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Communications with research participants and communities: foundations for best practices

Abstract

Communities and research participants increasingly feel that they have rights to be equal partners with researchers and to have access to the results of studies to which they have contributed. Concurrently, research sponsors have become aware of legal liabilities, societal repercussions, and credibility impacts of ignoring research communication responsibilities. However, issues related to research communications are rarely discussed at professional meetings or taught in academic programs. As a result, individual investigators may not be clear about their duties to communicate the results of their research. It is important to address this gap between expectations and abilities, because researchers' lack of communication fosters a climate of distrust in science and implies disinterest or disrespect for participants and communities. Ethical, legal, and professional frameworks and practices were reviewed to develop insights about principles, guidelines, and means that can be used to promote best practices. A review of general research guidance and specific requests for proposals revealed sponsors' communication priorities. While there are barriers to research communication, there is an increasing awareness among sponsors and investigators that effective and responsive communication is not a cheap or uniform add-on to a project or proposal. Communications must be tailored to the project considering all potential stakeholders, and resources need to be allocated specifically for communication activities within projects. Researchers, sponsors, professional societies and academia all have opportunities to improve principles, policies, frameworks, guidelines and strategies to foster “best practice” communication of research results.

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Acknowledgements

I gratefully acknowledge the support provided by the Mickey Leland National Urban Air Toxics Research Center for the preparation of the related August 2002 ISEA-ISEE meeting presentation and this manuscript. I also acknowledge Dr. Tee Guidotti of The George Washington University and the peer-reviewers for their insights that contributed to the final article. I especially thank two staff members of the University's Center for Risk Science and Public Health — Elizabeth Shinkman, who conducted major portions of the literature search and Lisa Ragain, who conducted most of the Internet searches.

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Correspondence to Rebecca T Parkin.

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Parkin, R. Communications with research participants and communities: foundations for best practices. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 14, 516–523 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.jea.7500393

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.jea.7500393

Keywords

  • professional duties
  • community-based participatory research
  • research ethics
  • communication
  • research participants.

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