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Public engagement: a practical guide. Involve the public. And involve them early

Uploaded by RRI Tools on 07 November 2017

Sense about Science & National Institute for Health Research

Understanding Children’s Heart Surgery Outcomes and this guide were funded by the NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research programme. Project number NIHR HS&DR 14/19/13.

Involve the public. And involve them early

This is a practical guide for researchers on involving the public in working out how to communicate findings – from the earliest stages of projects, and on the most challenging of subjects. It draws on our experience of working with researchers on socially or scientifically difficult issues of public interest; particularly the Understanding Children’s Heart Surgery Outcomes project.


We have worked with researchers on many of the most sensitive subjects – some fraught with misunderstanding – to improve the communication of their research findings. We only undertake such partnerships where there are high stakes for the public and communication is difficult. Communicating the survival statistics of children’s heart surgery at different treatment centres in 2016 was among the toughest of these, with potentially major consequences for all involved. Our public engagement team worked with researchers funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to develop new ways of presenting information: we used a five-step process to help them discuss and present research information in a way that is shaped from the outset by people who will use it.


Public engagement is now strongly encouraged in the research community: by funders, institutions and scientific bodies. Many researchers are persuaded of its importance, but wonder how to do it. At the request of the NIHR we have set out our experience from this project, and drawn on some others, to help researchers who are planning their next project, writing their next grant proposal, or thinking ahead about how their work could have an impact.


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