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NIHR announces new standards for public involvement in research

The NIHR has released a final and complete set of UK Standards for Public Involvement in research, to help researchers and organisations improve the quality and consistency of public involvement in health and care research. 

The UK Standards for Public Involvement are for people and organisations that do health or social care research, support health or social care research and do public involvement. The standards cover six important ‘values based’ areas: 

  • Inclusive Opportunities
  • Working Together
  • Support and Learning
  • Communications
  • Impact
  • Governance

The Standards are a description of what good public involvement looks like and are designed to support self-reflection and learning. Reflective questions accompany each Standard to encourage users to think about their public involvement plans and actions. 

The Standards will aim to improve public involvement practice by providing examples of good practice and supporting leadership and accountability for involvement within research organisations - ‘public involvement is everyone’s job.’ 

The NIHR has been instrumental in developing the standards over three years through a joint four-nation partnership with Chief Scientist Office (Scotland), Health and Care Research Wales and the Public Health Agency (Northern Ireland). This included hosting and maintaining the standards website and building a standards network of over 400 registered members contributing to the public consultation and piloting phase of the project.

The Standards were tested by over 40 individuals, groups and organisations during a year-long pilot programme. The Standards were used as a framework for public involvement supporting reflective practice and plans for future activities, as an audit tool to identify gaps and areas for improvement and as a way of harmonising public involvement across different settings.

Case studies are currently being developed based on the experience of the pilot sites and covering different elements and challenges of public involvement, which the standards can help improve. 

There is no single way of using the Standards. How they are used will be influenced by many issues, such as the purpose of involvement and the amount of resources (money, people, skills) available.