By Jim Elliott, Public Involvement Lead, Health Research Authority

Published: 7 September 2018

At the Health Research Authority (HRA), we are clear in our belief that public involvement is a crucial aspect of designing and conducting good health and social care research. Fundamentally, good public involvement makes research more relevant and acceptable to participants, so results are more likely to be useful and therefore of greatest benefit to all.

Protecting and promoting the interests of patients and the public is at the heart of everything we do at the HRA and we are also committed to making life as easy as possible for researchers. 

That’s why we have published new guidance to help our applicants better identify where they have involved the public in their research applications and the difference that made.

About our new guidance

Our guidance sets out how applicants should present their information on public involvement within the Integrated Research Application System (IRAS) in a way that is most useful to Research Ethics Committees (RECs).

The guidance was born out a number of workshops we held with REC members. They told us that information about how applicants involve the public in their research design and development is an important aspect of the ethical review process, but the information is often left out or incomplete.

Most simply, we also don’t want researchers’ good work to go to waste, as sometimes applicants have involved the public really effectively in designing their research, but their IRAS forms do not reflect this.

As well as helping researchers to provide the right information, we also hope our guidance will be of benefit as researchers consider how to involve the public in their studies before they apply to ethical review.

We will be working closely with a number of 'test bed' organisations during a six-month trial period to look at their IRAS applications and establish what the impact has been on REC discussion and decision making.

Become a test bed

A number of organisations have already volunteered to act as test beds for our new guidance, but we would love to hear from more of you before our 14 September deadline.

Being a test bed simply involves using the guidance for all of the applications you will make anyway for six months before briefly reporting back to us.

This invitation is open to organisations in any area of health and social care research, and for any type of study that needs ethical review by a REC.

Find out more

Our public involvement team is happy to provide more information, so please do get in touch if you are interested in being involved.

Our website also has a top tips for public involvement page, which provides a simple overview of principles the guidance is based upon.