A Research Community Built for Diverse Discoveries

PA Researchers: Check Out Research Tools and Resources Available Through the NIH’s All of Us Research Program

March 11, 2022

All of Us Research Program

The cornerstone of the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Research Program is building a large group of participants who reflect the diversity of the country. But what about the scientists studying the data? Outgoing NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., answered this question at a face-to-face meeting last year. “If we want All of Us to be a program that leads to all kinds of unexpected insights,” he said, “the best way to get there is to be sure our community of researchers is also diverse.”

Indeed, studies show diversity among researchers is just as important as the data. “A diverse group of researchers is going to lead to a diversity of thinking, a diversity of ideas,” said All of Us’ director of health equity, Martin Mendoza, Ph.D. “So you got to have folks that are from a lot of different backgrounds in terms of demographics, training, scientific disciplines and expertise. Because that’s what’s going to lead to new and innovative ideas.”

As part of its 5-year strategic plan, All of Us is setting a goal of engaging a diverse community of 10,000 researchers to delve into the Research Hub. The diversity will come at all levels, including race and ethnicity and fields of study, as well as regions of the country where scientists are based. All of Us will also ensure that researchers come from different career stages and from a variety of institutions.

AAPA and the PA Foundation are partnering with the All of Us Research Program to raise awareness about the importance of participation in research. Not familiar with this program and its resources? You can learn more about it and receive free CME by watching Exploring the All of Us Research Hub on AAPA’s Learning Central.

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Building a robust All of Us researcher community with investigators representing a wide variety of experiences and expertise will do more than help improve the impact of research. It will also promote responsible and ethical use of participant data and return meaningful value to All of Us participants.

The program is already making progress. As of December 2021, more than 1,300 registered All of Us researchers were enrolled in the workbench. More than half are from groups underrepresented in biomedical research and more than 80 percent of workbench users identify themselves as early career researchers.

Outreach to prospective researchers is laying an important foundation for continued growth. With help from the All of Us Data and Research Center (DRC), All of Us presented at more than 95 institutions, including AAPA, and talked to 4,200 researchers in 2021. The program is reaching out specifically to underrepresented researchers. “We understand the importance of providing equity in access to a diverse set of researchers. Our team has worked hard to streamline the contracting process for institutions with a variety of resources, support, and legal or regulatory limitations. It is amazing to see the success we’ve had so far,” says Melissa Basford, M.B.A., director of the DRC.

Interactive views of the publicly available All of Us Research Program participant data are available through the All of Us Data Browser. This includes data from surveys, wearables, physical measurements taken at the time of participant enrollment, and electronic health records (EHR). In addition, exploring the Research Projects Directory can give PAs an idea of what is possible with this robust data set.

All of Us has also partnered with the Minority Student Research Symposium to invite undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral students to complete a research project using the All of Us Data Browser. The inaugural symposium was held in May 2021.

Atiya Shahid, a graduate student at Tuskegee University in Alabama, is pursuing a master’s degree in public health and a Ph.D. in epidemiology and risk analysis. She placed second in the poster session competition.

“What drew me in was that it was a symposium specifically for minority researchers,” Ms. Shahid said. “There were people on all levels. They gave us a lot of resources and tools. It just seemed like a wonderful place for me to cultivate that experience—networking, presenting my work. I appreciated the opportunity to be able to ask questions and obtain the support of mentor and peer researchers.”

There is still time to register for the upcoming All of Us Researchers Convention to be held on March 31-April 1, 2022. This two-day virtual event includes two separate but linked events: the Minority Student Research Symposium (March 31) and Science Day (April 1). It provides an opportunity for researchers using All of Us data and tools offered through the Research Hub to showcase their work with colleagues, peers, and others who share a passion for advancing health research.

Ms. Shahid’s experiences, alongside those of other All of Us researchers, are helping to attract attention to the constellation of data, information, and stories that are to come out of the Researcher Workbench. All of Us is only beginning to scratch the surface of progressive health research that can help drive discoveries and innovation. Learn more about the Researcher Workbench and what All of Us offers.

This article appeared in the December 2021 issue of All of Us Research Roundup and was originally published on the National Institutes of Health All of Us Research Program website. It has been adapted for AAPA News Central.

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