Partnerships require time for coordinating the work and communicating with internal and external stakeholders—key functions that should not be overlooked. Staff such as data manager, communications manager, and community outreach specialist can increase the partnership’s capacity and reach and ultimately help develop research products that are practical and accessible. Staff in these roles often serve as critical bridges between research and practice.
For partnerships centered in state-level work involving government agencies, the state liaison role is essential. While liaison work may not be a full-time position, it is a vital task in maintaining the partnership. A senior-level researcher often fills this role, building relationships with state agencies and representing research to their agency counterparts. Given the necessity of understanding the nuances of policy and politics, it is appropriate to have a policy-savvy researcher serving in this role.
The liaison/coordination role is instrumental in community-based settings as well. One researcher used her limited funds not to extend research capacity, but rather to hire a community-based outreach worker. The nature of her action research allowed her to leverage funding for community development work. Employing a community leader, Deanna Wilkinson, a researcher at the Ohio State University, sought out someone who “got” the community, could recruit participants, build relationships, and coordinate research tasks in an environment where trust-building between the university and the community was of critical importance. “She has also gained some of the skills of a research assistant over time,” Wilkerson explained, “It was more important for this work for me to invest those modest dollars in a job in this community, especially given the focus of our research, and invest in an individual from the community, than to use them elsewhere. She has been an invaluable asset to the work, and, for her, she has a real forward-facing position to add to her resume.”
No written agreement can replace a good data manager, a role that is essential to smooth data-sharing. The data to be shared are often organized in smaller, disparate parcels across units, partners, and systems, many of which are not well-coordinated or do not talk with each other. Data managers ensure that these many and varied data pieces are organized for analysis.