Expertise from Experience in Peer Review – Ryan’s Experience

Earlier in the year MHRUK asked for our help in reviewing applications for three PhD Studentships. They wanted to strengthen the peer review process by including reviewers who could contribute their expertise from experience. We asked Gary, Dolly and Ryan to reflect on their experience of acting as reviewers, and we publish their blogs here. One of the themes that emerges from all three blogs is how the language that researchers use to describe the people they are studying can engage them or push them away. They identify the tension between the language that researchers feel they must use with each other to be taken seriously, and the language they would use when actually dealing with a human being in front of them. Hopefully one of the benefits of adding expertise from experience into the peer review process is that funding decisions will be made with the people the research is trying to help in mind, as well as the excellence of the science.

This is Ryan’s blog, there are links to Gary and Dolly’s at the bottom of the page.

However… some of the proposals… also needed to take into consideration the social and human experience of someone who has, or may develop schizophrenia, as well as the science.

By reviewing applications for PHD scholarships, I had an amazing opportunity to see the latest ground-breaking developments in mental health research.

I was given an insight into the latest developments in technology, neurology, genetic and biological findings linked to the predisposition and development of schizophrenia. The proposals submitted for the scholarship highlighted the ground-breaking progress in research and data collection, with the possibility of making connections rapidly and finding the most appropriate treatment immediately. The unlimited possibilities for the screening, prevention and treatment of schizophrenia felt like an exciting proposition.

However, on occasion, some of the proposals reviewed also needed to take into consideration the social and human experience of someone who has, or may develop schizophrenia, as well as the science. To me this would ensure that potential research participants would want to take part in the study and that the findings would also consider the quality of life of that person.

This is where I think we came in as reviewers. We mediated between the medical and research professionals, and service users. By reviewing these studies, I was able to advise on whether the methodology seemed like it could be implemented in a practical manner for service users.I was also able to see whether the aims of the study could be understood by me as a lay person. This is a potential benefit to both service users and those conducting the study as they try to recruit participants.

I was very pleased to see that the study chosen for the scholarship had taken the personal experience of having schizophrenia into consideration. It was not only a high quality study in terms of methodology, but it also considered how the quality of life for someone who has or may develop full schizophrenia could be maintained and enhanced. The findings of the study could also help those with schizophrenia in managing their own lives. It also highlighted the positive aspects of service users as people.

By reviewing these PHD applications, I got a better understanding of PHD research. PHD research requires in depth study, with a solid and methodology that can be realistically undertaken for participants and researchers alike. I also learnt how to measure the quality of a research proposal, and how to decide the best place of study for your particular research. This is useful information for when I submit my own PHD proposal later this year.

I was really pleased to see that all the studies showed a dedication and passion to research that has mental health at the forefront. My work with McPin has really helped me to experience first-hand a positive and considered future for those with mental illness.

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