With academic research and private industry collaborations on the rise, the culture of research is rapidly changing, and the engagement between the scientific and tech communities have led to exciting innovations in web, mobile, augmented and virtual reality technologies.
For a scientist, having the right industry partners can advance research endeavors towards great success. Yet, after working for a grant-awarding institution, I have also seen first-hand the difficulties faced by scientists in the development of solutions for the most pressing problems in our communities. It’s not hard to miss how the challenges of leading a research study, juxtaposed with grant reporting and compliance, can weigh heavily on the mind of a principal investigator.
At CrossComm, I’ve learned that the best way to approach a grant-funded technology-centric project is to balance the technical requirements with research goals. Tech requirements for a new app or software can be overwhelming for our own research partners, which is why it is even more important to identify a set of qualities –– a few must-haves –– to look for in the company you choose to help build your digital innovation.
Why Do You Need a Technology Partner for Your Grant?
Choosing the right tech partner is a way for you to reduce the risk of costly errors. Many grant-awarding agencies impose strict standards to ensure the privacy and security of research data, and if these frameworks and requirements are not met in the app or software you are building, it could lead to unwelcome financial consequences, or an outright denial of award.
Another reason to hire a tech partner is to extend the capabilities of the research endeavor. A good tech partner keeps current on the newest skills and techniques in their industry, ensuring that your product is up-to-date and not limited to short-term applications. In essence, a quality tech partner acts as an expert that can translate and assess the technical needs of your project within the awarding agency’s parameters. This allows scientists to focus on their research questions, the design of their treatment or intervention, and the outcomes they hope to achieve.
With all of this in mind, you’re probably wondering –– What should I look for in a technology partner for my research?
The Tech Partner Must-Haves List
Albert Einstein once said, “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.” To help you in your search, the following are five critical must-have qualities a technology partner should possess, all of which are meant to help you generate a successful alliance. A good tech partner:
A good tech partner engages in a diligent initial exploration to derive deep understanding of your research and determine the technical development required, including the possible directions and feasibility of your project. A thorough exploration will lead to a well-informed letter of support that lends technological credibility to your grant proposal, with specifications that successfully delineate a partner’s contribution to your research. It’s additionally important that your partner can conceptualize the scope and goals of your research to the degree that they can express their own suitability and authentic enthusiasm as a collaborator in your work.
A tech partner who is proactive and transparent in the development process is essential to building long-lasting relationships that can bring success throughout multiple phases of your grant. One of our own research partners characterized this criteria best when he described it as “colleagues in my lab, a team partner.” Your tech partner should be able to share developments, challenges, and points of technical strengths and weaknesses along the way, culminating in the competent ideation and implementation of a strong proof of concept plan from pre to post study.
Award-granting agencies typically mandate grant compliance and oversight measures to ensure a recipient is a financially-responsible steward of federal dollars. Part of grant post-award activities include the periodic financial reporting required by the awarding agency, and a quality partner can recommend and discuss expenditure considerations associated with technological developments. A good partner will additionally warn of unrealistic financial expectations and provide possible cost-saving alternatives.
During the life cycle of a grant, recipients are typically required to submit reports highlighting the progress of the research project. This could include plans for next steps, accomplishments, and any significant changes to the study or subjects. It is all the more reason why your tech partner should have the capability to design supplemental administrative platforms and dashboards, as well as build data exporting features you will need for your study and progress.
There are a number of safeguards in place for protecting and ensuring the privacy and security of sensitive information that may be held in the app or software you build. Your tech partner should be knowledgeable on how to responsibly store, use, and maintain data collected from your research participants. For example, if you are working with a health population, you could be subject to HIPAA privacy and security rules. A knowledgeable partner will do their due diligence to understand how your data flows, and determine the cybersecurity layers needed for your app or software.
With so many moving parts in your research study, your tech partner should be practical about the realities of grant-funded projects and their requirements. If they cannot be a reliable resource during your research endeavor, and do not possess the five aforementioned criteria, it would be wise to vet additional tech partners until your needs are met.
If you are looking for a technology partner for your grant-funded research, we welcome your email at firstname.lastname@example.org
DeAnne Canieso is a Communications Specialist at CrossComm. She has more than fifteen years of experience in health and communications, with collective managerial and public affairs work in support of health research, national nonprofits, government agencies, and health policy organizations. Her professional contributions encompassed overseeing strategic communication projects, developing advocacy campaigns, legislative toolkits, digital and social media content strategies highlighting key public health issues. DeAnne has a Master of Public Health from UCLA, and a PhD in Health Communication from George Mason University, with focus on mixed-method, hybrid computational research of health narratives within the computer-mediated context.