Volunteering in Research

Why Volunteer?

By volunteering for research, you can help researchers discover answers to questions to improve people’s lives.

Research vs. Treatment

Doctors and researchers are committed to your care and safety. There are important differences between research and treatment plans.

The goal of research is to learn new things in order to help groups of people in the future. Researchers learn things by following the same plan with a number of participants, so they do not usually make changes to the plan for individual research participants. You, as an individual, may or may not be helped by volunteering for a research study.

The goal of treatment is to help you get better or to improve your quality of life. Doctors can make changes to your treatment plan as needed.

It's Your Decision

When thinking about volunteering for a research study, you can:

  • Talk with family, friends, or others before making a decision
  • Ask as many questions as you want
  • Change your mind at any time
  • Leave a research study knowing that the treatments or services that you receive from your doctor, clinic, hospital, or others will not be affected

Ask Questions

Before volunteering for a research study, you should know the answers to these questions:

  • What is the research study about?
  • How is this different from my treatment plan?
  • What will I be asked to do?
  • How much time will it take?
  • Are there potential side effects or risks?
  • What will happen if I have problems because of participating?
  • Are there treatment options I should know about?
  • How will my information be kept private or shared?
  • Will I be billed for any costs?
  • Will I be compensated for my time?
  • Who can I contact with questions or concerns?
  • How do I leave the study after I start?

Regulations to Protect Volunteers in Research

Learn about the regulations that protect people who participate in research, why we have them, and who enforces them.

Informational Videos

This series provides basic information about research and are intended to help potential participants understand how research works, what questions they should consider asking, and things to think about when deciding whether to participate in a study.

Some videos are in both Spanish and English. Ver algunos videos en Español: Videos Informativos en Español.

What is Research?
This video provides basic information about scientific research, the goals of research, and discusses how clinical research differs from medical care. (¿Qué es la investigación científica?)

Clinical Trials
This video discusses types of human research with a focus on clinical trials, and explains common terms that potential participants should know. (¿Qué son los ensayos clínicos?)

This video explains the concept of randomization in research studies and what potential participants need to know when volunteering for a study with a randomized design. (Aleatorización)

Questions to Ask
This video emphasizes that participating in research is voluntary and encourages potential participants to ask questions and get the information they need to decide whether to participate. (¿Qué preguntas debe hacer?)

Participating in Social & Behavioral Health Research
This video provides basic information about social and behavioral health research and what makes it different from clinical research.

Research Use of Information and Samples from Patient Care
This video provides basic information about research use of information and biological samples from clinical care. 

How is Medical Research Different from Medical Care?
This video explores the basic differences between medical research and medical care to help you make the right decision about whether to join a medical research study. 

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)
This video explains the concept of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), which review certain research studies involving human volunteers to ensure that the studies meet ethical standards and regulatory requirements.

Research with Children: What Parents Need to Know"
This video provides basic information for parents that may be considering research participation for their child(ren).

ORHP Video Button: About Research Participation - What you need to know before you decide

For more videos and information about research participation, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services'(HHS) Office for Human Research Protections (ORHP) website.