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Medical and social care research funders increasingly have an expectation of meaningful PPI in grant funding applications. PPI contributors are members of NIHR funding boards and commissioning panels, and they are highly unlikely to fund research which does not have PPI embedded throughout.

UKRI and Wellcome are also committed to PPI that is inclusive and diverse, and accessible to people from all backgrounds. Smaller charity funders usually require statements on PPI impact and dissemination, even if detailed PPI is not requested throughout the research proposal.

Researchers are strongly advised to check the PPI requirements of the specific funder they are applying to before submitting a grant application. For example, the NIHR asks applicants to describe PPI in the design and planning of their study as well as their plans for further involvement throughout the research, and if not, to explain why not.

For NIHR applications it is mandatory that there is a budgeted and resourced PPI lead role.

‘There should be a named person with appropriate skills and experience who is responsible for leading the PPI element within the project. The role of the PPI lead can be undertaken by any of the co-applicants within the research team (or a named member of the team), who has the relevant skills, experience, and authority to be accountable, represent, manage and embed patient and public involvement in all aspects of the research study/programme. This role should be a budgeted and resourced research team member.’

(Source: Definition and role of the designated PPI (Patient and Public Involvement) lead in a research team

Assessment of PPI work in a funding application

The quality of PPI involvement in the research funding application both prior to, and during the research, will be examined by the funder. Most panels, including those of the NIHR, include PPI contributors who provide guidance to the panel on the quality of the PPI input. The following key aspects are considered.     

a. PPI contributors’ involvement in the research to date, including:

  • Have they been involved from the beginning?
  • Have they had an input into the design of the research?
  • Is there any evidence that PPI involvement to date has made a difference to the proposal?  

b. The quality of the PPI arrangements in the project, including:

  • Strengths of the PPI proposed and any concerns that undermine it (e.g. is there sufficient funding to undertake the PPI activities proposed).
  • Is the PPI element truly embedded in the proposal or is it tokenism?
  • Have relevant PPI contributors with knowledge of the disease area or topic been sourced (e.g. from patient support groups)?
  • Will PPI contributors continue to be involved? (e.g. as members of a Steering Group, undertaking research themselves, designing Patient Information Sheets or questionnaires if relevant)
  • Will PPI contributors be involved in the dissemination of the research results?
  • Will the patients, carers and members of the public who participated in the research be advised of the findings?  

c. The quality of the Plain English summary:

  • Does the summary give a clear explanation of the research?
  • Is it complete enough to describe the research if it is used on a stand-alone basis?
  • Does the language used make sense to a lay person with no medical training (i.e. remove all medical terms and jargon)?
  • Are any acronyms (hopefully limited) clearly explained?  

d.  Other aspects of the proposal from a PPI perspective, including:

  • Is the study sufficiently attractive to the lay public/patients to become involved (recruitment) and stay involved (retention)?
  • Is the research of real benefit to patients and carers and would they rank it high in importance in meeting their needs?