Research That Matters (January 17 - 20, 2008)

Regency Ballroom Wings (Omni Shoreham)

Engaging Social Work Faculty in Aging Research

Chandra M. Mehrotra, PhD, College of Saint Scholastica, Aloen L. Townsend, PhD, Case Western Reserve University, and Barbara Berkman, Columbia University.

Background and purpose: A number of voices have called for enhanced research training at various levels of social work education (e.g., Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education, 2003, quality guidelines; Task Force on Social Work Research, 1991). In addition, a recent program announcement from the National Institutes of Health seeks to stimulate research related to social work. In collaboration with distinguished scholars and NIA Staff, we have offered an NIA-supported postdoctoral-level research training program for social work faculty from across the country. Its overarching goal is to expand the pool of social work faculty engaged in aging research, and thus increase the number of research proposals submitted to the NIH from social work programs. This, in turn, will enhance the gerontological knowledge base in areas such as caregiving, elder mistreatment, work and retirement, and mental health. The proposed poster will report evaluation findings and will conclude with lessons learned during the past three years.

Methods: To date, two cohorts of social work faculty (N=30) have participated in all activities of the program and a third cohort (N=15) is currently enrolled in the program. Each cohort attends an initial summer institute, which includes didactic sessions (on topics such as proposal writing, funding priorities of NIH, research design and methods, and state-of-the-science in aging research) and individual consultations with faculty and NIA staff. Each cohort reconvenes midyear for participants to present their preliminary proposals and receive feedback from fellow participants and faculty. Finally, each cohort returns for a second summer institute, where they present their revised proposals and again receive feedback from faculty and each other. Overlap between consecutive cohorts during the summer allows each new cohort to hear presentations by the prior cohort about their proposals and progress.

Results: In Spring 2006, we conducted a follow-up study to collect data on program impact. These data indicate that more than 73% of the participants from Cohort 1 and more than 50% from Cohort 2 have been successful in securing research support from private foundations and/or from state and federal agencies. In addition, more than 50% of the participants have received institutional funds for their research. Furthermore, 94% of Cohort 1 and 75% of Cohort 2 members have incorporated new content from the program in their courses, more than 90% have shared institute materials with others, and almost all of them have engaged their students in aging research. Evaluation has also monitored the implementation of all activities and assessed participants' satisfaction with all program components.

Conclusions and implications: Evaluation results indicate substantial success in engaging social work faculty in aging research and also provide suggestions for improvements. The poster will include implications for program structure, content, and staffing; recruitment and selection of participants; funding; supplemental resources (e.g., support from participants' home institutions); criteria for evaluating program effectiveness; and the place of short-term postdoctoral training, such as this one, within the continuum of social work education.