Evaluating visual imagery for participant understanding of research concepts in genomics research

Evaluating visual imagery for participant understanding of research concepts in genomics research
Original Article
Erin Rothwell, Naomi O. Riches, Erin Johnson, Kimberly A. Kaphingst, Kelsey Kehoe, Sabrina Malone Jenkins, Rachel Palmquist, Carrie Torr, Caren J. Frost, Bob Wong, Joshua L. Bonkowsky
Journal of Community Genetics, 19 December 2022
Informed consent is crucial for participant understanding, engagement, and partnering for research. However, current written informed consents have significant limitations, particularly for complex topics such as genomics and biobanking. Our goal was to identify how participants visually conceptualize terminology used in genomics and biobanking research studies, which might provide a novel approach for informed consent. An online convenience sample was used from May to July 2020 to collect data. Participants were asked to draw 10 randomly chosen words out of 32 possible words commonly used in consent forms for genomics and biobanking research. An electronic application captured drawings that were downloaded into a qualitative software program for analysis. A total of 739 drawings by 269 participants were captured. Participants were mostly female (61.3%), eight different race/ethnicities were represented (15.6% Black, 13.8% Hispanic), and most had some college education (68.8%). Some words had consistent visual themes such as different types of risky activities for risk or consistent specific images such as a double helix for DNA. Several words were frequently misunderstood (e.g., ascend for assent), while others returned few submissions (e.g., phenotype or whole genome sequencing). We found that although some words used in genomics and biobanking research were visually conceptualized in a common fashion, but misunderstood or less well-known words had no, few, or mistaken drawings. Future research can explore the incorporation of visual images to improve participant comprehension during consent processes, and how to utilize visual imagery to address more challenging concepts.

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