What is scientific research and why is it important?Scientific research, in the context of medicine, acts as the foundation for many therapies, techniques, and policies that exist today. At its core, each research study aims to answer a question. This main question is also known as the hypothesis of the research study. Scientists collect data, or pieces of information, to support the validity of their results. After a study is completed, the data is analyzed and submitted to a journal for review by other scientists before being published and shared with the world. Research plays different roles in different domains. New molecular discoveries on a cellular level in a university research lab can help scientists understand how a disease develops, or support the development of a new treatment or cure for a disease . With results from multiple studies, doctors are able to improve the quality of their care, a practice now called evidence-based medicine . Research can also help public officials make policy decisions in order to promote public health and protect the safety of citizens from things like infectious diseases or provide social assistance programs . While most research takes years to make an impact, a special form of research, called translational or applied research, is set up to rapidly take research discoveries from the laboratory bench to a patient’s bedside [4,5].
Who pays for research? How do we make sure research is ethical?Research in the United States is mainly funded through grants distributed by government entities like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and Department of Defense (DoD). Funding can also be secured through private collaborations with corporations or through non-profit organizations. A properly planned and funded research project is important because it ensures that the right team is put together, the plan is executed properly, and the results are disseminated to the public. Such plans are outlined in the researcher’s submission to their Institutional Review Board (IRB) , a committee designed to protect patient safety and privacy and uphold the highest standards for scientific research. Each IRB is typically composed of scientists, administrators, advisors, and normal citizens to ensure that all voices are represented.
What does it mean when a patient opts in or out of future research participation?Research participation is completely voluntary, meaning if you do not wish to participate, you do not have to. As a participant, each research study typically has different requirements to take part in the study. Information collected can include (but is not limited to):
- biological samples (blood, saliva, urine, etc.)
- questionnaires (“How are you feeling on a scale of 1-10?”, “Do you use tobacco products?”, etc.)
- diagnostic tests (MRI, endoscopy, ultrasound, etc.)
- demographic information (age, sex, weight, height, etc.)