By Nicola McCleary and Brian Power

McCleary and PowerIt is essential for early-career researchers to become aware of the importance of involvement, to gain an understanding of meaningful involvement at all stages of the research process, and to learn how to improve the relevance, quality and impact of their own research through involvement. We delivered a workshop within our University based on these principles.


How was the workshop organised?                                                      

The workshop was organised by a group of nine PhD students at the University of Aberdeen, who are enrolled on a leadership training programme funded by the Medical Research Council. We thought that a workshop involving expert speakers would be a good way to gain some initial knowledge of involvement. We recognised the value of involving experts with different perspectives, such as researchers and people who have been involved in research. We also thought it would be useful to include an interactive element to enhance learning.

What did the training cover?

The event comprised a seminar session, open to PhD students throughout the University, where our speakers covered key topics (for example what involvement is and why it is important, examples of involvement work, and the impact of involvement and how it is assessed). This was followed by an in-depth interactive session led by the nine of us. In this session, we discussed some example research proposals (adapted by materials kindly provided by Dr Jonathan Boote) in the context of involvement. The discussions focused on:

  • consolidating understanding of the basic principles of involvement covered in the seminar
  • understanding how to incorporate involvement into different stages of the research process
  • recognising the relevance of involvement to our own research
  • understanding the motivations, practical challenges and barriers to involvement.

How was the workshop rated by attendees?

Fourteen delegates (five PhD students, four research assistants, four early-career researchers and one research nurse) attended and completed evaluation forms. Overall, feedback was very positive, and a key theme arising was the knowledge gained through the diversity of presentations delivered. Attendees also referred to the benefits of being reminded why one is doing research and the usefulness of highlighting the challenges and opportunities of involvement.

When asked what they would take away and implement from the event one delegate commented that they would use contacts made at the event to improve the next stage of their research. A few stated they would investigate the area of involvement further when conducting their research and visit the INVOLVE website for additional resources and information. 

What have organisers/attendees done since the workshop to include public involvement in their research?

The attendees have increased patient and public involvement in their research. For example, mother and baby groups were involved as service user co-applicants on a project undertaken within the University. The groups informed the text for participant materials, piloted materials that were used within interview schedules, and contributed to interpreting findings. Further details outlining this work can be found at

What challenges were encountered and how were these overcome?

Challenges included how to initiate involvement in the research process. This was overcome by building relationships between researchers and groups relevant to the study. It was suggested at the workshop that a database of patients and members of the public who are interested in becoming involved in research would also be useful to overcome this challenge.

What’s next?

To build on the initial knowledge gained at the workshop, the organisers will be looking to develop links with some local patient groups. We also hope to raise awareness of involvement across the University of Aberdeen. We may also run a similar workshop again for new PhD students to the University.


A workshop focusing on patient and public involvement in research was successfully organised by PhD students for PhD students and other early-career researchers. We provided a forum for speakers to showcase best practice across different parts of the research process, and the workshop was rated favourably by attendees. The organisers would like to thank everyone involved and hope that by sharing our experiences, we can inspire similar events across other institutions.

Contact: Nicola McCleary and Brian Power, Aberdeen Health Psychology Group and Health Services Research Unit, University of Aberdeen
Email: or

Tel: 01224 438407 (Nicola) or 01224 438409 (Brian)