The Yale School of Medicine is launching a campaign today to attract more clinical research volunteers.

The Yale Center for Clinical Investigation (YCCI), created in January 2006 specifically for the purpose of supporting research and training across Yale’s medical campus, is formally beginning a “community-based research and engagement program” to increase the number of volunteers for clinical studies. The campaign — the largest that the YCCI has ever organized — aims to reach New Haven residents and Yalies alike through a new website and by reaching out to community organizations.

“I’m excited about the potential of this initiative to bring researchers together with the community in a meaningful way,” said Margaret Grey, dean of the Yale School of Nursing and the YCCI’s director of community-based research and engagement.

As part of the program’s launch, the YCCI has set up a booth at Woolsey Hall and at Yale-New Haven Hospital where people can sign up to volunteer.

In the past, researchers advertised their trials independently, using fliers to attract volunteers. Under the new program, all the volunteer requests will be accessible at one location online.

Volunteers for clinical trials are crucial to progress in medical research, said Tesheia Johnson, YCCI’s chief operations officer. But, she said, recruiting them is one of the most challenging aspects of clinical research, not only at Yale but throughout the medical research community as a whole.

“We’re trying to create a sense of community around our clinical research activities by letting volunteers know how much Yale has to offer and making it easy and convenient for them to get involved,” Johnson said.

On the new website, volunteers can build a profile, search for the types of research programs in which they wish to participate and receive notifications whenever opportunities to participate in clinical trials arise.

The second main feature of the campaign involves enlisting the help of local organizations, like Junta for Progressive Action, an immigrant advocacy nonprofit, and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, as ambassadors for clinical research programs. Johnson said the YCCI hopes that this strategy will increase the number of volunteers from minority communities, which is currently smaller than desired.

Laurie Feldman, study coordinator and the project manager for Type 1 diabetes studies at the School of Medicine, commended the YCCI’s campaign. She added that misconceptions about randomization and placebo trials, among other research techniques, tend to make potential volunteers wary about participating in clinical research.

“People don’t usually know that clinical research does not mean using people as guinea pigs,” said Feldman.

Johnson echoed Feldman, and added that another common misconception is that volunteers have to be sick to receive trial medication, but that there are actually several research programs that require healthy volunteers.

The website will include a feature debunking these myths, Feldman said.

Twelve of 20 students interviewed said that they would be willing to participate in clinical research, and some added that they would be more likely to participate if a monetary incentive were offered.

According to the Boston-based Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation, surveys show that even though 94 percent of the public recognizes that participation in clinical research is very important for advancing medical science, 74 percent say they have no real knowledge of the clinical research process.