Social media recruitment for clinical studies holds the promise of being a cost-effective way of attracting traditionally marginalized populations and promoting patient engagement with researchers and a particular study. However, using social media for recruiting clinical study participants also poses a range of ethical issues.
This study aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the ethical benefits and risks to be considered for social media recruitment in clinical studies and develop practical recommendations on how to implement these considerations.
Given the widespread and regular use of social media, it can be viewed as an attractive tool for recruitment in clinical research. But its use isn’t without its ethical challenges and limitations. Like many complex problems in human research ethics, the considerations and potential solutions are not homogeneous and require a nuanced approach, depending on the specifics of a project’s design and its context. This open access paper looks at the considerations and is a recommended read for researchers and research ethics committee members.
On the basis of established principles of clinical ethics and research ethics, we reviewed the conceptual and empirical literature for ethical benefits and challenges related to social media recruitment. From these, we derived a conceptual framework to evaluate the eligibility of social media use for recruitment for a specific clinical study.
We identified three eligibility criteria for social media recruitment for clinical studies: information and consent, risks for target groups, and recruitment effectiveness. These criteria can be used to evaluate the implementation of a social media recruitment strategy at its planning stage. We have discussed the practical implications of these criteria for researchers.
The ethical challenges related to social media recruitment are context sensitive. Therefore, social media recruitment should be planned rigorously, taking into account the target group, the appropriateness of social media as a recruitment channel, and the resources available to execute the strategy.
Zimmermann, B., Willem, T., Bredthauer, C. & Buyx, A. (2021) Ethical Issues in Social Media Recruitment for Clinical Studies: Ethical Analysis and Framework. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 24(5):e31231 DOI: 10.2196/31231
Publisher (Open Access): https://www.jmir.org/2022/5/e31231