Exploring Research Communication and Engagement in a Rural Community: The Libby Partnership Initiative
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This project responds to the NIH Public Trust Initiative to improve the communication and interaction between researchers and the public. The premise of this study is that too little is known about the conditions and approaches that lead to increased understanding of and participation in research by members of a rural community impacted by an environmental disaster and the complex ecological aftermath. Residents of Libby, MT represent a unique target population for researchers studying the human health effects of Libby amphibole asbestos. To raise the level of public awareness, understanding, acceptance, and involvement in research in this inimitable rural community, an established community/academic partnership will apply case study research methods and community-based participatory research (CBPR) principles to address three project aims. First, determine the research milieu in Libby, MT by conducting a focused community assessment to include: a) history of research in the community; b) infrastructure (services and resources) available to support the communication and translation of research in the community; c) Libby residents’ awareness, knowledge, acceptance, and/or resistance to biomedical and behavioral research; and, d) Libby residents’ preferred method of communication about research. Second, design, implement, and evaluate strategies for communicating research opportunities and results to Libby residents to: a) be used by researchers to facilitate research communication in Libby, MT; b) increase community resident’s awareness, knowledge, and acceptance of research; and, c) enhance the existing local research infrastructure for the communication of research to community members. And finally, provide a foundation for the development of a rural CBPR model that fosters community involvement in research and guides researchers working in rural communities. Case study research is an ideal strategy for understanding complex, contemporary social phenomenon including questions related to “how” and “why” rural residents living within a Superfund site (the context) choose to participate or decline participation in research (the phenomenon of interest). This line of inquiry is consistent with CBPR principles since each phase of the case study, from identifying multiple data sources via the community assessment and linking rural theory, to validating the final results depends on input from community members. The long-term goal of this research collaboration is to improve communication about research and provide direction for researchers working with rural persons that will engage communities in research and researchers in the community..