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NIHR Public Committee Member Role Description and Person Specification


Published: 11 June 2019

Version: Version 1.0 - June 2019

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The role description and person specification provided below apply to public members of committees at the NIHR.

Role description

NIHR committees usually have approximately 20 members, which include public member(s). These committees assess research proposals which are applying for funding from the Government and research briefs that describe a potential area of research. Successful candidates joining as public members have an equal footing with the clinical and academic members, and they have the key task of bringing a patient and public perspective to the discussions.

The key responsibilities of public members of an NIHR committee are to:

  • Prepare for committee meetings by reading and assessing meeting papers that are routinely lengthy and complex.
  • Regularly attend and participate in committee meetings (up to four times a year for one or two days). 
  • 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.
  • Adhere to guidance provided to committee members, including policy on confidentiality and conflicts of interest.
  • Liaise promptly with programme staff regarding the work of the committee and any administrative matters.
  • Be willing to undertake OR attend appropriate training, development and support activities offered free by the NIHR.

Examples of some of the questions that public members might address 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?

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 the NIHR, an introduction to PPI, public reviewing roles with the NIHR and skills such as providing constructive feedback and approaching complex documents.

You can also watch a video about public members sharing their experiences and insights on the role of a public committee member, including some useful top tips.

Person specification

If you apply to become a public committee member, your application will be assessed against the essential criteria: 

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. (Application form)
  • Experience of assessing complex written documents, for example, research applications. (Application form/interview)
  • Knowledge and experience of patient and public involvement in health and social care services and/or research. (Application form/interview)

Skills and abilities

  • Ability to reflect a broader range of patient, service user, carer and public perspectives in addition to own personal experience. (Application form/interview)
  • Ability to take part in constructive debate and present views succinctly. (Application form/interview)