CGH Research Support Services


CGH is available to assist faculty interested in developing agreements or partnerships between Penn and universities and institutions abroad. CGH facilitates new agreements, while ensuring they adhere to standard guidelines and are reviewed by Penn Global, the Office of the General Counsel, the Office of Research Support Services and others. We will work with you on the agreement development, and counsel you on questions about the process. In addition, faculty applying for extramural funding for global health projects should contact the Center for administrative support or guidance. For questions or more information, contact the Penn PSOM Center for Global Health.



Best Practices for Remote Research

Engaging in remote global health research as a trainee presents an incredibly important and timely learning experience. As a student researcher you are not only diving into fascinating content and building a global network, but also learning new skillsets and flexibility inherent in global health work. Since switching from in-person to remote research can create new challenges, we’ve compiled a list of tips and best practices to help you do your best work for your global partner. 

  • Prepare ahead of starting the position. It’s incredibly important to prepare yourself on topics relevant to the position and setting before you begin work. Preparation will pay off by you being able to get started right away and meaningfully contribute to the project. This preparation may include educating yourself about the topic area in the specific country you’re going to, researching the host organization’s mission, ongoing projects, and positioning within the country, etc.  

    • Quote from a current remote student researcher: “I spent a ton of time educating myself about HIV standard of care regimens, challenges and opportunities. I reviewed Cambodia’s guidance documents and their government and Ministry of Health organizational structure to see how my host organization fit in to the picture. I did a deep dive to get a handle on the current situation with HIV in Cambodia (e.g., incidence, prevalence, key populations, progress over time and current challenges). I also reviewed the organization’s Annual Report to get a sense for their priorities and the work they’ve done to date within Cambodia and SE Asia.” 
  • Recognize cultural differences.  Learn about cultural differences before you begin. For example, collectivist cultures tend to communicate very differently from individualist cultures. In many cultures, there are age hierarchies that guide social and work interactions. Recognize and appreciate these differences and adjust accordingly. 

  • Be mindful of your limitations as a short-term student researcher and appreciate the amount of work your research mentor invests in you. Learning the ropes of a new research project will take time on your part.  For short-term commitments, this can comprise a substantial percentage of your effort spent on the project. This will also require the PI’s time in orienting you, and virtual mentoring may require more time than face-to-face meetings. Invariably, your mentor will invest a substantial amount of time and effort for a short-term trainee. It is important that we recognize this mentoring as a privilege and appreciate all aspects of engagement for the invaluable learning experience which they present. 

  • Recognize that remote work may be a new arrangement for your supervisor. This may be the first time your supervisor is working regularly with a team member on the other side of the world. Remote work requires compromise and sacrifice from all members of the team; keep in mind that your supervisor and other team members have accommodated your schedule so reciprocity in this regard is crucial. Some days may require calls starting at 5 AM or 9 PM; in either case, you and other members of the team may be working late to accommodate the call.  

  • Be proactive and patient; expect lags in communication. PIs often hold multiple positions and therefore juggle many responsibilities- they are incredibly busy! Additionally, internet connectivity can vary drastically even within a single day. Keep in mind that internet issues can be the primary reason that you haven’t heard back from your supervisor and/or project stakeholders. It is your responsibility to reply promptly to questions and requests even with lags in communication.  

    • Set up one on one calls or video chats. Scheduling one on one time with your PI and/or team members is one way to be proactive. This is a good opportunity to check in on project deliverables and timelines as well as asking for feedback on recent work you’ve completed. 

  • Understand limitations and opportunities in technology accessibility. While technology gives us the ability to work on a project halfway across the globe, not all products and platforms make sense for the location of your project partner. For example, certain video conferencing and project management software might not be supported in certain countries. Internet bandwidth can also limit or prevent accessibility. Do your research and compile a list of the platforms that can be utilized by all project stakeholders. 

  • Be flexible and ready to pivot. Unforeseen circumstances commonly arise in the midst of global work. Our current pandemic is a perfect example. Other plan-altering circumstances could be extreme weather events, a change in national/local leadership or an unexpected delay in customs for required project materials. Global work requires us to be prepared to pivot with a positive attitude and ready to face to new, unanticipated challenges. 

  • Maintain organization. Being organized can be a huge asset to your supervisor. When you are communicating via email, maintain an organized list of weekly questions/follow-up for your supervisor. Find the right balance for checking in with your PI based on their schedule- this might look like a once-weekly email outlining important project status updates and what you’ve been working on that week. 

  • Ask for feedback. Building relationships is one of the most important aspects of being a student researcher. Remember that you are trying to build a relationship with your supervisor and your team and not just communicate. If your role on the team is not going as expected and you have concerns, contact CGH for advice on soliciting feedback from your PI so you can make adjustments and contribute thoughtfully and meaningfully to the work.  

  • Propose innovative ideas/solutions. Having appreciated and appraised your role within the organization you are supporting remotely, take initiative to propose innovative ideas/solutions that you could lead/coordinate to improve a given scenario/process. By so doing, you are not simply relying on your supervisor to give you work but instead, you are proposing work that could add value to the organization and will leave a long-lasting impression.