Should I Take Part in Research?

What is an IRB?

The Institutional Review Board (IRB) is a group of people who review and approve human subjects research. The IRB includes medical people, scientists, and people from the local community. They review human subjects research to make sure it is well planned and ethical.

The IRB’s mission is to protect your rights and welfare before and during the research study. For example, the IRB makes sure that any risks are as small as possible. However, it is your decision whether or not you want volunteer to be in the research study. The IRB reviews each research study to make sure volunteers are protected.

What is a research study?

A research study is an organized activity to learn more about a problem or to answer questions. Scientists conduct many different kinds of studies. For example, a research study may test if a treatment or device is safe and effective. A research study may be done to find out what health care practices work best. A research study may be done to determine the best way to prevent an illness. A research study may use a survey or an interview to understand feelings people have about specific topics.

What does it mean to take part in a research study?

Your role in a study will depend on what type of research is being conducted. You can ask the researcher for your study to explain it to you. A research study may require you to fill out a questionnaire or respond to a researcher's questions. In other research studies, researchers may observe you while you perform a specific activity. Another research study may require you to try a treatment or device to make sure it is safe and effective.

Are there benefits to being in a research study?

There may or may not be a direct benefit to you if you take part in a research study. No one can predict what will happen with a research study or how it might affect you. The research study may result in information that will help others in the future. For example, researchers may be able to improve the health of a community or help a group with a particular disease or condition.

Are there risks or side effects in a research study?

One common risk of taking part in a study is that private information you share with the researchers could be accidentally lost or accessed by people not on the research staff.

Researchers will explain the ways they guard against this from happening. Most of the time, even if the researcher writes an article about the study, your name will not appear.

You might feel uncomfortable answering some questions the researchers ask you. You can decide not to answer any questions that make you uneasy and you can stop at any time.

Some research procedures and treatment may cause discomfort and bad side effects. Some of these effects may not be known at the beginning of the study.

The informed consent form for your study will describe any specific risks. Make sure you have been informed of known risks before you agree to take part in the study.

What questions should I ask before I agree to take part in a research study?

Before you decide to volunteer to take part in a research study, you need to know as much as possible about the research study. You have a right to ask questions about the research before you decide whether to take part in a research study. If you forget the answer to any of your questions, ask again. If you need additional information, ask the researcher.

You may want to ask the following questions:

  • Who is doing this study?
  • What is the purpose of the study?
  • What will happen if I participate?
  • What kinds of questions will you ask me?
  • How long will the study last?
  • What are the risks of participating in this study?
  • Will taking part in this research benefit me?
  • Will there be any costs to me?
  • What will you do with my study information?
  • Who will know that I participated in this study?
  • How will my privacy be protected?
  • Will I be told the results of the study?
  • What happens if I decide to leave the study early?
  • Who has reviewed and approved this study?

Who will answer my questions?

If you have questions about the Oak Ridge Sitewide Institutional Review Board's role in protecting participants in human subjects research, please contact:

For more information, visit the DOE Human Subjects Protection Program’s For Prospective Human Subjects webpage.