What is health research

Health research refers to the many types of scientific investigations that aim to test ideas, answer questions, improve treatment options and increase knowledge about human health.

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Why is health research important?

What we know about cancer changes over time as more research is done. Health research has led to the medical treatments and health programs available today. These advances have helped the five-year survival rate for all cancers to rise from 52% to 68% over the past 20 years.

The search for better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat human diseases is ongoing. It requires the active participation of patients, carers and healthy people.

Why participate in research?

The involvement of patients, carers and healthy people in research is necessary to help researchers learn more about a disease and ways to treat it. Most people diagnosed with cancer who decide to participate in research do so because they want to help improve outcomes for others in the future, as well as for themselves.

Adults and children can participate in different ways, including:

  • consenting to their medical records being accessed
  • completing surveys
  • trialling treatments
  • agreeing to be examined regularly by health professionals
  • allowing samples taken during tests or treatment to be used for research.

Who can participate in research?

All research studies, including clinical trials, have guidelines setting out who can participate. Both adults and children can take part, but children under the age of 18 need a parent’s or guardian’s permission. Most cancer research involves current patients, however, some studies target former patients, carers, family members, people at risk of cancer or people who have not had the disease.

It is important that people of all ages and social, economic and racial backgrounds take part so the results reflect Australia’s diverse population. Deciding to take part can help you weigh up the benefits and risks of being in a study, and answer other questions you may have. Learn more about participating in clinical trials or other types of cancer research.

Where does research take place?

Research is carried out in many places, including hospitals, cancer centres, laboratories and universities. Sometimes you can participate from home – you might have treatment or medicines mailed to you, or you might be asked to fill in a survey or complete a telephone interview.

Is research safe?

Understandably, people want to know if there are any risks to participating in a study. Researchers must follow strict guidelines to make sure studies are as safe as possible for everyone involved. This is called their duty of care.

All studies need to be approved by human research ethics committees before they can begin. As part of this process, researchers identify risks that might occur, such as possible side effects. They must also explain how they’ll monitor these risks and what will be done if problems occur. For more on this, see Regulation of clinical research.

Who funds cancer research?

Funding comes from many sources. These sources include:

National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)This is the Australian Government’s main funding body for medical research. The NHMRC awards grants to researchers based on their ability to investigate important questions about human health. The NHMRC also administers the government’s Medical Research Future Fund.

Cancer charities – State and territory Cancer Councils and other charities receive donations from the public, and grants from both public and private sectors. This funds their own research and allows them to financially support research carried out by other institutions.

Government bodies – Other Australian, state and territory government agencies offer a competitive grants program to fund research and to employ cancer trials staff.

Medical research institutions and clinics – These sometimes use their own resources to support research.

Private sector (industry funded) – Companies producing medicines and medical equipment run trials to check safety and effectiveness before applying for licences to sell these products. Private companies may also fund research in partnership with a university or other research institution, or for goodwill (philanthropic) reasons.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)

The NHMRC’s mission is to build a healthy Australia. It does this by:

  • developing health advice for the general community and health professionals
  • funding research projects ranging from basic through to clinical, public health and health services research
  • supporting the translation of research findings into clinical practice.

The NHMRC also produces guidelines outlining ethical conduct in research.

Ethics committees must follow these guidelines and report to the NHMRC every year. For more on this, download the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007) (updated 2018).

What is a conflict of interest?

A conflict of interest may arise in any research project. This means the interests of an organisation or researcher could influence the outcome of the research. Researchers are required to disclose any possible or actual conflicts of interest. All research projects should include details of how a conflict of interest will be managed.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on clinical trials and research.

    Understanding Clinical Trials and Research

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Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in July 2018
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