Have you participated in a research project or know of anyone who has? Many of us are suspicious of research: we feel like we are being asked to be guinea pigs or to reveal private information. We may imagine electrodes to our heads or other gruesome images, so it is no wonder that finding people willing to participate in research is difficult. I would like to see this change.
Understanding research and its purpose is the first step to resolving these fears and myths. Research is defined as an inquiry that uses ordered, disciplined methods to answer questions or solve problems. A researcher may pose a question about an issue or a problem, where they have identified a need for a positive change. To get the answer to their question, they require participants.
Much research is based on qualitative data, collected through stories, narratives, or surveys from participants. Once the information has been collected, a researcher and his/her team compile and analyze the data. This information, that is kept confidential, could result in answers to their original question.
Many people cite time as a barrier to participate. While it is true that there is always a time commitment required, this is usually minimal.
The benefits of research are far-reaching. Health Canada depends on research projects to help maintain and improve the health of Canadians. The findings of research projects may result in positive changes for a community. These changes can be seen in education, environment and in healthcare. However, many of these research projects fail to get off the ground due to a lack of support from potential volunteers within our communities.
In the West Kootenay positive health changes have resulted from extensive research into potential environmental risks associated with the smelter in Trail. The Trail Community Lead Task Force was established in the early 1990’s to develop strategies to reduce the lead exposure in Trail children while maintaining to a co-existence of the smelter and the community. The University of British Columbia and the Trail Lead Program have been conducting annual studies of children’s blood lead levels since 1989. This type of community-based research has resulted in recommendations to both reduce lead exposure and provide an effective science based method to monitor the direct effects of improved health, education, and the overall improvement in air quality.
Many of us are looking for ways we can give back to our communities, and participating in research is an excellent way to do so. I encourage everyone to be open and receptive to participating in research projects. It can be a very rewarding personal experience; your contribution to science can potentially benefit your family members and community members by paving the way to make positive changes for the future.
Nursing student, University of Victoria at Selkirk College