Background: Major gaps exist between what we know and what we do in clinical practice and community health programs and narrowing this gap will require substantive partnerships between academic researchers and the communities they serve.
Objectives: We describe a research pilot award program that makes a unique commitment to community engagement through the addition of an External Community Review Committee to the typical research review process that gives external stakeholders decision-making power over research funding.
Methods: Whereas engaging community reviewers in discussion and rating of research proposals is not novel, the ICTR ECRC review process is distinct in that it is subsequent to peer review and uses different criteria and methodology. This method of engagement allows for the community review panel to re-rank scientifically meritorious proposals-such that proposals funded do not necessarily follow the rank order from scientific peer review. The approach taken by UW ICTR differs from those discussed in the literature that present a model of community-academic co-review.
Results: This article provides guidance for others interested in this model of community engagement and reviews insights gained during the evolution of this strategy; including how we addressed conflict, how the committee was able to change the pilot award program over time, and individual roles that were crucial to the success of this approach.
Conclusions: The advantages of this approach include success through traditional academic metrics while achieving an innovative shared-power mechanism for community engagement which we believe is critical for narrowing the gap between knowledge and practice.