Topic Development Research Associate - Scientific Resource Center

LOCATION: Portland, OR (USA)

CLOSING DATE: open until filled


JOB #: 13168

POSTED: October 19, 2018


Portland VA Research Foundation

Scientific Resource Center

Job title: Research Associate-Topic Development

Start date: TBD

About the Scientific Resource Center:

The Scientific Resource Center (SRC) supports activities of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC) program by developing a research agenda for outcomes, comparative effectiveness reviews and appropriateness of pharmaceuticals, devices, and health care services. The AHRQ EPC program is composed of 12 centers that conduct comprehensive, systematic reviews of medical literature. The SRC functions to support these centers in a variety of ways, including assisting in the development and selection of EPC report topics, scientific, technical and methodological support for systematic reviews and outcomes research, collaboration with partners and stakeholders, and development of tools and methods to advance comparative effectiveness research.

For more information about this program, go to:   

Position Summary

The process of identifying, selecting, and developing important research topics for research reviews is a key aspect of AHRQ’s EPC Program. The SRC provides technical support, transparency, scientific support and conduct of the topic development processes under the EPC program, including the prioritization of topic nominations and producing a limited number of rapid evidence products. A key activity in these processes is the production of credible and informative evidence overviews for criteria-based evaluation and use for decision-makers. The Research Associate will support the SRC by performing a variety of essential activities including but not limited to: developing and refining key questions and inclusion/exclusion criteria, reviewing abstracts and full texts of scientific journals and grey literature, data abstraction, developing evidence tables, synthesizing data, writing briefs and reports, adapting processes to improve topic development work, and other tasks as needed. The position is demanding and the Research Associate must be able to evaluate research critically, manage multiple priorities, and have strong writing and presentation skills. A high level of independence, judgment, and teamwork is required.

Supervisor:         SRC Project Manager

Key Responsibilities

  • Topic Development
    • Conduct a brief background scan to get a firm understanding of what the topic is, what therapies are available, the terms and language used to describe the topic, and a well-rounded sense of how the question might be answered
    • Develop initial key questions and PICOs
    • Work closely with a research librarian to develop and refine literature searches and searches for existing guidance
    • Synthesize findings from the literature search and search for existing guidance and evaluate for appropriateness, importance, duplication, feasibility, impact, and value
    • Develop a topic brief summarizing findings
    • Consult with nominator, team members, and clinical experts to determine recommendation
    • Communicate with funder on needed revisions
    • Lead biannual topic prioritization meetings with funder
  • Rapid evidence products
    • Lead the development of a limited number of rapid evidence products per year, including creating a project plan, assigning and overseeing specific tasks, and leading team meetings
    • Review abstracts and full texts of scientific research studies for inclusion/exclusion; extract relevant data; summarize findings in text and tables
    • As needed, assess the internal validity of studies using pre-established quality/risk of bias criteria and asses the strength of evidence using a structured tool
    • Draft rapid evidence reports including: background, methods, findings, and discussion
    • Adjudicate peer review comments; make appropriate revisions to draft, and finalize reports
    • Oversee the development of manuscripts for submission to peer reviewed journals
  • Other
    • Provide oversight to the work of the topic development team, including coordinating timelines and assignment of tasks; assuring submission deadlines are met; mentoring team members on evidence synthesis tasks to ensure validity and reliability of data collected; and representing team at SRC leadership meetings
    • Collaborate with staff on continually improving topic development work including leading the development of research tools as needed; understand on-going needs within and across projects to plan for future work; collaborate with project team to support on-going and developing program needs that fall outside the scope of completing individual topic briefs; exercise judgment in taking independent action
    • Develop and deliver PowerPoint presentations of topic development methods and findings as needed for internal and external partners.



Job Requirements:


  • Master’s degree in public health, epidemiology, health policy, health services, social sciences, behavioral sciences or closely related field
  • 3-5 years of experience in research and coordinating research projects
  • Ability to write and communicate effectively to scientific/technical audiences as well as non-clinical policy-makers
  • Ability to verbally present scientific and technical information succinctly and clearly
  • Comfortable working with senior leadership (clinicians and researchers) on complex scientific and policy issues
  • Knowledge of clinical research methods, especially study design
  • Research experience in reviewing scientific literature
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and reference management software such as EndNote, with an aptitude for learning new software tools and technology
  • Exceptional organizational skills with proven ability to prioritize competing priorities, follow through on tasks and meet deliverables
  • Excellent communication skills, including verbal, written, computer, and interpersonal
  • Self-motivated with demonstrated ability to work independently and as a contributing member of a multidisciplinary team
  • Ability to attend to detail and perform tasks with a high degree of accuracy
  • Ability to use tact and diplomacy to maintain effective working relationships
  • Ability to maintain strict confidentiality
  • Ability to anticipate needs and problem solve
  • Patient, dependable, conscientious and efficient
  • High degree of initiative and flexibility


  • Doctoral degree in public health, epidemiology, health policy, health services, social sciences, behavioral sciences or closely related field
  • 5+ years of experience in research and coordinating research projects
  • Knowledge of health care systems
  • Knowledge of basic biostatistics

Working Conditions

Primarily indoor office enviornment; requires work hours beyond standard office hours as needed.

Physical Demands & Equipment Usage

Ability to sit for long periods of time in an office environment or meeting setting; ability to move about between m

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