From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

Web-based tool for 'Understanding Health Research'

This project buildt on a previous study which highlighted a need for a tool to help practitioners and patients distinguish ‘good’ research from ‘bad’ research. In 2011 we began a Population Health Sciences Research Network funded collaboration to examine how research evidence could be made more accessible. This included several workshops with stakeholders and a scoping review of tools to help people assess research evidence. We ascertained that, although many central government organisations and thinktanks have provided guidance for policymakers on assessing and using evidence, such guidance and training is often too detailed and time-consuming for busy civil servants, and is not available to practitioners or public audiences. Improving policymakers’, practitioners’ and the public’s understanding of research evidence would also help scientists to increase the effectiveness of their interactions with non-specialists.

In 2013 we began developing a web-based tool: ‘Understanding Health Research’. It uses a step-by-step approach to take users through key questions that help them to assess the quality of a study. The tool is currently in its beta version and being tested for usability.This project is being carried out as collaboration between three Medical Research Council units (SPHSU in Glasgow, the MRC Human Nutrition Research Unit in Cambridge and the MRC Epidemiology Unit, also in Cambridge), along with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The 'Understanding Health Research' tool went live in August 2016 and can be accessed here