blog October 20, 2023

My Three Big Takeaways from SCRS Site Solutions Summit 2023


By: Michelle Rule, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Optimization 

For nearly 20 years, SCRS Site Solutions Summit has provided a unique opportunity for sites, sponsors, CROs, and vendors to come together to discuss best practices, novel ideas and build strategic partnerships through ideation sessions, workshops, and focus groups.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity of attending multiple SCRS Site Solutions Summits through different roles I’ve held on both the site network and CRO sides of the industry.  This year’s summit was particularly enlightening, and I’d like to share my three big takeaways from the event.


Supporting Sites for Staff Retention

One of the most pressing issues in the clinical research industry is staff retention at research sites. Sites often operate with lean resources due to the unpredictability of shifts in study volume and timelines, making it challenging to maintain consistent high-quality patient care and enrollment. This is where the larger engines in the industry, sponsors and CROs, can step in to help. From talent acquisition support to providing scholarships and training programs for individuals interested in clinical research, there are many avenues to help build a larger workforce.

Having strong partnerships with sponsors who share insight into their pipeline of studies in advance and offer a strong level of confidence in site selection for studies will also help sites strategically plan for business priorities and be able to stabilize resources with advance notice of what’s ahead.  This means going beyond just communicating on a transactional, study by study basis.   Sites have a strong desire for sponsors to commit to intentional, regular planning and touchpoint status meetings around sponsor pipeline and site capabilities discussions to strengthen these partnerships for future state of the business and our industry overall.

Furthermore, it’s important for sponsors and CROs to consider incorporating staff retention planning fees within study budgets. This additional financial support could be a game changer for sites to help mitigate staff turnover, especially during high-volume periods. By assisting sites in overcoming these challenges, sponsors and CROs enable sites to operate efficiently and continue their invaluable work of enrolling and caring for patients in clinical trials.

Study-Agnostic Support for DEI and Community Engagement

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are paramount in the clinical research field. Many research sites have made significant investments in DEI planning goals at their own expense. To truly advance DEI and community engagement efforts, we need consistent and long-term support from sponsors and CROs.

This support should extend beyond standard study budget line items and desired diversity enrollment outcomes. Instead, industry partners need to help sites allocate study-agnostic funds for year-round community engagement efforts, giving back to communities in which we serve, which helps build trust and educate community members about clinical research well before studies even begin enrolling. By doing so, we foster a culture of inclusivity, collaboration, and community engagement that benefits everyone involved in the research process.

It became clear in these discussions at SCRS, that sponsors and CROs agree with these study agnostic approaches and are willing to approve more funds, but they are not often getting the level of detail needed from sites. Sites need to provide detailed diversity action plans and community engagement efforts, outside of the standard study budget fee negotiation process, to get more funds approved.

The Site Voice and Collaboration

While SCRS Site Solutions Summit brings together all stakeholders in the clinical research industry, it’s essential to recognize the significance of the site voice in our discussions, as it holds the key to innovative collaborations with sponsors, CROs, vendor partners, and patients. The insights shared by site networks, along with their extensive experience, can be invaluable in advancing the industry forward into a new era.  After all, the sites are where the patients are, so the site voice is just as critical as the patient voice in reimagining research of the future.

Moreover, the summit’s recognition of sites and collaborations with their partners through the awards ceremony and social events fosters strong connections that last throughout our careers. Celebrating these achievements strengthens the bond between all parties involved, ultimately benefiting the entire industry.

In conclusion, the SCRS Site Solutions Summit was a fantastic opportunity to engage with colleagues, learn, and share insights. By working together, we can make meaningful progress and ensure that clinical research continues to improve patients’ lives. I look forward to the continued collaboration and innovation in our industry!