Evaluation Guidelines for the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSAs)

Department of Policy Analysis and Management, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA.
Clinical and Translational Science (Impact Factor: 2.11). 08/2013; 6(4):303-9. DOI: 10.1111/cts.12036
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), a part of the National Institutes of Health, currently funds the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSAs), a national consortium of 61 medical research institutions in 30 states and the District of Columbia. The program seeks to transform the way biomedical research is conducted, speed the translation of laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients, engage communities in clinical research efforts, and train a new generation of clinical and translational researchers. An endeavor as ambitious and complex as the CTSA program requires high-quality evaluations in order to show that the program is well implemented, efficiently managed, and demonstrably effective. In this paper, the Evaluation Key Function Committee of the CTSA Consortium presents an overall framework for evaluating the CTSA program and offers policies to guide the evaluation work. The guidelines set forth are designed to serve as a tool for education within the CTSA community by illuminating key issues and practices that should be considered during evaluation planning, implementation, and utilization. Additionally, these guidelines can provide a basis for ongoing discussions about how the principles articulated in this paper can most effectively be translated into operational reality.

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    ABSTRACT: The Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program is an ambitious multibillion dollar initiative sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) organized around the mission of facilitating the improved quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of translational health sciences research across the country. Although the NIH explicitly requires internal evaluation, funded CTSA institutions are given wide latitude to choose the structure and methods for evaluating their local CTSA program. The National Evaluators Survey was developed by a peer-led group of local CTSA evaluators as a voluntary effort to understand emerging differences and commonalities in evaluation teams and techniques across the 61 CTSA institutions funded nationwide. This article presents the results of the 2012 National Evaluators Survey, finding significant heterogeneity in evaluation staffing, organization, and methods across the 58 CTSAs institutions responding. The variety reflected in these findings represents both a liability and strength. A lack of standardization may impair the ability to make use of common metrics, but variation is also a successful evolutionary response to complexity. Additionally, the peer-led approach and simple design demonstrated by the questionnaire itself has value as an example of an evaluation technique with potential for replication in other areas across the CTSA institutions or any large-scale investment where multiple related teams across a wide geographic area are given the latitude to develop specialized approaches to fulfilling a common mission.
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