Letter from DC Liaison Llewellyn Cornelius, PhD

October 12, 2010

Greetings fellow researchers!

I am Llewellyn (Lee) Cornelius, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work in Baltimore, MD.  This past January 2010, I was asked by the SSWR Board of Directors to serve as the Washington DC Liaison for SSWR through August 2011.  This position was developed based on SSWRs’ concern that there is a continued mechanism to advance social work research with federal funders, an activity formerly done by the Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research (IASWR) for the past 15 years. This advancement involves increasing visibility and promoting social work research, making known to the federal funders the researchers whose scientific findings are making significant contributions and enhancing the missions of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), etc. Thus, I am the DC Liaison, for SSWR’s National Research Capacity Building Initiative (NRCBI), of which the DC Presence Initiative, is a part.

The first nine months of this process of maintaining a DC Presence and developing the NRCBI has focused on several activities assessing the ways in which social work research is reflected in current federal research initiatives, some of which were:

  • Met with NIGMS Director Jeremy Berg, Ph.D. at the April NIGMS training grant initiative in Philadelphia PA.  Highlighted the comments that were submitted by SSWR regarding the need to continue to support SSWR researchers via the NIH-Wide Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Services Awards (NRSAs) as well as the development of additional training mechanisms to encourage high school and college students to purse research careers and the development of additional training mechanisms to provide support to senior researchers who wish to re-activate aspects of their research career.
  • Met with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Deputy Director, Yvonne T. Maddox, Ph.D. after her presentation of the “On the Road to Better Health in Mississippi” Community Based Participatory Research project at the Spring 2010 NICHD Advisory Council meeting to emphasize how this project was synchronous with similar research being conducted by SSWR members as well as our interest in seeing more research of this type funded by NICHD.
  • Met with NIH OBSSR Assistant Director of Policy and Planning G. Stephane Philogene, Ph.D. to continue the partnership established by IASWR and to discuss how social work research can be advanced with the other Institute Directors and Director of NIH.
  • Attended a series of NIH Advisory Council meetings (NIMH, NICHD, NIDA, and NIAAA) to become appraised of NIH research priorities.
  • Attended hearings on Capitol Hill which focused on annual funding appropriation for Public Health Service Research (which includes NIH, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
  • Represented SSWR in the Coalition of Social Science Organization (both the NIH and the National Science Foundation component), National Association of Social Workers’ (NASW) Action Network for Social Work Education and Research (ANSWER), Friends of NIDA, and Friends of NIMH meetings.
  • Informed SSWR members and sought feedback (via the SSWR listserve) from the Board and the general membership regarding two NIH requests for input- the setting of NIH wide social science research objectives (called the NIH Basic Behavioral and Social Science Opportunity Network (OppNet) and providing input into how federal training grants can be more responsive to the needs of social work research (via the NIGMS) Request for Input regarding the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards. This feedback was used to transmit social work research recommendations to NIH.
  • Participated in a discussion between members of the Coalition of Social Science Organizations (June, 2010) and Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director of NIDA. This meeting focused on our encouraging NIDA to continue to fund studies that focus on the use of ecological frameworks and community based participatory research as paradigms as well as support community based substance abuse prevention research, especially research which focuses on reducing health disparities.
  • Participated in a series of discussions between members of the Coalition of Social Science Organizations (February-October, 2010) and Deborah H. Olster, Ph.D. (Acting Director of OBSSR) and G. Stephane Philogene, Ph.D. regarding the roll out of the OBSSR Basic Behavioral and Social Science Opportunity Network (OppNet) initiative. This included discussions regarding how the input that was submitted by SSWR on the OBSSR website would be used in the development of the funding priorities and the agencies plans for informing the social science community about the outcome of the input solicitation process.

Next Steps- A First Take

Under the NRCBI to maintain a DC Presence and advance social work research in Washington, DC, I will continue to meet with the NIH Institute Directors and the heads of the behavioral and social science components to make contact as the face of social work research, inform them of what social work research does, and how it continues to enhance their respective missions of institutes and centers. In January 2011 when Dr. Robert Kaplan, the new Director of OBSSR, comes on board a meeting with him will be a priority item.

To develop SSWR’s NRCBI, of which DC Presence is a part, the SSWR Board is putting in place a new website, entitled “National Research Capacity Building Initiative” (www.sswr.org/nrcbi). This interactive communication mechanism will increase the feedback you can provide into advancing the social work research presence on the national level.  The heading for this section is deliberately listed as a “first take” as we will need your feedback to make this an inclusive process. Overall, the proposed feedback strategy includes developing an interactive feedback mechanism that you can use to communicate information about your federal or foundation funding, interdisciplinary collaborations, findings dissemination, or research initiatives priorities to the DC Liaison in order for me, the DC Liaison, to represent your research interests in coalition meetings and other encounters with funders. Through this mechanism I will also transmit federal news, updates, research funding opportunities, priorities etc. in order for you to enhance your personal or institutional research capacity building activities and strategies. When necessary, I will seek your opinions when federal entities solicit feedback about their initiatives.

As indicated above, in order to make this process more inclusive I need to hear from you! Please feel free to contact me at Lcornelius@ssw.umaryland.edu. Thanks.

Feedback requests are welcome about how I or SSWR may serve you better.

Respectfully submitted,
Llewellyn Cornelius, Ph.D.
SSWR, DC Liaison

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