Barriers and solutions to developing and maintaining research networks during a pandemic: An example from the iELEVATE perinatal network

Donna A. Santillan, Debra S. Brandt, Rachel Sinkey, Sheila Scheib, Susan Peterson, Rachel LeDuke, Lisa Dimperio, Cindy Cherek, Angela Varsho, Melissa Granza, Kim Logan, Stephen K. Hunter, Boyd M. Knosp, Heather A. Davis, Joseph C. Spring, Debra Piehl, Rani Makkapati, Thomas Doering, Stacy Harris, Lyndsey DayMilton Eder, Patricia Winokur, Mark K. Santillan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Abstract Introduction: To improve maternal health outcomes, increased diversity is needed among pregnant people in research studies and community surveillance. To expand the pool, we sought to develop a network encompassing academic and community obstetrics clinics. Typical challenges in developing a network include site identification, contracting, onboarding sites, staff engagement, participant recruitment, funding, and institutional review board approvals. While not insurmountable, these challenges became magnified as we built a research network during a global pandemic. Our objective is to describe the framework utilized to resolve pandemic-related issues. Methods: We developed a framework for site-specific adaptation of the generalized study protocol. Twice monthly video meetings were held between the lead academic sites to identify local challenges and to generate ideas for solutions. We identified site and participant recruitment challenges and then implemented solutions tailored to the local workflow. These solutions included the use of an electronic consent and videoconferences with local clinic leadership and staff. The processes for network development and maintenance changed to address issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, aspects of the sample processing/storage and data collection elements were held constant between sites. Results: Adapting our consenting approach enabled maintaining study enrollment during the pandemic. The pandemic amplified issues related to contracting, onboarding, and IRB approval. Maintaining continuity in sample management and clinical data collection allowed for pooling of information between sites. Conclusions: Adaptability is key to maintaining network sites. Rapidly changing guidelines for beginning and continuing research during the pandemic required frequent intra- and inter-institutional communication to navigate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere55
JournalJournal of Clinical and Translational Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 17 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Rachel Jacobsen at the University of Minnesota for her assistance in developing the network.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Association for Clinical and Translational Science


  • COVID-19
  • Clinical research
  • pandemic
  • research network
  • sample collection

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


Dive into the research topics of 'Barriers and solutions to developing and maintaining research networks during a pandemic: An example from the iELEVATE perinatal network'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this