Published: 11 March 2024

Simon Turpin (Policy Officer, AMRC) and Catriona Manville (Director of Research Policy, AMRC)

Today marks two years since AMRC came together with 12 other organisations to sign the Shared Commitment to Public Involvement. Co-developed with public contributors, research funders, regulators, public bodies and membership associations, the Shared Commitment represents a bold pledge to improve how patients and the public are involved in the research process, and an organisational commitment to continue to work on this. On the two-year anniversary, we have taken the opportunity to reflect on our last year’s work at AMRC and consider the steps we still need to take.

Following the addition of a new position statement on the importance of public involvement throughout research as a condition of full AMRC membership at the end of 2022, this year we have continued to support our members in their efforts to meaningfully involve patients in the research they fund. This includes scanning the horizon for issues where guidance or policy development is needed, alongside 1-2-1 support for members at different stages of their involvement journey.  It’s always exciting to support members to grapple with a specific issue and facilitate connections to other charities who have been aiming for the same things.  Different approaches to payment of public contributors for their involvement is an area several of our members have asked for guidance and support on.  We’ve started work on this; watch this space as we hope to collate guidance on our website later this year.

A major piece of work for AMRC over the past year has been revising the guidance and requirements for member charities on how to fund high quality research using expert review.  Expert review, also known as peer review, is the assessment of the quality and value of research applications by independent experts to guide research funding. This is important to charities to ensure robust decision making and best use of charity funding for research. Meeting our principles is a membership requirement for AMRC. We assess our members’ expert review processes when they apply for membership and carry out a full audit every five years.   

As part of this, we recognise how valuable diversity of expertise can be to inform the decision-making process. We’ve introduced a new principle of diversity, to stress the importance of multiple views and ensure that our members consider this when determining who is involved in reviewing research on behalf of the charity. Scientific peers are not the only experts with value for reviewing research; patients and the public can be experts through lived experience. To reflect this, we have also renamed and redefined our ‘peer’ review principles to become ‘expert’ review principles.     

Finally, we continue to champion the importance of public involvement in research beyond our membership.  Last summer, with a general election expected to be announced within the next 12 months, AMRC published our Life Sciences Manifesto outlining what we think is needed to deliver maximum benefit to the UK and its citizens from research. One of the core tenets of the manifesto is the need for meaningful inclusion of patients in research in the NHS, by increasing opportunities for research involvement, as well as greater participation in studies and engagement with communities.  We hope the next government will take this on board, and work with the full breadth of the life sciences sector to realise the benefit that can come from meaningful involvement in all research.