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Public Involvement training 

Our public involvement training is now available through an online course on the Coursera platform. This course is entitled ‘Public Involvement in Research’ and is aimed at researchers but also suitable for patients and the public (citizens). Over four weeks you will learn how patients and the public can be involved across the research cycle. This ranges from identifying research topics important to patients, through to disseminating important findings to community groups. In this course you will learn practical tips and hear about inspiring real-life examples. Although this course has a public health focus, the methodologies and ways of involving patients and citizens are widely applicable to other disciplines and types of research.  The ‘Public Involvement in Research’ course will give you the skills and knowledge needed to get started with public involvement in research!

Read on for an overview of the course content, as well as information on how to access the course.

Course Overview

Week 1: Differentiating Public Involvement and Co-production in Health Research

In Week 1 you will gain an introduction to what public involvement is, and why it is valuable to do it. You will also learn about the differences and similarities with ‘co-production’ and hear some inspiring examples.

Week 2:  Role of Public Involvement and Co-production Throughout the Research Cycle

In Week 2 you will become more familiar with participatory approaches early in the ‘research cycle’. You will learn how the process of doing research can be broken down into seven broad stages, which is helpful for thinking about research activities the public can shape. First, you will become familiar with techniques and tips for involving the public in identifying and prioritising research topics. Next, you will look at the role of public involvement and co-production throughout the second stage (Designing and Managing) and third stage (Funding and Commissioning) of the research cycle. You will hear from citizens that have been involved in these stages, and have the chance to reflect on the value of these methods.

Week 3: What Is the Role of Public Involvement and Co-production Throughout the Stages of the Research Cycle? (Covering Stage 4 (Undertaking and Analysing), Stage 5 (Disseminating) and Stage 6 (Implementing))

In Week 3 you'll look at the role of public involvement and co-production throughout the fourth stage of the research cycle (Undertaking and Analysing). Qualitative research might seem the most obvious kind of research in which to involve citizens and patients as co-researchers – such as interviews. However, you're going to study some other examples where citizens and patients can inform the “doing” of research – such as systematic reviews and even ‘basic science’. In Lesson 2, you'll look at the role of public involvement and co-production throughout the fifth and sixth stages of the research cycle (Disseminating) and (Implementing) respectively. It will feature tips for communicating scientific knowledge.

Week 4: How can you evaluate public involvement and co-production in health research (stage 7 of the research cycle)?

In the final week, you will learn about the ways to evaluate public involvement and co-production in health research (stage 7 of the research cycle). A public contributor gives an interview in which he talks about his experience with evaluating the impact of public involvement. You also have the opportunity to decide on an evaluation tool which could be applied to your own setting.

Course FAQs

How long is the course? It is structured as a 4-week course with approximately 4 hours content per week. However, you are able to skip to areas of the course that you are most interested in, if you wish.

Who can take the course? Anyone can take the course for free but unless you have access through Imperial College or pay Coursera's fee, you will not receive a certificate of completion (approximately £35 dependng on what kind of Coursera account you have). More information is below.

  • Imperial staff and students – If you use your @imperial.ac.uk address to create an account, the course is free to access and to receive a certificate of completion. Use this link to access the course and follow these  Instructions for accessing Public Involvement in Research Course.
  • Imperial Biomedical Research Centre researchers – If you do not have an @imperial.ac.uk email please contact publicinvolvement@imperial.ac.uk
  • Members of the public and non - Imperial researchers – You can sign up to take the course for free however if you would like to receive a certificate of completion, Coursera will charge a fee. To access the course for free, please click here to create an account and follow these Instructions for accessing Public Involvement in Research Course. If you are a member of the public and are already working with a research team or centre, check whether they have funds to pay for the certificate (should you want one).

What if I need a certificate of completion? Imperial staff and students will be able to access the course for free using their Imperial email address. If you are a public contributor working with an Imperial research team, please ask your Imperial point of contact about how best to obtain a certificate.

Will there be additional training sessions? As required, PERC and the Imperial Clinical Trials Unit also plan to host online sessions in more depth on topical issues such as diversity in research participation and the role of a public co-applicant on a research study. Please check back here for more details.

If you have any other enquiries or need more information about public involvement training, please contact PERC at publicinvolvement@imperial.ac.uk.

Graduate School

Please note that if you are eligible to attend the Imperial Graduate School courses for Doctoral Students, we run a training workshop as part of the "Societal Engagement" workshops entitled "Public Involvement in Medical Research".  For more details please see here.

Other training resources

Other training resources

Other websites for Public Involvement support

  • NIHR Learning for Involvement - These resources were originally produced by INVOLVE have been brought up-to-date and made accessible here. NIHR INVOLVE was established by the government in 1996 to support active public involvement in NHS, public health and social care research. In April 2020, INVOLVE was superceded by the NIHR Centre for Engagement and Dissemination and therefore the INVOLVE website is no longer actively updated or supported.
  • The Health Research Authority (HRA) – In its role to protect and promote the interests of patients and the public in health, the HRA now manages the research and ethics approval process for the NHS in England  for a quick itroduction, watch this HRA Approval animation. Public involvement is therefore central to their work and the approval process, and they have provided useful guidance and templates specific to this on their website

  • EUPATI  The European Patients' Academy (EUPATI) is a pan-European project established as a collaborative partnership between the pharmaceutical industry, acadeia, not-for-profit, and patient organisations. They focus on education and training to increase the capacity and capability of patients to understand and contribute to medical research and development
  • Imperial College London – Public involvement is central to a number of departments at Imperial. Many of these have their own public involvement sites, with additional information tailored to the research field:
    1. Patient Safety Translational Research Centre
    2. Imperial Clinical Trials Unit
    3. NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Modelling and Health Economics

    In addition, Imperial are dedicated to 
     , which looks more generally at how we share the wonder and importance of what we do here at Imperial with the public - including schools, patients and local communities.

  • Voice – Voice is an organisation that aims to capture the publics' vast experience, ideas, opinions and expectations about the research, innovations and policies affecting their lives. They support members of the public, of all ages and backgrounds, to become actively involved in contributing their insights and visions. Through this platform researchers are able to engage in discussions with members, as well as post opportunities for involvement in their research

Other Public Involvement training and resources for researchers and members of the public

  • Public reviewing with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) - online course made up of 3 modules developed by the NIHR for:
      • Public contributors who have been asked to provide feedback on a research document or sit on committee that assess several research documents.
      • Public contributors who are new to reviewing (research) and those who want to know more.
      • Researchers, research managers and funders who want to understand what makes good Patient and Public Involvement and the public perspective.
  • European Patient Ambassador Programme course - The course is made up of eight modules, which will help you gain the information and skills you need to become a successful patient representative. You do not have to do the modules in the order they are presented. The individual modules can be done in any order you feel best suits your needs and interests.
  • Search the Toolbox by keyword or by category. There are a number of mini-course starter kits such as the one on protocol design within Clinical Development and Trials. Alternatively, you can just search 'mini-course starter kits' in the keyword seach function. As a note, some aspects are more geared towards commercial research, but many of concepts and processes are also common to publicly-funded research.

  • The ECRAN Project - The European Communication on Research Awareness Needs website provides many tools and resources that can be used to introduce lay members to medical research. For example, here's a short animation introducing clinical research

Related online training

  • Public reviewing with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) - online course made up of 3 modules developed by the NIHR for:
      • Public contributors who have been asked to provide feedback on a research document or sit on committee that assess several research documents.
      • Public contributors who are new to reviewing (research) and those who want to know more.
      • Researchers, research managers and funders who want to understand what makes good Public Involvement and the public perspective.
  • COVID-19: Understanding the research behind the pandemic - developed by the NIHR Clinical Research Network and the University of Leeds. The course aims to uncover the UK’s critical health research response in the NHS - which discovered new vaccines and proven treatments in response to the COVID-19 global healthcare crisis. The two-week online course will only take two hours of your time each weekand you’ll explore how the research community rose to the challenge to develop life-saving treatments and vaccines with patient safety at the centre of its work. The course is 100% online and runs until 8th August with lead educators and mentor support to answer your questions available until the 18th June. A certificate is available on completion of the course at the cost of £32. 

  • The short MOOC (massive open online course) 'Citizen Involvement Matters' on Voice is designed to help academics, students and researchers to identify and focus on citizens' needs and priorities for healthy ageing. It's been funded by Voice, EIT Health and Wellcome Trust
  • Improving Healthcare Through Clinical Research (Futurelearn) - appropriate for members of the public -  on this free online course, find out how medical treatments are discovered, tested and evaluated to improve healthcare for all
  • Patient Focused Medicine Development (online training courses) - an independent global coalition of health stakeholders established in October 2015 which brings together resources that integrate the voice of the patient across the lifecycle of medicine. 
  • EUPATI Open Classroom - a free,  flexible and on demand online learning catalogue for patients and other stakeholders to take courses in medicines research and development at their own pace and preferred order. If a learner wishes to take an assessment to test their learning, the fee to unlock an assessment is EUR 8 (incl. VAT) and they will receive a course certificate via email.
  • If you work at Imperial, you have unlimited access to lynda.com, which offers a wide variety of courses. Consider ones on Marketing Communication or Social Media, which are both very applicable to public involvement.
  • FutureLearn provides free online learning to all, which often includes courses hugely relevant to research, public engagement and involvement and the wider field of health and well-being. You can sign-up to get notifications, or keep checking the site for the latest courses.