In this era where research is being more accepted and desired by many entities to help answer important questions and improve health, it can be difficult to identify those who do quality work. In my experience, there are many people who talk about research, but few that have actual experience in designing, implementing, conducting and publishing quality research studies. What are the hallmarks of a good researcher and research team?
When NIH reviewers are critiquing a grant application, the publications of the investigative team are one of the first things considered. Publications not only represent research productivity, it also shows that the individual’s work has held up to scrutiny from his or her peers. The best way to find out about an investigators productivity in the health sciences is to use PubMed (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed). Sometimes google or even an investigator’s vita can be misleading if newsletter or magazine articles are listed as publications. While these types of publications are important, they typically have not been peer-reviewed by other researchers.
Another hallmark is receipt of funding. Virtually all grant opportunities go through an extensive review process. Individuals that have received funding for their research and likely to be putting forward scientifically sound studies that are likely to produce meaningful results.
Obviously other important factors include the ability to partner in community-based research and just be a pleasant person to work with on projects. However, while those factors are important, they shouldn’t be the sole determining factor on finding a solid research partner. If the research methods and analysis plans are not well conceived, the study won’t produce meaningful findings.
It is important that communities demand productivity and outcomes from research partners. It is also important for communities to have processes in place to help researchers be able to publish study findings in a timely manner. Disseminating findings through permanent products, such as publications and presentations is essential. This dissemination creates documentation of the study and its findings so that the study findings can be built upon.