Funding to involve public in the research process from the start

The Health Research Board and Irish Research Council today (30 May 2017) have announced a new €1.75million initiative to help researchers involve the public at the very start of the health research process. It is the first of its kind in Ireland.

Currently research proposals are written by researchers, in research institutions. While researchers may need patients or the public to be involved in the research, they rarely ask for their input at the design stage. According to a recent Health Research Board survey, this is not because researchers don’t want to, but because they don’t know how to go about it.

‘No one has more to gain from health research than patients who are already using health services, or the public who are all potential users.  It makes sense to involve the public and patients at the outset to ensure that their life experience informs the approach taken when designing a research proposal,’ explains Dr Máiread O Driscoll, Interim Chief Executive at the Health Research Board.

To help researchers tackle the Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) challenge, the Health Research Board teamed up with the Irish Research Council to launch PPI IGNITE. This funding scheme is designed to help Institutions create the right environment, training, support and processes to help researchers engage public and patients in their research from the start.

‘This funding is part of a wider Public and Patient  Involvement strategy at the Health Research Board  which recently saw members of the public invited to review research proposals as part of a pilot project,’ explains Dr O Driscoll. ‘We got a strong response among people from all walks of life to review research proposals from a public perspective. We now need to marry these two initiatives to ensure researchers are equipped to adopt the public feedback into their proposals and help them understand the ways they could engage the public before they put pen-to-paper to write a proposal’.

Commenting on the announcement, Mr Peter Brown, Interim Director of the Irish Research Council said: ’The Council strongly promotes engagement as part of the research process and we are delighted to join with the Health Research Board and co-fund this innovative initiative. Involving patients and the public in the research process will boost health research and its capacity to generate new solutions, processes and services to address the grand challenge that is health and well-being. Engaged research, such as reflected in PPI IGNITE, truly is a win-win for all stakeholders.’

The five universities who will receive €350,000 to actively develop capacity in Public and Patient Involvement are:

  • NUI Galway  Prof Sean Dineen
  • University College Dublin  Prof Thilo Kroll
  • University of Limerick  Prof Anne MacFarlane
  • Trinity College, University of Dublin  Prof Mary McCarron
  • Dublin City University  Dr Veronica Lambert

Each of these institutions will support PPI with a variety of different ways. Activities include:

  • Support researchers across a range of disciplines to mainstream PPI through a variety of formats such as drop in centres, trouble shooting forums and online support.
  • Integrate PPI into organisational strategy and policies.
  • Collaborate with researchers to show how PPI can benefit a study, how appropriate PPI contributors can be found.
  • Deliver or facilitate training to researchers on how to involve the public and patients.
  • Embed PPI training into undergraduates curricula so they adopt this approach.
  • Engage with patient representative groups, such as charities to develop approaches that would be aligned to patients and the research community.
  • Forge links with colleagues internationally so that their experience can be adapted to the Irish context.
  • Develop a network of practice with other institutions to tackle common issues and shape future PPI interventions.
  • Introduce incentives for good PPI initiatives.
  • Organise events such as conferences and summer schools to promote learning and engagement.