Deciding to Volunteer

Volunteers are an integral part of the research process. People with a particular disease as well as healthy people both can play a role in contributing to medical advances. Without volunteers, clinical studies simply would not be possible.

People volunteer for clinical studies for many reasons. They may have a:

  • Desire to improve medical care for future generations
  • Connection to a certain disease or illness, whether through personal experience or through friends or family
  • Personal interest in science

Participating is a choice

Volunteering for a clinical study is a personal choice. You have no obligation to do so, and participation is not right for everyone. After enrolling in a study, you may leave at any time for any reason.

Getting involved

  • Participate in a clinical study at Mayo Clinic. Researchers need volunteers for a broad range of clinical studies. Find a clinical study.
  • Join a national research volunteer registry. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, ResearchMatch is a first-of-its-kind registry that connects research volunteers with researchers across the country. Sign up at ResearchMatch.org.

Making an informed decision

  • Informed consent. Before deciding to participate in a study, you will be asked to review an informational document called an informed consent form. This form will provide key facts about the study so that you can decide if participating is right for you. You must sign the informed consent form in order to participate in the study, though it is not a contract — you may still choose to leave the study at any time.
  • Risks and benefits. All medical research involves some level of risk to participants. Risks and benefits vary depending on the particular study. To help you make an informed decision, the study team is required to tell you about all known risks, benefits and available alternative health care options.
  • Ask questions. If you have questions when deciding to join a research study or at any time during it, ask a member of the study team. If your questions or concerns are not satisfactorily addressed, contact the study's principal investigator, the Mayo Clinic research subject advocate or the Mayo Clinic Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Protecting rights and safety

An independent group, the Mayo Clinic IRB, oversees all Mayo clinical studies that involve people, ensuring research is conducted safely and ethically. Members of the Mayo Clinic IRB include doctors, scientists, nurses and people from the local community.

In addition, Mayo Clinic has a research subject advocate who is independent of all clinical studies and is a resource for research participants. Contact the research subject advocate by email or at 507-266-9372 with questions, concerns and ideas for improving research practices.