Research panels are often consulted at the early stages of research projects, to discuss ideas for research, develop research questions, comment on the ethical issues and provide feedback on grant proposals. Training is important to help prepare panel members for this role. This often involves an initial introduction/induction day.

Other types of training / briefing that panel members say is helpful for this role include:

  • An introduction to the research process – so panel members can understand how their work fits into the research cycle and how it relates to the work of other research organisations such as ethics committees and funding bodies.
  • A greater knowledge of their health or social care experience – obtained for example through attending university courses or conferences, reading text books or sharing experiences with other service users.
  • A greater awareness of current research activity – at a national level or at a local level for local panels. This can be obtained through presentations from researchers / research staff or attending conferences.
  • A greater understanding of public involvement in research and the value of the perspective of patients / members of the public – through presentations from people who have been involved and from other materials produced by INVOLVE and other organisations, such as the Cochrane Collaboration.
  • Critical appraisal skills – see case study 15.
  • Research panel members can also get involved in research projects, for example as steering group members  or advisory group members. It may not be feasible or appropriate to train all panel members for every possible role. Training / briefing for specific involvement roles is best provided to the individuals who need it, when they need it and usually by the researchers they are going to work with.
  • The successful involvement of panel members in research projects is about matching the right people to the right role. Consider whether a person has the right kind of experience, for example knowledge of the particular condition being studied and relevant life skills. Not everybody will feel comfortable joining a steering group with senior academics and clinicians. The training and support offered to panel members can help people to recognise the skills and knowledge they have already got and think about where they could bring the most added value.
  • General training can be provided to all panel members to build their skills and confidence in ways that are relevant to a broad range of involvement roles. Examples of more general training that research panel members may find useful include:
  • Communication skills, assertiveness training including how to get your point across in meetings, and dealing with conflict
  • Computer skills
  • Learning from the patient journey, an approach which helps people to recognise their expertise and understand how their experience is useful to researchers.

These types of training might be accessed through patient organisations, local colleges or other community organisations.

Research panels may include people with diverse training needs – members may be of different ages, cultural, educational, and professional backgrounds. Before developing training for a panel it is helpful to carry out a training needs assessment to find out which type of training is going to be most useful for the individuals involved.