Trainer, Community Research Collaboration Awards


The California Breast Cancer Research Program (CBCRP) makes grants to California scientists to conduct research toward ending the suffering caused by breast cancer. Since its inception in 1993, the program has offered grants to research teams composed of scientists and members of community organizations serving women affected by breast cancer. The teams conduct studies using the community-based participatory research model, which makes the community members equal partners with the scientists. Examples of these community research collaborations (CRCs) include: breast cancer risk of lesbians and heterosexual women; ways to promote culturally sensitive breast cancer care for low-income African American women, and problems women face returning to work after breast cancer surgery.

However, the CBCRP faced a problem. After a promising beginning, the number of CRC applications for funding dramatically declined. In response to this the CBCRP requested Marj to conduct an evaluation of the Community Research Collaboration Awards. Her findings pinpointed problems that community organizations and researchers faced both applying for and conducting the research. This prompted the California Breast Cancer Research Program to make changes in its application and review process and to do more to match community organizations with interested scientists. Marj later conducted an additional evaluation of the Community Research Collaboration awards program that further improved the program and resulted in two reports: CBCRP CRC Transforming Research and Transforming Partnerships.

Marj designed several technical assistance and training programs for potential and funded research teams:

  • Through workshops and teleconferences Marj trained both community members and research scientists on team building, conflict resolution, and collaborative research methods and grant writing.
  • Community-Based Research Infrastructure for Better Science (CRIBS) was a year-long training program for33 community members and researchers in 12 collaborative teams. As the training director, Marj led the collaborative work to create a year-long curriculum that included face-to-face sessions, online learning, webinars, a mock review session, and technical assistance. Teams were prepared to apply for andconduct research on the environmental causes of breast cancer and on how to lift the unequal burden on some groups of women who are more likely to get—or die from—the disease, based on characteristics such as their race/ethnicity.
  • Quick Start is a five-month training program for dozens of teams each year. Marj worked with CBCRP and Commonweal staff to use the evaluations of CRIBS to create a shorter training program with the same great impact.

“Marj has enhanced the program enormously through her expertise in relationship building, group facilitation, and community based participatory research. Marj’s efforts played a critical role in shaping the CRC program into one of the leading funding agencies in community based participatory research. She continues to be an invaluable resource for applicants, grantees and the CBCRP staff.”

—Walter Price, DrPH & Natalie Collins, MSW
Community Initiatives Manager & Outreach and Technical Assistance Coodinator, California Breast Cancer Research Program

“The CBCRP is the best model for community / university participatory research. Both the community and the university have equal say and responsibilities and both are involved in the design, implementation and evaluation of the research project. The program promotes true partnerships in breast cancer research.”

—Lola Sablan Santos
Executive Director, Guam Communications Network