There are many different ways in which you can be a part of research, whether you want to be actively involved in the research or a participant.

Ways that you can take part include, for example, working with research funders to prioritise research, offering advice as members of a project steering group, commenting on and developing research materials and undertaking research with research participants.

The time you spend will also vary depending on the type of activity or role you are engaged in. See the ‘how to join in’ pages to find out more. 

Researchers and others use different words to describe public involvement, such as engagement and participation. 

We use the following terms to distinguish between the different activities:

Involvement – where members of the public are actively involved in research projects and in research organisations. Examples of public involvement are:

  • as joint grant holders or co-applicants on a research project
  • involvement in identifying research priorities
  • commenting and developing patient information leaflets or other research materials
  • undertaking interviews with research participants
  • user and/or carer researchers carrying out the research.

Participation – where people take part in a research study. Examples of participation are:

  • people being recruited to a clinical trial or other research study to take part in the research
  • completing a questionnaire or participating in a focus group as part of a research study.

Engagement – where information and knowledge about research is provided and disseminated. Examples of engagement are: 

  • science festivals open to the public with debates and discussions on research
  • open day at a research centre where members of the public are invited to find out about research
  • raising awareness of research through media such as television programmes, newspapers and social media
  • dissemination to research participants, colleagues or members of the public on the findings of a study.

Identifying relevant research topics:

You can make a suggestion for a health or social care issue or area that you think should be researched. You can do this online here.

You can also suggest a topic to the Horizon Scanning Centre about a new health technology that is not yet available to patients.

Prioritising research topics:

Occasionally there are  opportunities available which are based on a specific topic with organisations such as the James Lind Alliance. You can sign up to find out more about these sorts of opportunities on the website.

You can also be involved in reviewing research documents from a patient or service user perspective. You can sign up as a reviewer for NIHR research programmes by contacting us.

You can sit on a committee that prioritises research commissioning briefs or research applications. Current opportunities are advertised here.

Application and Funding:

You can get involved in helping researchers develop their research proposals. Use the ‘NIHR where you are’ , People in Research or contact your local Research Design Service to find opportunities.

You can also be involved in reviewing research applications from a patient or service user perspective. You can sign up as a reviewer for NIHR research programmes by contacting us.

You can sit on a committee that recommends whether research applications should receive funding. Current opportunities are advertised here.

Research management and delivery:

You can be involved as a member of a research team’s steering committee, advisory committee or reference group. Other people get involved as co-researchers. See People in Research to find these kinds of opportunities.

You can  tell people about research and help to recruit them to take part in projects by volunteering to be a Patient Research Ambassador.


You can also take part in research by registering and looking for studies you would like to be involved in through the UK Clinical Trials Gateway, you can also sign up to the BioResource or the Join Dementia Research initiative.

Disseminating research findings:

You can work with the Dissemination Centre to get involved in ensuring that research results are written in plain English and can be understood by everybody.