Human test subjects are typically found in environmental, marketing and medical industries, and have proven to be beneficial to some and crucial to others. Without healthy human test subjects, modern medications couldn't be developed and food or beverage products with new ingredients would never make it to the shelves. Testing on humans provides insight into the causes, preferences and consequences of situations, activities or products.
While most human test subjects are required to meet certain health or physical requirements, some groups may be banned altogether. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that women who are nursing or pregnant and children are ineligible for human subject positions that involve pesticides. However, the EPA notes that only two types of research on humans and pesticides were conducted between 2006 and 2013 -- one on insect repellents and the other on pesticide handlers’ exposure to chemicals while on the job.
Human test subjects in clinical trials are required to read and sign an informed consent contract that explains the scope of the trial, the protocol and any other necessary information. For example, it may include details about the potential use of placebos. Placebos are harmless substitutes that may be given to random subjects to help researchers verify the success -- or failure -- of the actual drug. According to the National Institutes of Health, which partners with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to manage clinical studies, clinical research tends to fall into one of three categories. In phase 1 trials, subjects receive different doses of a certain medication, allowing researchers to observe the side effects and figure out the ideal dose. Phase 2 subjects get medications that are already on the market so researchers can focus on how and why the treatments are effective, while phase 3 studies evaluate new medications versus existing options.
Organizations may utilize human testing to learn how people react physically or mentally to environmental or circumstantial changes. In these types of studies, human test subjects endure modifications to their way of living. For example, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration frequently works to improve astronauts’ physical abilities while they’re in space by studying what happens to the human body in the absence of gravity. For example, NASA notes that its 2014 research analyzes how helpful exercise is for people experiencing deterioration of cardiovascular function or muscle.
Human test subjects may be sought for their ideas, opinions or comments. These studies usually require going to interviews, completing surveys or participating in focus groups. Companies may conduct in-house surveys for employee feedback on certain policies, or they may recruit consumers from specific demographics to complete product or service questionnaires. For example, a business that markets hair-loss products may find middle-aged males or females to sample a new product and make recommendations or suggestions.
- National Institutes of Health: FAQs About Clinical Studies
- University of Virginia Institutional Review Board for Health Sciences Research: Definition of Human Subjects Research
- National Aeronautical Space Administration: CFT 70 Countermeasure and Functional Testing in Head-Down Tilt Bed Rest
- The University of Texas at Austin Office of Research Support: Examples of Activities that May or May Not Be Human Subjects Research
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: Protections for Subjects in Human Subjects Research with Pesticides
- Nature Education: Human Subjects and Diagnostic Genetic Testing
- Photo Credit Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images
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