Background: The role of the study coordinator (SC) in multicenter studies of long duration has received limited attention.
Purpose: To describe the evolution of the SC's role during the 28-year Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) and its follow-up study, the Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications (EDIC) study.
Methods: The evolution of the SC's position from the traditional role of protocol implementation to that of research collaborator and co-investigator, based on personal experience and observation, is described in detail. Findings from a survey regarding professional demographics and job satisfaction, completed by all 28 SCs in 2010, provided additional information. We used dimensions of the SC's role specific to DCCT/EDIC to construct a classification schema of functions and responsibilities that describe the SC's role.
Results: Among the 28 SCs, 24 were nurses, 12 held bachelor's degrees, 11 had a master's degree, 19 were certified diabetes educators (CDEs), 12 had worked with DCCT/EDIC for more than 20 years, and 5 had been with the study since its inception (>26 years). Responses confirmed a high degree of functional consistency across sites with data acquisition, performing study procedures, recruitment and consent for additional ancillary studies, regulatory management, scheduling, clinical consultation, and ongoing contact with study participants frequently reported. Study-wide leadership activities, a category not generally included in the usual SC role, were reported by approximately 30% of the SCs. The level of professional satisfaction was high with two-thirds being very satisfied, one-third moderately to quite satisfied, and none dissatisfied.
Limitations: The limitations include a relatively small sample size, self-reported data, and a single long-term multicenter trial and observational follow-up study on which we based our findings and conclusions.
Conclusions: By optimizing their organizational and scientific contributions to the overall research endeavor, SCs in DCCT/EDIC have made major contributions to the unprecedented success of the study and report high job satisfaction. The efforts of the SCs have been integral to the remarkably high participant retention and data completion rates. The DCCT/EDIC experience may serve as a model for the role of the SC in future diabetes and other multicenter clinical trials.