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A Day in the Life: Dr. Stephen James, Research Data Manager

My name is Stephen James, and I’m the Research Data Manager at SARRC. I’ve been with the research team since 2014.

What drew you to SARRC?

After receiving my Ph.D. from Arizona State University, I was interested in continuing to study autism. I learned about a research coordinator position at SARRC for a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

The study aimed to replicate a model developed by the University of California, San Diego to lower the age of diagnosis and treatment for autism in Arizona. This model required SARRC to develop a network of pediatricians dedicated to early screening, create a diagnostic program to evaluate referred toddlers, and provide families with rapid referrals for treatment. The project was ambitious, with the potential to significantly impact our community.

I applied and was fortunate to serve in that position for five years before transitioning into the Research Data Manager role shortly after the study ended.

Can you tell us a little about your job as a Research Data Manager? What are some of your responsibilities?

As the Research Data Manager, I’m responsible for ensuring the data and information we collect are organized, consistent, and accurate. I also oversee exporting, analyzing, and summarizing data for publications. Additionally, I support efforts to standardize SARRC’s Outcomes Assessment, a tool we developed to better capture intervention outcomes and inform treatment plans throughout a person’s life.

What is a skill you’ve gained or grown since working at SARRC?

When I first started at SARRC, I honed many customer service and soft skills. I quickly learned that the success of the NIMH Study depended on good communication, strong teamwork, flexibility, and building relationships with participating families. The beauty of these skills is that they’re transferable to many different contexts and complement the technical skills I’ve learned in my current role.

What are the top three skills someone in your position should have/learn to be successful?

To be successful as a data manager, you’ll need a solid understanding of statistics, data analysis, statistical software, spreadsheets, and databases. It’s also crucial to have a strong grasp of methods for investigating, identifying, and resolving data quality issues. Finally, some soft skills to help you communicate effectively with team members who utilize the data.

Is there an achievement or contribution you’re most proud of?

I’m very proud of my involvement with the NIMH Study. The results were truly remarkable. Over the four years of the study, we recruited 109 pediatricians in the Phoenix metropolitan area who completed approximately 50,000 screenings. This led to 649 toddlers receiving evaluations at SARRC. The median age for diagnosis was 22 months, roughly two years earlier than the median age reported in Arizona by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Another rewarding experience was being part of the Screening in Schools Study, which involved teachers screening students for autism.

The study resulted in 151 teachers from 17 public charter schools completing 7,960 screenings using the Social Challenges Screening Questionnaire (SCSQ), developed by SARRC’s research team! We were able to conduct 66 diagnostic evaluations for students identified as having potential social challenges on the SCSQ who ultimately agreed to participate. Both studies demonstrate the impact SARRC’s research has on the community.


Whether you’re just getting started or have experience, we encourage you to explore the many career opportunities at SARRC today at!

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