Patient and public involvement in research

Path to involvement – how did people find out about it?

We asked people how they first got involved in research. The most common route was through having a particular illness or condition. Some learnt about involvement opportunities directly from staff caring for them. Some were inspired by taking part in medical research as a participant and then wanting to get more involved. Some took up other types of involvement first (such as helping to run a support group or advising NHS trusts on service improvement) and then moved into research. Medical charities and support groups can also provide a direct route to research involvement.
Not everyone has been a patient or service user themselves. Some are simply members of the public and another common route to research involvement is having a family member who has been ill. Again, some people got involved in research first, while others came through other types of involvement.
Learning about research involvement through “chance”, “luck”, “coincidence” or “accident” was a very common experience. But people told us once they had got involved they were often invited to do other things. As Ben (a healthy volunteer) said, “It was a chance encounter and it opened a door, and the floodgates were opened.” A few people had worked in healthcare, or had a partner or friend who did, and were more aware of health research. In some cases they might also be a patient or carer (such as Margaret, who had worked in radiotherapy and then got cancer, or Beryl, a former healthcare manager whose daughter had cancer and she herself was later diagnosed with it too). Rosie had been training as a psychotherapist before she developed mental health problems.
Rosie approached the support group herself; others were approached and personally invited. Some also went through a more formal selection process, responding to an advert, perhaps sending in a CV and/or being interviewed.
Chance contacts and personal approaches can work well, but there was a general concern that we need to publicise opportunities to a wider group of people and make recruitment more open and transparent. Otherwise, control over who gets involved or is excluded remains in the researchers’ hands. (See also ‘Raising awareness of opportunities for involvement and finding new volunteers’ and ‘Difficulties and barriers to involvement’).

See also:
Reasons for getting involved – personal benefits
Reasons for getting involved – helping others and medical science

Last reviewed July 2017.


Please use the form below to tell us what you think of the site. We’d love to hear about how we’ve helped you, how we could improve or if you have found something that’s broken on the site. We are a small team but will try to reply as quickly as possible.

Please note that we are unable to accept article submissions or offer medical advice. If you are affected by any of the issues covered on this website and need to talk to someone in confidence, please contact The Samaritans or your Doctor.

Make a Donation to

Find out more about how you can help us.

Send to a friend

Simply fill out this form and we'll send them an email