Research Design Service: West Midlands

The Research Design Service West Midlands (RDS WM) is offering a Public Involvement Fund to support the early involvement of patients and the public to help inform your research funding application. The fund is up to £350 per application. The online application can be submitted at any time throughout the year.


Criteria for a successful application

The following is an outline of the minimum requirements that should be included in your Public Involvement Fund application. Please refer to the links for additional information and resources to support your plans for public and patient involvement in research.


  • The individual project must be registered to the Research Design Service West Midlands (RDSWM) and the Principal Investigator (or other research team member) must have had an initial discussion with a front line RDSWM Advisor.

Public Involvement Fund Application

  • The research proposed (and intervention, if applicable) must be within the scope of the specific requirements of the funding body, and be relevant and appropriate to the patients and/or members of the public for which the research is aimed at.
  • A Public Involvement Fund application should address how the research question or design could be supported or informed by Public Involvement
  • A Public Involvement Fund application should specifically demonstrate:
    1. An awareness of principles and a commitment to applying good Standards of Public Involvement in their proposed research
    2. An understanding of how to involve patients and the public in research (RDS Guide)
    3. How the Public Involvement Fund will be used, including:
  • How you will identify and invite people with relevant lived experience, including efforts to reach a broad and diverse group
  • How you will create an inclusive and accessible environment for public involvement
  • How you will actively involvement people in the development of the research grant application, including the types of activities/tasks
  • How you will record the impact of public involvement in the development of the grant application and how you will feedback to the people involved
  • How you will ensure the quality of your public involvement activities by applying each of the UK Standards for Public Involvement
  • How members of the public will continue to be actively involved with the research project if successful in obtaining funding

Applicant Guidance


In line with best practice as outlined in the Department of Health’s strategy “Best Research for Best Health”, patients and members of the public are encouraged to be involved in all stages of the research process. This is because it is recognised that members of the public can bring knowledge and experience of a particular condition or service relevant to the research topic, have an everyday perspective and will be able to advise on the best ways to involve other users and carers in research.

The public can be defined as patients, potential patients, service users and carers and organisations that represent people who use services. Involvement is defined by INVOLVE as “active involvement where the people involved are not ‘subjects’ of research but are active participants. This means that research is carried out with and by members of the public rather than to, about or for them”.

Active involvement in the grant application process can in different ways. Through consultation a researcher, for example, may ask people to comment on ideas about research plans and provide input for the development a grant application. The second way is collaboration. This occurs through ongoing joint working. For example, patients are members of an advisory group working with researchers on developing ideas together and maybe being co-applicants. The third way is user-led research where the grant application is actively controlled, managed and undertaken by service users. Alternatively research may be co-produced, where researchers, practitioners and the public work together, sharing power and responsibility from the start to the end of the project, including the generation of knowledge

It is good practice to pay members of the public for involvement in research and national guidance on this has been produced. The Research Design Service West Midlands (RDSWM) recognises that public involvement in the early stages of research design may require financial support that may not be available from other sources. A small Public Involvement Fund has therefore been established. 

  1. Details of the Public Involvement Fund

 This Public Involvement Fund operates to meet the needs of researchers for early funding of patient and public involvement before a research grant is approved. We want to encourage researchers to involve patients and the public so the scheme is intended to be flexible and supportive with a minimum of bureaucracy.

Public Involvement Funds of up to £350 are available. On occasions, we may consider providing additional funding, subject to strong justification.

The Fund should be used to fund public involvement activities during the development of your research grant application, including

  • reimburse out-of-pocket expenses for members of the public (e.g. travel, subsistence, carer costs). This will be paid in line with local policy
  • pay for the time spent by members of the public
  • pay for refreshments at meetings or events
  • hire a venue external to the researcher’s organisation, if this is fully justified (e.g. where an accessible room is not available)
  • pay for materials which the researcher would not normally have access to within their organisation (e.g. play materials for a session with children)

Public involvement funds cannot normally be used to:

  • Pay for the time or out of pocket expenses for health professionals or members of University staff*
  • undertake research
  • hire a venue within the researcher’s own organisation
  • pay for materials which the researcher can reasonably gain access to with their organisation (e.g. printing costs).

In exceptional circumstances researchers may be able to claim travel expense (for example, when a researcher is traveling to see a member of the public at home and travel funds are not available from elsewhere). This must be fully justified and will be decided on a case by case basis by the regional Public Involvement lead.

Please note that the Public Involvement Fund is not to be used to fund researchers’ time or any other professional costs.

Applications are invited throughout the year. Only one application for this funding may be made for any one research bid in development. Any ongoing public involvement would be expected to be fully costed within a research bid. Applicants to the Public Involvement Fund are expected to have registered their request for RDSWM support. 

  1. Completing the application form

All sections of the application form must be fully completed. Applicants should provide detail of the grant application being developed, and must clearly describe how members of the public will be actively involved in developing the grant application. Applicants should demonstrate a commitment to good practice in public involvement in their proposed research.  Please refer to the Research Design Service’s Brief Guide for Researchers on patient and public involvement in health and social care research.

Applicants must also detail how the award is to be spent, including estimated costs.

  1. Administration and monitoring arrangements

We aim to acknowledge applications within 5 working days, and notify applicants of a decision in writing within a further 15 working days.

The RDSWM is committed to evaluating the effectiveness of public involvement in research. Successful applicants will be asked to write a short report, within three months of the payment of the Public Involvement Fund, to state how it was used, how public involvement contributed to the development of the grant application, any particular challenges that were encountered, (and if so, how these were overcome) and whether the grant application was successful. Please, failure to submit a satisfactory report will result in no further Public Involvement Funds being awarded to the investigator. Applicants may also be asked to take part in an evaluation process of the scheme to ascertain its effectiveness.

  1. Further Information

For further help and specific advice on your Public Involvement Fund application, please email Steven Blackburn ( (RDS WM Lead Advisor for Patient and Public Involvement).