Research Methods Workshops

Thursday, January 11, 2018
Registration fee is $100. Register early as space is limited!

8:00 am – 12:00 pm


Culturally Based Adaptations in Intervention Research
Zorangelí Ramos, Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital; Margarita Alegría, Ph.D. Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital

The need for cultural adaptations of evidenced-based treatments (EBTs) have come as a result of the growing diversity in the United States. Tailoring of interventions is also essential due to the increasing need to reduce health disparities, and the mandates from both professional and governmental agencies to provide culturally responsive treatments. More and more third party payers are requiring the utilization of EBTs. Hence, the importance of evaluating the need for and developing cultural adaptations of EBTs. In general, culturally adapted EBTs have been found to be more effective than control and usual care conditions. There is evidence that they are more relevant to the target population, and have higher potential to improve health outcomes. Despite the growing literature on cultural adaptations, there is no consensus as to how the process of adaption should be conducted. This workshop will address (1) the rationale for cultural adaptations of EBTs, (2) types of cultural adaptations, (3) the challenges of such adaptations, and (4) the existing models of cultural adaptations. The importance of the scientific rigor of cultural adaptations will be underscored. We will discuss a five-stage approach described by Barrera et al. of cultural adaptations and see how this model was used to adapt a short depression intervention for Latinos with depressive and anxiety symptoms.


Opening the Black Box: Ethically Responsible Use of Big Data
Brian Chor, Ph.D., Chapin Hall Center for Children, University of Chicago; Teresa De Candia, Ph.D. NYC Administration for Children’s Services; Diane DePanfilis, Ph.D., M.S.W., Hunter College, City University of New York; Maria Rodriguez, Ph.D., M.S.W, Hunter College, City University of New York; Ravi Shroff, Ph.D., New York University; Dana Weiner, Ph.D., Chapin Hall Center for Children, University of Chicago; Allon Yaroni, Ph.D., NYC Administration for Children’s Services.

Predictive modeling (PM) is a process that uses data mining and statistics to forecast outcomes. PM research within social sciences has grown considerably and this direction presents exciting and innovative opportunities for social science research (Shaw, Lee, & Farrell, 2016). First and foremost, PM makes meaningful and accurate predictions used to reallocate limited resources and focus our work where need is highest. Secondly, PM engenders a system of decision making that can be traced to clear metrics, thereby facilitating accountability, transparency, and more concrete program evaluations (i.e., tied to improved outcomes for vulnerable populations and greater equity among populations). However, legitimate concerns surround the use of PM, including the possibility of using PM to “profile” or “target” certain groups of individuals (e.g., in criminal justice, child welfare systems; Angwin, Larson, Mattu, & ProPublica, 2016) as well as unforeseen consequences of these techniques.

This workshop aims to build an understanding of PM and our applications of it. Our exposition devotes special attention to ethical concerns and challenges, as the following topics relate to them: avoiding methodological pitfalls that can reinforce implicit biases; increasing interpretability of findings and determining appropriate communication with social work staff; privacy and data sharing; stakeholder engagement (or stakeholder buy-in); and best practices. Participants will be asked to complete a brief pre-workshop survey so that real life exemplars about their target research/policy questions, predictive analytics aims, methods, applications, barriers, etc. can be used to guide workshop activities. An interdisciplinary university – agency technical partnership team will facilitate the presentation, discussion, and workshop exercises.


Bayesian Modeling in Intervention Research
Ding-Geng (Din) Chen, PhD, UNC-CH; Mark W. Fraser, PhD, UNC-CH

Based on recent publications in the Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, the purpose of the proposed workshop is to review and demonstrate a Bayesian perspective on intervention research. Drawing on theory and prior research, a central feature of intervention research is the sequential testing of programs, where knowledge about an intervention accrues over time from small and typically simple studies to more complex randomized control trials (e.g., cluster randomized and stepped wedge studies). Based on sample sizes from traditional power estimates, intervention researchers recruit study participants and run trials. When a study is completed, statistical analyses are undertaken and recommendations are made. This is called a frequentist approach. In the analysis, the frequentist approach ignores prior knowledge on the effects of interventions and, because analyses are not conditioned on prior information, they are inefficient. A logical extension of the frequentist approach is to incorporate prior knowledge into analyses by using Bayesian modeling. In this workshop, we will present both the conceptual and technical frameworks underlying an emerging Bayesian perspective on intervention research. At the completion of the workshop, participants will have an understanding of the core features, assumptions, methods, and challenges in using Bayesian modeling in intervention research. As a part of the presentation, we will review steps in a Bayesian analysis and invite participants to analyze their own intervention data (if they have it) or data provided in the workshop.


Grant Writing and Submission: Balancing Social Work Values and Rigor
Deb Padgett, NYU; Denise Juliano-Bult, NIMH; Lauren D. Hill, NIMH

As social work research has advanced in its contributions to the scientific literature as well as policy and clinical practice, the pursuit of external funding has become a normative expectation. Yet training and support in grant-writing remain scarce and faculty development to assist in external funding is uneven across schools. The current climate for obtaining such funding is challenging, but opportunities are still available from public and private sources.

For social work researchers, social justice values must be balanced with the requirements of funders whose priorities may lie elsewhere. Balancing scientific rigor and social relevance requires paying attention to social theories and study implications as well as up-to-date methods.

This workshop is designed to help fill this knowledge and skills gap by providing instruction from four presenters who have complementary sources of expertise and experience: two program officers at the National Institute for Mental Health (one overseeing services research and the other career awards), a senior researcher/mentor; and, an early career researcher (the latter having success in procuring small and large research grants). The focus will be on writing successful funding proposals ranging from dissertations to small-scale pilot studies to larger projects and training mechanisms. Qualitative, quantitative and mixed method proposals will be covered. The ultimate goal is to enhance research capacity for SSWR conference attendees interested in obtaining funding for their research.

The learning goals of the workshop are as follows:
1) To understand how to match a proposal with funding source based upon the topic and scope of the project
2) To learn about current funding mechanisms at NIH applicable to the interests of social work researchers and social work values
3) To distinguish and develop specific aims, research questions and hypotheses for qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods proposals
4) To understand how proposals are reviewed and evaluated at NIH

The workshop will follow a didactic and participatory format with time allotted for questions and answers. NIMH presenters will provide an overview of their work in assisting grant submissions and the researchers (senior/mentor and early career) will offer guidance based upon their experience. The above learning goals will constitute the structure of the workshop.

Special Sessions on Research Priorities and Capacity Building

Thursday, January 11, 2018
These training-oriented sessions target cutting-edge topics vital to contemporary social work research. Registration fee is $15. Enroll early for these important opportunities to engage with national experts, funding institutions, and research colleagues.

8:00 am – 10:00 am


Developing Successful Minority Social Work Scholars
Ruth G. McRoy, PhD, Boston College; Rowena Fong, EdD, University of Texas at Austin; Yolanda C. Padilla, PhD, University of Texas at Austin; Renee M. Cunningham-Williams, PhD, Washington University in Saint Louis; Joan Levy Zlotnik, PhD, ACSW, National Association of Social Workers; Carol M. Lewis, PhD, University of Texas at Austin

This interactive session is designed for deans and directors, faculty, doctoral students, and others interested in building a pool of successful minority researchers in social work. It will include a discussion of 1) specific strategies for mentoring and training future scholars, 2) building research infrastructure and capacity to enhance their success, 3) building transdisciplinary and cross-university connections to increase the likelihood of successful grant collaborations, 4) enhancing community agency/university research partnerships and 5) applying translational research strategies in communities participating in research. In addition, the panel will discuss strategies to stimulate funding support for social work research as well as tools for addressing administrative challenges in grant submission and the implementation process. Grand challenges for social work emphasize developing and supporting faculty at all levels. Faculty of color have particular obstacles that call for more discussion. Examples of successful minority scholars will be provided.


Effective dissemination and communication for policy change: Are we making legislation or sausage?
Ross C. Brownson, PhD, St. Louis Brown School of Social Work, Division of Public Health Sciences and Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University School of Medicine, Washington University in St. Louis

Policy (federal, state, local, organizational) has enormous potential to improve social well-being and health yet the current political environment can make science-based policy challenging. This workshop will provide a backdrop on evidence-based policy, including the key elements (process, content, outcomes) and considerations beyond academic impact. It will help participants to understand the importance of effective communication to address policy issues. Scholars will be challenged to consider their place along a continuum of advocacy. Tools and resources will be provided for scholars seeking to broaden their impact and more effectively disseminate their research to policy-related audiences.

10:15 am – 12:15 pm


Design and Analysis for Random Assignment Experiments
Todd Jensen, Ph.D., Kirsten Kainz, Ph.D. UNC Chapel Hill School of Social Work

Identifying intervention effects, their precision, and their variation across contexts is important to many social work researchers and the field of social intervention more generally. This workshop will focus on seminal and emerging recommendations for the design and analysis of random assignment experiments, including discussion of the strengths and limitations of random assignment for understanding intervention effects. Workshop participants will experience a sequence of brief lectures followed by small group discussion and large group synthesis. Instructors will provide and discuss an electronic compendium of online and peer-reviewed resources to guide researcher decision making during design and analysis phases.


From research to policy: how one good idea can influence state law
Laura S. Abrams, PhD, UCLA;Matthew Mizel, Doctoral Student, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

In this workshop, we aim to teach social work scholars how to influence policy makers and policy making through research, collaboration, and marketing of your great ideas. We will use “lessons learned” from a rapid response, mixed methods project that was used the basis for a California legislative bill (SB 439) that aimed to set age 12 as the minimum for child involvement in delinquency court. In this workshop, we will highlight the origins of the idea, how we built an interdisciplinary team across the UC system, involved community advocacy partners, and raised money to support the project. We will also showcase how the idea became a bill that passed through the state senate (and stalled in the assembly) and how we managed to publish both scholarly works and applied policy briefs from the data collection. We will extract “lessons learned” in negotiating the academic/policy bridge as scholars who want social work research to have a broad impact.


Successes, Failures, and Lessons Learned Using Community-Based Participatory Research to Address Health Inequities among People with Serious Mental Illness
Leopoldo J. Cabassa, Ph. D. Washington University in St. Louis; Ana Stefancic, Ph. D. Columbia University

Community-based participatory research (CBPR) has emerged as a transformative research paradigm that can help bridge the gap between science and practice by increasing community engagement and social action in the develop¬ment, planning, and implementation of health care inter¬ventions to address health inequities. Over the past 9 years, our group has developed two community-engaged studies supported by the National Institute of Mental Health that focus on addressing health and health care disparities faced by people with serious mental illness. In this workshop, we will describe how we used CBPR principles to develop and sustain community-academic partnerships to inform the adaptation and implementation of health interventions for people with SMI from racially and ethnically diverse communities. We will discuss the strategies and methods used to develop these studies, present both successes and failures of our experiences partnering with community agencies, and summarize lessons learned from these studies.