Become a Research Subject

Written by Rick Henrikson on July 24th, 2009 Posted in Science

Ricks Brain on Science

Rick's Brain on Science

Admit it.  You like science.  You thrive on the unknown.  You seek adventure and mystery.  You enjoy being enclosed in absurd magnetic fields while grad students sit safely in the room next door.  Or maybe I’m alone there.  But at least you like money.

Most universities with research programs have science.  And that science sometimes needs human subjects.  And usually those human subjects aren’t really subjected to anything that would be considered inhumane (as opposed to the kinds of things that inhuman animals are subjected to).  And sometimes, if you’re lucky, those human subjects can be you.

There are many human experiments out there that are really quite mild (ask a few questions, fill in a few surveys, watch a few videos, spit into a cup, etc.), but they’re pretty interesting and can pay up to $15-$50 per hour for your trouble.  Sure, you’re not going to make a living off of it (though some have, and there is a legitimate debate over a minimum wage for guinea pigs), but it’s a nice diversion that can help you rationalize buying a new wetsuit (true story).

So how do you get involved?  If you live in Berkeley, just sign up for the Research Subject Volunteer Program (RSVP) and you can participate in all kinds of cool studies (mostly involving psychology – so it’s just fun games/questions).  On top of that, if you do any kind of MRI experiment, you’re very likely to get a killer picture of your brain (as shown above).  If you’re not fortunate enough to find yourself in the bay area, I would recommend doing a quick google search for “Research Subject Volunteer” + “Your Local Big University” and you’re likely to find some results.

So far I’ve participated in a few experiments between Berkeley and UCSF.  I played some memory games in an MRI machine and got a picture of my brain (I thought the machine was relaxing and even started to fall asleep – my roommate, on the other hand, was intensely uncomfortable and vowed to never again volunteer for unnecessary cranial imaging).  I’ve also watched some violent videos, to which my responses are presumably being correlated with genetic information found in my spit.  So it’s all cool stuff.

They even have an experiment that will give you $210 to play video games for a month:

Relationships and Social Cognition Lab emotion and video games Three part study, involves two laboratory visits during which physiological responses will be monitored. In between lab visits participants will be asked to play computer games daily for half an hour for 30 days.  Compensation: up to $210  Special Requirements:completed high school in the US, fill out screener: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=GWjkpIDz5amM1XaOd_2fZZ8A_3d_3d  Location: UC Berkeley Campus

An interesting aside: in researching this article (yes, there was some “research” involved), I found that the Tufts School of Dental Medicine is the first result in a google search for “become a research subject”.  I just particularly enjoyed how they “broke it down” for the laypeople:

What Is Research?

  • Research is a study that is done to answer a question.
  • Scientists do research because they don’t know for sure what works best to help you.
  • Some other words that describe research are clinical trial, protocol, survey, or experiment.
  • Research is not the same as treatment.

Maybe, just maybe, your diggs and reddits and tweetiemabobs will push the google-rated significance of this article above those tooth jockies at Tufts.  Yes We Can!

Little-known fact:  I do it for the adventure and mystery.

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