Published September 1, 2020
Ask researchers about the challenges in participant recruitment, and they will tell you the struggle is real. Finding the right participants, at the right time, is never easy. However, there are proven methods for success and an experienced team of professionals at UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) is ready to assist. In addition to the Buffalo Research Registry, the CTSI team encourages the use of ResearchMatch. With a pool of more than 146,000 volunteers nationwide, this free registry of people who want to get involved in clinical trials is increasingly popular at UB and institutions around the country.
ResearchMatch — found online at researchmatch.org — is a web-based recruitment tool created through the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Consortium in 2009 and maintained at Vanderbilt University. There is no cost for researchers at participating institutions (like UB) to use ResearchMatch, but individual requests to use it as a recruitment tool must be approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB).
At the CTSI, Clinical Recruitment Coordinator Briana Getman, MSW, and Community Recruitment Liaison Danielle Abramo-Balling serve as ResearchMatch liaisons. They work closely with researchers on finding the best and most effective recruitment methods.
“The biggest benefit of ResearchMatch is that it is comprised solely of people who are interested in participating in research, and motivated to help advance research that will aid others,” Getman says. “When researchers post a flyer or ad, they are not always sure that the message is reaching people who qualify for their study, or who are interested in research at all. With ResearchMatch, researchers can reach out specifically to people with characteristics that match with their study.”
It also allows study teams the opportunity to match with volunteers locally or nationally, and to seek out specific demographic groups, like people of certain ages or with specific health conditions.
“We have seen more studies use ResearchMatch lately because it is so easy to use it for 100% online studies,” Getman says.
ResearchMatch is well-suited for enrolling people from across the state or the nation. For researchers interested in recruiting participants from Western New York, the CTSI recruitment team suggests using the Buffalo Research Registry — which Abramo-Balling says includes nearly 5,000 Western New Yorkers — as a first-line tool.
“Easy to get connected with participants”
Eunhee Park, PhD, RN, APHN-BC, assistant professor at UB’s School of Nursing, calls ResearchMatch the “major source of recruitment” for a recent smoking cessation study. Roughly 50% of participants were recruited through ResearchMatch.
“I am really satisfied with the experience of using it to recruit participants for our study,” she says. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, ResearchMatch was the only source we had to depend on. It had thousands of participants set up in advance and it was easy to get connected with the eligible participants. This is a straightforward, effective recruitment method, particularly for the population I worked with — young adults.”
Similarly, researcher Lina Mu, PhD, MD, Director of UB’s Office of Global Health Initiatives and associate professor in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions, is a “very satisfied” ResearchMatch user. It helped her team meet its recruitment goal within two months for an online survey on the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine and its psychological effects.
“Our survey targeted adults aged 18 years and older, so we performed a search for volunteers by applying the age filter in ResearchMatch,” Mu explains.
For Mu, this was a marked improvement over recruitment methods she’d used in the past: “We used to put ads on social media and post flyers to recruit participants, which can be slow. With ResearchMatch, we can add multiple filters while searching for volunteers. It offers us a faster way to identify and reach potential volunteers we aim to target.”
Like Park, Mu appreciated the “professional and supportive” help from CTSI staffers.
“We were provided with step-by-step instructions on how to use ResearchMatch and received quick and clear responses whenever we had questions,” Mu states. “The CTSI team also assisted us in preparing effective messages that were used to contact volunteers.”
Recommended by researchers
“I would definitely recommend ResearchMatch to other researchers,” Park says, “as it was a very positive experience and took a low level of effort to obtain a large pool of volunteers interested in participating in research.”
“We can analyze data on demographic information of volunteers who have agreed to answer related questions,” Mu says. “Therefore, tracking the recruitment statistics is simple while using ResearchMatch.”
Getman says that UB is one of the highest enrollers of volunteers into survey studies in the ResearchMatch network of affiliates, and she expects that number to continue to rise. “With more and more studies going virtual in different ways — from recruitment to participation in the study itself — I think ResearchMatch will keep growing at UB.”
Are you a researcher at UB interested in using ResearchMatch? Contact Briana Getman at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.