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New innovation projects announced for the Centre for Engagement and Dissemination: Developing high quality commissioning of Public Involvement and Engagement in NIHR

On 1 April 2020, the NIHR launched its new Centre for Engagement and Dissemination. One of the key areas of activity for the new Centre is to run a series of ‘innovation projects’ that will harness the ‘best engagement and dissemination ideas coming from the community’.

Sophie Staniszewska, ARC WM’s Professor of Patient and Public Involvement and Experiences of Care, is proud to be leading one of the first innovation projects, which focusses on public involvement/engagement in commissioned research, in collaboration with Magdalena Skrybant, ARC WM PPIE Lead.

Why is it important to improve the quality of commissioning PIE?

Public involvement and engagement (PIE) is routinely included in research bids. Ideally, public contributors should be involved to shape initial research ideas and research designs, and bids should include well-thought out plans for how the public can be involved meaningfully throughout the project. However, the quality of the PIE commissioned within a study may not be provided in enough detail or scrutinised as closely as other aspects of the research, and there is a real danger that the potential for public involvement and engagement plans will not be fully realised. The reality of public involvement in a research project versus the intended vision for public involvement is often under-reported.

There are several reasons for this: the researcher may feel nervous about including an element to evaluate public involvement/engagement, or maybe there isn’t enough money in the budget. Poorly specified or poorly reported public involvement/engagement can represent a form of research waste, as valuable knowledge and experience is lost to the developing PIE evidence base, vital for enhancing PIE practice.[1, 2]

How can we achieve high-quality commissioning of PIE?

A key way in which we could improve the quality of PIE within studies is by setting clearer expectations within the commissioning process, for example by panels encouraging clarity about the aims and methods of PIE, two aspects required for high-quality reporting.[3]

At present:

  • We do not have clarity on what commissioning panels should expect or ask for to ensure high-quality PIE is delivered within a study.
  • We do not know whether the current NIHR Standards for Involvement support high-quality commissioning.
  • We are also unclear whether there are wider organisational and system changes needed within the NIHR to support higher-quality PIE commissioning.

Developing such clarity could help panels commission high-quality PIE, so maximising value and avoiding research waste.

How will we deliver our project?

Our innovation project will address the lack of clarity on high-quality commissioning of PIE in the following ways:

  1. We will work in partnership with our public contributors to develop a checklist to enhance the quality of PIE commissioning.
  2. We will develop a set of organisational and system recommendations.
  3. We will undertake a set of stakeholder interviews to identify the key aspects of high-quality commissioning that should underpin the checklist and organisational recommendations.
  4. Throughout, we will explore whether the NIHR Standards for Public Involvement support high-quality commissioning.

We will disseminate the checklist and organisational recommendations across NIHR and internationally, enabling the implementation of the checklist and recommendations by funding panels to enhance the quality of the PIE they commission.

For further details on this project, please contact Sophie Staniszewska:

Sophie Staniszewska, Professor of Patient and Public Involvement and Experiences of Care; Magdalena Skrybant, PPIE Lead


  1. National Institute for Health Research. Going the extra mile: improving the nation’s health and wellbeing through public involvement in research. London: NIHR; 2015.
  2. Staniszewska S, Denegri S, Matthews R, Minogue V. Reviewing progress in public involvement in NIHR research: developing and implementing a new vision for the future. BMJ Open. 2018; 8(7): e017124.
  3. Staniszewska S, Brett J, Simera I, et al. GRIPP2 Reporting Checklists: Tools to Improve Reporting of Patient and Public Involvement in Research. BMJ. 2017; 358: j3453.
Fri 22 May 2020, 12:00 | Tags: Sophie Staniszewska, Magdalena Skrybant, PPIE, ARC