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Lay Abstract Advice

Preparation of lay abstracts for NIAA coordinated grant applications

These notes are based on advice provided by our current lay representative and the excellent information on the NIHR and Asthma UK websites. All applications will now require a 500 word structured lay abstract in addition to a scientific abstract of 200 words. We also have some additional suggestions prepared by our lay reviewer and these are copied below.

What are the purposes of lay involvement?

  • To provide an input, independent of professional researchers' views, for the assessment of grant applications.
  • To encourage applicants to explain their proposals in relatively non-technical terms to the wider non-scientific audience.
  • Where appropriate to assess the research plan from the point of view of a 'subject' in the research.

Preparation of your abstract

  • Writing in non-scientific language is difficult but you need to be able to describe your work to the wider audience.
  • Write your abstract as though it was for a broadsheet newspaper.
  • We are aware that not all projects fit easily into the same structure (clinical compared to laboratory) but a suggested structure is:
    • Background: disease burden (if appropriate), current state of the evidence. In essence describe the bigger picture.
    • Aims: what you want to do and why it is important
    • Methodology:
      • describe the research context and study design, eg, this is a randomised controlled trial of patients undergoing total hip replacement; this is a laboratory study using blood cells taken from critically ill patients, etc;
      • describe any interventions and control/comparator treatments;
      • explain in simple terms what you will measure and how the data will be used.
    • Expected outcomes
    • Implications: what are the practical implications of your results likely to be?
  • When complete we suggest that you ask someone not involved in the work, preferably non-clinical and non-scientific to look over the abstract.
  • Lay abstracts of all funded projects will be posted onto the NIAA and funding partner web sites.

Additional guidance from current lay reviewer

  • The current lay representative is a humanities graduate with no scientific/statistical knowledge at all. His focus when reading applications is patient centred, in particular on patient recruitment, patient safety, patient information and patient applicability/relevance.
  • The 'lay' abstract should be written in a totally different style to the 'standard' abstract.
  • The preferred five headings for the content of the lay abstract are recommended and an easy-to-read font size is also preferable.
  • Patient recruitment to a study. We accept that the ethics committee will have to approve your sheets but please enclose with your application any relevant information leaflets and written information.
  • If the pre-assessment clinic is an opportunity for meaningful and detailed discussion with a patient then emphasise that. The phrase, 'taking informed consent' can vary tremendously in reality from unit to unit as to how exactly it is done
  • Patient questionnaires should be enclosed with your application if relevant. Are they standard NHS literature or created solely for your NHS Trust/Unit? If you have created your own questionnaires, emphasise this in your application.
  • If there is patient follow-up after 3, 6, 12 months or whatever be as specific as possible regarding method, i.e. postal replies, telephone calls, return visit to unit, visit to local GP or whatever.
  • The hoped for recruitment percentage of patients approached is interesting and the reasoning behind the percentage figure you have given.
  • State precisely how your project will in reality benefit the NHS. Don't always assume it is obvious.
  • Avoid abbreviations. They may be obvious to you, but not necessarily to the lay reviewer.