Partners with Tobacco Use Research Centers

Dates of Program: April 1999 to April 2009

Field of Work: Translating the research findings of the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Centers (TTURCs) into policy and practice.

Problem Synopsis: Tobacco use is the leading preventable health risk in developed countries and a major cause of premature death and disability worldwide. Researchers have tackled the problem on a number of fronts, yet often do not work together across scientific disciplines—transdisciplinary research—slowing efforts to create strategies that will reduce tobacco use and harm. In transdisciplinary research, investigators from different disciplines work jointly using a shared conceptual framework. That shared framework draws together theories and concepts from the various disciplines so that new approaches, measures and methods can be used to address a common problem.

Synopsis of the Work: TTURCs were established in 1998 by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), both part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to integrate scientific studies of tobacco use, prevention and treatment across disciplines. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) collaborated closely with the NIH in developing the TTURC initiative. Seven universities or university partnerships received initial NIH funding to establish TTURCs. Partners With Tobacco Use Research Centers (the Partners Initiative) supported five of the centers to help them extend their basic and clinical research on tobacco use into the policy arena. All seven centers received RWJF communications grants to encourage collaboration among researchers within and across centers, and to disseminate research findings to wider audiences.

Key Results

  • According to national program staff, the Partners Initiative:

    • Helped the TTURCs build bridges between basic laboratory science and clinical applications or epidemiological studies and address "next-step" application questions.
    • Enhanced researchers' awareness of the policy relevance of their work and brought new investigators into the field of tobacco policy research.
    • Brought together researchers and key stakeholders, such as community members, health care providers, geneticists and psychologists, in collaborative teams at several of the centers.
    • Helped many of the centers attract additional policy-related funding, promoting programs of tobacco policy research that were sustainable over time.
    • Convinced a number of researchers of the benefits of communicating their work to broad audiences.
    • Facilitated cross-center collaboration and disseminated research results. The national program office developed publications, launched a website that averaged some 4,000 to 5,000 visitors a month in 2006 and 2007, and organized and led conferences.