Every study begins with a question to be answered. The question may have come following analysis of data from a previous experiment. It may similarly arise from the work of other investigators, as published in peer-reviewed journals. Based on the current body of knowledge, we can propose an explanation or predict an outcome for an event. These hypotheses will then be proven or challenged through experimentation.
Study design and experimentation
Once a hypothesis has been formed, an experiment can be designed to address it. Here, the experimental questions are evolved into an experimental procedure. Care is taken to carefully control sources of experimental bias. Researchers compete for public and private funds to cover the cost of experimentation. Scientific investigations in human or animals must adhere to strict ethical conditions. All of our studies are reviewed by an institutional ethics board on a regular basis. Special care is taken throughout the experimental, analysis and publication processes to protect the anonymity and confidentiality of all research participants.
Recruitment/Welcoming the participants
Once an investigation has been approved, we begin our search for eligible participants. Recruitment criteria are typically strict and may vary significantly from study to study. Each potential candidate undergoes an informed consent procedure prior to the screening and research procedures. Studying human circadian rhythms implies particular conditions. To allow the careful control of the experimental conditions, most candidates empanelled in our investigations are admitted to a time isolation room of the Centre for Study and Treatment of Circadian Rhythms and will be asked to maintain a very strict sleep/wake schedule during several weeks.
The nature and the duration of the experiment depend on the experimental question being addressed. Research staff is constantly present to guide the participant through the correct experimental procedure. Research participants may provide biological samples that can be dosed for their concentration of certain hormones of interest like melatonin and cortisol. Sleep monitoring using standard polysomnography is often performed. Participants may perform tests and complete questionnaires at frequent intervals during their wake periods.
Data analysis and publication
Once an experiment is complete, research staff performs analysis on the data collected in light of the formulated experimental hypotheses and scientific evidence. Ultimately, the results of a research investigation, whether positive or negative, will be shared with the scientific community via publication in peer-reviewed journals and at international conferences.