Community Engagement at the NIH

National Human Genome Research Institute

National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Community Engagement at the NIH

The NIH Director's Council of Public Representatives (COPR) is a federal advisory committee made up of members of the public. COPR members advise the NIH Director on issues related to public participation in NIH research activities, community outreach efforts, and other matters of public interest. NIH selects new COPR members each year, to serve an average of four-year terms.

Important Definitions in Community Engagement

The term "community" can refer to many different groups. Communities may be defined by geography, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, illness or other health condition. A community may also refer to groups that have a common interest or cause, such as health or service agencies and organizations, health care or public health practitioners or providers, policy makers, or lay groups with public health concerns.

Source: Community Participation in Research, PA Number PAR-05026.

Definitions of Community Engagement

From: COPR Role of the Public in Research Work GroupPDF file

"Public participation" involves two-way communication and collaborative problem solving. The need for public participation is based on the belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process. In order to have public participation, organizations like NIH attempt to consult with interested or affected individuals, organizations, and government entities before making a decision. The goal of public participation is to reach better and more acceptable decisions.

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"Community engagement" in research is a dimension of public participation. Community engagement is a process of inclusive participation that supports mutual respect of values, strategies, and actions. Communities can be made up of people affiliated with, or self-identified as, a community, based on geographic proximity, shared special interest, or other similar situations.

Effective engagement is a core element of any research effort involving communities. It requires academic members to become part of the community, and requires community members to become part of the research team. This cooperation creates a unique working and learning environment before, while, and after the research is conducted.

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Last Reviewed: June 10, 2014