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The background image is A diverse group of community organization members and Penn State researchers discuss the health needs of Pennsylvania during a 2019 Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute event. They are pictured sitting at a round table. One woman is gesturing with her hands.

Engage

Engagement with our communities is vital to the success of health research across Penn State. This site provides ways to connect with the University to learn more about the vital health research underway.

Pictured:
Community organization members and Penn State researchers discuss the health needs of Pennsylvania at Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s 2019 Community-Engaged Research Day.

Engage podcast

Hear more about research

Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s Engage podcast highlights a variety of research projects. In each episode, listeners will learn about the research process and how Penn State is helping to improve the health of our neighbors and communities. Episodes are available on all major platforms. Listeners can also see the latest episodes, with transcripts, on Libsyn.

Latest episodes

Be a part of the research process

You can make a difference

Participating in a clinical research study is one of the best ways to be a part of tomorrow’s health care breakthroughs.

Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State are always looking for people willing to participate in research studies. Participation helps our researchers to understand better how to diagnose, treat and prevent diseases and conditions.

Some studies may need people to complete surveys, while others may be more involved and require office visits and medical tests or procedures.

  • A Community Engagement Studio is a one-time, 90-minute meeting where community members give a Penn State researcher feedback about a specific project.

    Your input is valuable for researchers to understand how they can improve their study design or how well the community may receive a topic.

    Future Community Engagement Studios will be listed here when they are scheduled. Click any upcoming studio for details or to register.

  • Even those without specific medical conditions, called healthy volunteers, are needed for research studies. Healthy volunteers may, for example, be compared to people with a specific medical condition. This is called a control group.

    Register as a healthy volunteer here

  • Use Studyfinder to quickly and easily identify studies across Penn State that need volunteers.

    Every study is different – some are looking for people with a specific condition, while others need healthy volunteers. Search by keyword to find studies focused on specific conditions and diseases.

    By getting involved in research, you can help transform the lives of millions.

    Search Studyfinder

  • Through clinical trials, Penn State Cancer Institute has helped advance the treatment of cancers.

    The Cancer Institute website provides general information on clinical trials and a link to cancer-specific trials in Studyfinder.

    See cancer-specific research study information

  • ResearchMatch brings together people trying to find research studies and researchers looking for people to participate in their studies.

    Users create a profile and then are matched to opportunities as they become available. This is a free and secure registry that has been developed by major academic institutions across the country who want to involve you in the mission of helping today’s studies make a real difference for everyone’s health in the future.

    Search ResearchMatch

A Community Engagement Studio is a one-time, 90-minute meeting where community members give a Penn State researcher feedback about a specific project.

Your input is valuable for researchers to understand how they can improve their study design or how well the community may receive a topic.

Future Community Engagement Studios will be listed here when they are scheduled. Click any upcoming studio for details or to register.

Even those without specific medical conditions, called healthy volunteers, are needed for research studies. Healthy volunteers may, for example, be compared to people with a specific medical condition. This is called a control group.

Register as a healthy volunteer here

Use Studyfinder to quickly and easily identify studies across Penn State that need volunteers.

Every study is different – some are looking for people with a specific condition, while others need healthy volunteers. Search by keyword to find studies focused on specific conditions and diseases.

By getting involved in research, you can help transform the lives of millions.

Search Studyfinder

Through clinical trials, Penn State Cancer Institute has helped advance the treatment of cancers.

The Cancer Institute website provides general information on clinical trials and a link to cancer-specific trials in Studyfinder.

See cancer-specific research study information

ResearchMatch brings together people trying to find research studies and researchers looking for people to participate in their studies.

Users create a profile and then are matched to opportunities as they become available. This is a free and secure registry that has been developed by major academic institutions across the country who want to involve you in the mission of helping today’s studies make a real difference for everyone’s health in the future.

Search ResearchMatch

Research basics: What is research, and how are you protected as a participant?

  • Clinical research is the study of health and disease in people. It can be conducted in many ways like completing a survey, sharing feedback in a small group meeting or observing people in certain settings. Participating in clinical research helps investigators uncover better ways to treat, prevent, diagnose and understand human diseases.

    Clinical trials are a type of clinical research that may involve testing a new treatment like a drug, medical device, a surgical procedure, or a new way to use an existing treatment. Scientists may have many reasons for doing a clinical research study:

    • To explore the cause of a disease or a set of symptoms
    • To test if a treatment will help with a symptom or condition
    • To learn how a certain behavior affects people’s health

    Strict regulations and safeguards are in place for everyone who volunteers to be a part of clinic research.

    Translational science research is about “translating” new knowledge found in the scientific laboratories into health benefits through collaboration. It transforms scientific discoveries into improved patient care, community-based practices and policies to improve health.

    Basic science research is the study of a subject to increase knowledge and understanding about it without a specific or immediate use in the healthcare setting. This research can be, for example, at the cellular or genetic levels.

    Explore frequently-asked questions about clinical research

  • An institutional review board, commonly called an IRB, is a committee that includes physicians, statisticians, researchers, community advocates and others and ensures any research done on and about humans is ethical and that the rights of study participants and communities are protected.

    The group follows federal regulations, state laws and Penn State policy to review, monitor and approve research in order to protect the ethical rights and privacy of the subjects involved.

    All human-subject research done in the United States must be approved by an IRB before a study begins.

    How Am I Protected?

    Ethical guidelines

    The goal of clinical research is to develop knowledge that improves human health or increases understanding of human biology. This is possible because of people volunteering to participate in research. The path to finding out if a new drug is safe or effective is to test it on patient volunteers. Because placing some people at risk of harm can benefit the good of others, clinical research has the potential to exploit patient volunteers. The purpose of ethical guidelines is both to protect patient volunteers and to preserve the integrity of the science. Ethical guidelines in place today were primarily a response to past research abuses.

    Informed consent

    Informed consent is the process of learning the key facts about a clinical trial before deciding whether to participate. The process of providing information to participants continues throughout the study. To help someone decide whether to participate, members of the research team explain details of the study. The research team provides an informed consent document, which includes such details about the study as its purpose, duration, required procedures and who to contact for various reasons. The informed consent document also explains risks and potential benefits.

    If the participant decides to enroll in the trial, the informed consent document will be signed. Informed consent is not a contract. Volunteers are free to withdraw from the study at any time.

    IRB review

    Most, but not all, clinical trials in the United States are approved and monitored by an institutional review board (IRB) in order to ensure that the risks are minimal and are worth any potential benefits. Potential research participants should ask the sponsor or research coordinator whether the research they are considering participating in was reviewed by an IRB.

    Source: National Institutes of Health

    Learn more about clinical research safeguards

  • Weighing all of your options, both risks and benefits will help you to make an informed decision about getting involved in research. The research team is there to assist you, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. Remember, participating in research is totally up to you, and you can stop at any time throughout the process.

    Here are possible questions to ask when deciding to join a study or trial.

    • Who has reviewed and approved the study?
    • What do the researchers hope to learn from the study?
    • What would you have to do? What kind of medications, procedures, or tests would you have?
    • How would being in the study affect your daily life?
    • What are the risks?
    • How would your privacy and identifiable private information be protected?
    • Will there be any travel or other study-associated costs (such as child care), and will researchers provide any money to cover those costs?
    • Who should you contact if you have questions about participating?

    Learn more about volunteering for research

  • Basic science research

    The study of a subject to increase knowledge and understanding about it without a specific or immediate practical application. Examples include studies of cell signaling, genetic mutations associated with specific types of cancer and how tumors evade the body’s immune system.

    Clinical research

    Research that determines the safety and effectiveness of medications, devices, diagnostic products and techniques and treatment regimens.

    Comparative effectiveness research

    The direct comparison of existing treatments to determine with works best. Comparative effectiveness research has emerged as an important mechanism to improve health outcomes, accelerate the translation and dissemination of evidence-based diagnostic and treatment strategies and deliver more patient-centered healthcare.

    Community-engaged research

    A distinct approach to research involving the building of trusted and authentic partnerships between researchers and the community. Community-engaged research requires that a relationship be built between the academic institution and the community in which it serves based on respect, trust and mutual benefit and addresses community needs and health issues as defined by the community itself.

    Community-Engaged Research Core

    The Community-Engaged Research Core offers assistance to both researchers and community organizations. The core helps build community-academic research partnerships by offering training and assistance on the development and implementation of community-engaged research projects.

    Community-based participatory research

    Community-based participatory research is research that is conducted as an equal partnership between traditionally trained “experts” and members of a community. In these projects, the community participates fully in all aspects of the research process. Community is often self-defined, but general categories of community include geographic community, community of individuals with a common problem or issue, or a community of individuals with a common interest or goal.

    Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA)

    A consortium of 60 medical research institutions working to improve the way medical research is conducted. The vision of the Clinical and Translational Science Award network is to reduce the time it takes for scientific discoveries to become treatments, practices or policies to improve health.

    Dissemination

    A planned process that involves consideration of who should hear research findings and where, and, where appropriate, communicating and interacting with wider policy and health service audiences in ways that will encourage use of research findings in decision-making.

    Institutional Review Board (IRB)

    A committee of physicians, statisticians, researchers, community advocates and others that ensures that any research done on and about humans is ethical and that the rights of study participants and communities are protected. All human subjects’ research done in the United States must be approved by an IRB before it begins.

    Human subjects protection

    Laws set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to protect a person from risks in research studies that any federal agency or department has a part in. Also called 45 CFR 46, 45 Code of Federal Regulations Part 46, and human participant protection regulations. Research institutions require that anyone engaged in research that involves humans must complete training in human subjects protection.

    National Institutes of Health (NIH)

    The primary federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research. NIH includes 27 different institutes and centers.

    Patient-centered outcomes research

    Patient-centered outcomes research helps people and their caregivers communicate and make informed health care decisions, allowing their voices to be heard in assessing the value of health care options. This research aims to answer patient-centered questions as defined by individual patients.

    Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute

    A nonprofit organization to improve the quality and relevance of research to help patients, caregivers, clinicians, employers, insurers and policy makers make informed health decisions.

    Principal investigator (PI)

    The researcher in charge of an experiment or research project and the person responsible for the overall management and direction of the project. A principal investigator may also be called the lead investigator or lead scientist.

    Stakeholders

    Individuals, organizations or communities that have a direct interest in the process and outcomes of a research project.” Stakeholders may be patients, caregivers, advocates, research volunteers and community leaders.

    Translational research

    This type of research transforms scientific discoveries into improved patient care, community-based practices and policies to improve health.

Clinical research is the study of health and disease in people. It can be conducted in many ways like completing a survey, sharing feedback in a small group meeting or observing people in certain settings. Participating in clinical research helps investigators uncover better ways to treat, prevent, diagnose and understand human diseases.

Clinical trials are a type of clinical research that may involve testing a new treatment like a drug, medical device, a surgical procedure, or a new way to use an existing treatment. Scientists may have many reasons for doing a clinical research study:

  • To explore the cause of a disease or a set of symptoms
  • To test if a treatment will help with a symptom or condition
  • To learn how a certain behavior affects people’s health

Strict regulations and safeguards are in place for everyone who volunteers to be a part of clinic research.

Translational science research is about “translating” new knowledge found in the scientific laboratories into health benefits through collaboration. It transforms scientific discoveries into improved patient care, community-based practices and policies to improve health.

Basic science research is the study of a subject to increase knowledge and understanding about it without a specific or immediate use in the healthcare setting. This research can be, for example, at the cellular or genetic levels.

Explore frequently-asked questions about clinical research

An institutional review board, commonly called an IRB, is a committee that includes physicians, statisticians, researchers, community advocates and others and ensures any research done on and about humans is ethical and that the rights of study participants and communities are protected.

The group follows federal regulations, state laws and Penn State policy to review, monitor and approve research in order to protect the ethical rights and privacy of the subjects involved.

All human-subject research done in the United States must be approved by an IRB before a study begins.

How Am I Protected?

Ethical guidelines

The goal of clinical research is to develop knowledge that improves human health or increases understanding of human biology. This is possible because of people volunteering to participate in research. The path to finding out if a new drug is safe or effective is to test it on patient volunteers. Because placing some people at risk of harm can benefit the good of others, clinical research has the potential to exploit patient volunteers. The purpose of ethical guidelines is both to protect patient volunteers and to preserve the integrity of the science. Ethical guidelines in place today were primarily a response to past research abuses.

Informed consent

Informed consent is the process of learning the key facts about a clinical trial before deciding whether to participate. The process of providing information to participants continues throughout the study. To help someone decide whether to participate, members of the research team explain details of the study. The research team provides an informed consent document, which includes such details about the study as its purpose, duration, required procedures and who to contact for various reasons. The informed consent document also explains risks and potential benefits.

If the participant decides to enroll in the trial, the informed consent document will be signed. Informed consent is not a contract. Volunteers are free to withdraw from the study at any time.

IRB review

Most, but not all, clinical trials in the United States are approved and monitored by an institutional review board (IRB) in order to ensure that the risks are minimal and are worth any potential benefits. Potential research participants should ask the sponsor or research coordinator whether the research they are considering participating in was reviewed by an IRB.

Source: National Institutes of Health

Learn more about clinical research safeguards

Weighing all of your options, both risks and benefits will help you to make an informed decision about getting involved in research. The research team is there to assist you, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. Remember, participating in research is totally up to you, and you can stop at any time throughout the process.

Here are possible questions to ask when deciding to join a study or trial.

  • Who has reviewed and approved the study?
  • What do the researchers hope to learn from the study?
  • What would you have to do? What kind of medications, procedures, or tests would you have?
  • How would being in the study affect your daily life?
  • What are the risks?
  • How would your privacy and identifiable private information be protected?
  • Will there be any travel or other study-associated costs (such as child care), and will researchers provide any money to cover those costs?
  • Who should you contact if you have questions about participating?

Learn more about volunteering for research

Basic science research

The study of a subject to increase knowledge and understanding about it without a specific or immediate practical application. Examples include studies of cell signaling, genetic mutations associated with specific types of cancer and how tumors evade the body’s immune system.

Clinical research

Research that determines the safety and effectiveness of medications, devices, diagnostic products and techniques and treatment regimens.

Comparative effectiveness research

The direct comparison of existing treatments to determine with works best. Comparative effectiveness research has emerged as an important mechanism to improve health outcomes, accelerate the translation and dissemination of evidence-based diagnostic and treatment strategies and deliver more patient-centered healthcare.

Community-engaged research

A distinct approach to research involving the building of trusted and authentic partnerships between researchers and the community. Community-engaged research requires that a relationship be built between the academic institution and the community in which it serves based on respect, trust and mutual benefit and addresses community needs and health issues as defined by the community itself.

Community-Engaged Research Core

The Community-Engaged Research Core offers assistance to both researchers and community organizations. The core helps build community-academic research partnerships by offering training and assistance on the development and implementation of community-engaged research projects.

Community-based participatory research

Community-based participatory research is research that is conducted as an equal partnership between traditionally trained “experts” and members of a community. In these projects, the community participates fully in all aspects of the research process. Community is often self-defined, but general categories of community include geographic community, community of individuals with a common problem or issue, or a community of individuals with a common interest or goal.

Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA)

A consortium of 60 medical research institutions working to improve the way medical research is conducted. The vision of the Clinical and Translational Science Award network is to reduce the time it takes for scientific discoveries to become treatments, practices or policies to improve health.

Dissemination

A planned process that involves consideration of who should hear research findings and where, and, where appropriate, communicating and interacting with wider policy and health service audiences in ways that will encourage use of research findings in decision-making.

Institutional Review Board (IRB)

A committee of physicians, statisticians, researchers, community advocates and others that ensures that any research done on and about humans is ethical and that the rights of study participants and communities are protected. All human subjects’ research done in the United States must be approved by an IRB before it begins.

Human subjects protection

Laws set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to protect a person from risks in research studies that any federal agency or department has a part in. Also called 45 CFR 46, 45 Code of Federal Regulations Part 46, and human participant protection regulations. Research institutions require that anyone engaged in research that involves humans must complete training in human subjects protection.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The primary federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research. NIH includes 27 different institutes and centers.

Patient-centered outcomes research

Patient-centered outcomes research helps people and their caregivers communicate and make informed health care decisions, allowing their voices to be heard in assessing the value of health care options. This research aims to answer patient-centered questions as defined by individual patients.

Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute

A nonprofit organization to improve the quality and relevance of research to help patients, caregivers, clinicians, employers, insurers and policy makers make informed health decisions.

Principal investigator (PI)

The researcher in charge of an experiment or research project and the person responsible for the overall management and direction of the project. A principal investigator may also be called the lead investigator or lead scientist.

Stakeholders

Individuals, organizations or communities that have a direct interest in the process and outcomes of a research project.” Stakeholders may be patients, caregivers, advocates, research volunteers and community leaders.

Translational research

This type of research transforms scientific discoveries into improved patient care, community-based practices and policies to improve health.

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There are many ways to stay engaged and connected with Penn State to stay informed of the latest research.

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The official news source of the University.

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Collaboration:

Are you interested in collaborating with a Penn State researcher? Penn State researchers often collaborate with community-based organizations.

Email ctsi@pennstatehealth.psu.edu for details

Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute manages this webpage. The institute provides tools, services and training to make health research more efficient at Penn State. The institute is supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, through Grant UL1 TR002014. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH. For questions or comments, email ctsi@pennstatehealth.psu.edu.