Selecting clinical trials - who's joining in?

Since 2016 the SNSF has been funding clinical trials that cover neglected topics in medical research. In 2021 the public will have a say in selecting the projects for the first time. Interested persons can apply now.

Some medical questions lie outside the industry focus despite being of high importance to society. To fill this gap, the SNSF runs the special programme for high-quality Investigator Initiated Clinical Trials (IICT). They test the quality and efficiency of various therapies. In 2020 the SNSF selected five new projects, which will receive 12.4 million francs in total.

Calling on lay people

The SNSF is planning to fund another half a dozen studies in 2021. Researchers in Switzerland will be able to submit their projects as usual. But there's a twist: for the first time, representatives of patients and the public will participate in deciding who should receive SNSF funding. "The health conditions of affected persons are at the heart of this type of research. For this reason, it makes sense to include lay people in the selection process," says Deborah Studer, who is responsible for IICT at the SNSF. "We are excited to go down this new path together with the public.

The lay people's opinions will count just as much as the experts'. Is the research question socially relevant? Does the study design meet patient needs? The SNSF is looking for two or three interested people who are ready to engage critically with the questions and draw conclusions. Applications for this role can be submitted until 30 November 2020 (see box).

Better and more relevant

Judging by the experience of other countries, involving lay people can create significant benefits for clinical research: it can improve the quality of the trials and make them more relevant to society. In a further step, their involvement may lead to greater participation by volunteers. This is a key issue because many clinical trials at universities fail due to a lack of participating patients.

The SNSF wants to make a contribution at a more general level too: "Our vision is that dialogue between researchers and lay people will in the future become a cornerstone of clinical research also in Switzerland," says Deborah Studer. "It will allow the public to back projects from their point of view which improve public health and well-being."

Who's interested?

Would you like to participate in the selection of clinical trials? The SNSF invites you to apply for the role of public representative. You will help to bring medical research more closely into line with the needs of patients and the public at large. In doing so, you will get an exclusive insight into how research funding works and gain first-hand experience in project evaluation.

Our expectations? You need to be interested in medical topics and your English, both written and spoken, must be excellent. You can expect to spend around 100 hours per year on this task (for which you will receive 250 francs per half day). Further details can be found in the call document (see link below). Please submit your application to the SNSF by 30 November 2020.