Researcher’s Guilt

Aug 02, 2013
Tagged with: Researcher's Guilt

I have always had a pretty high level of sensitivity for other people’s feelings. This would be a nice way of saying I’m a “people pleaser” and that I probably care more about what other people are thinking or feeling than I really need to. Now throw on top of this the fact that I do research with humans (although I hear the dropout rate is much lower for rodents than humans, rodents freak me out and I hear primates can be mean). Why does this create a problem? Every time I come up with a study design, one of the first things I think about is “How much will someone actually WANT to do this?” A lot of factors go into that, like how much time it will take, will there be discomfort, how will it benefit the participant themselves. I still haven’t had the guts to come up with any study design involving blood draws, and I feel a little guilty every time I tell someone to work as hard as they can when I know they have a bum shoulder or knee. That’s not to say that if I’m training or testing someone that I won’t get all “super trainer” and loudly encourage their work (ok, fine, sometimes I yell….)

So I must ask myself where the line is between conducting a quality study that addresses appropriate variables, and not making the project so unattractive that nobody wants to participate (even if I pay them.)

The other part of this conundrum is finding a way to make participation meaningful to people who volunteer. For instance, if I test how strong you are before and after I train you for a few weeks, I’m going to tell you how much stronger you got. But if I’m testing a more complex statistical model, I want to tell you the results, but sometimes that gets pushed to the bottom of my to-do list and you never know what it was that you contributed.

Have you ever participated in a research study? Do you feel like you contributed to science, or do you feel like a lab rat? I’d like to know how participants actually feel when they volunteer for studies.

Author: Susan Silverman



  • bobl07

    The only research I have been apart of is when I was on the US rugby team and we went through VO2 max testing. There were several other stations we went through as well on that day. It was a combined total of four hours of testing that day. I did not feel like a lab rat. However, I did feel very tired puppy. (:>