New classroom resources explaining how illnesses are detected and diagnosed and how medicines are developed and tested have been launched by the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) in support of the science curriculum for 11 to 16 year-olds.

The resources were developed for the UKCRC by Centre of the Cell, a science education centre, online resource and outreach project based at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, and aimed at schools, young people and families.

Centre director Professor Fran Balkwill commented: “The principles and techniques involved in clinical research are a great way of illustrating some of the core aspects of the new science curricula being taught across the UK.” The new resources complement those already developed by Centre of the Cell on biomedicine, cells and disease, Balkwill noted. They also address some of the key themes in other school curricula, such as citizenship, history, biology and environmental studies.

The package includes an online ‘patient journey’ that follows the main stages of a volunteer participating in a clinical trial, as well as a range of self-contained classroom activities covering topics such as risks factors for disease, clinical research and double-blind trials.

The materials on double-blind trials use different-coloured but same-flavoured lemonade to illustrate the placebo effect, while the Beatles song ‘I’m So Tired’ – said to deliver a secret message about Paul McCartney’s death when played backwards – is used to demonstrate observer bias.

“Raising public awareness of the important part clinical research plays in improving the health of the population is vital if we are going to create a world-class health research environment in the UK,” said Dr Liam O’ Toole, chief executive of the UKCRC.