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The University of Southampton
Southampton Clinical Trials Unit




The EQUATE Study - Barriers and facilitators to EQUitable pArticipation and engagement in research using digiTal mEthods: A qualitative exploration with the public, patients, and staff


Study status

Open and recruiting for phase 1

Current recruitment: 27/50


What is the EQUATE study?

Digital methods in research use technology (such as mobile applications) to allow participants to take part in research from their homes. However, it is well known that some groups are under-served in research, and it is these same groups that are most at risk of not being able to fully take part in research that uses digital.

If digital is a barrier to research participation in different groups, then research findings will not represent their needs and they may suffer poorer health outcomes.

The purpose of this study is to explore the potential effect digital methods has on the participation and engagement of research in different population groups by capturing people’s thoughts and real-life experiences with digital methods.

Digital methods include:

  • Communicating with the research team over video call or text
  • Taking and sending videos or pictures
  • Downloading a smartphone app and entering information

This research will not be on digital methods used only by research staff.

This research is important because:

  • The use of digital methods increased 131% in two years
  • Evidence suggests that digital impacts on who takes part in research, but it is not known why
  • If different groups do not take part in research, the results will not reflect their healthcare needs


What does the study involve?

The study is split up into three phases.

Phase 1: Experiences from participants (active research participants)

A one-to-one discussion to share your thoughts and real-life experiences of taking part in research that offers the use of digital methods.

Phase 2: Observing the use of digital (members of the public)

Test three digital methods that are or could soon be used in research and a short discussion on the topic.

Phase 3: Creating solutions (research/ technology staff)

Take part in a discussion with up to six staff to explore if and how key findings from this research can be put into practice.


Who can participate?

Phase 1:

Anyone who has taken part in health and care research in the past 12 months and is age 18 years or over. We’d particularly like to hear from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, people who are aged 65 years or above, and/or people with a household income of £25,000 or less.

Phase 2:

Adults aged 18 years or over. We’d particularly like to hear from people who represent an adult aged 65 years of above, an ethnic minority and/or those with a household income of £25,000 or less.

Phase 3:

Is a decision-maker involved in the design and conduct of clinical and health research


Has ongoing experience in managing/ delivering clinical and health research


Is involved in the development of digital methods


What are the possible benefits and risks of taking part?

There are no direct pros or cons to taking part in the interview. The process may help you reflect on your research experience.

As a thank you, your time will be compensated for.

The study is being run by the University of Southampton and is funded by the National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR), which is the main funder of research in health and social care.


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