Community-Academic Partnerships (CAP) are increasingly being established to study and address health disparity issues. Under CAP, communities and researchers in academic institutions build partnerships in conducting research. Community stakeholders can provide firsthand knowledge and insight of their lived experience and cultural relevance, thereby increasing research relevance and feasibility (Drabota et al., 2016). CAP helps create new knowledge and innovative solutions to community problems, benefiting the community and academia.
Methods: An interdisciplinary research team at one of the Historical Black Universities and Colleges (HBCU) received a National Science Foundation grant to conduct data science projects while involving community organizations. Using the grant, the current research addresses a community health organization’s needs in analyzing and understanding data collected from the caregivers of asthmatic minority children in low-income households in an urban area. Meanwhile, the project provides data analysis training for underserved students from the HBCU. The project is human-centric (i.e., either human is regarded as the research target or humans are involved in all stages of data analytics) and community-oriented, with resources being shared between the community organization and academic to solve a community issue. Using a case study approach, we will discuss how we constructed a healthy CAP and lessons learned from the process.
Findings: Our analysis was guided by the six main factors that facilitate success in collaborative relationships, explained in Mattessich and Monsey (1992): 1) History of collaboration: Without any pre-existing history of partnership, community-academic team building can be facilitated by community liaisons; 2) Membership: Members from community organizations and academic researchers should have mutual respect and understanding for their time, obligations, and responsibilities; 3) Process: Involving both parties equally in any decision-making process enables the formation of a shared sense of ownership and leadership; 4) Communication: Community-academic team should consider having a conversation on the preferred means of communication at the beginning and establishing an open and transparent communication channel; 5) Purpose: Shared understanding of project’s purpose is essential for successful CAP and such shared understanding takes time to build; and 6) Resources: As CAP requires resources from both ends, the project should include budget for compensating the time and efforts for both parties, including the time needed to build the CAP team. Based on the six factors, we describe the process of our collaboration, challenges, and areas with a need for improvement.
Implications The study is based on the framework of Community-Based Participatory Research (Wallerstein & Duran, 2006) and structured to provide a “points-to-consider” roadmap for academic and community partners to establish and maintain a partnership at each stage of the research process. Collaborating with community members and organizations provides unique opportunities for researchers and students to apply their skills and knowledge learned from the classroom and textbook, engage with community members, and improve real-life community needs. Building constructive CAP involves efforts, energy, and resources from both parties. The six major themes derived from our project offer suggestions for future CAP on building a healthy, collaborative, and productive relationship to best serve communities in the future.