The Global Nicotine & Tobacco Foundational
Research Certification Program:
SRNT’s Vision for Building Research Capacity
through Workforce Development in LMICs
SRNT’s mission is to stimulate the generation and dissemination of new knowledge concerning nicotine and tobacco. In support of that mission, a longstanding organizational goal has been to expand research in lower income countries, to build capacity in areas where academic research is not necessarily part of the culture. Although SRNT does not have the resources to train PhD-level researchers, SRNT is exploring a plan to build research capacity through workforce development; specifically, by training people on the front line in “research adjacent” fields, such as tobacco dependence treatment and tobacco control, how to access, understand, and incorporate existing research into their daily jobs; how to undertake simple research studies; and how to document and publish their results in an online journal of regional field reports.
For example, physicians who treat people for nicotine dependence can be taught how to formulate single subject design studies and case control designs, collect data in a manner that is widely accepted, and write a paper summarizing their results that is suitable for dissemination. Tobacco control advocates able to access existing research can be taught how to interpret data, graphs, and statistical findings and to draw evidence-based conclusions that can be used in efforts to enact smoking legislation/regulation at the local or national level.
The Global Nicotine & Tobacco Foundational Research Certification Program (Global NTFR Certification Program) will use web technology to address the capacity building challenge globally; provide more detailed, in-depth training to participants and – perhaps, more importantly – keep program graduates engaged in a way that isn’t possible through single workshops or individual webinars; and make the most efficient use of volunteer and financial resources.
The Global NTFR Certification Program is envisioned as a series of online educational modules, crossing research disciplines related to nicotine and tobacco according to the needs of end users in lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs), with specific educational tracks for treatment professionals and tobacco control advocates.
Three levels of education and support will make up the program. The “101” level will teach participants how to access and understand existing research, utilizing webinars or other online educational modules, and will include an “ask the expert” type of online support. The “201” level will focus on application and include a toolbox of resources necessary to undertake simple research projects (templates, ‘how to’ guides, etc.) with an enhanced level of mentorship/support. Participants in the “301” level will document their “201” experiences for publication in an online journal of regional field reports on tobacco control and tobacco use dependence.
The Global NTFR Certification Program is intended to complement existing training programs offered through John Hopkins, Mayo Clinic, the Tobacco Treatment Specialist Training and Certification Program, and other, higher-level educational opportunities offered around the world.
SUPPORTING PROGRAM COMPONENTS AND OUTCOMES
In addition to helping fulfill SRNT’s mission and providing an outstanding opportunity to collaborate with university, medical and other education providers, the Global NTFR Certification Program will incorporate two long-discussed SRNT projects: an online, research dissemination vehicle specifically for lower- and middle-income country (LMIC) researchers whose studies, for various reasons, don’t qualify for publication in Nicotine & Tobacco Research (NTR) or other scientific journals; and an international mentorship program—SRNT Without Borders. Both are intended to be facilitated electronically through the SRNT website, and SRNT will truly operate without borders through member participation in international conferences.
LONG TERM, BIG PICTURE
The Global NTFR Certification Program is intended to be the initial offering of a broader, web-based online educational initiative, SRNT-University (SRNT-U). Once the Global NTFR Certification Program has been successfully launched, its structure and framework can become the model for English language educational tracks for higher-income country clinicians, tobacco control advocates, and other professionals interested in learning basic research skills; a track developed for trainees/grad students (either a certification program or simply a series of online ‘how to’ or other basic, transdisciplinary courses); and a track for experienced researchers who want to supplement their knowledge in other disciplines.
SRNT-U will house Network-specific webinars, selectively recorded Annual Meeting sessions, a virtual poster session, as well as other topical educational offerings, and link to other educational programs and institutions. In short, SRNT-U will be a virtual campus, a network of people and organizations sharing information, knowledge, resources, services and activities of education, with the common goal of improving linkages among and the skills of people working in the fields of tobacco control, tobacco use dependence, and nicotine and tobacco research.
In years to come, the Global NTFR Certification Program will become a signature program of the Society, a focal activity to complement the annual meeting and journal, designed to reach global audiences and directly support SRNT’s mission to stimulate the generation and dissemination of new knowledge concerning nicotine and tobacco. Specifically, as a major, ongoing programmatic initiative, the Global NTFR Certification Program, will:
- raise the visibility of SRNT globally and give the Society a specific purpose/role in the international research, treatment, and tobacco control communities;
- support SRNT’s strategic goal to build capacity in lower-income countries;
- spur development of an international mentorship program and an online, peer-reviewed research dissemination vehicle;
- provide the mechanism/structure for developing comprehensive, online educational programming targeted at the broader research community, building on the Annual Meeting and educational offerings of topical Networks;
- support the next generation of researchers through a practical, career-oriented educational track developed specifically for younger investigators;
- give SRNT the opportunity to translate and disseminate scientific research for non-scientific communities in a thoughtful, outcome-oriented manner;
- provide an opportunity to collaborate with existing, higher-level training programs and institutions, WHO, Federal agencies and related organizations interested in partnering with SRNT to reach their own constituent groups;
- open the door to new collaborations with domestic and international funding agencies; and
- build research capacity through workforce development in LMICs.
The Global NTFR Certification Program is the single Society-wide initiative that will address multiple strategic goals while helping to shape SRNT’s educational, programmatic, funding and overall strategic decisions for the next decade. More importantly, it will increase the level of research being undertaken in underrepresented regions of the world, specifically in lower- and middle-income countries so desperately in need of evidence to support burgeoning activities in the areas of tobacco control and treatment of tobacco use dependence.