Published October 31, 2013
It’s like eHarmony® for research. That’s how the ResearchMatch liaisons at UB describe the Web-based, volunteer, research registry now open to UB researchers and Western New Yorkers.
ResearchMatch.org is a free, national database that brings together volunteers who want to participate in research with university investigators who are recruiting volunteers for their studies.
UB qualified to be one of 85 institutions that are members of ResearchMatch through its affiliation with the Upstate New York Translational Research Network, a research consortium headquartered at the University of Rochester.
Investigators must meet the following criteria: They must have a buffalo.edu email account and studies must involve volunteers and be approved by one of UB’s three Institutional Review Boards. While most studies are medical or health-related, others involve social or behavioral research. Both healthy individuals and those who meet specific disease criteria are required for research studies.
“ResearchMatch is a huge asset for Western New York,” says Timothy F. Murphy, director of UB's Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC).
“UB is now part of an important national clinical research network, which will expand our research capabilities substantially,” he continues. “Researchers at UB and partner institutions now have access to a powerful tool to recruit subjects to clinical trials, often the biggest bottleneck to successfully performing clinical research. And the entire Western New York population now has easy access to participate in cutting-edge research studies of the latest treatments and health care methods.”
Interested individuals who are at least 19 years old can sign up at ResearchMatch.org. They must provide demographic and health information, as well as information about availability and what types of research studies they would like to participate in, such as online only or those that require visits to a laboratory or physician’s office. Parents can register their children as well.
Individuals chosen to be part of a study may be compensated for their time; their expenses also may be reimbursed.
Murphy explains that the success of the registry for UB investigators is directly related to the number of people in Western New York who know about it and want to participate. “Many people are interested in becoming involved in clinical research as a volunteer but do not know how to get started,” he says. “ResearchMatch is a great way for people to learn about the research being done on a local, as well as a national level, and to get involved.”
Pamela K. Anderson, one of the university’s ResearchMatch liaisons and manager of the Clinical Trials Office in the CTRC adds: “ResearchMatch provides UB investigators with an affordable, secure way to recruit volunteers into approved clinical trials. Investigators may use ResearchMatch in addition to traditional methods for volunteer recruitment.”
At the same time, ResearchMatch provides Western New Yorkers with improved access to cutting-edge treatments and diagnostic tools that may directly benefit their own health.
“You now are working with a UB medical researcher who says, ‘Here’s my card; call me if you need me,’ in addition to an extra pair of eyes on you throughout the course of the study,” adds Kimberly Brunton, clinical research nurse manager at CTRC
Pediatric research offers the same benefits, Brunton continues. “If you are a parent of a child with a disorder, you’re trying to find out what research is going on related to that disease,” she says. “With ResearchMatch, parents can learn about related studies going on around the U.S., as well as right here in Western New York.
“ResearchMatch places volunteers completely in the driver’s seat,” she says. “You just fill in the information online and wait for an email that says you’ve been matched. Once matched with a study, volunteers receive an email explaining the study they have been matched with and asking if they would like to be contacted. If they say yes, their contact information is forwarded to the investigator for follow-up; if they decline, the investigator never sees their contact information.”
One of the first UB faculty members to try ResearchMatch was Carla Jungquist, assistant professor in the School of Nursing.
“Recruitment is the worst part of doing research,” she says. “It can take several years to get enough subjects who meet the study criteria. We put ads in newspapers and other media, which costs money and can be very slow. You also get a lot of people who don’t qualify.”
But using ResearchMatch dramatically improved the experience. Jungquist was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to validate methods of doing sleep studies. It involved three visits to campus for the subjects, as well as use of a take-home sleep-enhancement device.
“Using ResearchMatch, I was able to recruit 300 subjects in six months in Buffalo and Rochester,” she says. “Normally, that would have taken me about two years.”
With ResearchMatch, Jungquist entered in the inclusion/exclusion data and she immediately received a list of 500 potential subjects; the list was narrowed to 200 subjects when she added specific age and health criteria. ResearchMatch then randomly selected 100 subjects. Individuals were notified that they were eligible with an email message approved by one of UB’s Institutional Review Boards, which are charged with protecting the rights of research subjects.
“ResearchMatch is a wonderful asset, I totally recommend it,” says Jungquist.
ResearchMatch also provides investigators with a way to test the feasibility of an idea before it has been funded or proposed.
“If you are a researcher and you want to know how many people in the Buffalo area meet a certain criteria for a study you want to propose, you don’t need an approved protocol,” Anderson explains. “You can find out how many people in the area with these criteria have signed up at ResearchMatch. You haven’t spent any money to do it and you have your answer in two minutes. You just wanted to find out, is this study even viable? It’s a great tool to offer UB researchers.”
For more information and to sign up for ResearchMatch as a volunteer, go to ResearchMatch.org.
UB investigators interested in signing up as an investigator should complete and submit the online form or contact Brunton at (716) 888-4840 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Anderson at (716) 888-4841 or email@example.com; or Jill Madden, regulatory specialist in the Clinical Trials Office at CTRC, at (716) 888-4844 or firstname.lastname@example.org.