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.