First place winners from the 2017 HRB-TMRN START competition were 6th class students from Scoil Ide, Corbally, Co. Limerick and their teacher Ray D’arcy. Photo: NUI Galway
Feb 21 2018 Posted: 14:13 GMT

Registrations are now open for 4th, 5th and 6th class students and their teachers to enter and participate in the third annual Schools Teaching Awareness of Randomised Trials (START) competition for 2018.

The competition is run by the Health Research Board – Trials Methodology Research Network (HRB-TMRN) based at NUI Galway. The purpose of the competition is to help students become aware of the clinical trial process. Interested schools can avail of supports from researchers who will visit the school to help get their projects started.

Students are asked to choose a simple, easy to answer question using the proper steps of a clinical trial to answer it scientifically, using the online resources provided. Questions can be very practical or a bit of fun such as; Can using coloured paper for written spelling tests increase students’ scores? Does ten minutes of dancing every morning before classes improve student’s attention? The findings from each trial can be reported in any format such as a podcast, video, website, report format, collage or poster.  

A randomised clinical trial is a type of scientific experiment which aims to reduce bias when testing a new treatment. The students and their teachers are encouraged to design, carry out and evaluate their very own simulated clinical trial. START encourages children to learn more about healthcare decisions and how we can improve healthcare and wellbeing, by learning about randomised clinical trials.

Commenting on the project, Dr Sandra Galvin, HRB-TMRN Programme Manager at NUI Galway, said: “This is an exciting initiative and the first of its kind to bring awareness of clinical trials to the younger community. Schoolchildren and their teachers are so creative and we’re really looking forward to seeing what innovative ways teachers and pupils go about designing and reporting their trial. The last two years have really set such a high standard, and young students are pushing the boundaries of what we think they can understand, in fact, they are teaching us.”

To date, over 15 primary schools nationally have entered their very own simulated clinical trials. The top three shortlisted schools will be invited to Galway on Friday, 18 May where the winner will be announced and presented with the START Trophy 2018.

Each project will be assessed on:

  • How well does the project adhere to the structure of a clinical trial?
  • How well presented are the findings of the trial, so that any member of the community could understand the findings?
  • Can other schools learn something new from this project?

Commenting on the START finalists and their projects, Professor Declan Devane, Scientific Director of the HRB-TMRN at NUI Galway, said: “We started this competition for two reasons. Firstly, we wanted to raise awareness of the importance of randomised trials with children. Secondly, we wanted to harness the creativity and imagination of children in the design, conduct, analysis and reporting of trials. The high standard and variety of applications we received demonstrate that the START competition has indeed raised the awareness of randomised trials and capitalised on children’s innate ability to explain difficult concepts clearly and in a fun way. We are very proud of all our applications and wish each of the finalist schools the very best on the 18 May in Galway.”

To register your trial complete the Trial Registration Form, which can be found at and email it to or alternatively Post to: Room 235, 1st Floor, Áras Moyola, School of Nursing and Midwifery, NUI Galway.

Follow START on Facebook at and Twitter @hrbtmrn.


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