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Public engagement is key to using data for research

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Layla Robinson

30 Jan 2023

Partnership and Strategy Director, Layla Robinson, reflects on our future plans.

Working with members of the public in research has come a long way in the last decade or so, and will continue to evolve. It is increasingly undertaken across research, including by universities, research charities and funders, to ensure that research, and discussions affecting research, are ethical and take into account lived experience. And at RDS, we know public engagement is important. Our strategy shows our commitment to robust and systematic public engagement. We are keen to ensure we are transparent and that people can trust the use of data in research.   

It is critical we work with the public and other groups, to understand how people wish their data to be used and that they can see the benefits from research but also understand the risks and robust measures in place. Public involvement and engagement makes our work better and ensures there is transparency about the use of data in research for public good. There is a real risk if we don’t do this that people will not fully appreciate how data in used in research. 

We know that there are activities already being undertaken by organisations, such as ADR UK (Administrative Data Research UK), SCADR (the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research), which is part of ADR UK, and HDR UK (Health Data Research UK).  The recent ADR UK Dialogue exploring perceptions of using of data for research and statistics for the “public good”, is a great example of where public engagement can provide insights to inform approaches and better communicate what we do.

“Public involvement and engagement makes our work better and ensures there is transparency about the use of data in research for public good.”

Layla Robinson, Partnership and Strategy Director

Our approach to public engagement 

We believe it is important we work in a collaborative way, drawing together the expertise and tools already in place and make best use of resources.   

RDS will continue to liaise with partner organisations. We are already involved in initiatives like the Scottish Government’s Data & Intelligence Network (DIN), and the Public Engagement in Data Research Initiative (PEDRI) initiative, led by HDR UK. We are keen that we maintain and build on, our contributions to initiatives like these.     

In terms of RDS’ own activities, we are taking a three-pronged approach: 

  1. Directly involving members of the public in the work of RDS (often called public and patient involvement and engagement, PPIE) 
  2. Establishing a Scottish network of professionals engaged in organising public engagement and involvement   
  3. Wider public engagement including setting up a significant pilot public engagement fund, for projects that engage with people on data research to help people understand the use of data of research, the benefits and how it works etc.

The pilot public engagement fund aims to:

  • Promote the public understanding of data research in Scotland 
  • Provide balanced information on data research
  • Widen participation by involving and engaging members of the public who may not usually interact with science to take an interest and have a voice in data science
  • Achieve clear and measurable impact

We know that public engagement is important and it can be tricky to do it well, but we are committed to involving the public in our work.  

More information on opportunities to get involved, through our networks and the fund, will be available soon. To keep updated, sign up to our mailing list.

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