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Taking part in medical research

There are many ways to take part in and support medical research. You can give permission for your health information to be used in a study, donate your body, some tissue or your brain, take part in a population-based study or, if you are undergoing treatment, join a clinical trial. You may also wish to consider donating to the Medical Research Foundation to support more research for human health.

Giving permission for your health information to be used in a study

You can give permission for your health information to be used in a study.

Medical research using patient data helps to provide vital knowledge on the causes of disease and the effectiveness of treatments. It has also demonstrated the long-term effects of new treatments, and shown the ways health can be improved by better provision of healthcare services. If you want your health information to be used in a research study, you will need to give consent.

Donating your body or tissue to medical research

Tissue that is donated for research is used to develop and test new therapies or to learn more about the differences between healthy and diseased tissue.

The Human Tissue Authority (HTA) provides advice on how to donate your body and tissue for use in medical research.

If you live in Scotland and wish to donate your body, contact details of medical schools can be obtained from the Scottish Government website.

Donating your brain to medical research

Brain tissue that has been donated for research is used to increase our understanding of human neurological disease and to develop new treatments. The MRC leads the UK Brain Bank Network, a coordinated national network of UK brain tissue resources (banks) for researchers to use.

The UK Brain Bank Network page can provide you with further information, including how to contact your nearest bank to register to donate your brain and spinal tissue or that of a relative or partner.

The The Human Tissue Authority (HTA) also provides general advice on how to donate your brain for use in medical research. 

Participating in a population-based study

If you join a population study you will become part of a ‘cohort’ of people who answer surveys or take part in interviews over the course of the study. These studies provide a rich source of data that can be used for studying health and wellbeing throughout life.

There are many types of cohort study these include birth cohorts, representative population studies and studies which address specific disease areas. Recruitment onto these can be through a variety of ways dependent on the location of the research.

A new online directory of the UK’s largest population cohorts has been created by the MRC to help researchers and policy-makers to find and use them more easily.

Participating in a clinical trial

A clinical trial is a study that is used to test a new medicine, medical device or treatment in people to check that it is safe and works well. 

If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial, the best thing to do is to ask your doctor or the health professional who you see most often.

The MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL website offers further information on clinical trials including details on how to take part in a trial, including those run by the unit and other organisations.

The ISRCTN. registry lists current and past trials, and you can search for trials by name, area or health condition.

You may want also to look at People in Research which can help you to make contact with organisations who want to involve people in clinical research. For example, this could be by helping to decide what gets researched or possibly by carrying out part of the research. You can also find information on current studies in your local area looking to recruit participants on the on the National Institute for Health Research Be Part of Research page

If you have heard of a MRC funded trial that you would like to get involved in or would like more information on, please contact the research unit or research university directly.  Further details of MRC studies including the researcher can be found on Gateway to Research.

Volunteering on our Public Panel

As a publicly funded organisation, the MRC strives to listen to, understand and reflect patient and public views, perceptions and expectations in its work.

Our aim is to ensure that the MRC listens to patients and the public, understands their perspectives and stimulates dialogue and discussion with and amongst them, so that the MRC’s policies, communications and strategic decisions are informed and influenced by the views of patients and the public.

To help inform our work, the MRC has a group of volunteers, known as the Public Panel, who provide advice and guidance to the MRC on projects that need a public or patient perspective. The aim is to help us to make decisions most likely to lead to long term benefit and to prioritise research that is of importance to the patients.

Panel members are usually invited to provide advice and guidance on individual projects.  These are usually one-off projects that run for a specified period and address a particular health need, emerging public health concern, or monitor the progress of research projects or national initiatives.

Panel members have:

  • Helped to develop a research strategy for motor neuron disease by contributing to a funding workshop alongside medical researchers
  • Represented public interests on the steering committee of the UK Stem Cell Bank, an international facility for storage of stem cells for use in research
  • Taken part in assessment of funding applications submitted to the MRC-led Lifelong Health and Wellbeing initiative.

Public Panel membership

We aim for a diverse membership and to include people from diverse backgrounds, including  people who are associated with a medical research charity, are patients or carers with a particular illness, condition or experience, or simply have an interest in medical research.

MRC Public Panel terms of reference
  • To provide advice and guidance to the MRC on activities in which a public or patient perspective could add value.
  • To ensure the MRC understands and responds to the public’s interests, needs and concerns about research where appropriate.
  • To help support an environment where public and patient involvement is actively sought in MRC decision making.

We recruit new volunteers each year, depending on the retirement of current members. Please email Corporate@mrc.ukri.org if you would like to be considered for panel membership.