Research Tools

How to Find Mentors or Collaborators on Campus:

NIH Reporter

Less user-friendly than Illinois Profiles but a great tool because it can tell you which researchers on campus have NIH funding. (NSF has a similar tool but not very transparent or intuitive in ease of use. The campus’ DMI database is better for ascertaining who has NSF money. See Benchmarking section below for information on DMI.)

To use NIH Reporter to find mentors or collaborators on campus, go to the above link and in the first section titled “Researcher and Organization” type “University of Illlinois” into the Organization field then hit “Lookup.”  A box will pop up where you will be presented with 5 options.  Check the box for “UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS URBANA-CHAMPAIGN, CHAMPAIGN , IL.” Then go up and over to the right and hit “Select.”

That will take you back to the original page.  In the text search, put in the keyword or words that describe your research. Then move over to the section in the top right corner to the field entitled “Fiscal Year.” I recommend that you select that last 6 years. Then go down to the bottom and hit “Submit Query.” That will pull up any NIH-funded Illinois researchers working in your area.  Alternately, if you don’t find the keyword search fruitful, you can redo your original query by going up to the right-hand corner of the screen showing your query results and click on the button that says “Back to Query Form.”  Erase any keywords you used in the previous search and instead, in the fourth section down, on the right hand side. Check both boxes “Admin” and “Funding” under the label “Agency/Institute/Center” then click on the “Select” button and choose the option from the drop-down list most relevant to your research.  Then submit your query and the results will show all NIH funded Illinois researchers who have received funding from that institute or center in the last 6 years.  The results will allow you to click on individual awards and read abstracts of each project.


A final option, which can give different results than Illinois Profiles, is to go to the above link and click on “Advanced.” Then for the first field, select ”Affiliation” from the drop-down list where it says “All Fields.” Type in University of Illinois Urbana.  In the next drop down option, choose “Text Word” and enter a keyword of your choice.  Then hit “Search.”  This will pull up any articles from Illinois researchers with that keyword in their article.  Of course, this casts a very wide net but sometimes one finds surprising things that didn’t come up in an Illinois Profiles search.

How to Benchmark Yourself to your Peers:


(Restricted — NetID and Password Required)

At the above link, you can enter the University of Illinois’ “Data Management Information” system.  When you open this link, you will see that in the right-hand column, item #5 is called “Proposal Data System.” To access the Proposal Data System, you will be asked for your Net ID and password.  Once in the system, you can search for awards by Agency or funder to the entire campus (not recommended), a specific unit or a specific investigator.  Or similarly, you can identify and single investigator or a single unit and pull up all awards to that individual or unit, or all awards to the same by agency or funder.

The Great Equalizers in the Race to the Top: IRB Applications and Subject Recruitment

Although a great university with wonderful resources, Illinois competes with other institutions with even more resources.  And within any great institution like Illinois, there are more senior researchers and less senior researchers. Your peers may have assets you don’t, depending on which institution they’re at, but the IRB approval process and subject recruitment bedevil everyone. They’re the  great equalizers.

These two items can account for substantial delay in the launch and progress of many studies when not properly attended to by the Principal Investigator.  But the good news is that, unlike the other projects submitted for panel review at the same time as your funding application, you actually have some control over these two challenges and can do something about them.  You can not only learn more about these two aspects of the research process, you can really master them. If you do, your career progress can outpace that of many of your peers.  Here are some resources to get you on your way:

Mastering IRB Applications

The following material is adapted from adapted from: “Ten Tips on Preparing an Excellent IRB Application” Sharon Friend, Director Office of the Human Research Protection Program, UCLA:

The best advice for expediting approval of your IRB application is to write it as one would an Informed Consent document.  Assume your audience knows nothing about research.  Detail and explain everything in a systematic way.  You wouldn’t skip steps in explaining a study to a subject so don’t skip steps in explaining your study to the IRB.  They need to know that you have thought out every aspect of the study and are prepared to address subjects’ questions and concerns in detail.

  1.     Sound Scientific Basis and Rationale
    1. Is the protocol scientifically sound and based on well-established scientific principles?
    2. Is there convincing clinical and/or pre-clinical evidence that the study will have valuable results?
    3. Do pre-clinical studies demonstrate promising results regarding safety and potential efficacy?
  2. Conduct a Risk Assessment
    1.  Identify risks associated with the research: How are risks different from those risks participants would encounter if not participating in the research?
    2. Consider the subject population: Are the research participants particularly sensitive or vulnerable to the risks posed by the research?
    3. Do the risk(s) meet the definition of minimal risk?
    4. Identify level of IRB review: Does the research fit into an exempt or expedited category of review or does it require full committee review?
  3. Update your CITI training and Read the Entire Application Form before beginning to fill it out
    1. There may be new elements to the CITI training that impact how you fill out the application if there have been changes to the “rule-making” on human subjects research at the federal or state level.
    2. The application form may have changed since the last time you utilized it.
  4. Consider the Audience
    1. Not all IRB members are scientists
    2. Minimize the use of Acronyms
    3. Use lay language for recruitment and consent documents
  5. Be consistent
    1. Within the application
    2. Between application and consent documents
    3. Between application and sponsor protocols or grants
    4. Use the same name for study drugs or devices throughout the submission
  6. Include Details within both the application and consent forms
    1. List and describe procedures in chronological order (or refer to appropriate section in protocol)
    2. Describe each study group clearly ad completely
    3. Distinguish between those procedures which are Standard of Care that will be billed, and those being performed for Research Purposes Only
    4. Detail how you will explain the alternatives for treatment outside the study to the subjects
    5. Describe the risks and how they will be minimized and managed
  7. For Drugs, Devices and Biologics
    1. Include a copy of the Investigator’s Brochure
    2. If there is no Brochure, call the IRB office to discuss other options
    3. If you have questions about whether an IND or IDE is needed, call the IRB office for advice
  8. Recruiting and Consenting
    1. Detail the processes: this means detailed descriptions of how you see the process of recruiting, screening and consenting taking place
    2. Address the provisions made for any special populations that might be encountered in the recruitment and screening and consenting process.  Will there be recruitment materials disseminated in languages other than English?  If so, will translators be available on site should non-English-speaking respondents present for screening?  What about vulnerable subjects?
    3. Attach all recruitment materials, advertisements and scripts with your IRB application.
  9. Extra efforts that have a high “Return on Investment”
    1. Highlight and explain any particularly difficult scientific or sensitive ethical issues
    2. Inform the IRB at submission if you have any time constraints
    3. Explain how many consent forms are being used, if there are several, and the rationale for each version.
  10. If you are not the PI, make sure the PI reviews what you have prepared prior to submission.

Mastering Subject Recruitment

For certain studies, subject recruitment can be very challenging and an investigator must be very creative and entrepreneurial in order to make the study recruitment goals. To become proficient in this skill, a good start would be to read the following articles in order to educate yourself about the number of compliant subjects you can estimate to complete your study protocol and to assess some of the obstacles study encounter in subject recruitment and how those challenges can be surmounted.

In addition, we recommend that you search the scientific literature for studies with protocols similar to yours in order to most accurately assess the recruitment and subject compliance potential of your research project.

  • Getz K. Informing and engaging stakeholders on the periphery of the clinical research enterprise. Res Pract. 2005;6:4–8.
  • Sung NS, Crowley WF Jr, Genel M, et al. Central challenges facing the national clinical research enterprise.  JAMA. 2003;289: 1278–1287.
  • Lamberti MJ. Enrollment delays are getting worse. In: Lamberti MJ, ed. An Industry in Evolution. 4th ed. Boston, Mass: Thomson CenterWatch; 2003:79.
  • Cruz Rowe J, Elling ME, Hazlewood JG, Zakhary R. A cure for clinical trials. McKinsey Q. 2002;2:134–141.
  • Bedrick, S., Ambert, K., et al. (2011). Identifying Patients for Clinical Studies from Electronic Health Records: TREC Medical Records Track at OHSU. The Twentieth Text Retrieval Conference Proceedings (TREC 2011), Gaithersburg, MD. National Institute for Standards and Technology.
  • Botsis, T., Hartvigsen, G., et al. (2010). Secondary use of EHR: data quality issues and informatics opportunities. AMIA Summits on Translational Science Proceedings, San Francisco, CA.
  • Bernstam, E., Herskovic, J., et al. (2010). Oncology research using electronic medical record data. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 28: suppl; abstr e16501.
  • Wei, W., Leibson, C., et al. (2012). Impact of data fragmentation across healthcare centers on the accuracy of a high‐throughput clinical phenotyping algorithm for specifying subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 19: 219‐224
  • Vidaver RM, Lafleur B, Tong C, Bradshaw R, Marts SA. Women subjects in NIH-funded clinical research literature: lack of progress in both representation and analysis by sex.  J Womens Health Gend Based Med. 2000;9: 495–504.
  • Representation of the elderly, women, and minorities in heart failure clinical trials. Arch Intern Med. 2002;162:1682–1688.

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