Materials, videos, and resources to support engagement with research participants. Research Subject Advocacy
At a glance
Key Features
  • Access resources to support conversations between research staff and potential participants
  • Download and print brochures (available in translation)
  • Watch informational videos (CC available)
  • Join us for ThinkResearch, our new podcast dedicated to exploring the fascinating stories behind research. Premiering August 3.
Useful for
  • Discussing research participation, including risks, benefits, and participant rights and protections
Available to
  • Investigators, research nurses, study staff, institutions, and individuals considering research participation

The Research Subject Advocacy (RSA) Program serves as a resource to the research community and to research participants. The materials and resources available below support communication between researchers and participants. These resources provide useful information and helpful questions to think about and to ask before deciding to participate in a research study.

Individuals interested in learning more about health research or considering participating in a research study can visit the Countway Library Guide to Health Research for more information.



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Brochures

Should I be a research subject?

  • What is clinical research?
  • Common misunderstandings about clinical research
  • Why volunteer in clinical research?
  • How am I protected if I participate in a research study?
  • Research Volunteer Bill of Rights

Download a PDF

Research Subject Bill of Rights

Before agreeing to participate in a research study, make sure you understand your rights as a research subject, including the right:

  • To be treated with respect
  • To be allowed to ask any questions about the study
  • To be free from pressure when deciding if you want to be in the study
  • To refuse to be in the study or to change your mind

Download a PDF

Social and Behavioral Research

  • What is social and behavioral research?
  • What does it mean to take part in a social and behavioral research study?
  • What are the risks of taking part in social and behavioral research?
  • Questions to ask before agreeing to participate in a social or behavioral research study

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Genetic Research

  • What is genetic research?
  • What does it mean to take part in genetic research?
  • What are the risks of taking part in genetic research?
  • What are my rights and what protections are in place?
  • Questions to ask before agreeing to participate in a genetic research study

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Blood Draw for Research

  • How should I prepare for a blood draw?
  • What are the risks from a blood draw?
  • What's different about a blood draw used for research?
  • Questions to ask before having a blood draw as part of a research study

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CT Scans for Research

  • What is Computed Tomography (CT)?
  • How should I prepare for a CT scan?
  • What's different about a CT scan used for research?
  • What are the risks of undergoing a CT scan?
  • Questions to ask before having a CT scan as part of a research study

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MRI Scans for Research

  • What is Magnetic Resonance Imaging?
  • How should I prepare for an MRI?
  • What's different about a MRI scan used for research?
  • What are the risks of undergoing an MRI scan?
  • Questions to ask before having a MRI scan as part of a research study

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PET Scans for Research

  • What is Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
  • How should I prepare for a PET scan?
  • What's different about a PET scan used for research?
  • What are the risks of undergoing a PET scan?
  • Questions to ask before having a PET scan as part of a research study

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Stem Cell Research

  • What are stem cells?
  • What is a stem cell line?
  • Types of stem cells used in research?
  • Why are researchers interested in stem cells?
  • Questions to ask when donating a tissue for stem cell research

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Surrogate Decision-Making in Health Research

  • What is Health Research?
  • What is surrogate decision-making?
  • Why am I being asked to make this decision?
  • What are the risks and benefits of research participation?
  • Questions to ask before making a decision about research participation for another person

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Incidental Findings in Health Research

  • Information about health research
  • What are incidental findings?
  • What are some types of incidental findings?
  • Will researchers share their findings with me?
  • Learning of incidental findings
  • Questions to ask before deciding to participate in a research study

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Giving Samples and Information for Research

  • Why researchers use samples
  • Different types of biospecimens
  • What is a biobank?
  • Different types of biobanks
  • Learning the results of research
  • Questions to ask before agreeing to give samples or information for research

Download a PDF

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Participating in a Survey

  • What is survey research?
  • How do researchers use surveys?
  • If a researcher asks you to do a survey
  • Completing a survey
  • Protecting your privacy when completing a survey
  • Agreeing to participate in a survey
  • Questions to ask before agreeing to participate in a survey

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Research Data: How is my information protected and used?

  • What are research data?
  • What are the differences between research data and medical information?
  • Does my research data become part of my medical records?
  • How are my research data protected?
  • Can researchers guarantee my research data will stay protected?
  • Who will see my research data?
  • Questions to ask before agreeing to take part in a study

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Research Participant Registry

  • What is a research participant registry?
  • Benefits and risks of joining a research participant registry
  • Why join a research participant registry
  • What happens if I join a research participant registry?
  • Other types of registries
  • Questions to ask before agreeing to participate in a registry

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"Sophie's Science Project: What is Medical Research?"

Developed by Children's Hospital Boston, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

  • Full-color comic book
  • Aims to educate children about medical research and the informed consent process
  • Describes how doctors and scientists work together
  • Can be distributed to children as part of the assent process

Download a PDF

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A Participant's Guide to Mental Health Clinical Research

Developed by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

  • A detailed guide to mental health clinical research
  • Answers common questions about volunteering for mental health clinical research
  • Includes basic information on making a decision about participating in clinical research

Download a PDF

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Please review the terms of use and citation language [PDF] for the RSA brochures. To request printed copies of any of our brochures please contact us.

Informational Video Series for Individuals Considering Research Participation

What does it mean to participate in research? This video series provides information to consider and questions to ask when thinking about participating in a research study. The video series is freely available for use and may be embedded on your website. For instructions on how to embed these videos please contact us.

To watch on an iOS device, please visit our Videos page.

Prefer to watch with closed captioning (CC)?

Educational Video Series for Investigators & Study Staff: Considering the Research Subject's Perspective

This video series discusses ways you can help ensure a positive experience for research participants. The video series is freely available for use and may be embedded on your website. For instructions on how to embed these videos please contact us.

To watch on an iOS device, please visit our Videos page.

Prefer to watch with closed captioning (CC)?

ThinkResearch: A monthly podcast dedicated to exploring the fascinating stories behind research

Join us the first Wednesday of every month when we sit down with people from the Harvard community and discuss stories that stretch across the spectrum of research: including research policy, drug discovery, the protection of research participants, and much more. You can find our podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud, and the ThinkResearch page.

ThinkResearch will be premiering on Wednesday, August 3, 2016.

If you have any ideas or would like to join us for a podcast, please contact us.

A Distributed Model: Redefining a Robust RSA Program

Read more about Harvard Catalyst's RSA model in Clinical and Translational Science.

Learn more about the Research Subject Advocacy Program.

Are you a Research Coordinator?

Check out Information for Research Coordinators.