The Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) initiative calls on academic health centers to engage communities around a clinical research relationship measured ultimately in terms of public health. Among a few initiatives involving university accountability for advancing public interests, a small CTSA workgroup devised a community engagement (CE) logic model that organizes common activities within a university–community infrastructure to facilitate CE in research. Whereas the model focuses on the range of institutional CE inputs, it purposefully does not include an approach for assessing how CE influences research implementation and outcomes. Rather, with communities and individuals beginning to transition into new research roles, this article emphasizes studying CE through specific relationship types and assessing how expanded research teams contribute to the full spectrum of translational science.
The authors propose a typology consisting of three relationship types—engagement, collaboration, and shared leadership—to provide a foundation for investigating community–academic contributions to the new CTSA research paradigm. The typology shifts attention from specific community–academic activities and, instead, encourages analyses focused on measuring the strength of relationships through variables like synergy and trust. The collaborative study of CE relationships will inform an understanding of CTSA infrastructure development in support of translational research and its goal, which is expressed in the logic model: better science, better answers, better population health.