Is racial concordance between researchers and study participants a successful strategy to improve recruitment and retention of racial and ethnic minorities in public health and biomedical research? A recent study from the University of Maryland School of Public Health, published in Qualitative Health Research, says it’s not a simple yes or no.
“Racial and ethnic concordance, or race-matching, is one of the common strategies used by researchers to overcome barriers to recruitment of minorities in research,” said Dr. Craig S. Fryer, assistant professor of behavioral and community health and associate director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity in the UMD School of Public Health, who was lead author on the study,. “Yet the evidence about its effectiveness is contradictory. Some studies highlight its importance; others say it makes no difference. We wanted to explore those results a little deeper to see why there is this discrepancy in the literature.”
The research team went to the experts. They conducted in-depth interviews with 31 principal investigators and researchers who routinely engage with minority communities in their work. They asked the experienced investigators to reflect on the issue of race and how their own racial background impacts their research experiences. What emerged was a highly-nuanced picture of the role of race and ethnicity in the researcher-participant relationship. It is complex, but solutions can be derived from a better understanding of best practices used by the experienced investigators interviewed.
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