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Applying for Public Committee Member Roles with the NIHR


27 July 2020




The NIHR funds high quality research that is focused on the needs of patients and the public. It aims to ensure that the knowledge, experiences and interests of patients, service users, carers and the public inform and contribute to its work.

The NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC) are looking for members of the public to join advisory committees with the following research funding programmes.

Click on the links above to find out about these research funding programmes. Public committee members bring a different viewpoint to the NIHR committees. They bring the viewpoint of those who most research aims to help (patients, service users, carers, anyone affected by the research topics).

We welcome applications from people who feel they have the interest, skills, knowledge and experience in order to undertake the role and can give their time and commitment.

Can I apply?

We are looking for patients, carers, service users and members of the public who are interested in a broad range of health and social care issues and research, beyond their own personal experience.

To ensure we do not have an overlap of skills, knowledge and experience with our professional committee members, we exclude applications to public committee roles from people who have, or have had, a professional role in health or social care services or research, for example:

  • Health and social care professionals such as social workers, health research managers, nurses, health or social science researchers, public health specialists, medical doctors, health economists, opticians, clinical research officers, pharmacists, etc.

  • Professional positions within a research management setting such as a Finance Manager, Patient & Public Involvement Coordinator for an academic and/or grant funded organisation.

  • Health, clinical and social care graduates at PhD level or equivalent.

We do, however, welcome applications from user / survivor researchers. The current criteria above is under review for 2021.

In order to provide opportunities for more people to get involved in the work that the NIHR does, a member of the public can only serve on one of our committees at any time. Members of the public cannot apply for the same committee that they have previously served on.

If you are unsure whether or not you can apply, please get in touch, email:

NIHR and Patient and Public Involvement (PPI)

The purpose of patient and public involvement (usually referred to as PPI) in research is to improve the quality and relevance of the research that the NIHR funds or manages. The aim is to ensure the research provides value to the public and addresses real health, public health and social care concerns and needs.

Patient and public involvement (PPI) in research allows patients, carers and members of the public to make a useful contribution. We, the NIHR, value the contribution the public make to research through the knowledge, experience and skills that they bring.

The advisory committees with opportunities for public members assess research applications and commissioning briefs for research funding. These research documents cover a wide range of health and social care issues and challenges with the aim to benefit patients and improve services.

What the public committee member opportunity involves

NIHR committees usually have approximately 20 members, which include public member(s). These committees assess research funding applications and other documents called research briefs. Research briefs describe a potential area of research. Public members join our committees on an equal footing with the professional, clinical and academic members. You would bring the potential patient or public viewpoint to the discussion

We would expect public members to prepare and take part in the committee in the same way as other members. You would need to: 

  • Prepare for committee meetings by reading and assessing meeting papers that are routinely lengthy and complex.

  • Regularly attend and participate in committee meetings (usually face-to-face but during COVID-19 these have been virtual/online). Please also see the ‘time commitment’ section below.

  • Contribute to the discussions and decision-making that take place during meetings from a general point of view as a member of the public and/or someone who has knowledge and experience as a patient, carer or service user.

  • Present written and/or verbal assessments of applications, if required.

  • Follow guidance provided to committee members, including policy on confidentiality and conflicts of interest.

  • Communicate in a timely way with NIHR staff regarding the work of the committee and any administrative matters.

  • Be willing to undertake OR attend appropriate training, development and support activities offered for free by NIHR.

Examples of some of the questions that public members might address when assessing research applications and commissioning briefs are:

  • Is this research important or relevant to patients, carers or service users? Why is that?  

  • Could the results of the research make a difference to patients, carers or service users? 

  • Did the researchers seek the advice of other patients, carers or service users when they planned the research? 

  • Does the plain English summary in the application form give a clear and simple explanation of the research?

  • Will patients, carers or members of the public be willing to take part in the project? Or will it inconvenience them so much that they are unlikely to agree to take part?

  • Will patients, carers or members of the public be involved if the research is funded?  If so, is the involvement proposed appropriate?

  • Is there a budget for patient, public or carer involvement? If so, is it sufficient? 

  • Will patients, public or carers be involved in sharing the research findings?

Further information

There is a free online interactive course designed for new and experienced public committee members as well as public reviewers. The course includes an overview of NIHR, an introduction to PPI, public reviewing roles with NIHR and skills such as giving constructive feedback and tackling complex documents. Course information is available.

You can also watch a video ’Everything you wanted to know about being a public committee member’ about public members sharing their experiences and insights, including some useful tips.


Useful skills, knowledge and experience to have

If you apply to become a public committee member, the information you provide will be considered using the criteria below:

Essential criteria  Description of criteriaAssessed via application form Assessed via interview 
Experience and knowledge   Experience as an active member of a multidisciplinary committee or working group (for example, Research Ethics Committee, Healthwatch committee, housing association committee or a committee member for a local charity or club).  X
Experience of assessing complex written documents (for example, research applications).  X
Knowledge and experience of patient and public involvement (PPI) in health and social care services and/or research. X
Skills and abilities  Able to consider a broad range of patient, service user, carer and public perspectives in addition to own personal experience.  X
Ability to take part in useful discussions and present views succinctly.  X


Time commitment

Meetings take place up to four times per year, depending on the committee. NIHR staff will provide all committee members with an annual schedule of meetings and pre-meeting work in good time. Meetings usually last for a full day but for some committees it is two days. When the meetings are face-to-face, they usually take place in London.

The workload of public members varies between committees, however all committees review a large volume of paperwork requiring a few days of preparation time before each meeting. For new members, the preparation time for their first meeting may take a little longer.

If a member is unable to attend three consecutive meetings of the committee, they may be asked to step down unless there are exceptional circumstances (for example, unexpected illness or personal/family emergency).

How long do our members stay on the committees?

The term of office / tenure (length of time you would stay as a member of the committee) is initially two years, with a possibility of extending for a further two years.

Do public members get paid?

We offer members of the public a payment for their involvement as a public committee member. If you work in the public sector you may still be entitled to payment provided your paid employment is unrelated to the activity being asked of you and you intend to undertake the activity in your free time, such as through taking annual leave or outside your normal working hours.

The amount we offer will depend on the nature and volume of work involved. The fee will always be agreed ahead of the meeting. More information about the payments is included in the payment guidance: NETSCC guidance for payment of public contributors.

Will the NIHR cover my expenses?

Public members can claim all reasonable expenses in connection with their attendance at committee meetings, for example, travel, food and drink, accommodation, childcare, carer costs, personal assistant costs, postage and printing costs. Upon request, staff will book train tickets directly so that public committee members do not need to meet these costs in advance. Face to face committee meetings always include lunch and refreshments throughout the day.

Access and support needs for committee members

We will do everything we can to meet the individual needs of public (and all our) committee members. For example, by ensuring that meeting venues are accessible for people with limited mobility.

Committee members carry out the majority of the preparation work electronically using an online system. Although some level of computer and Internet knowledge is expected of members, we provide support to access the system and hard copies of papers can also be provided upon request. 

Learning and development 

We invite all newly appointed public committee members to attend their first meeting as an observer, rather than as an active member. This gives new members an opportunity to meet other committee members and observe the group at work before formally joining.

We provide new public members with a number of guidance documents and a ‘buddy’ /mentor. A ‘buddy’/mentor is another professional or public committee member who has volunteered to support new public members. They are available to provide additional, informal support for the new members' first few meetings. This can be face-to-face at meetings, or by phone or email before and between meetings. The NETSCC Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) teams are also available to provide guidance and support to public committee members.

How we decide who is successful

The selection process will usually be undertaken by a panel which may include:

  • a former or current public committee member

  • a programme research manager

  • a member of the Patient and Public Involvement team.

People we would like to interview will be invited via email. The interview will take place either by telephone or an online meeting (Zoom etc.).

We will contact applicants who have been unsuccessful by email.


Please note that NIHR need all shortlisted applicants to attend an interview. We aim to publish interview dates in advance and, when notified, these cannot be changed. 

Completing the application form

The application form can be downloaded from our website.

The deadline for applications is Monday 7th September 2020, 9.00am

Please return the completed application form by email to the email address below. Unfortunately due to COVID-19 we are remote working and cannot accept postal applications as our offices are closed. If this causes a problem, do contact us using the details below.

Our contact details for questions

If you would like more information or have any questions, please contact us by email: Unfortunately due to COVID-19 we are remote working, so we are only receiving email enquiries, apologies for the inconvenience.

Thank you for reading through this information pack. We look forward to receiving your application.