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US National Institutes of Health www.cancer.gov

Overview of CRN Collaborative Opportunities

The CRN welcomes opportunities to collaborate with colleagues across the CRN, the HMO Research Network, and other research institutions to address high priority areas of cancer research. Successful collaborations may include the sharing of resources and ideas, publication of manuscripts, development of research proposals and work on successfully-funded grants, to develop research careers that focus on population sciences research that can be conducted in the CRN setting, and ongoing engagement in research collaborations. CRN investigators have a well-established history of collaborating with investigators at the NCI, NCI-designated cancer centers, academic institutions such as schools of public health, nursing, or medicine, and other research consortia and networks. Under current NCI-funding as a U24 research resource, the CRN has an explicit mission to build on this history to expand and enrich pportunities for collaborative research in the CRN setting. By doing so, the CRN can share our scientific expertise and leverage the power of the CRN integrated data systems to conduct research that can decrease the burden of cancer.

Following are the different ways the CRN encourages participation.

Scientific Working Groups

The CRN has identified four key research areas in which the CRN Setting provides distinct benefits for conducting research. These research areas cover the spectrum of cancer research, but highlight work that may take advantage of the unique strengths of access to detailed medical records and conducting research in integrated health care settings.

To develop research in these four areas, the CRN has Scientific Working Groups that are led by two researchers with primary appointments in CRN Research Centers, and one researcher with a primary appointment at a non-CRN or HMORN institution. The Scientific Working Groups conduct outreach activities, lead discussions to promote research ideas, shepherd research projects from idea to application, and generally provide a community of scientists with shared research interests to provide support for conducting cancer research.

The four CRN Scientific Working Groups promote discussions and research in Prevention & Screening, Epidemiology of Prognosis & Outcomes, Health Care Quality & Cost, and Communication & Dissemination. Further information about each of these Scientific Working Groups can be found here.

Training & Career Development Program (CRN Scholars Program)

The CRN Scholars program provides mentoring and nominal FTE support for junior investigators to gain training and experience in the conduct of research in the CRN Setting. A 26-month-long program, it differs from other training programs in that it does not provide full stipend support for a fellowship, but rather provides 10 percent FTE support, with a required match of 10 percent FTE from the Scholar’s home institution. The program provides direct mentoring through regular educational and other mentoring activities, including semi-annual in-person meetings, to create a community of scholars who can learn from each other and from the scientists and data resources of the CRN. Scholars work closely with a CRN Scientist as well as with a Scientist at their home institutions. The CRN Scholars program is open to junior scientists from any qualified research institution, and not just to scientists at CRN institutions. Further information about the CRN Scholars program can be found here.

Pilot Projects & Developmental Projects Program

The CRN Pilot Projects and Developmental Projects program provides funding for one year for small projects of up to about $75,000 in total costs. Most pilot project programs that are funded through NIH grants such as center grants limit eligibility to investigators who are at or closely affiliated with the institution that holds the center grant. Unlike those programs, the CRN Pilot Projects program is open to investigators from CRN and non-CRN institutions alike. Because the purpose of this program is to conduct research in the CRN Setting, all projects must have a CRN Scientist as a lead or co-investigator, as it is a requirement that any CRN institution that is involved in research involves a scientist that can provide that institution’s perspectives. Developmental Projects should enhance the scientific, data, or collaborative resources of the CRN, and thus, lead investigators of CRN Developmental Projects must have a primary affiliation at a CRN or Affiliate Site. Further information about the CRN Pilot Projects and Developmental Projects Program can be found here.

Initiating Collaboration with the CRN

If you are interested in learning more about how to collaborate with the CRN and/or would like to initiate research involvement, please review our Collaboration Process and complete an Inquiry Form. It is not necessary to include a project proposal when you complete the Inquiry Form. However, there is space to include specific details about a proposed project if you wish to include this information. Inquiries will be directed to the CRN Administrative Core/Coordinating Center for an administrative review. A CRN representative will respond to the inquiry and work with the Requestor to determine the best way forward.

Principles of Collaboration

The CRN has developed general principles to help both internal and external investigators navigate the process of collaborative research and to maximize the benefit of these collaborations for all parties.

  • The CRN promotes research collaborations that result in scientific, public-domain, peer-reviewed manuscripts, with the long-term goal of decreasing the cancer burden. The CRN does not conduct proprietary research.
  • CRN-based research projects benefit from involvement of CRN investigators from the outset, to ensure the development and formulation of research questions and study procedures that are feasible, meaningful, and consistent with the principle of respect for study participants. Studies for which the CRN is mainly a source of data, biospecimens, or study participants, and with minimal input from scientists at CRN research centers are discouraged. The CRN Outreach & Collaborations Core and Scientific Working Groups will facilitate the identification of a CRN scientist early in proposal development to work with external scientists who initiate collaboration queries.
  • Research projects often benefit from involvement of health plan leaders who are involved in the delivery of care or operations oversight and management. CRN internal investigators are uniquely positioned to identify and facilitate the collaboration of health care system leaders who are not primarily researchers themselves.
  • An outstanding and singular benefit of CRN research is its setting in integrated health care delivery systems, and access to their comprehensive clinical and administrative data. These have been extracted into VDW data tables to facilitate collaborative research across CRN Sites. Leveraging these data in a cost-efficient manner to investigate critical issues in cancer research is a main CRN focus. However, these are not public-domain data, and do not belong to CRN scientists or affiliated research groups. CRN investigators must act as stewards of VDW and other health plan data, ensuring protection of patient privacy.
  • Agreements for sharing data in research collaborations must be explicit and consider factors such as whether, under what circumstances, and how data will be shared. We employ strategies that protect patient and plan identity, while maximizing the utilization of data for current and future research.
  • All research involving human subjects requires appropriate Institutional Review Board (IRB) review and approval before starting research activities. The CRN encourages the use of streamlined IRB procedures when appropriate. Although we will uphold the principle that each CRN Site has the autonomy to determine whether its own IRB approval is needed for a research project (which is necessary for studies with active data collection from health plan members, and may be necessary for data-only studies), we have procedures to facilitate ceding IRB oversight to a lead CRN institution’s IRB. This includes use of a common IRB application for an initial request to cede that has been approved by all Kaiser Permanente and most other CRN institution IRBs.
  • Collaborations facilitated by the CRN operate under an "opt-in" model, wherein no CRN Site participates without a willing and interested investigator at the site.

Additional Resources to Ensure a Productive Collaboration

This page links to some files in Portable Document Format (PDF).
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