Ideation Challenge: Health-Related Research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has tasked clinical and translational research centers, such as Harvard Catalyst, with enhancing the processes for developing, conducting, and analyzing health-related research, which is defined as studying individuals or communities with health issues rather than early scientific experiments.

Everyone, regardless of their background in health-related research or the healthcare system, can contribute their ideas and experiences to identify areas for improvement.

Anyone can submit questions or ideas, and everyone benefits when health-related research becomes more efficient and responsive to the needs of the communities and individuals it serves.

See below for more information on the blocks that need your input, as well as the submission guidelines.

This ideation challenge is now closed. 

If you have questions, please email


  • Responses must offer a solution, not just a restatement of a problem.
  • If addressing a problem, please provide detailed instructions specifying the aspects of the problem that need to be fixed.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I submit a document?

Your ideas to improve health-related research will be collected using a brief form:

  1. The form is quick and easy to complete. It begins with a few brief questions asking you to provide some optional demographic information about yourself.
  2. Please share your ideas or observations by typing them in the provided text box. You will not be able to upload a document.
  3. Note about saving your progress: Once you begin, you can’t save and close and come back later. You’ll need to start a new submission if you stop halfway.
Can I submit multiple ideas?
  • You can submit multiple ideas.
  • Each idea needs its own submission form.
  • Fill out a new form for each idea you want to submit.
  • The Amazon gift card will be awarded per participant and not per submission.
Why are we asking for your ideas and suggestions?
  • We are looking for ideas that address some of the most frequent and important blocks to conducting efficient, productive, and meaningful health-related research.
  • The expectation is that such improvements in research will drive improvements in healthcare delivery.
  • We are not looking for ideas to improve healthcare delivery itself.
  • Your knowledge, experiences, and/or perspectives will help us identify problems that need to be studied and addressed.
How might my ideas be used?
  • Your submitted ideas could be used to initiate new research programs designed to address processes and practices that block efficient design, conduct, or analysis of health-related research.
How will the responses to this ideation challenge be evaluated?
  • All ideas will be evaluated by groups including scientists who do health-related research, community-based advisors, program leaders and others.
  • The goal will be to identify problems that occur frequently and those that are under recognized or previously unknown, as well as those for which a new or powerful approach is suggested or could be devised.
How were the blocks identified?

The blocks were identified through interviews with senior researchers and by conducting an extensive survey of young investigators (those dependent on improving the processes to be successful in their work).

What are the blocks to health-related research and how can I help?

You can help by providing us with your ideas on the blocks listed below:

Research Resources

We need new ideas on how research resources, including clinical data, might be identified, shared, and used.

  • Have you ever wanted to conduct an experiment that involved using an expensive piece of equipment and wished you could find out if this equipment were available at Harvard University and its affiliated healthcare centers?
  • Do you wish you knew more about the core facilities available and the equipment or expertise that they offer?
  • If you have been successful in getting access to resources, what is the advice you would give others? What did you wish you knew at the start?
  • Have you ever tried to access data that is “freely” available? If so, what was successful and what was challenging?

We welcome your input on the types of critical research resources you would love to have access to.

Research Access and Participation

We need new ideas for addressing issues in communication and other challenges that can develop among medical, research, and patient communities which limit research access and participation.

To learn more about why racial, cultural or ethnic groups experience health disparities and potentially more adverse health outcomes, it is crucial for both practitioners and participants involved in clinical and translational research to be representative of diverse demographic, socioeconomic, and other constituencies.

Several factors, such as transportation, time constraints, language barriers, and more, can limit access and participation in various ways. These issues can influence both the researchers and their choice of areas to study and the participants’ willingness to engage.

  • How can we better grow representation across all population domains?
  • Have there been any barriers to participation you’ve come up against as a researcher or as a potential or actual research participant?
  • Did you manage to overcome them? If so, how?
  • Do you have any ideas on how to increase participation from underrepresented communities?
  • How can we address access and participation barriers that result from challenges with work, childcare, finances, transportation, and other practical or social concerns that might be limiting?
Effective Use of Research Results

Can you suggest ways that research results can more effectively be put into practice?

  • There don’t seem to be enough tools or mechanisms in place to help rapidly move research findings into clinical practice.
  • If you had a breakthrough in your research and knew it could or should be put into practice, what would you do to promote or accelerate adoption?
  • Did you feel that moving your results into practice was your responsibility or did that belong with others? If so, who?
  • If you have tried to do this, what were the things that stopped you or helped you along the way?
  • Recent research has identified that guidelines are often not used by practitioners. How can that be addressed? How can this be studied to better understand the contradiction?
Educating Researchers and their Teams

Can you identify obstacles to educating research investigators and teams (consider clinical, institutional, or community settings)?

Numerous educational materials and training courses are available for leaders and other members of research teams. However, these may not be accessible to all individuals involved in a project or program.

It is essential for everyone on research teams, including scientists, clinical care providers, administrative staff, and others, to be well-trained and have opportunities to advance their knowledge.

Educational resources and support help the whole team do better research and maximize the successful completion, reliability, and utility of the studies performed.

  • How could members of health-related research teams improve their workflow, efficiency, accuracy, communication skills, and analytic abilities?
  • Do you know where to access educational or training resources? If so, how did you learn about them? If not, would this be valuable and in what ways?
  • Additional education of research teams could also decrease the substantial structural and regulatory barriers that limit cross-institutional investigation.
Structural Barriers to Research
  • Structural barriers could take the form of differences in: reimbursement rates, overhead costs, research facilities, and geographic distances.
Regulatory Barriers to Research
  • Regulatory barriers could take the form of satisfying the requirements of multiple IRBs or electronically moving patient data across jurisdictions.
  • What is the most difficult thing about having to prepare and submit an IRB application?
  • IRB administrators – what do you wish you could tell PIs?
  • If you’re a submitter or an administrator – what would make your work more efficient? Is there a simple workflow adjustment that could be implemented that would speed up the process?
  • Are instructions and explanations easy to find? Easy to understand? How would you change the process?
Additional Barriers to Research
  • Additional barriers could include, but are not limited to, generating documents such as data use agreements, memoranda of understanding, and contracts with industry partners.
Your Personal or Professional Experiences

Share you personal and professional experiences that illustrate opportunities for health-related research improvement.

  • How would you study or fix the problem or impediment that you, a friend, or family member encountered?
  • Why does the system not see the problem you experienced?


Feel free to refer to this list as a guide. You are also welcome to submit any ideas, concerns, or questions that may not fit within these categories.