New Site Matches Volunteers With Research Studies

November 13, 2009

BY: BILL SNYDER

People who would like to participate in research studies now can connect with researchers throughout the country by joining a first of its kind, online “matching system,” ResearchMatch.org.

Fifty-two leading research institutions in 26 states, including Vanderbilt University, are participating in the launch of the first national volunteer recruitment registry, which was announced this week by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The non-profit Web site (www.ResearchMatch.org) is a free and secure way for people to connect with thousands of researchers who are studying a wide range of diseases, and to “match” them with studies that may be the right fit for them.

ResearchMatch.org is the product of a consortium of research institutions, including Vanderbilt and Meharry Medical College, which have received federal funding through the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSAs) to speed translation of discoveries from “bench to bedside.”

The consortium is led by the National Center for Research Resources of the NIH.

“Recruiting volunteers is one of the greatest challenges to completing research studies,” said Gordon Bernard, M.D., principal investigator of Vanderbilt’s CTSA and associate vice chancellor for Research.

“ResearchMatch offers a solution to this problem by providing an easier way to bring researchers and the public together.”

Here’s how it works:

To join ResearchMatch as a volunteer, you will be asked to create a profile by answering a few questions about yourself, including your contact information. This information will be stored securely and kept confidential.

You may then receive by e-mail information about studies that have been approved by a local Institutional Review Board and may be a “good match” with your background.

If you wish to learn more about a study, you can release your contact information to the research team, which can then contact you directly to discuss it in greater detail. If not, you remain part of the “anonymous” volunteer pool.

You are not obligated to participate in any study, you can edit your profile at any time and you can withdraw from ResearchMatch if you no longer wish to be in the registry.

Vanderbilt will serve as the host of the national ResearchMatch Web site, which was funded by NCRR and designed by a team at Vanderbilt led by Paul Harris, Ph.D., research associate professor of Biomedical Informatics and Biomedical Engineering

Harris and his colleagues are experts in building user-friendly, secure systems to encourage participation in research.

“NIH data indicates that 85 percent of (clinical) trials don’t finish on time due to low patient participation, and 30 percent of trial sites fail to enroll even a single patient,” Bernard said. “We aim to combat these challenges with ResearchMatch.”

For more information about ResearchMatch, go to www.ResearchMatch.org.

— Kirstin Woody Scott, M.P.H., contributed to this story

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