Getty images. Education policy. policy documents

Many academics get involved in research because they want to make a difference – they want to have an impact on how policy and practice are formed, implemented or understood. The difference we make is demonstrated through our REF Impact Case Studies, our pathway stories and the many prizes and honours that have been awarded to our hard working Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research (PIHR) staff.

The policy world is dynamic, turbulent and, despite commitments to being evidence based, not always up-to-date with respect to research knowledge and experience. There are a number of ways that academics can make a difference and PIHR researchers have a great record in this respect.

Having a seat at the table

Having a seat at the table

Playing a role in governance – whether this be through non-executive directorships on arms-length bodies, trustees of charities or steering group members of professional and research organisations – is a good way of ensuring that decisions and investments are evidence-based and informed by a good understanding of risks and opportunities. 

Many academics contribute their time to such bodies – usually without payment – because we recognise that this is an important mechanism for transferring knowledge in a way that can ultimately create benefits for the economy and society.

National government, arms-length bodies and charities

Nationally, we have sat as Non-Executive Directors/Trustees on influential arms-length bodies such as:

  • the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE)
  • the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation (NHS England)
  • Health Inequalities Task and Finish Group (NHS England)
  • the Commission for Rural Communities (Asthana)
  • NIHR Motor Neuron Disease CSG and portfolio management group
  • Meningioma/Metastasis Subgroup of Brain Study Group (NCRI) (Hanemann).

We've also acted in an advisory capacity for such bodies including:

  • NICE Adoption and Impact Programme Reference Panel (Neill)
  • NICE Guidelines Committee for MS (Freeman)
  • NIHR INCLUDE (Carroll).

Mr Ian Sherriff BEM was a member of the Prime Minister’s Dementia Friendly Communities Challenge Group, chairing the South and South West of England for this group and the Prime Minister’s Task and Finish group for Rural Dementia. Sherriff, Warren, and Turner are members of the Prime Ministers Dementia Challenge Group for Air Transport seeking to improve the travel experiences of people living with dementia and their caregivers. Banerjee served as the UK Department of Health’s senior professional advisor on dementia leading the development of its National Dementia Strategy. 

We have also been active in the governance of a number of international and national charities:

Professional/research bodies

We have sat on the steering groups of a range of professional/research bodies, both national and international. 


  • Board of the European Society for Prevention Research (Axford)
  • Cochrane Priority Setting Methods Group (Nasser)
  • Evidence Panel for the XChange registry hosted by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (Axford)
  • European Pathways Association (Swancutt)
  • European Rehabilitation in MS network (Freeman)
  • Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (Minton)
  • Scientific Committee European Association of Neuro-Oncology (Hanemann)
  • International Scientific Committee World Federation of Neuro-Oncology Societies (Hanemann)
  • WHO Technical Advisory Group on Vaccines for AMR (Observer 2022-2023) (Upton)


  • Academic Training Coordinator, National Institute for Academic Anaesthesia, Council of the Intensive Care Society, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges Research Leads Group, National Institute of Academic Anaesthesia Board and Research Committee, Bernard Johnson Adviser Academic Anaesthesia, Royal College of Anaesthetists (Martin)
  • Academy of Nutritional Sciences (Hickson)
  • Antibiotic Research UK (Joshi)
  • Association for the Study of Obesity (Pinkney)
  • Association of British Neurologists Research Committee (Carroll)
  • British Association of Brain Injury Research Group (Norman)
  • British Association of the Study of the Liver (Dhanda)
  • British Dietetic Association – One Blue Dot environmentally sustainable diets steering group (Pettinger)
  • British Society of Oral and Dental Research (Salih)
  • British Neuro-Oncology Society (Hanemann
  • Chief Allied Health Professions Sustainability advisory group (Pettinger)
  • Dementias and Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Network (Hanemann)
  • Evidence Based Research Network (Nasser)
  • Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (Neill),
  • Integrated Academic Training Advisory Committee (Carroll)
  • NIHR Clinical Training Advocates (Hickson)
  • Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (Endacott)
  • Microbiology Society (Joshi)
  • Motor Neurone Disease Clinical Studies Group (Hanemann)
  • Movement Disorder Society Non-Motor Symptom Study Group (Carroll)
  • Neurodegeneration National Specialty Group (NIHR CRN) (Carroll)
  • NIHR Remote Trial Delivery Working Group (Carroll)
  • NIHR Integrated Clinical Academic Fellowships panels (Hickson, Marsden)
  • Royal College of Nursing Research Society Committee (Kent).

Cramp has been the President of British Association for the study of the Liver and Rule the Chair of the National Cancer Research Network (NCRN) Low Grade NHL Committee, member of the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Advisory Committee and President of the British Society for Haematology.

We also play an important role in coordinating South West networks of such bodies including Alzheimer’s Research (Glebov, Fern, Kramer), NIHR Research for Patient Benefit (Dhanda), NIHR/Council for Allied Health Professionals (Collings), South West Interdisciplinary Technology Consortium for Health and care (SWITCH) (Chatterjee).

Local organisations

As part of our civic mission, PIHR is committing to working with local organisations, including through contributions to governance. We have sat on a myriad of steering groups and boards, including:

  • Cornwall Foundation Trust Digital Transformation Board (Chatterjee
  • Food Plymouth CIC (Pettinger)
  • Lighthouse Steering Group (Fern)
  • Peninsula Medical Foundation (Fern)
  • Peninsula Neuronocology Network (Fern)
  • Plymouth Age Concern (Asthana)
  • Plymouth City Council’s Maternity and Infant Nutrition Committee (Norman)
  • Plymouth Dementia Action Alliance (Sheriff), Plymouth Health Hub Project Board (Asthana, Jones)
  • Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust R&D Committee (Hickson, Pearce)
  • University Plymouth Hospitals Trust - Operational Group for Research (Carroll).

Policy making and shaping

Supporting health system design

We have been working with our trust partners to support key developments in health system design including integrated care, the development of health hubs and the Health Infrastructure Plan (HIP2), now New Hospital Programme. As part of this we organised a series of online consultation sessions with academics and key regional stakeholders, from the NHS and industry. Read our rapid review of key issues for the future and our Green Paper, collating the consultation responses
We have also engaged in futuristic research about what the health system of the future may look like in 2050; what role hospitals and ‘spoke’ hubs may play in the wide system and how can they best be designed for both sustainability and service quality (in terms of e.g. patient flow and therapeutic landscapes). Take a look at our entry for the Wolfson Economics Prize (the hospital of the future) to explore the interdisciplinary work we have been doing between experts in health policy (Sheena Asthana), architecture (Bob Brown) and primary care (Richard Byng) and medical and quality improvement staff from Torbay and South Devon Foundation Trust (Joanne Watson and Susan Martin). Thanks to architecture MA students Josh Earl, Chrisopher Trigg and Aaron Walkley for the great graphics.
As digital technology is expected to play an important role in the health service of the future, we carry our research reviews, work with digital producers, offer test-bed opportunities and evaluate a wide range of digital projects (Centre for Health Technology). 
Internationally, we have supported the process of setting priorities for research that is responsive to the needs of health system. This includes a meta-research project that developed new frameworks that informed the work of the World Health Organisation, the Cochrane Priority Setting Methods Group (based at the University of Plymouth) and the EVIR funders forum (Nasser).

Submitting evidence to government and policy makers

When our research relates to policy, it is important to communicate it to Parliament and other influential decision makers. PIHR researchers have submitted written and oral evidence to a range of Select Committee enquiries, including:

  • the Health Committee’s Inquiry on NHS Deficits
  • the Education Committee’s Left behind white pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds Inquiry
  • the Department of Communities and Local Government Committee’s Seminar on Needs Assessment
  • the All Party Parliamentary Group (Rural Services) enquiries on (a) Rural Health and Social Care and (b) resource allocation. 

We have also provided external expertise to the National Audit Office (Landscape Review on Formula Funding) and DEFRA (Evidence Investment Strategy). Martin was an expert panel member of ‘A National Covid-19 Resilience Programme: Improving the health and wellbeing of older people during the pandemic (The Physiological Society and the Centre for Aging Better). 

We have also submitted written evidence to the DCMS on the review of the Gambling Act 2005 and their call for evidence on ‘loot boxes in video games’ (Lloyd, Close). Recognising how important it is for researchers – at any stage of their career – to engage with Parliament and other influential decision makers, PIHR has supported a range of policy engagement workshops for its early career researchers.

We have submitted oral evidence for Plymouth City Council Food Justice Select Committee (2019) and evidence has been published in the report of the Select Committee on Food, Poverty health and the environment: Hungry for change: fixing the failures in food House of lords (2020) (Pettinger).

REF Impact Case Studies

The Research Excellence Framework is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. As part of this system, universities are required to submit ‘impact case studies’ to demonstrate the impact of their research on wider economy and society.

Take a look at some example case studies

Research the world - Earth image provided by

Pathway stories

While PIHR ranges from basic research (Discovery) to developing novel Interventions (Translation) and evaluating novel ways of delivering care to the most vulnerable people in society (Community), some of our researchers work across this spectrum (from discovery to application ).

Examples include our Brain Tumour Research Centres of Excellence 

PIHR also hosts one of the 3 UK Brain Tumour Research Centres of Excellence. Led by Oliver Hanemann, the Research Centre at the University of Plymouth focuses on low grade brain tumours and progression to higher grade, and comprises the Hanemann, Parkinson and Barros teams. It has strong links to patients, family and the wider community promoting awareness and engagement, and works together with NHS Hospitals.

Researchers working in a laboratory - part of the Peninsula Medical Foundation 

Supporting patients at-risk of diabetic foot ulcers

Wearing insoles can help reduce the risk of diabetic foot ulcers, a condition affecting an estimated 64,000 people in the UK, which can lead to amputation or even death. However various issues including difficulties and delays in finding suitable insoles and low patient use, mean they aren't always as effective as they could be. Researchers in the Institute's Balance Enhancement and Ulcer Prevention group have been investigating the reasons behind low insole use and effectiveness, as well as developing and implementing interventions to support patients at a local, national and international level. Read the full story. 

Mapping produced by an Fscan – equipment used to measure the
effectiveness of insoles to reduce pressure.
Policy 2

Honours and prizes

It is always great when members of PIHR get the recognition they deserve for the hard work they do.
Some examples include: