Community-engaged research

Community-engaged research is a framework or approach for conducting research, not a methodology. It is characterized by the principles that guide the research and the relationships between academia and the community. At the core of all community-engaged research is the understanding that the community will be involved in a meaningful way. 

By engaging with communities — whether through schools, non-profit organizations or religious institutions, community or private clinics — researchers may be able to:

  • Incorporate critical insights into their research questions or interpretation of their data;
  • Conduct research that can translate more easily to real world settings;
  • Design more culturally- and language-appropriate interventions;
  • Include populations that have been understudied and are not adequately represented in current data;
  • Increase the size of participant recruitment pools or make participant enrollment more efficient.

Comparing traditional and community-engaged research

Traditional Research Community-Engaged Research
Research Objective Based on epidemiological data & funding priorities. Involves the community in identifying  and prioritizing needs.
Study Design Design based entirely on scientific rigor and feasibility. Researchers collaborate with the community partners to ensure that the study design is appropriate and acceptable to the members of the community.
Recruitment and Retention Based on scientific issues and “best guesses” regarding how to best reach community members. Researchers collaborate with community representatives on recruitment and retention strategies.
Instrument Design Instruments adopted or adapted from other studies. Tested chiefly with psychometric analytic methods. Instruments adopted from other studies and tested or adapted to fit local populations.
Data Collection Conducted by academic researchers or individuals without connection to the community. Community members involved in some aspects of data collection.
Analysis and Interpretation Academic researchers own the data, conduct analysis, and interpret the findings. Academic researchers share results of analysis with community members for comments and interpretation.
Dissemination Results published in peer-reviewed academic  journals. Results disseminated in community venues as well as peer-reviewed journals.