Session: Complications and Solutions in Conducting Research in Non-Academic Settings (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

151 Complications and Solutions in Conducting Research in Non-Academic Settings

Friday, January 17, 2020: 3:45 PM-5:15 PM
Liberty Ballroom I, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Social Work Practice (SWP)
Sarah Accomazzo, PhD, Seneca Family of Agencies, Danna Basson, PhD, WestCoast Children's Clinic, Bridgette Lery, PhD, San Francisco Human Services Agency and Jesh Harbaugh, BA, Seneca Family of Agencies
The  current policy environment, including the federal Family First Prevention Services Act, encourages direct service programs to use interventions grounded in evidence. The number of interventions found to be effective for child welfare-involved families, for example, remains relatively few, creating a great demand, from the field of social welfare and beyond, for building the evidence base. Existing and new interventions need to be tested with diverse populations and in community settings. Non-academic organizations, i.e., government and non-profit social service agencies, are often in a good position to carry out this research by virtue of directly serving these populations or funding the organizations that do so, and many social welfare researchers are embedded in these types of settings. However, these organizations may lack the necessary research infrastructure. Panelists will address two main infrastructure challenges related to conducting applied research in non-academic organizations that directly or indirectly serve child welfare-involved youth and families.

One challenge is  engaging  in  external ethics oversight and review. As non-academic researchers, we typically do not have access to Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) associated with academic institutions unless we direct collaborate with a university-associated researcher. The only option is to turn to private, for-profit organizations that run IRBs. There is debate in the literature regarding the ethics of engaging with a for-profit organization for human ethics oversight, and the financial resources required to do so work against our efforts to engage in external human ethics processes and make contributions to moving the field forward.  Partnering with academic institutions or large health organizations that have IRBs presents its own challenges, such as the question of who ultimately holds responsibility for the ethics and content of the research.

Panelists will discuss experiences with external oversight and review for internally driven research projects within various settings (e.g. development of a screening instrument for young people experiencing commercial sexual exploitation; seeking stakeholder input).

A second challenge is data sharing. Non-academic organizations may lack protocols and secure databases for sharing confidential data. Yet client-level data must sometimes be exchanged, such as between the referring child welfare agency and the non-profit agency that delivers the intervention and collects data about processes and outcomes. Panelists will offer examples of how to set up data sharing agreements and memoranda of understanding that facilitate the regular exchange of data necessary to conduct program evaluation and to support continuous quality improvement efforts. Our  goal is to raise and begin to resolve the ethical and practical issues involved in conducting research with child welfare-involved youth and families and other vulnerable populations outside of the academy, and to collectively think about solutions. 

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