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Specific steps and guidelines that are used by Center for Cost and Financing Studies (CCFS) to plan annual research activities and to review the progress and output of specific research products. The research planning and review process is designed to ensure that research activities undertaken by CCFS research staff meet goals of relevance to current health services research and policy issues; are of acceptable technical merit and use data appropriately; are consistent with, and achieve a balance between Agency and Center priorities. The review process also provides a mechanism to examine the allocation of staff time across various research products and the dollars expected to be expended in support of research activities.
Research Planning /
Specific Research Project Review: New Projects /
Review of Ongoing Research Projects
CCFS research planning involves full participation by the CCFS research staff. The planning process actually begins with recruitment of staff of particular subject expertise and is well integrated with the instrument design and sample composition of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). In this regard, staff analytical expertise plays a critical role in designing survey instruments to address health services research issues and to ensure that the sample composition of the MEPS can accommodate specific analyses. This is not to say that MEPS is the only data used by CCFS staff, as other data sources are used, either in conjunction with MEPS or independently.
At the end of each calendar year, CCFS staff from the Division of Socio-Economic Research, the Division of Modeling and Simulation, the Division of Survey Operations, the Division of Statistics and Methods Research, and the Division of Social and Economic Research, under the direction of the Center Director, begin the planning process for the subsequent year by convening a number of research planning clusters (described below) to identify generic research areas (e.g., access to health care by vulnerable populations) and specific research questions related to each generic research area. The research cluster meetings are open to all interested CCFS staff. The development of these research questions is based upon staff assessment of key research issues, the availability of MEPS and other data that can be used to address these questions, and the range of expertise of the research staff. The generic research areas and specific research questions are also assessed for their relationship to AHRQ research priorities, and the goals of the CCFS strategic plan. This process culminates with the production of the annual CCFS Research Planning Document.
Development of specific research projects begins with staff discussions of generic research areas and research questions during planning meetings of the research clusters. These clusters are organized around the research areas listed above.
In consultation with Division Directors, CCFS staff propose specific research projects and data products as part of annual workplan development. As noted, a proposed research project reflects both Center and Agency research priorities, as developed through he planning clusters, and the specific interests and expertise of each staff member. At the workplan development stage, and at mid-year review, Division Directors review the progress of ongoing research projects and determine, given other staff responsibilities, what new projects can be undertaken during the year and the priorities to be given to new research projects.
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Staff proposing new specific research projects is required to submit brief proposals describing the nature of the project, its relevance in a research and/or policy context, the analytical approach and methodology to be applied, the data to be used, and a proposed project schedule. The proposal is reviewed by Division Directors and other staff to assess its feasibility from a both a technical and data perspective, its consistency with and balance between Center and Agency priorities, and its time and dollar costs. Approved projects are added to the CCFS Research Portfolio.
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Ongoing research projects are subject to several levels of review, including progress review by supervisors to assess adherence to original schedules and any changes necessitated by new staff responsibilities, and to provide assistance and recommendations regarding technical issues. Research-in-progress as well as nearly completed research projects are presented at CCFS-sponsored seminars to receive staff feedback on technical approach, estimation problems, and use of data. Completed manuscripts are also subject to a formal CCFS manuscript review process to assess use of data, methodology, conclusions, and policy sensitivity. Two Division Directors and research staff members typically conduct such review with substantive expertise in the subject area. If necessary, review may also be requested of substantive experts outside of CCFS.
Comments obtained during the review process are addressed by the authors in consultation with the Division Directors and frequently Lead to revisions. A recommendation regarding formal submission of the manuscript to a peer-reviewed journal, book, or conference volume is then submitted to the Director, CCFS for formal approval. Policy-sensitive research findings are communicated to the Immediate Office of the Director.
CCFS data and research must be developed with the needs of other Centers and crosscut groups in mind. This requires active outreach to determine the needs of those groups and to monitor successes in meeting their requirements. CCFS also must be mindful of the broader needs of the Department, and analysts elsewhere when planning and disseminating its outputs. This coordination includes an evaluation of the potential impact of CCFS data and research on other organizations within the Department. When areas of potential sensitivity are determined, it is incumbent on CCFS to alert and work with those organizations to minimize conflict.
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Current as of April 2002