Supporting welfare and wellbeing in participatory research projects

Posted in: Leading Public Engagement

The wellbeing and welfare of those involved in participatory research projects is an area that feels poorly understood. As part of ParticipatoryResearch@Bath we're looking for a person or a team to help us explore this and pilot some approaches.

Relationships in participatory research

A key finding from Phase One of ParticipatoryResearch@Bath was how structures for supporting the wellbeing for all those involved in building and maintaining relationships across the whole research lifecycle were underdeveloped.

From our conversations last year, people in various different roles highlighted that being part of participatory research projects involved a high degree of 'emotional investment and emotional labour' to ensure the work was delivered successfully for everyone involved.

The more we considered these comments, the more questions it raised. What are the risks associated with this way of working, and how are they different from other less relational approaches to research? How is the potential imbalance of power between those who build and hold relationships for their job and those who do it from personal/lived experience navigated? Should public contributors / participants have the same access to support mechanisms that researchers do?

This is just a taster of the questions that we've been thinking on. There is definitely lots to explore here and why we've included it in the second phase of the project.

Wider context and other work

The UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) public engagement strategy aspires to bring wider society and research closer together, bringing more people into the research and innovation ecosystem. One of their goals for this renewed relationship is that knowledge is generated in partnership with people outside academia. If this is to be realised, what are the implications for researchers (academic-based and community-based) and other enabler roles, on their welfare and wellbeing in this form of relational work?

We are aware of work that examines welfare and wellbeing for researchers (our colleague Tina Skinner's work) and practitioners in other fields, such as journalism (work by Amnesty International and Headlines' Guide to Vicarious Trauma), where people may encounter traumatic experiences or be in a position where they relive personal trauma.

However, we think there could be a need to support people who are taking part in relational work as part of a research collaboration, even when the work is relatively benign. As such, we are interested in understanding relational wellbeing in different settings and contexts.

Welfare and wellbeing commission

To help us explore this in a little more detail, we're commissioning an individual or a team to undertake some research between July and November 2023 to inform some approaches we intend to pilot.  The total value of this commission is £8,400 (inc. VAT/Tax).

The successful candidate will undertake qualitative research that involves data collection and analysis to gather insight into how the wellbeing and welfare of those involved in research, in particular in relational contexts, is supported. We are interested in finding out more about:

  • the features of relational work with positive and negative critiques in a research context
  • how wellbeing and welfare for relational work in research is currently supported and identify potential gaps in provision

We anticipate this work will involve some desk research alongside primary research and will likely include undertaking research with academics, professional service staff involved in research, public engagement professionals and practitioners, public involvement professionals, and citizen / community researchers.

Deadline - Friday 7 July 2023 at 5pm.

Further development of the commission

Based on the findings from Phase One of ParticipatoryResearch@Bath, this piece of work feels novel, and we have only sketched an outline of the potential areas of interest. We are well aware that our language and terminology will likely need refining. We are seeking an individual/team for this commission who will be willing to work with us to further refine the terms of reference of this brief through an iterative and participatory process.

Full brief

Full details of the commission, including; fee, person specification, anticipated deliverables, submission details and selection process and can be found in the  Supporting Wellbeing in Participatory Research Commission brief.

Interested in taking on this piece of work? If so, drop us a line (  and we can arrange a short chat if you think it would be helpful.

Dean Veall is Deputy Head of Public Engagement at the University of Bath

Posted in: Leading Public Engagement


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