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“We know that scientific integrity occurs throughout the research life cycle and part of that really begins at the foundation of a project and a proposal,” said Monica Lemmon, MD, Associate Dean for Scientific Integrity, at the start of the Duke Office of Scientific Integrity Research Town Hall on October 16th. Grant preparation is an integral part of the research process, and the discussions highlighted best practices, paths to community engagement, and the wealth of resources available to the Duke research community.

Michelle J. White MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Population Health Sciences, presented on building multidisciplinary, community-academic teams. Dr. White said that she draws inspiration from superheroes, where everyone brings complementary strengths that make the team stronger as whole. This involves examining the expertise team members can bring along with individual personalities. It is also important to include an examination of who is needed to get the work done well and equitably. Dr. White encouraged researchers to consider involving members of the community and community-based organizations. Researchers should give thought to whose voices are missing from a project, especially marginalized groups and those with different cultural backgrounds. Engaging the community in research should focus on acknowledging past harms that may have been caused, ensure that the work is mutually beneficial for the researchers and the community, set clear goals and expectations, and also provide appropriate payments for time, space, and expertise. For further resources, she recommended the Community Engaged Research Initiative, the LEADER program, Scholars@Duke, and the NIH Reporter.

Elizabeth Gifford, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Population Health Sciences, presented on the foundations of multidisciplinary collaboration. Her talk aimed to give a perspective on how collaborations actually form. For early stage researchers, these collaborations often start as opportunities to demonstrate interest or highlight past work to more senior researchers in a given field. These opportunities are often the result of match-making efforts facilitated by more senior researchers who server not only as a mentor but also foster opportunities through this form of sponsorship. She also spoke on the “grant-getting” process, and how even though many proposals may not end up getting funded, the process of putting in the work to develop an idea and coordinate with other investigators can still lead to tangible, positive results.

Sohini Sengupta, PhD, MPH, Director for the Office of Campus Research Development (OCRD), presented resources available within their office. OCRD provides proposal development and proposal writing programming that focuses on ensuring high quality proposals (but does not guarantee funding success). OCRD’s proposal development services include toolkits for numerous types of federal funding programs, and Dr. Sengupta encouraged people to reach out if there is a toolkit that they would like but don’t see currently available. They also offer free 1:1 consultation for proposal development. ORCD holds workshops throughout the semester and recordings of previous programming are available here.

Christine Erlien, PhD, Senior Research Development Associate, presented on resources provided by the School of Medicine Office of Research Development (SoM ORD). For complex research grant proposals led by SoM faculty, the team can facilitate proposal development through template preparation, advice and guidance, project management, and review/editing to ensure integration across the various components of the application. For individual investigators the team is available for consultations on proposal content, organization, and presentation along with editing services. For proposal resubmissions, ORD offers guidance for interpreting and responding to reviewer comments. ORD doesn’t have the opportunity to work with every individual or team, so the office has posted a set of materials in myRESEARCHpath to assist faculty developing proposals – toolkits for NIH Ks, Rs (with and without clinical trial), complex grants (Ps, Us), and the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs that provide a list of what to include (tracking sheets), templates for required documents, writing tips, and proposal development calendars. Putting together a grant can sometimes feel like a puzzle - SoM ORD’s materials aim to help you put together the proposal development/submission pieces. For more resources and to find toolkits, please visit their services website.

Jen Darragh, MLIS, Senior Research Data Management Consultant, provided information on creating data management plans through the Center for Data and Visualization Sciences (CDVS). One key resource that researchers at Duke have access to is the Data Management Planning (DMP) tool, a resource that provides up-to-date templates for federal and some private funders. Researchers can submit their DMSPs directly through the tool itself for CDVS review. The Research Data Management Consultant team is a key resource for identifying repository options based on your discipline, data type, and funder-sponsored options. Jen highlighted the Duke Research Data Repository (RDR), a service provided by the Duke University Libraries that provides curation, access, and preservation of research data produced by the Duke community.

Megan Von Isenburg, MSLS, Associate Dean for Library Services & Archives, spoke on resources and services through the Duke Medical Center Library for creating a great literature review for your grant proposal. The Medical Center Library provides services to help refine your search by analyzing citations for strengths and opportunities and identifying gaps in the current literature. They also provide services that can help to identify researchers at Duke who are working on similar research topics and outside institutions those researchers are collaborating with. She ended her talk by giving tips and best practices, including reaching out early in the literature review process, budgeting for article processing charges to enable open access, and budgeting for specialized searching expertise for projects where a literature search is a primary deliverable. Importantly, the Duke Medical Center Library now has an agreement to fund processing charges for those wishing to publish in PLoS journals.

Laurianne Torres, MNM, Associate Dean for Research Administration, presented on identifying and disclosing overlap. Many other federal funders are now taking the issue of overlap more seriously. Knowing what sponsors consider commitment, budgetary or scientific overlap can greatly help researchers avoid this pitfall. She encouraged transparency in the application and also highlighted resources for how to identify and disclose overlap. Researchers can utilize iThenticate to run a comparison between applications. Also, the Intent to Submit (I2S) form includes a question on overlap that provides researchers the opportunity to receive guidance on how best to disclose the overlap to the funder. When in doubt, it is always best practice to seek guidance and disclose any potential overlap upfront as there can be civil, criminal, or administrative consequences for not following these guidelines. More information on identifying and disclosing overlap can be found on myRESEARCHpath (requires NetID login).

Kenisha Bethea, MPH, Research Program Leader with Duke Clinical & Translational Science Institute, finished up the town hall by presenting information on Duke’s Community Engaged Research Initiative (CERI). CERI’s main mission is to facilitate equitable, authentic, and robust community-engaged research to improve health and health equity. She encouraged researchers to seek community input early and to consider how each arm of the community and the research team informs the research proposal. CERI’s consultation services can help researchers and the community find opportunities to work together towards common health goals. They also offer pilot funding through their Population Health Improvement Awards to support the advancement of new and existing community-academic partnerships. Importantly, partnerships like this can provide expertise in cultural knowledge along with feedback and guidance to inform and improve population health through research. These resources and more can be found here.

If you are curious to read more about this and any previous Research Town Hall meeting, you can find the slides and recordings to previous Research Town Halls here