Today sees the launch of The People’s Trial, a bold new project from The Health Research Board – Trials Methodology Research Network (HRB-TMRN) at the National University of Ireland, Galway, which invites members of the public to create and run a fun online clinical trial.
Do you want a fun activity to do this summer, which you can do for free and in the comfort of your own home, or on the train, or wherever you have access to the internet? Something that you, your auntie, co-worker, hairdresser and next-door-neighbour could all do? Something that makes you a scientist, even?
Then here it is….
The People’s Trial
The People’s Trial is an online project that invites members of the public to create and run a type of clinical trial – a randomised trial – alongside researchers, but also to take charge of it. A trial for the public and, crucially, by the public. This is YOUR trial.
The People’s Trial is a perfect excuse to go on the internet in the name of science. No smelly laboratories involved. Just an opportunity to be part of something new that should be fun, interesting and useful.
In place of the usual treatments in clinical trials, you might be investigating bananas, or sunhats, or singing in the shower. After all, a treatment (or ‘intervention’) is anything that is done to improve health, so if you, say, cuddle the dog to help you get to sleep or to lift your mood, that’s a treatment!
If you have a burning question you want answered, this could be your chance. But first things first.
What is a randomised trial?
Clinical trials are used to test new treatments to find out whether they are safe and how they compare with other treatments, in terms of both benefits and harms. The best way to make a fair comparison is in a randomised trial, where people taking part are put into treatment groups by the computer equivalent of flipping a coin.
Why do a People’s Trial and what’s involved?
This is a great opportunity for people to learn about randomised trials, how they can answer a clinical question, and why they matter, by being involved in one in a unique way. In an age of misinformation, spin and ‘Dr Google’, it is really important that people are able to think critically about the health claims that confront us daily. Taking part in The People’s Trial will help people gain the knowledge and skills to do that.
It will also help researchers understand more about how best to involve people in future trials at all stages, from prioritizing research questions to sharing the results in ways that are useful.
Members of the public, supported by researchers, will design and run The People’s Trial, using different types of online participation and interaction that will include live video events and online decision making.
The first thing will be to come up with a question for the trial. “Does eating cheese give you nightmares compared with not eating cheese?” for example. You can find out how to submit a question here.
‘Citizen science’ is far from a new thing, even if we coined the phrase as recently as the 1990s. Chinese citizens have been helping to track outbreaks of harvest-destroying locust migrations for around 2000 years, and anyone that’s taken part in projects like the BBC’s Gardenwatch has already experienced being a citizen scientist.
The People’s Trial is doing something new in giving members of the public control of a randomised trial, from deciding on a question to answer onwards.
Who is behind The People’s Trial?
The People’s Trial is funded by Ireland’s Health Research Board through the Health Research Board-Trials Methodology Research Network HRB-TMRN and has a global team of research experts involved, waiting to engage with members of the public joining in from all over the world.
Ready to find out more and be part of it?
Taking part at the start doesn’t commit you to continuing, but hopefully you’ll want to!
Check out The People’s Trial website and follow on social:
Go on, give it a go!
Declaration of interest: Sarah Chapman is a member of The People’s Trial team.