Primary school scientists urged to create randomised trial

Staff and pupils from Kinvara National School celebrate winning a NUI Galway National START competition.
Nov 29 2021 Posted: 08:14 GMT

Pupils invited to follow footsteps of 18th century Royal Navy surgeon as part of START 2022 competition

National school pupils and their teachers are being urged to enter a competition to create their own randomised trial in the classroom.

The call is being made as part of the Schools Teaching Awareness of Randomised Trials (START) competition for 2022. Now in its fifth year, the competition is open to children in from 4th, 5th and 6th class and urges them to follow the example of the Royal Navy surgeon James Lind who is credited with running comparative trial of the most promising cure for scurvy in the 18th century. 

The initiative is run by the Health Research Board - Trials Methodology Research Network (HRB-TMRN) based at NUI Galway, collaborating with their university partners: University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork and University of Limerick.

It helps students become aware of the clinical trial process and create their own fun randomised trial in the classroom.

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. Previous 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.”

Randomised trials are a type of research study often used to find out if a new medicine or treatment works. START invites pupils and their teachers to plan, carry out and report their own randomised trial and encourages children to learn more about healthcare decisions and how we can improve healthcare and wellbeing by learning about randomised clinical trials.

Professor Declan Devane, Scientific Director of the HRB-TMRN at NUI Galway, said: “We started this competition for two reasons - first, we wanted to raise awareness of the importance of randomised trials with children and 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 receive each year demonstrates 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 everyone the very best on the 20th May in Galway.”

The competition is open until 22 April 2022. The top three shortlisted schools will be invited to NUI Galway on Friday, 20 May 2022 where they will be presented with the START Trophy 2022.

Pupils are asked to choose a simple, easy to answer question. Resources and information is available on

Questions can be practical and fun - Can using coloured paper for written spelling tests improve results? Does 10 minutes of dancing every morning before classes improve attention?

The findings from each trial can be reported in any format such as a podcast, video, website, report format, collage or poster.

Registration is open at, or by email, or by post to: Room 235, 1st Floor, Áras Moyola, School of Nursing and Midwifery, NUI Galway.


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