Health Research Participation: Experiences and Decisions of Military Members


Name: Wendy Cook

Rank: CDR

Organization: University of Washington

Performance Site: University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Year Published: 2014

Abstract Status: Project Completed


Recent studies of war injuries have included as research participants US military servicemembers returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. High rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide among servicemembers have heightened society’s demand for investigation of prevention measures and treatments to support this vulnerable group. The US Department of Defense’s Military Health System reported 3,600 active research protocols in 2011 and over $1 billion devoted to research funding annually. Generous funding opportunities for military health research in the National Research Action Plan have also created a demand for military research participants. Despite the increasing demand for military specific research, little is known about the experiences of military servicemembers as research participants since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The purpose of this research is to explore and describe servicemembers’ recent experiences as participants in health research, including reasons for participation, experiences with study recruitment and the informed consent process, and perceptions of their own vulnerability. 

The goal of this research is to support future research participation for this potentially vulnerable group. 

The specific aims are to: (1) describe the experiences of military servicemembers who have participated in health research, (2) explore the reasons military servicemembers decide to participate in health research, and (3) identify effective strategies for promoting military servicemembers’ participation in research. 

An interpretive description design will be used with in-depth, one-on-one interviews of a purposive sample of 10 to 30 military servicemembers who have participated in health research at an academic military medical center in the Northwest. Conventional content analysis with be used to inductively analyze data. 

This study will serve as the foundation of a long-range program of research focused on (1) identifying strategies that effectively promote servicemembers’ ability to participate in health research, (2) supporting researchers in developing ethically sound research that includes servicemembers as participants, and (3) providing guidance to researchers and military leaders about research policies that protect those entrusted to their care.


Final Report is available on NTRL: