Does eating cheese before bed cause nightmares?

Does an apple a day really keep the doctor away? Does a cold shower every day help improve physical and mental wellbeing? Does eating cheese before bed cause nightmares?

These may not seem like the most pressing questions for the scientific community to address but they are just a few examples of questions that could be tackled by members of the public as part of a new initiative.

The People’s Trial challenges the public to get involved in creating, designing and running their very own fun clinical trial.

The overall aim of this study is to help create a greater understanding of the clinical trial processes, so that the public can be better informed as to why need clinical trials are important and also how they can be used to answer a question.

The trial will be based online and will fully engage with the general public at every step of the trial process, from question selection, to recruitment, to data analysis and beyond. The public will not just be the participants – they will creating the trial, deciding the trial question, select the outcomes and how they will be measured, and share the findings.

Randomised trials are expensive, time-consuming studies to plan and carry out, but they are considered the gold standard of how to evaluate health care interventions. An intervention is anything that aims to make a change to someone’s health for the better. For example, providing a counselling service, prescribing a drug, or giving people information and training, are all described as interventions. The decision about which group a person joins in a randomised trial is at random, which means that a person is put into one of the intervention groups by chance.

Dr Heidi Gardner from the University of Aberdeen’s Health Services Research Unit said: “In a world where the public are bombarded through multiple mediums with differing health choices and claims, we feel it is important that members of the public have the skills to consider the validity of these claims. This is how randomised trials become really important.

“The People’s Trial offers the general public the rare opportunity to take over the controls of a fun, low risk, clinical trial and ask any question they like.

“Building public understanding of clinical trials is essential to increase participation. This project is a brilliant way to engage people in the trial process in a way that will build trust and understanding of the process of developing innovative clinical interventions.”