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Working together, sharing ideas and accomplishing great research

Q: An EHD Bass Connections team took the ResearchMobile (ReMo) to South Carolina over winter break. Can anyone use the ReMo?

A: The ResearchMobile has really been one of the hidden treasures at SSRI, and we’d love to make a push for it to be utilized more. It’s part of our Interdisciplinary Behavioral Research Center (IBRC), which is directed by Mark Leary. Mark and his team will work with anyone who is interested—it really is a very easy process, and you don’t have to already be affiliated with SSRI. The South Carolina excursion was a brilliant idea by Alexandra Cooper who directs our education and training programs, and it was the first time the ResearchMobile has left North Carolina. I hope that story opens people’s imaginations for how this resource could enhance research at Duke. It can be rapidly deployed but it can also be employed for research at schools or in outlying communities with people who ordinarily would not come to a research facility. The upcoming election, for instance, might provide fascinating ways of utilizing the ResearchMobile across the state, but it could even be used locally on different parts of the Duke Campus.

Q: Bass Connections teams are in public schools through neuroscience-based health curriculum and guiding professional development for classroom and ESL teachers. Why is it important that Duke undergraduates bring their research to local public schools?

A: It’s one of those wonderful win-win scenarios that we love to find. So many Duke students are genuinely interested in contributing to the community, and, together with the faculty, they have enormous intellectual capital to employ. Our community has real needs in the education space, and so bringing those needs together with research and engagement at Duke can improve our community, enhance education at Duke and advance research all at the same time. The key to making it all work is to make sure that the schools themselves become real partners, and that is what these projects have so successfully accomplished.

Q: Wilkie Wilson and Dr. Cynthia Kuhn’s neuroscience Bass Connections team is an example of a social science and medical science collaboration, much like economist Joe Hotz and Dr. Kristin Newby’s partnership. What other kinds of collaborations between SSRI and the medical campus do you envision?

A: The potential for increased collaboration between social science and medicine is almost limitless. With the Social Science Challenge and the Duke Colloquium on Data and Medicine, we are discovering areas for potential collaboration that we could not have envisioned at the outset. Through mechanisms like the Data+ program in iiD and the Bass Connections Program, we now have ready ways for students to become involved in emerging projects.

Q: For graduate students interested in data, what tools and resources are available at SSRI?

A: The Protected Research Data Network—or PRDN—at SSRI is less than two years old, but we are already counting users in the hundreds. Many researchers—including undergraduates and graduate students—are finding it to be a convenient way to work with sensitive data in a secure way, and many data providers are seeing it as the most secure way for them to share data with researchers. Our staff, led by Rachel Franke, is eager to help anyone with sensitive data needs that can be accommodated in the PRDN. Our staff can also help researchers navigate the larger research computing infrastructure at Duke, and you can access that expertise by stopping by our help desk in the Connection at SSRI. It’s the place to get help with questions on research software and a variety of research methods. So lots of resourcess are available—just come to SSRI in Gross Hall and ask!

Tom Nechyba
Director, SSRI

Originally published in the Spring 2016 issue of GIST by the Duke Social Science Research Institute (SSRI)