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Improving patient and public involvement in numerical aspects of trials

School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition

, Dr Beatriz Goulao Friday, March 26, 2021 Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Background to the project:

Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) has been defined as “research being carried out ‘with’ or ‘by’ members of the public (including patients and carers) rather than ‘to’, ‘about’ or ‘for’ them.” (http://www.invo.org.uk/). It is generally acknowledged that involving patients and the public in research is imperative due to several reasons, including ethical (patients should have a say on research about them), as well pragmatic reasons (it is a requirement from major funders, such as the National Institute for Health Research).

In a trial context, patient and public partners have been involved in agenda setting, steering committees, ethical review, protocol development, and piloting but PPI remains seen as tokenistic and a ticking box exercise in many settings. Trials are primarily quantitative research and often key decisions are based on numerical aspects and their discussion. Patients and the public are rarely involved in those discussions and a key barrier is lack of understanding about how to do this and when.

Frameworks are tools to guide researchers through complex processes including PPI. They often work as visual and conceptual aids. There are a range of PPI in research frameworks published, but there is no guidance or framework on facilitating patient and public involvement in numerical aspects of research that could support researchers in implementing, evaluating, improving and reporting this process.

Proposed research and techniques:

The overall aim of this mixed methods research is to generate a framework and tools to help researchers aiming to involve patients and the public in numerical aspects of trials. There will be opportunities for the successful candidate to develop and refine research objectives in collaboration with the supervisory team. It is likely that the project will cover a review of the current literature regarding patient and public involvement in numerical aspects of research, as well as consensus workshops and methods to develop a framework in an inclusive way and the opportunity to test the framework in real-world trials. Techniques might involve systematic literature searching (including of grey literature) and synthesis of identified articles, consensus methods, questionnaires and semi-structured interviews or focus groups.

Useful previous experience for the studentship:

An undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline or experience of research methods and running a research project. Specific research skills can be developed throughout the project, but any prior knowledge of systematic reviewing (quantitative and qualitative), qualitative methods (like semi-structured interviews or focus groups), questionnaire design and analysis, and consensus methods would be an advantage.


This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of APPLIED HEALTH SCIENCE. Formal applications can be completed online: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/pgap/login.php.

You should apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Health Science, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct person for processing.


Candidates should contact the lead supervisor to discuss the project in advance of submitting an application, as supervisors will be expected to provide a letter of support for suitable applicants. Candidates will be informed after the application deadline if they have been shortlisted for interview.

Funding Notes

This project is part of a competition funded by the Institute of Applied Health Sciences. Full funding is available to UK candidates only. All other candidates can apply for this studentship but will have to find additional funding to cover the difference between overseas and home fees (approximately £16,625 per annum).

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a First Class Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2:1 Honours degree may be considered provided they have a Distinction at Masters level.

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