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Executive Summary

The HRA is here to protect people who take part in research and make it easier for researchers to carry out cutting-edge research. To do this effectively, it is important that the HRA community is engaged, supported, and recognised.

Our community consists of individuals who belong to one or more of these groups:

  • Research Ethics Committee (REC) with approximately 900 members
  • Public Involvement Network (PIN) with approximately 100 members
  • Confidentiality Advisory Group (CAG) with approximately 30 members

We are pleased to see from this survey that overall, HRA community members feel satisfied in their role (89%), are proud to volunteer with the HRA (85%) and are likely to recommend volunteering with the HRA to friends and family (82%).

However, we understand that workload is a consistent theme with almost two-fifths of members (39%) ranking this as one of the top three characteristics that they would most like to improve. Another key finding is that training and support for members should be a focus of improvement. Some members stated that there is a need to improve the effectiveness of the HRA’s communication channels and services such as the Learning Management System and the HRA Assessment Review Portal (HARP).

It is important that the HRA community reflects the diversity of the population that we serve. We collected ED&I data from our members - reported separately here - so that we could better understand our current diversity. We also asked our members for their perspectives on how diverse and inclusive an organisation we are. Three-fifths of our members (61%) feel that we are a diverse and inclusive organisation, which tells us that we have more work to do.

We recognise that we have work to do to improve the experiences of everyone that works with the HRA and ensure that there are no unnecessary barriers to people choosing to work and stay with us. That is why we have established an HRA Community Insight group which is overseeing a programme of work to ensure that we engage effectively with our community, and support everyone to become a member of our community, including identifying and addressing barriers to membership that may impact on the diversity of our community. We will also recognise and champion the crucial contribution to health and social care research of all our community.

We are conscious that this survey was conducted during challenging and changing times as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, and this may have influenced our findings. We plan to monitor the changing experiences of our community going forward to inform our work.

Key findings

Background

The survey was designed by the HRA project team in collaboration with BMG Research. The survey was conducted by BMG on behalf of the HRA between 15 and 31 March 2021.

The online survey asked questions common to all our membership groups as well as specific questions for the individual groups. This report summarises responses to these broader questions.

What is the HRA doing well?

  • The solid 42% response rate shows that we have an engaged and enthusiastic membership
  • Satisfaction is high with 89% of members saying that they were satisfied in their role.
  • 79% know what the overall goals of their group are and how their role fits in with it.
  • 85% are proud to volunteer with the HRA.
  • 82% are likely to recommend volunteering with the HRA to friends and family.
  • 78% feel valued for what they offer their group.

What could the HRA be doing better?

  • Workload is a consistent theme with almost one-fifth (17%) ranking this as a primary suggestion for improvement, and two-fifths (39%) ranking it in their top three.
  • There is more that we can do to both value ideas and innovations from volunteers as only two-fifths (40%) of our members believe that we do so and to encourage members to challenge the way that things are done where less than half (46%) feel able to do so.
  • While members feel that both the HRA and their groups promote a culture of mutual respect, there is more that we can do to create a diverse and inclusive organisation, with only three-fifths (61%) of members feeling that we currently do.
  • While many of our members felt a strong sense of recognition by and community with their immediate group, there is work to do to increase their sense of recognition and belonging by the HRA as just over a third of members (36%) feel recognised by the HRA and only a third of members (31%) feel that they have a sense of community with the wider HRA.
  • We can communicate more effectively with our members to provide the information and services that they need to do their work well.

Results

Data used in this report is rounded up or down to the nearest whole percentage point. It is for this reason that, on occasion, tables or charts may add up to 99% or 101%.

Where fewer than 10 responses were given to any question category, we have not reported the actual number of responses.

Responses

A total of 399 survey responses were received, giving a solid 42% response rate. The responses were drawn from the membership groups as follows:

Group Survey responses Percentage
Research Ethics Committee (REC) 358 90
Confidentiality Advisory Group (CAG) 14 4
Public Involvement Network (PIN) 27 7

Satisfaction

Satisfaction is high with 89% of members saying that they feel satisfied overall (very or fairly satisfied) with their role. This strong rate of satisfaction is underpinned by more than four-fifths (84%) who said that they are likely to continue to volunteer and would recommend volunteering with the HRA to friends and family (82%).

How satisfied or dissatisfied are you overall with your present role Survey responses Percentage
Very satisfied 187 47
Fairly satisfied 167 42
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 32 8
Fairly dissatisfied 13 3
Do you still plan to be volunteering in 12 months' time? Survey responses Percentage
Yes 335 84
No 8 2
Don't know 56 14
How likely are you to recommend our volunteer opportunities to friends, co-workers, or family? Survey responses Percentage
Likely 329 82
Unsure 52 13
Unlikely 18 4

Working with the Health Research Authority

We asked questions to gauge how our community feel about working with the HRA. Responses that were scored most positively indicate that most members care about the future of the HRA (92%) and are proud to volunteer for the HRA (85%). However, only two-fifths (40%) believe that the HRA values new ideas and innovations from its members and that less than half (46%) feel able and comfortable to speak up and challenge the way things are done at the HRA.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements? Agree (percentage) Neither agree nor disagree (percentage) Disagree (percentage)
I know what the overall goals of the Health Research Authority are 77 19 5
I understand how my role fits into what the Health Research Authority is trying to achieve 79 16 5
I have a clear understanding of the Health Research Authority's values 59 32 10
I believe that the Health Research Authority is working in a way that demonstrates its values 54 40 6
I am proud to volunteer for the Health Research Authority 85 15 1
I care about the future of the Health Research Authority 92 8 <1
The Health Research Authority values new ideas and innovations from volunteers 40 46 14
I feel comfortable to speak up and challenge the way things are done at the Health Research Authority 46 37 17

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

We asked members about how respected and included they feel and how they view the commitment of the HRA to promote diversity.

Overall (72%), volunteers feel that both their group and the HRA promote a culture of mutual respect. However, only three-fifths (61%) agreed that the HRA is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive organisation.

Volunteers also feel that their teams are not diverse with about one-third (35%) agreeing that the diversity of members reflects that of wider society.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements concerning Equality, Diversity and Inclusion? Agree (percentage) Neither agree nor disagree (percentage) Disagree (percentage)
I feel that the Health Research Authority promotes a culture of mutual respect 72 25 4
I feel that my group (REC/CAG/PIN) promotes a culture of mutual respect 88 10 3
I feel the Health Research Authority is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive organisation (including its members) 61 35 4
In my experience the Health Research Authority is inclusive 59 38 3
The diversity of the members reflects that of wider society 35 26 39

Information

We asked how informed members feel within their groups and by the HRA. Although almost all (89%) feel informed by their group, this dropped to 70% who feel informed by the HRA and just over two-fifths (44%) who feel informed by the board of the HRA.

How well informed, if at all, do you feel about what is going on and how things are changing in each of the following? Well informed (percentage) Not well informed (percentage) Not applicable (percentage)
Your group (REC/CAG/PIN) 89 11 0
The Health Research Authority 67 32 1
The Health Research Authority Board 44 55 2
The Health Research Authority staff team that supports you 73 27 1

Communication

We asked about how the HRA communicates with its members. More than four-fifths felt able to talk to support staff (82%), however from the commentary that you provided to BMG who conducted the survey on behalf of the HRA, there are areas of communication that we need to address.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements? Agree (percentage) Neither agree nor disagree (percentage) Disagree (percentage)
I feel able to talk to the HRA staff supporting me 82 14 4
Communication within the REC/CAG/PIN service is good 72 21 7
I know where to access the information I need to carry out my role 79 13 8
The information I receive is easy to understand 77 17 6

Valued

We asked members how valued they feel for what they offer to their group and to the HRA. Although almost four-fifths (78%) feel valued for what they offered to their group, this dropped to three-fifths (59%) who feel valued by the HRA.

I feel valued for what I offer Within my group (percentage) By the Health Research Authority (percentage)
Agree 78 59
Neither agree nor disagree 16 30
Disagree 7 10

Recognition

We asked members about how recognised they feel both within their groups and by the HRA. Although almost two-thirds (63%) feel recognised for their role within their group, only just over one-third (38%) feel recognised by the HRA.

Do you feel that you get enough recognition for your role? Within my group (percentage) By the Health Research Authority (percentage)
Yes 63 38
No 17 24
Don't know 20 39

Community

We asked members about the sense of community, both within their membership groups and with the wider Health Research Authority. Members feel a sense of connection and support within their own group. However, there is a disconnect with the wider HRA as only a third (31%) of members agree they have a sense of community with the wider Health Research Authority.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements about the sense of community within your volunteer group? Agree (percentage) Neither agree nor disagree (percentage) Disagree (percentage)
I feel a sense of community within my own Research Ethics Committee 79 14 7
I feel a sense of community within the Research Ethics Committee Service 53 37 11
I feel a sense of community within my Confidentiality Advisory Group 86 14 0
I feel a sense of community within my Public Involvement Network group 26 41 33
I have regular contact with other members 47 23 30
I feel supported by my fellow members 75 19 7
I feel a sense of community with the wider Health Research Authority 31 43 27

Characteristics to improve

We asked members to tell us about the characteristics of their current role that they would most like to improve. The main priorities for improvement are workload, training, and opportunities to influence change.

Rank characteristics of your current role that you would most like to improve Percentage
Workload 14
Training 15
Opportunities to influence change 15
Meeting environment 12
Service provided to research participants and patients 8
Technology available to carry out my role 8
Working relationship with other members 6
Feeling valued 4
Service provided to the research community 4
Working relationship with Health Research Authority staff 4
Opportunity to contribute to the meeting 2
Environmental sustainability 1
Other 5

Covid insights

We asked about the impacts on you as a community as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Just over half (54%) felt that they had been supported by the wider Health Research Authority and their staff during the pandemic, but this rose to almost three-quarters (72%) who had been supported within their local group.

Whilst two-fifths (44%) found virtual working a positive experience a further two-fifths (43%) found virtual working isolating.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic Agree (percentage) Neither agree nor disagree Disagree (percentage) Not applicable (percentage)
I have felt supported by the REC/CAG/PIN during the COVID-19 pandemic 72 22 6 0
I have felt supported by the wider Health Research Authority and their staff 54 38 8 0
I have found virtual working a positive experience 44 30 23 3
I have found virtual working difficult due to access to the technology when needed 15 17 62 6
I have found virtual working difficult when children have been off school/nursery 9 21 26 45
I have found virtual working difficult while helping/providing care for a vulnerable person 11 16 32 41
I have found virtual working to be isolating 43 20 34 4
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