What is a Community Advisory Board?
A Community Advisory Board (CAB) is composed of community members who share a common identity, history, symbols, language, or culture. Many studies create their CAB to help them do the following:
- Act as a liaison between researchers and community;
- Represent community concerns and culture to researchers;
- Assist in development of study materials;
- Advocate for the rights of human subjects;
- Consult potential participants about enrollment in the research; and
- Disseminate results of the research to the community.
Most CABs serve a specific study. For instance, in Pittsburgh, there is a CAB that has worked for more than 20 years with researchers on a study of HIV/AIDS. The Pitt Men’s Study CAB is composed of people in the local community who are affected by HIV/AIDS including some members who are HIV positive, members who work with men at risk of the disease, service providers, and others. Over the years, the CAB has provided many opportunities to educate researchers about community concerns, educate community members about HIV, advocate for programs and policies that are important to men with HIV/AIDS, and identify research needs that are then studied by the research team.
At the University of Maryland Center for Health Equity, we have the Maryland Community Research Advisory Board (MD-CRAB), which operates differently from most CABs. The MD-CRAB is not associated with any one study but has two larger goals: to build trusting relationships between racial and ethnic communities and researchers and to help ensure that these same communities benefit from research. The aims of MD-CRAB are to:
- serve as a "think tank" generating ideas suitable for research that come from the real experience of people in greatest need of the lifesaving results of research;
- increase awareness of both the risks and benefits of participating in public health and medical research, including clinical trials;
- serve as a forum for researchers to present their ideas so that MD-CRAB members may offer feedback and recommendations to research teams, provide opportunities for them to learn about the African American and Latino community and cultural norms, and enable community members to shape the development and implementation of research projects; and
- ensure that policy decision makers hear the voices of people who come from underserved, poorly served and never served neighborhoods across the state of Maryland.
How can I become part of a CAB?
There are several ways you might learn about serving on a CAB. If you live near a university with a medical school or a school of public health, you may want to look on their websites for their listed research centers. Across the United States right now, we have a network called the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSAs) program that includes about 60 academic institutions conducting medical and health research, and working with community members and health care providers to apply what researchers learn to improve health. That consortium (https://www.ctsacentral.org/institutions) includes a number of sites that have CABs. Finally, if you belong to organizations that have particular focus on a health topic or disease, you may want to share with that organization that you would be interested in serving on a CAB; other researchers will reach out to such organizations for members.