Internet Explorer is no longer supported by Microsoft. To browse the NIHR site please use a modern, secure browser like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge.

Pilot Internship Programme to create Research Envoys


Published: 29 August 2019

Version: 1.0 - August 2019

Print this document

NHS clinical staff trained to spread the research message 

Clinical Research Network, East Midlands in partnership with Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust and University Hospitals of Leicester.

What was the aim of this project?

The project, led by Gail Melvin and Rekha Patel, aimed to develop  the research culture in one acute, and one community and mental health NHS trust. This would be achieved by encouraging nurses and allied health professionals to become Research Envoys; messengers who  actively and positively spread the message about research among colleagues. 

What is the purpose of a Research Envoy?

The aim of the project was to develop Research Envoy’s who can:

  • Appreciate the importance of research for patients
  • Conduct positive research conversations with colleagues and patients or their families 
  • Understand how good quality research can improve clinical services 
  • Encourage evidence-based clinical practice 
  • Be enthusiastic about research 
  • Take responsibility for their own learning 

Who was involved? 

The six month internship was completed by two pharmacists, two radiographers, two therapists, one mental health service manager, and one play specialist. Each participant was also partnered with a mentor from the local research workforce. Backfill funding was provided for both Research Envoys and mentors to make the internship possible. 

What did the internship involve?

The internship involved a twenty day course which was spread over six months. The programme comprised of five educational days, four self-directed study days, a ten day research placement, and a one day project presentation when the Research Envoys were asked to undertake a project in their service. Projects completed aimed to raise awareness of research in each of the envoys’ clinical area, and included research notice boards/ displays, research awareness programmes, research pages for service websites, and guidance documents on research for staff. The educational days included introductory workshops, classroom sessions on research processes, standards, and the UK Clinical Trials Gateway, and a two-day course entitled ‘Next Steps in Delivering Clinical Research’. 

How was the programme’s impact evaluated?

The programme was evaluated using a range of methods, including questionnaires completed by the Research Envoys before and after the programme which  assessed whether the envoys became more confident in talking to clinical colleagues/ patients about research as a result of the programme. They also completed reflective logs throughout their internship and verbal and written feedback was also gathered from managers and mentors. 

What did the evaluation reveal? 

The evaluation revealed that Research Envoys gained a broader and deeper knowledge of the impact of research on the NHS, and had a greater understanding of  research from the perspective of a patient. They also grew in confidence in their research knowledge, which enabled them to initiate more conversations about research with both patients and staff. The number of research conversations increased more than twenty-fold. At the start of the programme, Research Envoys reported ‘probably one’ conversation about research with patients in the last six months;  after the programme, they reported over 100 research conversations during the six month period. They also built their research knowledge in their own specialty.

In terms of the internship itself, participants really valued the whole programme especially the training, placements, mentoring and networking. Networking in particular was an important factor in the success of the programme, and as a result the Research Envoys are now attending conferences, joining professional research bodies, are active on social media, and collaborating with local universities. Additionally, there has been a personal impact on all eight Research Envoys who have altered their career aspirations to include research, and some have already embarked upon research careers. 

The pilot has been successful in that Research Envoys are now spreading the research message, and are improving the research culture within their trusts. In some cases, research capacity has even been built into departments due to increased awareness that research is an integral part of patient care. 


Research Envoy quotes

"I think about research a whole lot more now."


"I feel that I would now be in a good position to signpost staff, patients and carers to the right place if they wanted to be involved in clinical research."


"I have made some great contacts with researchers in Nottingham."


"I continue to be inspired by the programme."


For more information about the Research Envoys pilot, contact or