Through our outreach work, we have realized that there are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to participate in research. Even though news outlets, blogs, and social media seem to refer to research studies quite frequently – “Studies show…”; “Scientists in Timbuktu have found…” – little time is dedicated to talking about how the process of research actually happens!

So what is the research process? What does being involved with research entail for participants? Take a look at the following frequently asked questions about research to gain a better understanding. Still have questions? Please feel free to reach out to the RAD Lab staff!

What is research?

The research process is all about asking questions about how the world works around us, and then investigating the answers to those questions. It’s a process of engaging with the world around us to find out more information.

In the field of research, studies range from complex clinical trials for new medications to phone surveys from various companies. Each type of research involves slightly different components. For example, medical research studies may involve a clinical trial to investigate a new drug treatment. Meanwhile, a social research project may investigate questions such as, "Do people act different in crowds?" 

Who conducts research?

A principal investigator (or PI) conducts each research study. The PI is the individual responsible for the entirety of the research project. This person may be a doctor, a scientist, a student, or anyone else who asks a question about the world.

Other members of the research team include other investigators, a study coordinator, data analysts, research assistants, and other specialists as determined by the study.

What are the risks to participating in research?

Study risks are highly dependent on the study activities. All risks to study participation should be fully explained to participants during a process called consent.

The basic premise of the consent process is for potential participants to gain a full understanding of all study details before deciding to participate. There should be an opportunity to ask questions, and the researcher must ensure that the participant fully understands all aspects of the study before going further.

Does it cost me anything to participate in research?

Again, this question is highly dependent on the type of research study with which you are involved.

Typically, studies with the RAD Lab have no cost for participation.  

What are the benefits of participating in research?

The benefits to participating in research include potentially helping to further science in order to answer those questions about the world around us.

Many studies also provide some sort of compensation for your time and energy spent participating in the study. This is different from a benefit to study participation, though, as research participation is always voluntary. This means that you, as a participant, are a volunteer and can choose to leave the study at any time. As such, any money or gifts received for participating in a study are not payment for study participation. Instead, they are provided as compensation for your time.

Do I have to participate in research?

NO! Once again, participation in research is completely voluntary. This means that at any time, you have the right to leave the study. Whether this happens before you complete the consent process, or while you’re completing your last questionnaire, leaving the study is always an option.

Be sure to speak with your study coordinator about the policies for using data collected from participants who decide to discontinue study participation.

Will anyone know if I participate in research?

Most study participation is confidential, however there are certain limits to confidentiality depending on the nature of the research. You should be sure to speak with your study coordinator or other research staff to ensure that you understand the specific limits to confidentiality for your study.

 If you ever have any questions or concerns about the way that you are treated in a study, the Human Research Protection Program is designed to protect the rights of research participants. Their website can help with all aspects of research participation from providing information about what is involved in research, to help with concerns about how participants are treated in studies. 

How long does research take?

Participation in research studies have a wide variety of time requirements. Studies can range from a 5 minute phone survey, to years long longitudinal studies (or research conducted over-time). Be sure to understand the time requirements during your consent visit. Also, be sure to understand if there are any follow-up stages to the research.

Finding results from the research can take significantly longer than the data collection phase. If you're interested in study results, please speak with the research team. However, be prepared to potentially wait years to see the analysis!

How do I get involved with the research process?

The simplest way to become involved in the research process is to contact research labs to see what studies are currently available. You can also check out Research Match or Study Finder to find current, active studies for which you may be eligible.


For information about current studies with the RAD Lab, please visit our research page or reach out to a member of the team!


Please feel free to reach out to the RAD Lab staff with any additional questions or concerns.