What’s it like to be a “test pilot” for research?

20 Jun 2024

A variety of Turning Point’s research studies are currently open for participants. Keep reading to find out what’s involved.

What’s it like to be a “test pilot” for research

The antibiotics you take to treat an infection and the flu vaccine you just had to help you face winter – you can be confident about their effectiveness and safety thanks to the outcomes of scientific studies and the generosity of people who agreed to be research participants in those trials.

These important findings can’t be achieved with researchers alone; people from the wider community play a key role. 

None of the ground-breaking research occurring at Turning Point would be possible without the generous commitment of hundreds of research participants who volunteer to join our studies each year. 

So what motivates participants to volunteer? Do they experience any benefits personally?

We spoke to two recent Turning Point study participants and discovered what it’s like to be part of cutting-edge research, access new treatments, and more. 

Become a “test pilot” in cutting-edge research 

An interest in the research topic was the spark that first motivated Hannah to sign up as a research participant. 

“The study seemed very interesting, and novel,” Hannah says. “It was also a [treatment] approach that I’d like to support.” 

Called SwiPE, the study investigated an app that uses personalised “brain training” to train the brain to disengage from alcohol-related cues that trigger the desire to drink.

Hannah describes the experience of using the app as positive and like “being test pilots for a new approach”. 

Gene* can relate. He signed up to participate in a current NAC for alcohol study because he’d heard about the antioxidant being investigated and was curious about its effects. 

Commonly called NAC, for N-acetylcysteine, the antioxidant significantly improved impulse control in previous studies.

With this promising effect in mind, the current study is investigating NAC’s potential to help people resist alcohol cravings and cut down on their drinking. 

"[The opportunity] provided me with a sense of relief that I might be able to cut back,” Gene says. 

With so much research occurring in the Clinical and Social Research team across the spectrum of substance harms – from initial help-seeking to specialist treatment and recovery – a wide variety of topics is available each year for interested volunteers. 

Access new treatments and support 

Although Gene didn’t know whether he was part of the group receiving the “active” treatment or the comparison “control” group receiving the placebo, he still found his involvement in the NAC study helped him personally. 

Everyone participating in the trial receives a comprehensive medical assessment by specialists. They are also supported by a dedicated research nurse who monitors them throughout the 12 weeks of the treatment.

Gene says that the experience "definitely helped" him cut back on this drinking. "[The specialists give you] techniques you can employ,” he says. 

He found the counselling particularly helpful: "You’re there in a room, talking about this specific issue. … it’s helpful to focus on this one thing.” 

Support from the research specialists was one of the positives for Hannah as well. 

“The response and communications with the researchers were just fantastic,” she says. 

Find out more and consider risks when you sign up

Any research study open for participants has already undergone a rigorous ethics approval process to ensure it is safe and any risks are clearly outlined. 

As part of the sign-up process, Hannah and Gene received detailed information about what their commitment would involve, including any risks. 

They were both free to withdraw from the study at any time. 

Keen to get involved? 

For anyone interested in volunteering for a study, both Hannah and Gene encourage them to do so. 

“You’re not going to lose anything,” says Gene. “It’s completely anonymous. And you’re not by yourself.”

Hannah agrees. Her advice is: “Do it!”

She describes one of the key positives from her contribution as “being part of a broader collective experience, a shared community”.

For anyone interested in expressing their interest, keep an eye on the studies currently open for recruitment on our website

You can also subscribe to the “Engage for Change” newsletter and receive regular updates about opportunities to participate as well as updates about the latest research findings. 

*Name has been changed. 

For media enquiries email: [email protected] or call 0478 854 644.