Research facilitation: getting involved in research delivery

Facilitating research involves collaborating with researchers to enable and support the successful delivery of clinical research studies, and ensuring that research opportunities are widely available for all patients with hearing loss, balance problems and tinnitus.

It can involve being a participant identification centre for a research project, or telling patients about current research opportunities. It may involve delivering a research intervention as part of clinical practice or measuring a clinical research outcome.

Relevant organisations


Local Research, Development and Innovation

Organisations, including NHS Trusts, may have their own departments that have oversight of research activities and initiatives across the business. They should be able to provide local guidance for setting up and conducting research, and may also be able to provide links to other researchers.

Some services have dedicated or named research leads, including nursing, medical, and other clinical staff. Speaking to your local teams can help identify these individuals who will be able to assist with queries and signposting, and may also be able to provide opportunities to engage in research.

NIHR Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs)

The Hearing Themed BRCs have a medium term programme of research to deliver. There may be opportunities to collaborate with the BRCs on existing projects.

You can find out more the BRCs here.

The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN)

The CRN provides the infrastructure that allows high quality research to take place in the NHS, and supports patients and organisations to be involved in research.

There are 15 CRNs across England, which coordinates and supports the delivery of high-quality research. The CRNs provide a vast range of national and local resources and activities designed to support health and care organisations engage in research activities. They also provide study support services and have audiology champion leads who can provide more tailored information.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have equivalent organisations to support research delivery.

The CRN Portfolio

The NIHR CRN Portfolio of studies consists of clinical research studies that are supported by NHS England, from planning, set-up to delivery. Studies adopted onto the portfolio often have wider reach and awareness, in addition to the support and funding. The eligibility criteria for studies that are adopted onto the Portfolio that can be found on the website.

The ENT Specialty

Audiology research comes under the ENT Specialty of the CRN. The ENT portfolio consists of the clinical research studies relating to ENT and Audiology that the NHS commits to deliver.

Each local CRN has an ENT Specialty Lead. They are responsible for the ENT portfolio of research in their region. You can find your local ENT Specialty lead through contacting your local CRN.

NIHR Audiology Champions

There are audiology research champions in many of the 15 CRNs. They work with the ENT Specialty Lead, and have a special interest in supporting Audiology related studies.

The Lead Audiology champion for the NIHR is Paige Church, based at Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre.

Your local Audiology champion can be contacted through getting in touch with Paige or your local CRN: Local Clinical Research Networks (

Getting involved with CRN portfolio research

How do I find out Audiology related opportunities?

Studies that are on the ENT portfolio are available for individual ENT and Audiology departments to get involved with and be a research site or a participant identification centre (depending on eligibility and study type).

You can find out the studies on your local ENT portfolio and opportunities for involvement by contacting your local CRN or your local Audiology champion:

In England

In Scotland

In Wales

In Northern Ireland

You can also search for current opportunities on Be Part of Research.

What is a participant identification centre (PIC)?

PICs are health and care organisations that identify potential research participants. They help researchers with recruitment but are not a research site. This is ideal way to start to get involved in facilitating research if you have limited experience of research delivery.

If there is a study on the portfolio of interest that you think you could help with recruitment, you should contact your local CRN to discuss becoming a PIC.

This means considering:

  • Whether your department see enough of the potential participants over the time frame of the study
  • What extra work would you or those in your department need to do to identify these potential participants, e.g. putting up a poster in the waiting room, or going through clinic notes to identify patients who are eligible

What is a research site?

A research site is an organisation which provides a location for a research study, recruits patients and runs the study according to the protocol.

The requirements and complexity of being a research site for a portfolio study will vary depending on the type of study it is.  For example, randomised controlled trials are more complex to run than a cohort study.

If there is a study of potential interest on the portfolio, you should discuss with your local CRN and assess whether they, and you and your department have the capability and capacity to support it.

This means considering issues such as:

  • What type of study it is
  • Whether your department see enough of the potential participants over the time frame of the study
  • What extra work would the local Audiologists, ENT surgeons and other clinicians need to do e.g. extra hearing tests; ear examinations etc
  • Who would take consent?
  • Is there a need for specialist equipment
  • How much extra clinic time and space is required per participant
  • Whether your local CRN can provide extra support for the study, such as administrative support or a research nurse or research audiologist
  • Who will be the Principal Investigator

Each research site requires a local Principal Investigator (PI). This is the person in the department/team who is responsible for the local conduct and delivery of the research, and who has required knowledge and skills in research delivery. You and the CRN will need to identify a suitably qualified individual who can take on this role and be responsible for the study.

Your CRN, ENT specialty lead or Audiology champion can help you gain experience in facilitating research and work with an experienced PI. Once you become experienced at facilitating research, you may decide to undertake training to become a PI yourself.

Find out more about leading clinical research delivery here.

What are some of the different roles in portfolio research?

Chief Investigator
The Chief Investigator has overall responsibility for the research, and leads the team. They lead the design of the study, secure funding, obtain ethical and governance approvals, and oversee data collection, analysis and write up.

Principal Investigator
The HRA define the PI as “An individual responsible for the conduct of the research at a research site. There should be one PI for each research site. In the case of a single-site study, the chief investigator and the PI will normally be the same person.”

Research Audiologist
Research audiologists are a relatively new role within the NHS. They typically work within the CRN or BRCs, and are involved in delivery of ENT and Audiology related studies. Their responsibilities include inviting patients to join research, providing audiological care, undertaking hearing or balance related study procedures, collecting study data, adhering to protocol, ensuring data quality, and maintaining accurate records of study related activities.

Research nurse
Research nurses work within the CRN or BRCs, and are involved in delivery of most types of clinical research. Research midwives work in maternity research. Their responsibilities are similar to research audiologists, but their remit is specific to the specialty area they work in, and they are able to conduct clinical assessments and measurements, such as physical examinations, vital signs monitoring, and collection of biological samples.

The HRA define a sponsor as “The organisation or partnership that takes on overall responsibility for proportionate, effective arrangements being in place to set up, run and report a research project. All health and social care research should have a sponsor. This includes all research that involve NHS patients, their tissue or information”

How has portfolio research helped Audiology patients and practice?

These multi-centre studies were supported by the CRN, and involved collaboration between patients, clinicians and researchers.

Ladies in the van


Seashel national cohort study

Hearing aids for music

Getting involved with non-portfolio research

Much Audiology related clinical research takes place outside the CRN portfolio.  You can be involved in non-portfolio research by linking directly with Audiology researchers.

Sign up to the Collaboration board and connect with researchers in the UK who are looking to work with clinicians and clinical sites.

You could also make contact with your nearest Audiology or hearing research organisation to discuss collaborative opportunities.

Conferences are a good opportunity to make connections and speak to researchers directly.

Research delivery training

The NIHR have a suite of free training resources for research delivery and facilitation. You can find out more about training here.

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