July 1, 2020
People drive research and development
Human advancement in the last two centuries have been remarkable. And the basis of that progress has stemmed from people-driven research. From surveys to clinical trials, research conducted on people provides critical insights that informs scientists, engineers, marketers and policy-makers. The challenge is finding people to fill the study, and finding them fast enough.
Before I started working on Honeybee in late 2018, I was a former graduate student for two years at the University of Toronto. I conducted a nutrition study on the metabolic effects of a faba bean pasta. In my research study, participants came to the lab for five lunch periods to give me simple metabolic measures and appetite scores. I even paid $285 for study completion. But recruitment was so expensive and time-consuming, I almost didn't graduate on time.
In research, when you run out of grant money, your project will terminate. Money, staff time, and in my case, food, gets wasted. An estimated $2 million USD are lost per day from research termination and delays.
So how does this affect you?
The impacts of research
The outcome of my research was impactful. This data would be aggregated with others to approve or disprove nation-wide nutrition health claims that go on food packages you buy. Moreover, food companies would use the data to land industry partnerships and funding to manufacture the pasta at a large scale to be sold to you.
Diversity of the data
But because resources are limited, researchers can't do the study on everyone. So it's important that people recruited for the study actually represent the population diversity. This way the data can be generalized for the target population who will be using the products, services or to whom the regulations will be applied. But beggars can't be choosers. When meeting a quota is already a challenge, researchers can't afford to turn people down and the recruitment process can get sloppy.
For example, in my pasta study, there were no guidelines or regulations about inclusive and ethnically diverse recruitment, even in Toronto, Canada, one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. And even if there was, it would've been impossible to follow.
In addition, I only recruited males - females were excluded. Even though there were scientific reasons, the biggest limitations were time and money. Now imagine buying a bag of pasta with a nutrition claim stemming from male-dominant data, even though 50% of consumers are women. Male and female metabolism are definitely not the same, but we had to make a strategic decision.
And this was just one example.
How can you help?
Although researchers are doing their best with their resources to recruit with minimal bias, only 10% of the global population participates in research. That means 90% of the world is not represented in the data that drives development of products, services and policies. But you can get looped in, not out:
At Honeybee, we connect the community with research. We enable people like you and me to find research studies, connect with researchers directly, and participate securely and privately. Today, we've launched our blog, so you can be in tune with what's going on in the research community, join discussion, and discover how you can impact your community.