Dr. Redonna K. Chandler, chief of NIDA's Services Research Branch in the Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research, is the recipient of the Institute's 2011 Innovator Award. Dr. Chandler recognized that independent research projects within the Seek, Test, and Treat in Criminal Justice Populations initiative focused on HIV would yield more information if their findings could be examined as a whole. She envisioned an integrated dataset and developed a collaborative method with NIDA-funded researchers to achieve such a resource. The Institute is now replicating the process with an international research initiative on the Seek, Test, and Treat approach to prevent HIV among vulnerable populations.
With an integrated dataset, information is comparable across independent projects so that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts," according to Dr. Chandler. For example, an integrated dataset allows analyses of outcomes from subpopulations, whereas each separate study would not have enough participants to provide robust findings. Researchers can also determine whether results are similar across different studies, potentially quickening the pace of replication of findings and contributing valuable information on the best ways to prevent HIV.
To develop such a resource, the projects must use similar data collection methods. The researchers had already designed their studies when they applied for funding and had not anticipated aggregating their data. After agreeing to participate in harmonization activities, the investigators were brought together for a meeting. "At these meetings, Dr. Chandler showed tremendous skill in helping the group reach consensus around data strategies," says Dr. Wilson Compton, who nominated Dr. Chandler for the award. "The result is that the separate grants have a degree of coordination and collaboration that is rarely seen. The resulting data will be much better for full-scale modeling of HIV-transmission and HIV-prevention studies." "I enjoy working with people who are at the top of the field and facilitating collaboration and creativity among them," says Dr. Chandler. "The scientists involved in this effort saw that working together will greatly advance HIV research, as did the many NIDA colleagues who also worked to achieve this method of coordinating data."