SPARK Research Match

A photo of a boy in a research study

SPARK Research Match

Date Revised: January 11, 2023

What is SPARK Research Match?

SPARK Research Match is a service that matches qualified members of the SPARK community to autism research studies. It provides the opportunity to participate in studies led by researchers throughout the U.S. and internationally. A wide variety of researchers use Research Match to find potential participants who are willing to volunteer for their online or in person studies. Participants get the chance to be represented in research and hear about studies that are appropriate for them. And, we can all learn more about autism.

What has SPARK Research Match accomplished so far?

From its start in July 2017 through August 2022:

  • SPARK Research Match has launched more than 170 studies with another 50 in progress.
  • SPARK has invited more than 100,000 families (often more than once) into these new research studies.
  • Almost 50,000 families have responded to study invitations.
  • Researchers have published 35 articles in scientific journals.

Read about some current and past SPARK Research Match studies, view SPARK Research Match summary reports and see the articles that researchers have published.

How does SPARK Research Match work?

A researcher with a study approved by their institution’s human subjects ethics board applies to recruit SPARK research participants through SFARI Base. The service is free to researchers.

After SFARI processes the request, the SPARK team works with the community members and scientists on the Participant Access Committee to ensure that the study is appropriate for SPARK research participants, has scientific merit, and enhances the autism research agenda.

Once approved, the SPARK team looks through SPARK’s data to find the participants that qualify for the study. Each study has different qualifications. For example, one study may need parents of young girls. Another study, which will take place at a clinic, may require that participants live within 50 miles of that clinic.

We send qualified participants an email invitation that describes the study and how to get started. Then it’s up to them to decide whether a study is right for them. If so, they can choose to do the study. If not, they can let SPARK know that they are not interested, and they won’t get any more emails about the study. If they decide to not join one study, they can still join other studies.

If they want to learn more about the study before deciding, they contact SPARK, SPARK asks the study team without sharing private information, and SPARK communicates the information to the participant.

What do I have to do to be invited to SPARK Research Match studies?

SPARK only sends Research Match invitations to SPARK research participants, so you must have consented to be in the SPARK study.

Some Research Match studies require more information than just the information you provided when you registered. So, be sure to complete any tasks on your SPARK dashboard and send in your saliva kit(s) if you haven’t already.

What types of studies use SPARK Research Match?

These studies may involve anything from an online survey about autism services to a study in a clinic about autism and anxiety. For example, SPARK has helped researchers learn about gender identity, genetics, sleep, food selectivity, and depression.

What happens during a study?

During a study, participants work with the team running the study and not with SPARK staff. The study’s team will address questions and concerns.

Will my family receive an incentive?

If you decide to participate in a Research Match study, you will be told in advance if there is an incentive and when to expect it. The study will provide the incentive—not SPARK.

The incentive that you might get from a Research Match study depends on that study’s budget. The budget, including incentives, is determined before a study begins by the institution that funds the study. Incentives are also controlled by the human subjects ethics board at the institution that is doing the study. Some studies cover travel costs and other expenses.

Will my family learn about the results of the study?

You may receive information about the study from the study team itself. In addition, after a study’s findings are published, SPARK will prepare a Research Match Report and an article about the study. Read about some current and past SPARK Research Match studies.

SPARK Research Match Summary Reports