Despite several decades of effort that have produced meaningful insights into factors affecting the entry of minority students into careers in health research, there is still a great need to further promote entry of minority students into health research. Our research on how minority youth select careers has shown that when minority students are interested in career in health research, a dedicated program with realistic career experiences and multi-tiered mentors can increase knowledge, attitudes and behaviors needed for a career in health research. However, we found that such programs are much less effective if students do not have a pre- existing interest in careers in health research. Unfortunately, few students are interested in research careers at baseline and little is known about how to augment their interest. Research on interventions that can "prime the pump" for pipeline programs by boosting baseline interest in research careers is vital. Peer social networks may be a potential way to increase interest in careers in health research among underrepresented minority students. The explosion of social media and smartphones has facilitated the creation of social learning networks online which is a well-documented way for teenagers to interact with each other and to obtain trusted information. According to the Pew Internet Project, nearly three quarters of online teens use social network sites. Roughly 85% of teens who use social networking sites are active participants, engaging in activities such as posting comments or pictures. Nearly 40% of teens report sharing content online that they personally created, such as self-created videos. Interestingly, there is reason to believe that online social networking interventions that aim to boost career interests would be more effective for underrepresented racial and ethnic groups as well as teens from low income families than for whites. Data suggests that online social network use is higher among teens from low-income families than in teens from wealthier households. Moreover, minority families are more likely than whites to remotely access the internet via mobile devices. This highlights the enormous potential for online social media interventions to influence career interest and engagement in minority youth. Studies suggest that messages that have the potential to change people's attitudes and behaviors often originate from a trusted peer. This is especially true in teens, who value the opinion of and seek to emulate their peers. While peer pressure is often cast as a negative phenomenon among teens, the use of positive peer pressure to change behavior among teens is gaining in popularity. Positive peer pressure has been used in many youth-to-youth messaging campaigns related to difficult to change behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse or safe sex. Drawing upon these theories for motivating and engaging teens, this proposal aims to test the effectiveness of a novel peer-to-peer social media marketing campaign to spread video vignettes created by teens to inspire other teens to consider careers in clinical research.
Research on interventions that can prime the pump for pipeline programs by boosting baseline interest in research careers is vital to the success of current programs. While few students may consider a career in research due to lack of knowledge or access to role models in their immediate family or school network, peer online social networks represents a potential way of reaching underserved minority students. This proposal aims to test the effectiveness of a novel peer-to-peer social media marketing campaign to spread video vignettes created by teens to inspire other teens to consider careers in clinical research.