Colin Wilkinson, Public Involvement Specialist (Episode 3) | Colin talks about the good, the bad, and the ugly of health research involvement
“So if the researcher is going to talk to these individual people and get their views, the researcher retains all the power to decide what to do with that. And what’s desperately, desperately important is that that power is shared and that there’s a reciprocal relationship, because that’s what makes for really good involvement.”
From steel chemist to public involvement specialist
This episode of Research Adjacent features Colin Wilkinson – a steel chemist, turned science communicator, turned public involvement specialist. Colin lives and works in Stockton-on-Tees in North East England. He is passionate about engaging people with science and, by extension, research. He firmly believes that science should be a public endeavour which everyone can take part in. This underpins everything he does.
Colin currently works with organisations like NIHR and Versus Arthritis to ensure that research and guidelines genuinely take lived experience into account. Years of supporting and assessing student research projects, through the CREST Awards scheme and Young Scientist of the Year, have proved valuable experience for evaluating funding applications.
Working towards better public involvement
Fundamentally the questions are the same – is it good science, does it bring value to the world, and does it involve the people who are affected? As those of us who work in often this area know, that last point is often neglected. Colin talks about his recent contributions to the Shared Commitment to Public Involvement and why he hopes it will catalyse real change.
“We [public representatives] have been in charge all the way through. Our opinions have been respected, listened to. It hasn’t been somebody else designing something and then coming to us and asking us what we think about it. The conversations have started with us and then gone to the staff of these organisations and they’ve then gone up the chain.”
“The idea of this is that by making a shared statement about what public involvement is and that there is no where in in health research, where it’s not important, expected and possible, that we are going hopefully to start changing research culture.”
He also encourages researchers and research adjacent professionals to focus on genuine relationships and reciprocity, to seek out ‘seldom-heard’ groups and to work hard on shifting the balance of power.
Find out more
You can find out more about Colin and his work here: Corylus Services
The Shared Commitment to Public Involvement is a joint commitment by UK research organisations to bring about changes that will drive up standards in health and social care research. It has been signed by 13 organisations including UKRI, NCCPE, NIHR, the Academy of Medical Sciences and Universities UK.
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