There are two formal courses offered as part of the CAAS training program. Each course, whose specific focus is on alcohol and substance abuse, takes place at the CAAS Friday afternoons during the fall semester. The courses are scheduled in a recurring two-year sequence.
1) Psychosocial and Pharmacologic Treatment of Substance Use Disorders. Treatment and other intervention strategies are reviewed in this course. Prominent substance abuse treatment modalities are selected and a seminar is devoted to each treatment. As part of this review, the knowledge base upon which the treatment modality rests is critiqued, as well as the important research questions to be address concerning the treatment modality.
2) Etiology of Substance Use Disorders: Genetic, Neurobiological, Behavioral, and Cultural Influences. It is important that fellows acquire a more general knowledge base regarding substance abuse and dependence beyond that confined to treatment. The training faculty have identified particular substance abuse specialty areas to be of particular relevance to alcohol and substance abuse treatment/intervention research. All Fellows need to have a working familiarity with these areas, irrespective of their own areas of particular expertise and interest. While these areas change over time, at present the most crucial are: epidemiology, neurobiology of addiction, genetics, co-occurring conditions, social/environmental influences, social learning models, and special populations. Background lectures are provided on these topics, led by faculty who are experts.
Other Formal Course Work
It is possible for Fellows to audit some courses at Brown in areas that are especially pertinent to their gaining the expertise needed to accomplish their research goals and gain proficiency in pertinent research skills. Postdocs taking audits are expected to do all of the work required of students taking the course for credit. Not all courses can be audited.
Fellows have the opportunity to present empirical research that they have completed and is preparing for publication. In addition to giving fellows an opportunity to practice presentations of completed research, this structure facilitates submission of empirical research reports to journals. Fellows may also use the research forum as an opportunity to present for discussion preliminary ideas for their research, or preliminary findings from their ongoing studies, thus enhancing the quality of their finished products.
Nationally recognized researchers and scholars in the areas of alcohol and substance abuse treatment and intervention research are invited to present colloquia sponsored or co-sponsored by CAAS. Fellows are expected to help select the speakers and to attend all such colloquia. In addition, Center training faculty are invited to give colloquia on results of their current research. These colloquia occur periodically throughout the academic calendar on Friday mornings, typically two per year.
Professional Society Meetings
It is expected that Fellows will attend and participate in national meetings of alcohol and substance abuse research specialty societies. As the Fellow's own research reaches completion, it is also expected that the Fellow will make presentations of his/her research at these meetings. Limited funds are available to cover the expenses of these participations. We strongly encourage and expect that the large majority of Fellows will participate in the Research Society on Alcoholism meeting or the College on Problems of Drug Dependence that typically occur in June of each year.
T32 Core Seminar Series. The T32 programs of the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior (DPHB) and CAAS combine efforts to produce a comprehensive research seminar series each academic year. The seminar series is coordinated by faculty representatives from each of the T32 programs. All T32 and F32 fellows are required to attend. There are multiple advantages to this combined seminar series. First, each fellow is regularly exposed to the larger community of research trainees and faculty in the Brown community. Second, the breadth of experience of the larger faculty group allows more detailed exploration of diverse topical areas than could be provided by the faculty of the T32 progress alone. Third, the faculty can be more efficient in their teaching by eliminating duplication of effort across the training programs, and thus be available for more individual interaction with trainees. There is a strong commitment by senior research faculty to teach, encourage, and assist in any way possible research trainees, so that the important scientific work conducted by the Department continues to flourish.
Three distinct areas are covered in this seminar series: (1) statistics/research methodology topics such as the conduct of longitudinal studies, qualitative vs. quantitative methods, collaborative multi-site research procedures; and “design by example” sessions in which faculty present the research design of funded studies and detail the rationale for basis of design decisions; (2) grant -related information; and (3) ethical issues in psychiatric research. These seminars are described below:
Research Methods. These sessions cover basic concepts and principles of methodology in clinical research, as well as several “design by example” sessions. The didactic sessions cover such topics as specific design issues in treatment research, measuring therapist adherence and competence, therapist effects, strategies for sample recruitment and retention, sample size and power determination, data management, basic computer methods for research management, and the uses of qualitative versus quantitative methods. The sessions also include presentation of sophisticated statistical techniques such as survival regression analyses and time varying covariate analyses. Several sessions are devoted to a "design by example series", in which different investigators present the design of one of their funded studies, and go over in detail the rationale for the basic design decisions. The design-by-example series are structured to include examples of clinical trials, naturalistic studies, and health services studies. In the Design by Example series, focus is on methodological issues related to grantsmanship (e.g., how the investigator adjusted methods in response to critiques, what goals were sacrificed to achieve a feasible design). The involvement of younger faculty in Design by Example sessions give fellows exposure to the experiences of those close to the fellows in their career paths. In the Analysis by Example series, a senior quantitative faculty member typically presents in collaboration with another faculty member on a difficult analytical problem. These seminars allow the teaching of the process of data analysis (the exchanges between investigator and statistical consultant) as well as the content of statistical methods with which the fellows may not be conversant. We have found that a combination of didactic and by-example sessions give fellows a better appreciation for how research methods are applied in a variety of clinical settings. The by-example sessions have typically received high ratings from the fellows.
Special Topics in Statistics. Each year, the fellows are polled regarding topics in statistics in which they would like more in-depth instruction. One topic is selected for each monthly seminar. This seminar, taught by biostatisticians in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior and the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, offers fellows a chance to work on applied problems in statistics. This past year, for example, multiple and logistic regression analyses was the topic. In the regression seminar, the following areas were covered:
- Assumptions involved with regression analyses
- Distribution, skewness, outliers, curtosis and transforming variables
- Correlation coefficients, predicted scores, and residuals
- Variance: unique variance, shared variance
- Causal models and regression
- Bivariate correlation and regression
- Contrasts and interactions
- Forward and backward stepwise regression
- Statistical power and effect size calculations for multiple regression
Grant-Related Information. Consistent with the program’s emphasis on the importance of funded research, a number of sessions of the core seminar series are devoted to the logistics and mechanics of obtaining grants. These include an overview of types of NIH grant mechanisms, sources of non-Federal funding, the process of submitting a grant, the NIH review process, and an introduction to the basics of grant writing. Copies of NIH grant application forms are distributed, and each section reviewed. The NIH website is described, and instructions provided on how to access the CRISP database. Early sessions are more didactic, and begin with introductory information about various funding agencies. This is followed by a more detailed presentation of how NIMH is organized, and how the grants review process works. Instruction on how to complete each component of a PHS grant application, including the budget as well as the research protocol, is provided. Each step in preparing the grant is reviewed, including dealing with the Brown offices for Biomedical Research and the Office of Research Administration, and the local Institutional Review Boards.
Ethical Issues in Research. This seminar series was developed for the T32 programs and refined over the last five years so that the most engaging presenters and formats for teaching ethical principles in scientific research are currently used. The sessions on ethics are interspersed with the sessions on research topics and methods, providing the opportunity to integrate the principles with real life examples. For example, the research methods sessions on sample recruitment and retention raise key issues regarding ethics, which are also addressed in the ethics sessions on safety monitoring/withdrawal, and ethical issues in subject recruitment. A resource used for the ethics sessions is Teaching the Responsible Conduct of Research Through a Case Study Approach (AAMC, 1994). Case-based discussions are led by members of the training faculty, and occasionally by outside experts. A minimum of 14 different sessions are provided and required over the 2 years of training, with topics alternating every two years. Topics covered during the past year include: guidelines for authorship in supervisor projects and other research collaboration; special issues associated with the use of minors in Human Subjects research, safety monitoring/withdrawal in clinical research projects, the use of placebos in research, informed consent and the IRB process, and ethical issues in recruitment. Examples of topics covered in the alternate year include obtaining consent in cases of diminished capacity, definitions and examples of misconduct in science, and issues surrounding diversity in research.
Grant-Writing Seminar. Preparation of an individual grant proposal for submission to NIH or an appropriate foundation is a component of this application. In this seminar, each trainee works one-on-one with his or her supervisor, and presents his or her research plans at weekly research discussion group meetings discussed below. Continuing sessions are devoted to analysis and feedback on grant proposals as they are developed by trainees. Each component of their proposed research is reviewed and critiqued by selected 2nd year fellows, the grant-writing seminar leaders, and the fellow's individual faculty supervisors. Study aims, significance, preliminary studies, and methods of study are written section-by-section, and rewritten following the critiques. At the culmination of this experience, each fellow completes an entire application that is presented to faculty and training fellows, simulating an IRG. Faculty members with pertinent expertise are chosen to serve as primary reviewers of the grant, as is one fellow. The primary reviewers write their critiques using the outline provided to IRG reviewers. These written critiques are given to the fellow applicant at the completion of an oral review of the proposed study. The oral review is conducted much like an IRG review, except that a whole seminar session is devoted to a single grant review. Following the oral presentations, a discussion occurs where the fellow and the reviewers engage in dialogue directed at assisting the fellow in improving his/her application.