As part of the COVID-19 outbreak response, the Patient Experience Research Centre (PERC) launched a community involvement initiative "Let's Talk About..." to rapidly capture the opinions, experiences, preferences and unmet needs of communities in the UK during this outbreak, in an attempt to:

  • Guide COVID-19 research at Imperial College London across areas of (1) mathematical modelling, (2) health and biomedical research, (3) engineering and innovation, and (4) socio-behavioural research
  • Inform the UK’s response and communication more broadly
  • Highlight key unmet needs amongst diverse communities
  • Inspire new ways to rapidly engage and involve communities remotely during a public health emergency

Following some early online community involvement at the start of March (see Imperial College London COVID-19 Response Team Report 14), PERC trialled and developed further models of community involvement to ensure the voices, experiences and concerns of those who may be most affected by the outbreak are heard. This includes establishing a regular series of activity that enables rapid input from members of the public into key discussion topics that can be shared in the form of anonymous insight reports.

We have also extended our public involvement support, guidance and expertise to researchers actively working on COVID-19 research across Imperial College London, including those within the NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre (BRC)MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analytics (GIDA) and WHO-collaborating J-IDEA (Abdul Latif Jameel Institute for Disease and Emergency Analytics).

Current Activity

Through an informal series of online involvement survey sprints and 'Let's Talk About...' Zoom calls, PERC have been inviting members of the public to share their experiences, views, questions and concerns on important and emerging areas of COVID-19 research. Outputs from these are then summarised in our Insight Reports below. We are continuing to explore how our approach can be more inclusive so that those who are not online or are unable to access or use online surveys or videoconferencing tools can also input their views.

Thanks to Imperial's Societal Engagement team, this activity is now part of a larger 'Let's Talk About COVID-19' public engagement campaign to bring the public and researchers together to share stories, insights and experiences of the outbreak.

Current Activity

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Conversations via Zoom: Let's Talk About...

  • 20–60 members of the public
  • Topic introduction
  • Anonymous snap polls
  • Small group chats via 4–5 breakout rooms e.g. 8–12 per group
  • Co-hosted with a researcher
  • Share views, ask questions, immediate first-hand insight
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Online survey: Involvement sprints

  • Enables input from wider, more diverse audiences (300+ people)
  • Same conversation points presented as multiple choice questions and free text entry
  • Co-developed with researcher and inspired by prior conversations with the public
  • Time to reflect, ability to share, broad and diverse insight


The outputs from our community involvement activity are summarised as Insight Reports, or other media, and then shared directly with those working on the outbreak response. We hope these will offer some guidance to inform their thinking, planning and solutions, and inspire ongoing public involvement and discussion with the public to ensure a diversity of circumstances and views are considered.

Flexible - CIE Insight Report

For all reports from the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team, please visit Imperial's MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analytics dedicated COVID-19 page. This includes our own report on the Public response to UK Government recommendations on COVID-19: Population Surevy 17-18 March 2020 [Report 10 (20 March 2020)].