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Operationalizing equity, inclusion, and access in research practice at a large academic institution

Journal of General Internal Medicine February 1, 2024

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Research Areas


INTRODUCTION: Healthcare advances are hindered by underrepresentation in prospective research; sociodemographic, data, and measurement infidelity in retrospective research; and a paucity of guidelines surrounding equitable research practices.

OBJECTIVE: The Joint Research Practices Working Group was created in 2021 to develop and disseminate guidelines for the conduct of inclusive and equitable research.

METHODS: Volunteer faculty and staff from two research centers at the University of Pennsylvania initiated a multi-pronged approach to guideline development, including literature searches, center-level feedback, and mutual learning with local experts.

RESULTS: We developed guidelines for (1) participant payment and incentives; (2) language interpretation and translation; (3) plain language in research communications; (4) readability of study materials; and (5) inclusive language for scientific communications. Key recommendations include (1) offer cash payments and multiple payment options to participants when required actions are completed; (2) identify top languages of your target population, map points of contact, and determine available interpretation and translation resources; (3) assess reading levels of materials and simplify language, targeting 6th- to 8th-grade reading levels; (4) improve readability through text formatting and style, symbols, and visuals; and (5) use specific, humanizing terms as adjectives rather than nouns.

CONCLUSIONS: Diversity, inclusion, and access are critical values for research conduct that promotes justice and equity. These values can be operationalized through organizational commitment that combines bottom-up and top-down approaches and through partnerships across organizations that promote mutual learning and synergy. While our guidelines represent best practices at one time, we recognize that practices evolve and need to be evaluated continuously for accuracy and relevance. Our intention is to bring awareness to these critical topics and form a foundation for important conversations surrounding equitable and inclusive research practices.


Emma Britez Ferrante, Shira Blady, Dorothy Sheu, Medha Romee Maitra, Josiah Drakes, Adina Lieberman, Adam Mussell, Elizabeth F Bair, Caleb M Hearn, Leo Thorbecke, Jingsan Zhu, Rachel Kohn