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  • Writer's pictureSophia Webber and Taylor Gray

Who Funds This Stuff Anyhow? (Pt. 1)

Bio photos of guest speaker and host of the Aging PCOR Learning Collaborative podcast
Left to Right: Kate Boyd, Sophia Webber


In this episode, Sophia meets with Kate Boyd, a Program Officer at the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), to discuss the much asked question: “Who is funding engaged research?” Take advantage of the opportunity to hear from someone on the front lines of funding engagement, and learn more about how to get your engaged research project funded! This is a hot topic and we have another episode in store, so be sure to catch part 2 as well!

Sophia’s Afterthoughts

Engagement begets engagement, and engagement funding!

My name is Sophia. I am a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin- Madison and a co-host for the Aging PCOR Learning Collaborative podcast series. My co-host Taylor and I are student advisors for the Learning Collaborative. We bring our experiences as students to inform the design and implementation of this project that focuses on promoting engagement of older adults in aging research.

In the Learning Collaborative, we have had the opportunity to work with older adults eager to engage in research as well as with researchers who are similarly interested. Many researchers are also interested in how this type of research can get funded. As a student interested in pursuing engagement, I relate to this question— it was certainly illuminating to chat with Kate Boyd and hear the ins and outs of obtaining PCORI funding for engaged research, including the attention paid to engagement throughout the entire application process.

Kate specifically mentions that PCORI looks for Letters of Intent (LOI’s) that highlight engagement in their design. While this is intimidating for those of us new to engagement, I have now had the opportunity to observe how this early engagement works firsthand.

The Learning Collaborative hosted a Technical Assistance and Training program, which provided free small group and 1:1 training to researchers interested in developing the skills necessary to engage older adults meaningfully in aging-focused research. Researchers in the program joined our Older Adult Subcommittee to collaboratively review their research proposals. Subcommittee members made suggestions to the designs based on their lived experience.

The process was exciting and eye opening. The researchers were relieved to hear that their target population (older adults) found their research important, interesting, and even offered nuanced feedback. Despite the researcher’s careful assessment for their Institutional Review Board (IRB) application, the older adult subcommittee members unique perspective allowed them to identify risks not previously considered. For another project, the older adults broke out complicated concepts into easy-to-understand language for outreach.

Based on the suggestions made by the Older Adult Subcommittee, consent forms were changed, outreach plans altered, and budgets updated. This engagement with older adults also validated the importance of the research questions. Early engagement allowed the researchers to test the waters even before applying for funding. Through this exercise, they were better equipped to develop robust LOIs. This early engagement may very well beget funding for even more.

If you are interested in learning how to engage older adults in your research design, join the Aging Research Network (ARN). The ARN is the social media platform we designed for this project, where older adults, researchers, students, funders, and caregivers interested in engagement can connect, ask questions, and find more podcasts like this one!

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