Employing Public and Experts by Experience Researchers (PEERs) for a programme of researching substance misuse and ageing: a new model of working in addictions research?

First published: 09 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019


The Society for Study of Addiction, 2015 has identified that there is ‘little published research on the involvement of service users in research in the addictions field’.  This presentation describes how SMART (Substance Misuse and Ageing Research Team) at the University of Bedfordshire  has developed an exciting and successful model of working whereby Public and Experts by Experience Researchers or PEERs (that is, people aged 50+ in recovery from an alcohol problem) develop, lead and deliver a programme of research.


PEER researchers with no previous experience of social research have been employed and are being trained, in every aspect of the research process from study design and research governance to, conducting qualitative interviews, data analysis and dissemination. PEERs co-produced this abstract submission and will jointly present with SMART researchers.


PEERs have identified research questions that may have otherwise been overlooked and these have led to externally funded studies with the PEERs as Principal Investigator. The lived experienced that PEERs share with research participants appears to create an instant rapport, facilitating high quality qualitative interviews. Challenges include the fact that model is resource intensive initially and that the PEER role does not ‘fit’ with existing policies and practices.


Experts by experience as research partners can greatly improve the quality and credibility of addictions research.


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Michelle McCann