Two gay men on a romantic walk

Ethics & Human Research

Positive and Negative Social Consequences of Participating in a Sexual-Network Study

ABSTRACT Assessment of risks and benefits of study participation is standard practice preceding the initiation of hu­man subjects research. Although tracking adverse events during research participation is routine, collecting informa­tion from participants about what they perceive as benefits is less common. We longitudinally tracked social risks and benefits of participation among a cohort of 241 men who have sex with men participating in a sexual health study to improve participants’ experiences and enhance understanding of participant motivations to enroll and attend follow-up. Of the participants who returned for at least one follow-up visit (n = 217, 90%), most (n = 185, 85%) reported positive consequences resulting from participation. Reporting of negative social consequences was rare, and all concerned a stigmatized reaction from someone learning about the participant’s involvement in a sexual health study. Better identi­fication of both positive and negative consequences resulting from research participation may improve how researchers design, recruit, and conduct research.

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