To the Editor:
We have read with considerable interest Dr. Richiardi's communication regarding the use of Facebook to recruit participants in the NINFEA study.1 As previous initiatives report, Facebook provides a positive virtual environment in which study participants can be enrolled and followed.1,2 As a widely used online social network, Facebook may be useful for other research purposes. We would like to share our experience in recruiting researchers through this website.
In June 2011, our Collaborative Working Group for the Research of Human Resources for Health, Red-LIRHUS (Grupo Colaborativo Latinoamericano para la Investigación de Recursos Humanos en Salud), designed a multicenter study to explore the profile and professional expectations of Latin American medical students, with questions on topics such as emigration intention and primary-care labor perspectives.
This study was conceived as a continent-wide evaluation, using a pilot tested3 self-administered survey. To gather these data, we decided to start the fieldwork by enrolling researchers from various countries in Latin America via Facebook. Given that medical students were the potential study subjects, we decided to involve them also as the local principal investigators.
In October 2011, the project was approved by the Ethical Committee of the Instituto Nacional de Salud del Perú. We started with a limited number of universities, but this situation was insufficient to achieve our objective. We, therefore, implemented a new recruiting strategy by posting an invitation on the “wall” of the local organizations' Facebook pages (by country or university) of the Medical Students' Scientific Societies (Sociedades Científicas de Estudiantes de Medicina)4 and similar groups, such as the International Federation of Medical Students' Associations.
Overall, 80 researchers agreed to take part in this project; they represented 80 universities from 15 Latin American countries. Approximately half of these researchers were recruited by Facebook. Also, in October 2011, we created a Facebook “Closed Group,” called Red-LIRHUS, to connect all participant researchers (including those who were contacted using Facebook and those who were not). This group provided responses to common questions and included 95% of the participant researchers in their local universities.
As our experience suggests, Facebook can be helpful in recruiting and communicating with a research team, even in a multinational context.
School of Medicine
Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas
1. Richiardi L, Pivetta E, Merletti F. Recruiting study participants through Facebook [letter]. Epidemiology. 2012; 23: 175.
2. Jones L, Saksvig BI, Grieser M, Young DR. Recruiting adolescent girls into a follow-up study: benefits of using a social networking website. Contemp Clin Trials. 2012; 33: 268–272.
3. Mayta-Tristán P, Carbajal-Gonzalez D, Mezones-Holguín E, et al.. Perspectivas profesionales e intención de emigración de los estudiantes de medicina de nueve países de Latinoamérica, 2008: Estudio preliminar. CIMEL. 2010; 15: 3–8.
4. Pereyra-Elías R, Rodríguez-Morales AJ, Mayta-Tristán P. Undergraduate publication in Latin America: role of Medical Students' Scientific Societies. Med Teach. 2011; 33: 594.