I make no apology for being a little bit obsessed by plain English summaries of research this week. Events have conspired to make it this way.
So, what did NIHR do when faced late last year with rising concern among academics, researchers, patients and the public about the poor quality of lay summaries? It commissioned INVOLVE – its national advisory group on advancing public involvement in research – to inquire into the matter and make recommendations. That’s what.
INVOLVE’s report – the outcome of that inquiry produced with the excellent TwoCan Associates – appears on-line today. It makes sensible proposals for the structure, content of, and guidance given to researchers on, what is says should be called ‘summaries’ (not abstracts). Also on how to improve adherence within organisations. For instance, INVOLVE says that production of a high quality plain English summary should be an NIHR principle and condition of funding.
I am very proud that INVOLVE was asked to lead this work. There is much to do to make sure its recommendations get taken up by NIHR but also by others funders. But I do believe that – given the evidence gathering exercise it did in the first instance – it has succeeded in establishing a good starting point for NIHR. I hope that other funders will also follow its lead.
From this month onwards, while discussions continue within NIHR about the report, we will not be resting on our laurels. We will be adding more content and helpful advice to a special part of the INVOLVE website. So watch this space.