Team Science and Workforce Development
The Irving Institute develops and oversees several programs and projects that emphasize team science and workforce development.
The Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research brings together various and disparate groups across our institution, partner organizations, other clinical and translational science award (CTSA) program hubs, local and regional governmental entities, and key community stakeholders around significant research areas and initiatives. In collaboration with the Data Science Institute, a workshop held in 2017 focused on bringing together experts from four domains (phenotypic characterization, environment, data science, and genomics) to advance complex traits research through data science-enabled precision medicine/health approaches. More recently, using a similar approach to address the opioid crisis, an initial environmental scan of institutional activities culminated in development of four working groups, a brainstorm session, a steering committee, and a larger symposium to stimulate collaborations among researchers, industry partners, and the community. Both efforts led to synergizing new partnerships, developing key areas for further research, and creating targeted pilot funding opportunities to facilitate this research.
Columbia University Scientific Profiles (CUSP) is an innovative expert search platform for facilitating team science. It allows anyone from anywhere to perform name or keyword searches for experts with publications or grants on any research topic at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. It uses modern semantic web technologies for investigator-centered information extraction and integration from a variety of databases for human resources, publications, and funded research projects. It provides robust name disambiguation for periodic publication updates using PubMed. CUSP is instrumental to team science efforts at Columbia. Between 11/1/2015 and 8/31/2018, CUSP served >10,000 sessions for 8500 unique visitors, with an average of 255 active users using it on a monthly basis. It is used to support campus-wide collaborative team science initiatives such as a university-wide obesity workshop, the annual (2016-2018) precision medicine symposium, and the 2018 opioid crisis symposium.
The ISP Resource was created in 2016 to encourage and support collaborative cutting edge clinical research for diseases across the lifespan in four domains: HIV, geriatric, pediatric, and rare diseases. Our specific goals include addressing changes in the clinical environment reflecting the increasing pediatric presence of formerly adult diseases (e.g., type 2 diabetes) and pediatric-to-adulthood transitions of patients with formerly fatal pediatric diseases (e.g., cystic fibrosis). The ISP Resource facilitates relevant collaboration development, demonstration of broader research considerations, and dissemination of information to communities.
Our ISP team consists of 12 members representing community engagement and investigators across the four domains. Annually, we sponsor 6-10 seminars and 3-4 pilot awards for multidisciplinary studies of disease across the lifespan. Each pilot provides $40,000 and must include a young investigator and at least two of the ISP domains.
During summer 2018, three groups of patients from New York and New Jersey with rare genetic disorders, their families, clinicians, and researchers met for the first time to understand the mutations in the genes HNRNPH2, ASXL3, and CSNK2A1. Facilitated by the Precision Medicine Resource (PMR) at the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, the families were able to share their experiences and learn from each other. Clinicians and scientists shared their knowledge with the families and learned about the clinical variability and natural history of these disorders, leading to a greater appreciation of the families’ priorities and potential knowledge gaps. Researchers were able to collect medical records and perform EEGs, neuropsychological evaluations, and collect blood samples and skin biopsies to assess biomarkers and make cell lines to study these genetic conditions. Experiments to understand the molecular bases of these rare diseases will inform future therapeutic strategies.
Team science is one of the main tenets of many programs within TRANSFORM, the education and career development resource at the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. Over the past two grant cycles, we have further developed our multidisciplinary components within our KL2, TL1, and Masters of Science in Patient Oriented Research (MS-POR) programs. Beyond requiring all KL2 scholars and TL1 trainees to have interdisciplinary mentor teams, we meet with these mentor teams at least once a year to help develop Individual Development Plans (IDPs). Additionally, our KL2 scholars and MS-POR students are expected to take a one-semester course entitled, Building Interdisciplinary Research Models, in which attendees not only learn about developing meaningful interdisciplinary collaborations, but also apply concepts within their own research teams.
Highly skilled coordinators with regulatory and disease-specific knowledge translates into better research implementation and improved outcomes. The Irving Institute's Clinical Research Resource (CRR) developed a program and scalable model to support research coordinators in offsite high-risk units such as the NICU, PICU, ED and Neuro ICU. With no current consensus on the content of such research coordinator training in high-risk settings, the CRR outpatient unit manager implemented an onboarding and practicum for these coordinators. The program includes monthly hands-on training sessions on lab safety, phlebotomy, specimen handling, and EKG performance. Weekly meetings are held to review GCP and identification of protocol implementation issues. In addition, monthly seminars that are open to all Columbia University coordinators highlight available CTSA and hospital resources and provide skill-building opportunities for professional certification preparation and regulatory and financial knowledge.