More and more people are using the internet to learn about the latest clinical trials in health care research. If exploited correctly, valid health research could improve the safety and effectiveness of health care while diminishing costs. The EU-funded ECRAN (European communication on research awareness needs) project highlighted the importance of public understanding of clinical trials, independent clinical research and multinational collaboration. The project increased awareness of the pros and cons of clinical trials by targeting EU citizens. The different subgroups included were current and future patients, health care professionals, relevant policymakers, politicians, research ethics committees, scientists, teachers, journalists and school students. Factors such as randomisation of treatments and independence in clinical research were covered using different communication tools. Media such as animated films, publications, events, and a website were used to convey the project's aims. ECRAN effectively collected and catalogued communication materials and tools under one searchable online database. Project work also included a tool to assess and apply metadata to the material collected in the online database, as well as collaboration with science journalists to disseminate messages globally. Overall, ECRAN strove to provide credible and reliable information about clinical research. This was designed to increase awareness in the field as well as promote the participation of European citizens in clinical trials. The material – which is available on the project website under creative commons license – was developed in a simple, non-technical and readable manner for all target users. The information is available in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian and Polish to reach at least 75 % of Europe's citizens. Project outcomes also include an animated film about clinical trials 'Clinical research matters to you: do you want to know more?' available in all the 23 official European languages. Armed with valuable healthcare research data, Europeans will be able to make better choices and possibly take part in cutting-edge clinical trials, contributing to the development of high-quality clinical research. A healthier society could well emerge from this endeavour.
Clinical trials, health care, research, randomisation, treatments