Public Partnerships

What are – “Public Partnerships”?

"A term to collectively describe ways in which patients, service users, carers and members of the public work with researchers, and health and care professionals, in the creation and use of health and care research. This fully encompasses the components of "involvement", "engagement" and "participation"

Zoe Gray, Public Partnerships Associate Director, NIHR- National Institute for Health and Care Research.

When we use the term ‘public’ in public partnership, we mean it to include:

  • Patients and potential patients
  • Service users
  • People with lived experience of one or more health conditions, whether they’re current patients or not
  • Informal (unpaid) carers
  • Parents and guardians
  • People who use, or have used, health and/or social care services
  • People with disabilities

People getting involved in research are often called ‘public contributors or public partners’.

What is public and patient involvement and engagement (PPIE) in research?

We define public involvement in research as research being actively carried out ‘with’ or ‘by’ members of the public rather than ‘to’, ‘about’ or ‘for’ them. When the public gets involved in research, they work alongside researchers to help shape:

  • What research gets done
  • How it’s carried out
  • How the results are shared and applied in practice.

Being involved is not the same as taking part in research. It’s about being a member of the research team that works together to design and run the study.

"Often common sense gets lost in research. We are needed to help research keep on track."

Amander Wellings, Public Co-applicant.

Researchers may have never been a patient, service user, carer or cared for by somebody else, and so they may miss things from their research plans that seem obvious. Sometimes being involved in research can be seen as or called being a ‘critical friend’ to the research team. A critical friend is usually a person who asks the obvious or sometimes difficult questions that nobody else has asked (sometimes known as ‘pointing out the elephant in the room’) in a friendly and supportive way. A critical friend can help researchers to:

  • See things that they have missed or misunderstood.
  • Look at the research from a different perspective
  • Offer thoughts, advice and guidance to researchers on whether their research appropriately reflects the needs and values of the people who use health and social care services.
A critical friend is sometimes known for 'pointing out the elephant in the room'.

In the Evaluations section you can find details of the Public Partnership work on each of our projects.

Public Co-applicants

Some of our public contributors

PHIRST- Public in Research group in Hertfordshire University we have 10 members of the public on this team. They are involved at all stages of the research and have done evaluability assessment trained in and done qualitative data analysis. We have developed and given inductions for those new to public involvement and have training on the national standards of PPIE. All our involvement work is regularly reflected on by the group and things change and develop collaboratively. We are now being very innovative and giving training around quantitative data analysis methods and will be involving them in that soon.  We also have project specific public voice consultation groups. The Herts team really value and support Public Involvement.

Amander Wellings


Key contact(s)
Amander Wellings,

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