Public Involvement

Members of the public (e.g. patients, potential patients, service users or general members of the public) play a significant role in research. 

Potential benefits of effective public involvement and engagement in research from the start of your research are as follows:

  • Provide the opportunity to access a wider range of research funding. The majority of major funders ask for details of public involvement in research funding applications.
  • Opportunity to gain experience from someone who has the health condition/participates in the certain behaviour/has been exposed to the particular health hazard being researched.
  • Help the language used within research documentation to be more appropriate and accessible, or example Participant Information Leaflets.
  • Ensure methods used are acceptable and sensitive to potential respondents.
  • Ensure research outcomes being measured are of importance to the population being investigated and the wider public.
  • Help to make research more relevant by suggesting new ideas for research and ensuring money and resources are used effectively.

Key terms

Public involvement: members of the public are actively involved in stages of the research process. Examples of involvement are:

  • involvement in the design of the research and research questions
  • sitting on a project steering group
  • inputting into the development of participant information
  • peer reviewing project proposals in grant applications.

Public engagement: information and knowledge about research is provided and disseminated to the public, but where the public are working with researchers to help plan their dissemination plans to maximise the research impact. Examples of public engagement are as follows:

  • hosting science festivals or promotional events open to the public with information, debates and discussions on research
  • holding an open day at a research centre where members of the public are invited to find out about research
  • social media events
  • dissemination to research participants on the findings of a study.

Public participation: recruiting the public in your research as participants or respondents. For example:

  • Completing a questionnaire as part of the research
  • Participating in a focus group or interview
  • Participating in an intervention as part of a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT).

Links and resources

Why Get Involved in Research?

This film,aimed at members of the public, highlights why research is important.  It provides several options of how you can use your voice to make a difference to health and social care research.  Finally, it provides contact information on how members of the public can get involved in research in Wales.

Public Involvement in Research:

This film, aimed at researchers, highlights some of the many benefits of involving the public in research.  It describes ways in which you can involve the public in the research cycle and effectively signposts researchers to the support, guidance and resources available in Wales. 

These films were produced by Cardiff University School of Medicine ( supported by an award from the Wellcome Trust ISSF Fund.