Considerations for Equity-Centered Research

Together, as a community of scholars and practitioners who share a commitment to the conduct of equity-centered research and practice, we have created this living, unfinished document to begin to share our collective vision for equity-centered research. We are committed to revisiting and revising this document with the members of the TexCEP community on an ongoing basis.

General Considerations

We commit to deliberate anti-racist and equity-focused approaches in both our research and practice.

We have an explicit and ongoing commitment to examine our own positionality and privilege within the context of each project within which we engage.

We value equity-minded research that has carefully considered the power dynamics inherent in every stage of the research process, from an examination of the actors participating in study design and motivations for establishing research questions, all the way through dissemination of findings, with a particular interest in projects that yield valuable and actionable practices, policies, and/or recommendations.

We seek to be mindful of the “big picture” at hand; our task is to locate, implicate, and disrupt existing power structures and contextual factors that perpetuate inequity, rather than pathologize or further marginalize the communities we intend to serve.

We prioritize working with populations and communities that have been historically marginalized, and we value research that maintains a strengths-based, community-derived and focused work that draws on the historical resilience of many social identities/dimensions.

We acknowledge that there are often many stakeholders vested in conducting research, none more important than the communities we serve. We commit to being as transparent as possible in balancing competing interests/outcomes, and to prioritize actionable results that will benefit the communities we serve. We will ensure that community partners receive compensation, not only for their time and efforts in enabling research, but in material and concrete ways that exist outside of formal academic structures.

Specific Considerations

Investigative Team. We believe that, when possible, the best-equipped investigative team is multidisciplinary, and includes members with lived experiences and connection to the population of interest. These team members’ voices are integral to our projects, they are compensated for their time and expertise, and they are actively consulted and incorporated into all phases of the research process. We offer the following recommendations.

  • Consider the longitudinal potential of community collaborations. What begins as affiliation will ideally grow into a longer-term engagement with a specific community who will benefit in concrete and repeatable ways.
  • Take an active role in seeking team members with lived experiences that are directly relevant to the questions asked by the project, especially those who have historically been excluded from the formal research processes. This includes team members at various career stages (student, postdocs, early career, mid- and senior-level members). Inviting diverse members and valuing joint-expertise in academic collaborations and knowledge-building is one concrete way to begin redistributing the formal academic power that has historically amassed among socially privileged, non-representative grant awardees.

Community Collaborations and Partners. Communities are complex and comprise many individuals and interests. Community collaboration and partnership is the cornerstone of our work. We offer the following recommendations.

  • Community collaboration takes presence, time and effort. We are in this work for the long run.
  • Ensure community members engaged with the research team are not limited to one spokesperson; consider the priorities and importance of engaging with a diverse array of community members (residents, elders, community leaders, organizational and social leaders, local health and education organizations, etc.)
  • Meeting community partners “where they are” is more than a maxim: ensure participation and engagement in research minimizes as much burden as possible to participants, including considerations for access to safe spaces, transportation, childcare, etc.
  • Consider documenting and sharing the deliberate ways research members will engage with and compensate the community of interest. Revisit this document as projects evolve and encourage team members to collaboratively adjust focus as necessary.

Research Study Design. We encourage researchers to be invested in the long-term success of their communities of interest, to become well-versed and knowledgeable in the particulars of the communities’ needs, and to demonstrate commitment to incorporating community members in every stage of the research process. This will help ensure research questions and projects are focused on community-derived priorities. We offer the following recommendations.

  • When possible, consider multimethod, multi-reporter and multi-construct approaches to address community-derived priorities and needs. This includes explorations of mechanisms (mediation, moderation) and mindful study designs that are responsive to community vulnerabilities.
  • Be mindful of recruiting strategies that may exacerbate inequity and reflect imbalances of power. Furthermore, use sampling strategies and subjects matter experts embedded in the community in methods that are targeted and customized to reach the population of interest.
  • Ensure that research questions are relevant and important to communities being studied.
  • When planning randomized trials or program evaluation studies, consider the community’s stake in the design and the possible findings, a priori.  Consider alternatives to randomized controlled trials efficacy studies in communities in which the service needs are great.

Methods, Constructs, and Measures. We promote the use of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed analytic approaches, as appropriate, within a given research project. We encourage the measurement of constructs that reflect both strengths and challenges faced by a given population. We promote the development and use of measures that have high ecological validity and cultural sensitivity for the communities and populations of focus for particular studies. We strive to be sensitive to cultural loading when operationalizing constructs at the item or phenomenological level. We offer the following recommendations.

  • Ensure potential generalizability limitations are addressed before using measures for specific populations.
  • For quantitative measures, review the quality of psychometric evidence before using measure in with particular populations. Consider conducting prospective psychometric evaluation when necessary before employing measure in specific context.
  • Consider developing new measures for assessing outcomes and/or constructs when no culturally relevant measures exist.
  • When language translation is necessary for a measure, utilize a formal and scientifically rigorous translation process (including back translation) to ensure functional equivalence of the measure, and conduct psychometric analyses to support the use of the resultant measure. Alternatively, consider the need to develop a new measure directly in the language of the community of interest.  
  • Ensure up-to-date and culturally relevant measures are used. For example, ensure there are separate items assessing sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation and use non-binary item responses as appropriate. Furthermore, ensure collecting these variables is necessary to answer your research question. Similarly, ensure questions regarding race/ethnicity are distinct and specific, and allow for subgroup identification within broad categories. Seek input from community leaders and community experts when creating categories for comparison. In short, practice cultural humility.

Data Analysis. We involve community partners and stakeholders in analysis planning before conducting any data analysis. We conduct data analysis, synthesis, and interpretation with rigor and consistent with a priori hypothesis and lines of inquiry, sensitive to the impact of potential findings on participant communities. We offer the following recommendations.

  • Align analytic methods with questions posed by the research design. Consider the value and impact of both quantitative and qualitative methods in terms of how they will elucidate important needs and assets of the communities of interest.
  • Priority should be given to questions and analyses that are most likely to lead to actionable practices and policies.
  • Include community members and non-scholars in the interpretation and synthesis of findings, particularly analyses that pertain to community-derived priorities and questions relevant to the community of interest.
  • Consider how the inclusion of some variables, analyses, and potential interpretations may increase vulnerabilities or be used to harm communities of interest.
  • Consider the inherent utility and limitations in using “control variables,” which may present findings in a counterfactual world where eliminating the effect of widespread systemic variables is impossible.
  • Ensure the structure and rationale for exploring between-group differences is sound and ethical (e.g., is “white” the reference group for analyzing difference across race/ethnicity? If so, why?)
  • Consider exploring within-group variation in addition to between-group differences as a way to increase knowledge about diversity in groups that are often grouped together/overgeneralized (e.g., exploring differences among subgroups of Latinas/os with varying levels of generational history or a subgroup of people classified as “minority” in a sample). Additionally, TexCEP believes race and cultural variables can be rich and valuable central research questions, not merely nuisance or comparison variables.
  • Use caution when interpreting analyses using weighted data when the sampling weights are derived from a small sample of people from a vulnerable population.
  • Where warranted by the evidence, interpretation of findings should include naming the structural factors, such as systemic racism, responsible for creating the disparities that impact individuals. 

Dissemination. Sharing our findings in a timely fashion with the multiple communities with whom we engage is vital to our work. We offer the following recommendations.

  • Create a community-focused dissemination plan that includes information and results-sharing, while also providing ways to get involved in future research projects and foster long-term community relationships.
  • Ensure wide-ranging stakeholders are considered outside of the formal academic channels for dissemination (manuscripts, conferences presentations), to include local community, educational and health organizations and other social groups, including social media channels.
  • The specific dissemination channel often dictates many elements of the material shared. For example, ensure there is a consideration for readability and accessibility, also ensure jargon is reduced in community-friendly summaries. This includes built-in methods for community members to contact research leads even after a project has been completed.
  • Pay extra attention to your role/identity/positionality as a researcher when sharing findings that reflect the points of view of specific communities of interest.

October 13, 2021