The Health Research Board (HRB) involves public reviewers in the process of reviewing applications for funding to various HRB schemes. In 2019, public reviewers were invited to share their feedback on applications made to two post-doctoral fellowship award schemes operated by the HRB: 1) the Applying Research into Policy & Practice (ARPP) and 2) the Clinical Scientist Fellowship (CSF). For each application, two public reviewers are involved. Reviewers complete a short assessment report to share their views with the HRB. The report is then anonymised and shared with the research applicant who is encouraged to improve their research proposal based on the reviewer input. Reviewers give feedback on whether the proposal is understandable (plain English), whether the research is relevant to the public, whether the public and/or patients are involved in the research, and how the research findings are publicly disseminated. Public review reports are now also shared with the decision-making panel within the HRB who decides which research applications receive funding. Since 2014, the HRB has required that research applications specifically detail how and when they intend to involve the public and/or patients in their studies. An evaluation of the pilot public review approach was completed in 2017.
The Health Research Board (HRB) maintains a roster of patients and members of the public who have expressed an interest in becoming a Public Reviewers. This roster was initially drawn up from applications received in response to a national public advertisement announcement. The HRB also welcomes spontaneous expressions of interest. Training is provided to all individuals selected to become Public Reviewers. To avoid research applications being given preferential review, public reviewers tend to be individuals without a specific interest in a particular disease or condition. There is both a terms of reference and a description of the Public Reviewer role available. A guide for public reviewers has also been prepared. A glossary of terms is included in the public reviewer’ guide.