I suspect we all have moments when we will question the point of public involvement. Even those of us who are die-hard advocates. In the same way that the clergy seek to better understand their faith. Or scientists question Mark Walport.
Researchers who are at the beginning of their carers are more entitled than most to ask who, what, why, when, where? And they deserve a good answer including help, support and the opportunity for training.
A 2016 report by the Wellcome Trust and a collaborative of research funders and institutions highlighted researcher training as a significant issue in the promotion and advancement of ‘public engagement.’ This showed less than half of all researchers receiving training or being offered and declining: https://wellcome.ac.uk/sites/default/files/wtp060034.pdf
NIHR has taken the issue seriously since its establishment in 2006. It’s new NIHR Academy which came into being just recently and will be launched later this month runs a pretty infamous boot camp in which early career researchers spend the weekend immersing themselves in public involvement. And they love it.
The most important opportunities for learning and support exist at institutional level but leaders must do better to incentivise and create the space for busy, time-pressure researchers to take on these new skills.
So I was delighted to see that the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at UCLH has launched its award-wining 2018 training workshops with a new scheme in which researchers attending get career points as part of the UCL Doctoral Skills Development Programme. You can read more about it here: http://www.uclhospitals.brc.nihr.ac.uk/news/ppi-workshop-attendees-get-career-points-and-improve-their-employability. UCLH are hoping the courses will soon be also part of staff training. I should also add that the workshops are open to researchers outside UCLH as well.
If you want people to see the point of something then valuing their learning is a good way to begin.
It would be good to see institutions assessed on how they support public involvement and engagement by providing access to training as part of the environmental assessment elements of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021.