA affiliation. Both groups indicated this relationship was important. CTSAs looked to PBRNs for access to patients and expertise in engaging communities and clinical practices. PBRNs reported seeking stable infrastructure support and greater collaboration and visibility in the academic research community. PBRN infrastructure support from CTSAs was highly variable. Both groups perceived considerable promise for building sustainable relationships and a bidirectional flow of information and research opportunities.

Conclusions: With fewer than three years of experience, the PBRN/CTSA relationship remains in the discovery phase; the participants are still negotiating expectations. If these collaborations prove mutually beneficial, they may advance the community engagement goals of many academic health centers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers*
  • Awards and Prizes*
  • Biomedical Research*
  • Community-Based Participatory Research*
  • Translational Research, Biomedical / organization & administration*
  • United States