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With a new initiative recently introduced by the International Society on Autism Research (INSAR), autistic people and their family members can partner with autism researchers to assist with designing, conducting, and disseminating research studies. The goal is to facilitate working relationships between researchers and those who could benefit from the research being conducted.

The INSAR Community Collaborator Request, developed by INSAR’s Autistic Research Committee, is a new type of category on the INSAR Career Center. Autism researchers can post a classified ad looking for autistic people or other autism stakeholders, such as family members, to collaborate or consult on the study. The key words are “collaborate” and “consult.” The Collaborator Request is not meant to recruit study participants.

As Zach Williams, an autistic autism researcher at Vanderbilt who led the committee, noted on Twitter, the hope is that the Community Collaborator Request will reduce the barriers to participatory research for both autistic people and researchers. “Too many people have said ‘I want to do participatory autism research, but I don’t know how to find collaborators’—hopefully no longer!”

Collaborators take a more active role in a research study, with roles that could include any one or more of these activities:

  • Identifying the research question(s)
  • Conducting a literature review
  • Setting research objectives and hypotheses
  • Designing study and making methodological decisions
  • Collecting data
  • Processing and analyzing data
  • Interpreting results
  • Writing up and disseminating results

Collaborator positions may be paid or unpaid.

Collaborators must belong to one or more of the following groups:

  • Individuals diagnosed with a condition on the autism spectrum (e.g., autism spectrum disorder or equivalent diagnosis)
  • Individuals without a formal autism spectrum diagnosis who self-identify as being on the autism spectrum
  • Family members or caregivers of individuals on the autism spectrum

INSAR asks that collaborators be at least 18 years of age and their own legal guardians.

It is free for stakeholders to view the posts on the INSAR Career Center. If someone wants to stay up to date on available opportunities, they should subscribe to posts on the Career Center, which requires a free INSAR account. Researchers must have a full or student membership to submit a Community Collaborator request.


Sherri Alms is the freelance editor of The OARacle, a role she took on in 2007. She has been a freelance writer and editor for more than 20 years.