Using an engaged research approach

We believe using an engaged research approach improves research and makes it more impactful. This guide outlines what we mean by engaged research and provides resources and tools for researchers.

What is an engaged research approach? 

Wellcome believes that the research we support is improved by being ethical, open, and engaged. To support this, we encourage you to use an engaged research approach and to outline this in your funding application. You should detail activities, budget and importance to your research as part of your proposal.

Engaged research means embedding stakeholder perspectives across the research lifecycle from agenda setting, funding, and research design through to implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. An engaged research approach can involve a variety of methodologies, frameworks, and skills to appropriately engage relevant stakeholders at key points.

As part of their application, we encourage researchers to outline who their stakeholders, how they have been involved in the design of your project, notable points of collaboration and how key stakeholders will be involved in the decision-making process for aspects linked to the support they provide.

Engaged research looks different across disciplines and research proposals. The modes, methodologies, and frequency of engagement should vary in line with what best suits your research — the key questions, relevant stakeholders, and the intended objectives for engagement contributing to the work.

However, proposals should be clear on how the engagement activities are integrated throughout the research and how they feed into the wider aims and research design.

Engagement activities should be done as part of your award and during the time allotted to your work. The costs associated with it should be outlined in your application. If your engagement aims change during your research project; please contact us.

If engagement activities and costs are not detailed in your application, there will not be another opportunity to apply for engagement funding related to the work. 

If your engagement aims change during your research project; please contact us.

How to take an engaged research approach 

To help embed this approach into the research lifecycle, you can reflect on some of the following questions. 

These aren’t exhaustive, so don’t limit yourself to them.

Agenda Setting

  • Can you articulate how engaging with key stakeholders will shape different aspects of your work and meet the needs or ambitions of your research aims?
  • Are you engaging with and involving the stakeholders most affected by your research?

Funding and research design

  • Have you built in the relevant expertise into your research proposal and research design?
  • Are all involved clear on how expertise and lived experiences will be acknowledged and embedded in the activities?
  • How are you ensuring that engagement activities are being done in a fair and ethical way, using inclusive methods across different stages of the research?


  • Can you describe how you plan to use inputs from different stakeholders, and what approaches you would take to navigate conflicting ideas or differing viewpoints?
  • Have you considered how or when feedback will be given and when you might need to communicate with key stakeholders?
  • Have you allocated funds to all required activities, including ensuring appropriate compensation for contributors’ time and expertise?
  • Have you considered what fair recognition, compensation, and acknowledgement of stakeholder inputs will look like in your research activities and outputs?
  • Have you developed approaches to manage existing power and resource differentials between stakeholders?

Monitoring and evaluation 

  • Have you considered what information you need to record to monitor the potential impact of your activities and how this can be undertaken in an inclusive way?
  • Do the measurement and evalution indicators provide relevant information to demonstrate how engagement has advanced the aims of the research?
  • Are there indicators to assess whether and how engaged stakeholders may benefit from contributing to the project?  

Identifying stakeholders to engage with 

Engaging with your stakeholders as early as possible will help you understand what might be required from your team throughout your award. It enables you to plan, cost and staff your research appropriately.

Stakeholders can include:  

  • the public (for example, general public, lay perspectives, under-served groups)  
  • the community (for example, community groups, community advocates, patient and carer groups, members living in geographic areas where research will be conducted)  
  • policymakers (for example, policy groups, advocacy groups, advisory committees or government bodies)  
  • researchers (for example, people using similar methodologies in different fields, people researching the same topic but with different disciplinary, methodological orientations or key networks)  
  • intermediaries – people who might be best placed to facilitate connections between your research and other stakeholder groups to foster greater understanding, participation, and longer-term uptake and impact (for example, clinicians, cross-sector representatives).

Your engaged research approach might involve one or more of these groups.Please ensure that it is clear in your application why you are working with these groups and how they contribute to research.

Distinguishing engagement activities from dissemination 

There are many ways to engage with your stakeholders throughout your research, and we are open to a range of activities.

These activities could include: 

  • Focus groups 
  • Surveys and questionnaires 
  • Stakeholder dialogue 
  • Patient panels 
  • Patient involvement activities 
  • Consensus workshops 
  • Partnership brokering activities

Dissemination activities should be marked separately to any engagement activities planned in your application. Dissemination is focused on making research results available to the people that can best utilise them and who they may affect. Your key stakeholders may want to be part of the design of your dissemination activities. Dissemination activities should be audience dependent, and you should think about how and where your audience looks for knowledge and what would be the best way to communicate with them.

Wellcome’s support of engaged research is part of our commitment to fostering positive research environments. Find out more about our approach to people, culture and openness and the Research Environment Team. 

Engaged research resources and further reading 

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