How UKRI supports public involvement in research and innovation

Public involvement is a form of public engagement that is an important way that the full cycle of research and innovation can be co-created and delivered with the public. The term tends to be most commonly used in health and social care research.

One of the goals of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) public engagement strategy is to enable researchers and the public to work together to advance knowledge, develop tomorrow’s technologies and address national and global challenges in partnership. Our aim is for equitable and inclusive public involvement to be an integral part of research.

Our commitment to public involvement

We know that public involvement improves research and UKRI is committed to embedding it in our work where meaningful and appropriate. There is evidence of the importance of public involvement to ensure that:

  • research is more relevant to people’s lives and experience
  • research is acceptable to people
  • research is understandable to those involved, improving informed consent for those taking part in studies
  • people get a good experience of research
  • there is regular, clear communication of findings to study participants and the wider public

UKRI is a signatory of the shared commitment to public involvement in health and social care research. The commitment brings together funders, regulators and research organisations who play an important role in health and social care research in the UK.

Together we are working with members of the public to commit to improve public involvement in research and bring about changes that will drive up standards.

How we are involving the public in our work

Improving methods of public involvement

The Better Methods, Better Research programme funds research to improve the way health, care and biomedical research is done. Public partners were involved in co-developing a funding opportunity to address gaps in public involvement in this research, and are members of the advisory group that will assess the applications received.

Review of public involvement

The Medical Research Council (MRC) commissioned an independent review into public involvement in research, with a specific focus on non-clinical health and biomedical research. The review was led by an independent team with the support of an external advisory group. The team and advisory group included researchers, public involvement specialists and public partners.

The review extended beyond research in the clinical setting to look at taking public involvement into the research lab. It also explored public involvement within MRC and the sector in general to understand the opportunities for how MRC can embed public involvement in its practice and culture.

The recommendations from this work have informed the co-development, with public partners and the research community, of MRC’s new public partnerships strategy.

Consulting patients and the public on our health technologies strategy

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has involved patients and the public in a broad consultation on a health technologies strategy.

Involvement of the public can offer valuable insights into the reality of facing or living with a disease or condition and can help better characterise the challenges and needs a technology might address.

The new health technologies strategy encourages researchers to consider public involvement activities at the outset of their research and, where appropriate, draw in from public, patient and user perspectives to inform and shape the next stage of healthcare research.

Involving the public in assessing funding applications

UKRI is increasingly including people with lived experience in assessing funding applications, to ensure public involvement is appropriately embedded in applications. People with lived experience are individuals who have first-hand experience of something giving them a knowledge or understanding that someone who has not had that experience does not have.

Led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Mobilising community assets to tackle health inequalities programme uses an inclusive assessment process with equal numbers of academic reviews and reviews from people with lived experience. It also involves equal numbers of academics and people with lived experience on the funding panel.

Involving the public in funding governance

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) often involves people with lived experience in the development, commissioning and governance of social science investments, and encourages applicants to involve people with lived experience in funding applications.

IMPACT is an ESRC and Health Foundation-funded centre for implementing evidence in adult social care. It puts people who draw on care and support, as well as carers, at the heart of what it does.

People with lived experience are meaningfully involved at all levels of the investment, including on the leadership team and governance structures. This means the work of IMPACT is closer to the realities of people’s lives.

Public representation in Our Future Health programme

Our Future Health aims to be the UK’s largest ever health research programme. Funded by UKRI, it is designed to help people live healthier lives for longer through the discovery and testing of more effective approaches to prevention, earlier detection, and treatment of diseases.

Members of the public are represented at multiple levels within the programme, from programme governance to regular focus groups.

Additional resources

Patients and the public (EPSRC stakeholder engagement)

Guidance on engaging with the public

Co-production in research

Learning for Involvement: repository for resources and training about public involvement in health and social care research (hosted by National Institute for Health and Care Research)

Last updated: 12 July 2024

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