456: Research

Have you ever been a part of a research study?

Full episode script

Scientific research, especially about and on and with human beings, requires one big thing — research subjects. The people that experimenters subject to any range of different kinds of odd situations and or ask very specific questions about their life — they are what scientific research often relies on.
And oftentimes, these people are WERID. No, not different-weird (though, ok, that is often the case too in some ways). But weird in a different way — from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic societies. In psychological research especially, this is because often times the subjects of studies are students from the colleges and universities that the researchers are based at.

This means that the studies are not necessarily applicable across the general population. One 2016 study found that, quote:

We found that students vary as much as the general population both between and within countries. Results indicate that generalizing from students to the general public can be problematic when personal and attitudinal variables are used, as students vary mostly randomly from the general public.

Outside of psychological research, finding research subjects can also be a challenge. Forte Research found that nearly half of all research studies have to double their timeline just to find enough research studies, and 11 percent fail to enroll patients at all. Part of this problem may be that healthcare providers manage to act as gatekeepers for research studies. As one 2003 article in the Journal of Professional Nursing put it:

To increase the rate of subject participation, investigators have to rely on help from health care providers who often serve as gatekeepers to potential research study subjects. These well-meaning professionals may limit subject participation in a study involving vulnerable populations under the guise of protecting these individuals from harm.

In 2011, in the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, Carol Schefner Hammer wrote:

In 1993, the National Institutes of Health issued guidelines that required the inclusion of members of “minority groups” in funded research projects. As a result, attention has been placed on increasing the diversity of research participants and describing the demographic characteristics of participants when presenting findings in journal articles. Despite this emphasis, two recent reviews of ASHA journals revealed that less than half of the articles published over a 10-year period provided information about the race/ethnicity and SES of participants

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.