In the past we have used the terms consultation, collaboration and user controlled to describe different levels of involving people in research. Over time it has become clear that, in practice, research projects can include a combination of these three and also that the boundaries between them are not clear cut. It is therefore more helpful to describe them as approaches rather than levels. Within these approaches there are many different ways of involving members of the public during the various stages of the research. For example, you might work with one or two service users or carers as co-collaborators throughout a research project, as well as consulting with a wider group of service users on a specific aspect of the study or members of the public might lead on one stage of the research. How you involve people will depend on the nature of your research, as well as the different activities people decide they would like to get involved in.

In May 2020, NIHR produced a framework for considering who might be involved in research. The framework addresses the questions; ‘Why do we need clarification?’ and ‘So what issues should we be taking into account when deciding who should be involved in the research?’  Read the framework here.

Plan and prepare for public involvement in your research. Consider why you want to involve people and who you want to involve. Many people will organise a meeting as part of their involvement activity. How you plan these meetings can make a huge difference to how people feel about the research and how much they are able and want to get involved in your work. This is not the only way to involve people but there are some things to think about if you organise a meeting.