Skip to Content (Press Enter)

Working together for inclusive research

  • Posted by Bella,
  • Director,
  • in Listen up,
  • November '22

Collaboration is vital in health research, to help make research more equitable. Bella, Vocal's Director, reflects on what we've achieved by working in partnership over the last 5 years.

Five years ago research felt exclusive. For example, national surveys highlighted that people from lower socioeconomic groups and those experiencing racial inequalities were less likely to have a say in research, were often excluded from taking part in research, and felt less confident to be treated with dignity and respect in research.

To help to improve this, we’ve worked strategically, operationally, in partnership with research teams and community partners, and through specific initiatives to promote inclusive research:

We started assessing the diversity of people involved in research. Now, we’re proud to say that over 30% of Vocal public contributors are from Asian, African and Caribbean heritage, in contrast to 8% in comparable national indicators. We’ve worked with public contributors to achieve this and developed new processes which means we now have a much better understanding of who does (and doesn’t) get involved in research.

“Manchester is rich in community, culture and heritage but has some of the poorest health outcomes in the country. As a patient working with Vocal, on a par with researchers and clinicians, I am part of the solution to fixing this. We can all learn from each other, and Vocal’s commitment to inclusivity means we are on the road to discovery together.”

—Davine Forde, Associate, Manchester BME Network CIC

We’ve strengthened how we work in partnership with community experts. For example, with the GM BME Network, a power-shifting ‘sandpit’ approach resulted in more diverse voices being involved in research at an earlier stage. This included the creation of the Black Asian and Minority Ethnic Research Advisory Group (BRAG), a group of community leaders who advise health researchers and Vocal on strategy, design, delivery and communication of research. BRAG’s role was key in developing a focus on inclusive research for the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre’s approach for the next 5 years.

We’ve learned that culture change towards greater inclusion in research can be complex, and we’ve developed practical steps to support this. For example, we’ve co-created training with BRAG which supports researchers become more inclusive; public contributors are an integral part of the NIHR Manchester Clinical Research Facility and Biomedical Research Centre executive and governance teams; we co-led Manchester’s adoption of the NIHR’s Race Equality Framework and the development of its actions for change.

Two people sat down, one talking to someone off camera and gesturing

What’s ahead?

We’ll continue to lead culture change, including through the implementation of the Race Equality Framework’s actions for change, the reach and influence of all of our Advisory Groups and our own personal actions. We’re currently co-developing Vocal’s next 5 year plan - join us!