Understanding CTSA Common Metrics and How to Track Them at Your Institution

Ryan Monte
Senior Product Marketing Manager, Forte
June 27th, 2019

If you work at a Clinical and Translational Sciences Awards (CTSA) institution or at an academic medical center, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the Common Metrics Initiative. As the initiative has rolled out to all CTSA institutions, it’s important to understand how it influences goals and reporting methods at your organization.

What is the Common Metrics Initiative?

The CTSA Common Metrics goal is to measure and enhance the total impact on the nation’s health. Put in place by the CTSA Consortium and led by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), the Common Metrics Initiative uses the Results-Based Accountability (RBA) framework. This framework is designed to move clinical research forward by ensuring all CTSA activities make significant, measurable improvements towards advancing translational research and workforce development.

What does that mean?

At a high level, Common Metrics measure the most important activities and functions of the CTSA Program. The initiative is designed to provide more structure and guidance to institutions, ultimately resulting in a more strategic, collaborative and efficient CTSA network. Moving all CTSA institutions toward common goals will not only improve translational research and public health, but also make it easier to demonstrate the impact of the CTSA Program itself.

The RBA Framework simply defines the types of measurements that can be used to evaluate performance. The framework focuses on end goals and works backwards to define the steps that need to be taken to reach these goals. In general, measurements focus on:

1. How much did we do?

2. How well did we do it?

3. Is anyone better off?

What is being measured?

The Common Metrics Initiative is divided into three main categories: IRB Duration, Careers in Clinical & Translational Research, and Pilot Funding & Publications.

IRB Duration

The IRB Duration metrics measure the median number of calendar days from the IRB application receipt to the final approval date. The goal is to reduce the amount of time to receive IRB approval.

Careers in Clinical & Translational Research

These metrics focus on ensuring both the CTSA hubs and the network are training and supporting graduates to keep them engaged in translational research in the future. They measure the total number and percentage of KL2 or TL1 graduates, as well as the number of women and underrepresented groups.

Pilot Funding & Publications

The Pilot Funding & Publications metrics evaluate whether significant research findings are appearing in scientific publications. They measure both the number of pilot research projects and the percentage of those projects that result in a publication.

How can I report on these metrics?

When developing strategic plans to measure and manage Common Metrics goals, it’s important to make sure that your institution can accurately and efficiently report on them. Manual reporting takes time and effort that could be used to improve the activities and outputs being measured.

Many institutions will have several options when measuring IRB duration. Electronic IRB systems and clinical trial management systems (CTMS) such as Forte’s OnCore Enterprise Research System can easily report on the time from IRB application to approval.

When demonstrating impact through workforce development and publications, institutions have historically been left without any off-the-shelf products to choose from. Forte’s Research Evaluation System, EVAL, was designed with CTSA requirements in mind, and provides easy Common Metrics reporting on publications and KL2/TL1 graduates. It also stores information related to investigators, grants, projects and more, making it easy to showcase your research both internally and for grant submissions, renewals and progress reports. To learn more, sign up for our upcoming EVAL open demo on Tuesday, August 13 at 1PM Central.


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