As an non-clinical researcher working in primary care, it can be surprisingly easy to isolate oneself from the people who are most important to research – the members of the public. After all, it’s the public who actually use primary care! Over the last few years the NIHR has increasingly recognised the invaluable role that members of the public play in research, and thankfully these days it’s very common to have a patient and public representative as a partner in a lot of our research teams.
Earlier in the year the NIHR School for Primary Care Research launched a funding call to encourage researchers based at SPCR departments to further increase the involvement of patients and the public in their research. Researchers were encouraged to try something a little different – for example, by finding creative ways to disseminate research findings from another project, or by organising an event for audiences who aren’t usually involved in science projects to attend.
When I was asked to sit on the review panel for the grant proposals I immediately said yes. I know first hand how hard it can be to get research findings out into the world (the old scientific model of ‘write a research paper and present it at some conferences’ just doesn’t work as well in the digital age) so I really think these projects are incredibly important and great value for money. Importantly by asking the talented NIHR SPCR researchers to think creatively, I knew that the ideas that they came up with would be exciting and motivating to read.
The other members of the panel were from a broad range of backgrounds – there were professional engagement experts, patient and public representatives, and researchers from a few different areas. This certainly made for a lively discussion – with so many different and creative ideas, we were bound to have a few disagreements. For me, this is part of what makes sitting on a panel like this so enjoyable; seeing what other people think about research and how their background informs their point of view. As well as this, the wide-ranging expertise meant that the panel was able to give really helpful feedback and ways to improve all of the projects that they reviewed.
It was truly enjoyable to be involved in this call; it’s exactly the kind of research that needs to be done and something that I hope the NIHR School of Primary Research continues to support. I’m excited to see how all the projects turn out!
To find out which projects have received funding, see the news item.