I am the guinea-pig (not the walrus)

by Hans on 2005/04/13

Recently, I had an opportunity to participate in a research study as a study participant/subject. I wanted to experience for myself what it was like to be on the “other side”, since most of my experience with research is as a researcher. The details of the study itself aren’t so interesting, so I won’t describe it in any detail. In general, the study was examining genetic and psychological factors associated with eating behaviour.

What I found most interesting was just the experience of being a study participant – it really wasn’t what I expected. Actually, now that I reflect on it, I’m not sure what I expected. The study coordinator and the PI were fairly coordial, and actually, the entire study was far more relaxed than I anticipated. I suppose this is what Murray Enkin always referred to the actual *doing* of science, and how the image of science/research doesn’t always reflect how it’s done. I noticed that the instructions that were provided were not very obvious (at least not to me). Maybe that’s something I should be wary about when I conduct my own research.

On another note, I was somewhat torn about how I responded to the questions posed to me. At the back of my mind, I was wondering – what are they actually trying to know? I had to force myself to just respond and not think and try to answer what I thought they researchers were looking for.

Another thing I found interesting was the whole process of gaining informed consent. Honestly, everything seemed like a bit of a blur to me. I know that I was provided with a brief verbal explanation about the study and then given a few moments to review the consent form, but I’m not sure that anyone really reads the form before signing. Maybe I didn’t really examine the form because this particular study was non-invasive with minimal potential for side-effects.

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