Preface: Perspectives from the Conference, "Common Ground, Common Goals, Common Language: Bringing Substance Abuse Practice and Research Together"

Article excerpt

The conference, "Common Ground, Common Goals, Common Language: Bringing Substance Abuse Practice and Research Together" (CCC), held April 2001 in Los Angeles, California, helped to develop new "border communities"' between substance abuse researchers and treatment providers. These two groups work in two very different worlds. Their distinct "communities" have different backgrounds, ways of talking, orientations to substance abuse problems, and priorities (Brown, 2000; Institute of Medicine [IOM], 1998; Marinelli-Casey, Domier, & Rawson, 2002). While much has been written of the research-practice "gap," these two groups are learning to work together and meet the incredible challenges of treating substance abuse. disorders. The growing number of joint research and training projects currently underway across the United States has begun to connect the diverse communities of science and service. When the two groups meet at the "border" between their two communities, they have to develop a new set of activities and new ways of communicating.

The CCC conference is an example of a collaborative project between substance abuse researchers, practitioners, and community leaders. Individuals at UCLA

Integrated Substance Abuse Programs (ISAP), in collaboration with local community leaders Cheryl Branch and Michael Neely, obtained a conference grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to organize a consensus-building conference for researchers and service professionals working in the substance abuse field. This two-day community event brought together more than 500 participants, including community-based providers, clients, researchers, policy makers, and faith-based representatives involved in substance abuse prevention and treatment.

The CCC conference provided a unique opportunity for practitioners in the greater Los Angeles area to interact and openly communicate with researchers and policy makers as well as other conference participants. The conference format consisted of two plenary sessions and eight roundtable discussions with additional segments for audience participation. The diverse group of participants engaged in dialogue about their experiences working in the substance abuse field and, through this dialogue, defined key issues, generated new insights, and identified new research questions.

The planning of the CCC conference was a collaborative process involving providers and researchers. This collaboration was formalized by establishing two co-directors: Richard Rawson, Ph.D., Associate Director of UCLA ISAP, representing research and Cheryl Branch, Chairperson for the African American Alcohol and Other Drug Council of Los Angeles County (AAAOD), representing practice. A planning committee made up of researchers and practitioners was responsible for all aspects of the conference: organizing all conference logistics, setting the agenda, defining the conference outcomes, identifying the topic areas, identifying the speakers and panelists, and publicizing the event in the community. The key participants (panelists, moderators, plenary speakers) - a group of over 35 (mostly local) people - were brought together for a preconference meeting to discuss topics and identify questions for each roundtable discussion.


This special issue is a diverse collection, a pastiche, of articles written by researchers, service providers, and policy makers who participated in the CCC event. As a continuation of the collaborative work that occurred in the conference sessions, these diverse players worked together to develop articles inspired from the dialogue at the conference. We gave the authors much leeway in developing their articles. Because we view collaboration as a process of ongoing conversations and the co-construction of knowledge, we gave the authors the option to further develop the concepts discussed at the conference during the process of writing together. …