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Our new public involvement guidance for research applicants

Last updated on 6 Jun 2018

We have produced new guidance to help our applicants better identify where they have involved the public in their research applications and the difference that made.

The guidance sets out how applicants should present their information on public involvement within the Integrated Research Application System (IRAS) in a way that is most useful to Research Ethics Committees (RECs).


“We know public involvement can help to make health and social care research ethical in several ways, not least because it makes research more relevant, so results are more likely to be useful and of benefit to patients and the public.

“We held a number of workshops with REC members, who told us information about how applicants have involved the public in their research design and development could help them when conducting their ethical review, but rarely does.

“The guidance should also benefit researchers, as it will help to influence and shape involvement of the public in their studies before they apply to ethical review.

“Most simply, we also don’t want their good work to go to waste, as sometimes applicants have involved the public really effectively in their research, but their IRAS forms do not reflect this.”

“We see the release of this guidance as a start in addressing this issue. We will be working closely with a number of 'test bed' organisations during a six-month trial period to look at their IRAS applications and establish what the impact has been on REC discussion and decision making.”

Jim Elliott, HRA Public Involvement Lead

Become a test bed

We are looking for more organisations which regularly submit applications for ethical review to become test beds. This involves organisations using the new guidance for all of their applications for six months before reporting back to the HRA.

This invitation is open to organisations in any area of health and social care research, and for any type of study that needs ethical review by a REC.

If you would like to be involved, please contact our public involvement team to find out more.

Dr Sheila Fisher chairs an ethics committee in Leeds, and says that public involvement is one of the core elements of a good research project that committees look for.


“RECs are all about protecting the safety and rights of people taking part in research. If you involve patients and the public from the start, it is a clear way of demonstrating that you will be treating them with dignity and courtesy – essentially in an ethical manner.

“I welcome this new guidance from the HRA, as it should help applicants make an explicit link between public involvement and potential ethical concerns.”

Dr Sheila Fisher

The guidance is integrated throughout the question specific guidance in IRAS. Applicants should click on the ‘i’ information button for Question A14-1 (which is the main public involvement question). Guidance on public involvement will also appear in questions A6-2, A13, A22, A30-1 and A51.

Our public  top tips for public involvement page provides a simple overview of the guidance principles.

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