Although it is tacitly recognized that a good Coordinating Center (CC) is essential to the success of any multi-site collaborative project, little study has been done on what makes a good CC successful, why some CCs fail, or how to build a CC that meets the needs of a given project. Collectively, there is a great amount of knowledge on CCs in the scientific community, yet that knowledge is not being recorded and shared in a systematic, scientific way. The end result is that collaborative research projects waste time and money, delaying or even blocking their scientific progress entirely, as they struggle to build an appropriate CC. The long-term goal of our research is to make collaborative biomedical research, especially cancer-epidemiology research, more efficient and effective through greater understanding of how the research is done and how it can be better supported. We want to find ways to minimize the administrative burden of collaborative research and leave investigators more time to focus on their science. We hope to provide sufficient evidence for the necessity of CCs so that future collaborative projects will be able to use what we learn to justify the inclusion of funds in grant application budgets, perhaps even developing a formula for calculating what percentage of a project's budget should be devoted to the CC operations. We believe that successful completion of this project can help science move forward more quickly. The four aims of this study are (1) Identify and describe models of CCs and corresponding models of collaborative cancer-epidemiology research projects;(2) Develop metrics that CCs can use to predict and evaluate their performance;(3) Build a downloadable toolkit to help CCs ramp up their operations efficiently and effectively;and (4) Produce a modular course to develop and train CC staff. To accomplish these aims, we will interview project staff from 6- 10 cancer-epidemiology Coordinating Centers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA, and send electronic surveys to teams at other comprehensive cancer care centers around the US. We will also interview project staff from two non-FHCRC CCs. These project teams have, collectively, decades of experience running CCs, experience that is crucial to record for the use of research teams everywhere. Successful completion of this project can help science move forward more quickly by ensuring that funded projects run more smoothly and have the ability to reach their scientific goals, creating a greater return on a funding agency's investment. This focus on "improving epidemiologic study data collection, study designs, and analysis" qualifies this study for inclusion in the "Methods and Technologies" objective of the Small Grants Program for Cancer Epidemiology (R03).
The results of this study will be used to make collaborative cancer-epidemiology research more efficient and more effective by creating new resources for the management of Coordinating Centers. This will, in turn, help science move forward more quickly and provide a greater return on the investments made by public health funding agencies.