CRN Greater Manchester Core Team blog series: Research for the Future
The Research for the Future service helps people find out about and take part in health research, and helps researchers find the right people to take part in their opportunity.
The team consists of Katherine Grady (Programme Development Manager), Lillian Fallows (Advisor) and Philip Hammond (Communications and Public Involvement Specialist).
A typical day begins with a team brew whilst we review, allocate and respond to enquiries received via email, telephone and social media.
There are two sides to the service – patient/public facing and researcher facing.
We work across both the Clinical Research Network Greater Manchester and North West Coast footprints, helping researchers to involve, engage and recruit people to a wide range of research opportunities, including:
- Helping to shape research proposals
- Co-applicants on grant applications
- Being part of discussion groups
- Taking part in a clinical trial testing new or existing medicines or interventions.
We promote opportunities across all health conditions as well as healthy volunteers.
There are currently over 12,500 volunteers registered on the database with many hundreds more connected to us across our social media platforms. To ensure we can meet the demand from researchers and avoid ‘research fatigue’ of volunteers, it is vital to attract a steady stream of new volunteers. Anyone living in England age 18+years can register, whether they have a health condition or not. Registering means people agree to be contacted about research opportunities. Most people register online, although some use more traditional methods such as telephone or paper form. New registrations are entered onto our database as soon as possible, before providing new volunteers with welcome information about what happens next.
Researchers who wish to use the service to help their recruitment are asked to complete a short application form and return it with appropriate study documentation, for example the protocol or patient information sheet. This information is used to promote the opportunity to volunteers in a range of ways including by direct email using our unique database or digitally via our website, social media platforms and newsletter. The methods chosen depend on factors including inclusion/exclusion criteria and the ethical permissions in place.
We’re a small team working across a large geographical area and we rely heavily on researchers, CRN colleagues and other teams to help promote us throughout their networks to help build up the database. We provide resources to make this as easy as possible, including leaflets, posters and articles for internal and patient-facing newsletters. Nothing beats face to face engagement, and the team are regularly out and about visiting community groups and events to talk with people about getting involved in research and register new volunteers. If you have an event coming up, and want to invite us, please get in touch!
As volunteer numbers increase, so too does the demand from research teams. Since April this year, we have supported 66 research opportunities, this is the same number as in the whole of the year 2022/23!
To make sure our database is representative of the local populations we recently mapped volunteer age, ethnicity and location against the most recent census data. Doing this allows us to see where certain communities may be under-represented and has enabled us to focus our attention, efforts and resources to help balance this.
As well as supporting studies, the team are heavily involved with two large projects this year:
- A collaboration with Kidney Research UK and Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust, seeking to address inequalities in renal research using a peer educator initiative to help increase representation of marginalised groups in research
- A GM long Covid project working with Prof.Nawar Bakerly to increase the number of volunteers living with long Covid and supporting much-needed research into this condition.
We have produced a training package in collaboration with colleagues in the Workforce, Learning and Development team. It is aimed at those wanting to understand how the service can support researchers to involve, engage and recruit people to research.
To find out more please visit our website: www.researchforthefuture.org
Together we will change the future!
Programme Development Manager
Research for the Future
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.