In total, 94·7% of questionnaire respondents (n = 72) were external researchers working in higher education institutions or on commercially funded research projects. Sixty-six individuals responded to the question about their role in research. Of this group of 66, 25 (38%) were chief investigators (the person with overall responsibility for the conduct of a study) and 21 (32%) were principal investigators [a person with site-specific responsibility for a research study that is being carried out on more than one site (Haigh 2006)]. Twenty-seven respondents (41%) indicated that they were involved primarily in data collection activities, whilst a further 22 (33%) stated that their primary role was in data analysis (respondents could tick more than one box). In total, 19 (29%) revealed that they were involved in some other role in the research process but did not indicate what this was.
The lead PCT has a target of 25 days for the completion of governance approval; however, the requirement for criminal record checks resulted in delays for some researchers. Of all the researchers surveyed, 59% (n = 44) stated that it took between 0 and 3 months to gain research governance approval and 18% (n = 13) stated that it took 7–12 months.
The questionnaire asked whether respondents viewed governance processes as useful. Of 46 responses, 60·8% (n = 28) stated that it was useful, although 39% (n = 18) still thought that it was a hindrance or not useful. Respondents were also asked to indicate on a four-point Likert scale whether their experience of the approval process was quick, very quick, slow or very slow. Seventy-three responded to this question, of whom 35 (47·9%) thought that it was quick and a smaller number four (5·4%) stated that it was very quick. There was a statistically significant positive correlation between actual and perceived length of time for approval (rs = 0·517 P = 0·001), indicating a relationship between the length of the process and the perceived waiting time for applicants. Despite the introduction of the centralized system, 19 (26%) respondents still believed that the process was slow, and 10 (13·6%) thought that it caused delay. Qualitative responses asking respondents to describe their experiences of the model process also illustrated the frustration felt by researchers in gaining approval.
To identify researchers’ perceptions of the success of the Passport system described above, respondents were asked whether they thought the process had been useful. Of those respondents who had engaged with the Passport system, 12 (16%) found the it easy to use and 14 (19%) thought that it had helped them to obtain an honorary contract (an honorary contract is required by all external researchers in the UK under the Research Governance Framework to undertake research with patients and/or staff on an NHS site). When asked if they felt that they had been supported through the process, only 25 (32·8%) stated that they had received support from the PCT, compared with 14 (18%) who stated that they had not. Interestingly, 22 (29%) did not respond to this question and 12 (16%) stated that they were unsure.
Respondents were also asked to indicate whether they felt their research was valued by the PCT. A range of response options was offered and some ticked more than one response. In total, 30 (39·5%) stated that they felt valued by the PCT, whilst 27 (35·5%) indicated that they were unsure and 11 (14%) categorically stated that they did not feel that their research was valued. For those who suggested that their research was valued (n = 30, 39·5%), five (16·6%) thought that this was through the research guidance offered, 16 (53%) said that there was sound information provision, 20 (66·7%) answered that the R&D departments were accessible and provided helpful advice on the processes involved in gaining approval. Similarly, 22 (73·3%) stated that personnel in the R&D department were supportive and able to answer any questions they might have.
The questionnaire asked respondents to state the requirements were for obtaining an honorary contract. Again, the respondents were provided with a number of options which allowed them to select more than one response if needed. The responses varied, with the majority of respondents stating that they were asked for a Criminal Records Bureau check (22, 30·5%), proof of employment (14, 19%) occupational health assessment (13, 17%), proof of qualification (12, 16%) and proof of identification (12, 16%) as the main honorary contract requirements. Blood tests (2, 2·7%) and proof of home address (4, 5%) were requested less frequently. When asked whether they thought that there was any duplication of forms related to the research application process, 64 individuals responded. Of these, 19 (29·6%) thought that there was some duplication, 27 (42%) that there was no duplication and 16 (25%) were uncertain.
The extent to which service users and carers were involved or encouraged to be involved in research activity within the PCTs was explored through the questionnaire and also through the interviews. Only a small number of respondents (5, 7%) stated that services users had been involved in the research process. In contrast, 50 (66%) stated that they had not been encouraged to involve service users in their research.
The number of research and development managers who volunteered for interview was disappointing (n = 5), although the total number who could have volunteered was also small (n = 8). It is possible that the three managers who declined were concerned that their anonymity could not be protected adequately within the study. However, whilst the interview sample was limited it could be considered to be representative, as Templeton et al. (1997) assert that as long as the potential response bias of a small sample is acknowledged, it may considered to be representative. Others such as Marshall (1996) add that the sample is appropriate if the aims of the study are met. Those who participated were able to give in-depth insights into the management of research within the specific set of PCTs studied and were considered to be a representative sample. However, given the total population of R&D managers globally and across the UK, this sample is limited and can only represent the PCTs involved. The questionnaire response rate was also relatively low, despite the use of reminder letters. However, it is likely that the salience of the study topic was somewhat low for many who received the questionnaire (Heberlein & Baumgartner 1978).