This group was formed in 2013, and is hosted by the Aurora Project, which is a peer mentoring service for people who are drug and alcohol users in Lambeth.
The central aim of the SURG is to build meaningful and reciprocal relationships between addiction researchers and service users when thinking through research problems, designing studies, preparing grant applications and ultimately conducting and disseminating research.
Addiction researchers benefit from having expert service users on-hand to advise on their studies and group members benefit from research training, access to cutting-edge information on emerging drug treatments, and some work experience.
The SURG is co-convened by Professor Jo Neale (IoPPN) and Paul Lennon (Aurora Project) with financial support from the Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health at the IoPPN. In addition to Jo and Paul, there are 11 core group members, all drug and alcohol service users and they meet monthly in Lambeth. Researchers from the IoPPN or their collaborators are able to book initial advice sessions with the SURG to talk about their research and to establish relationships with group members who can then go on to be co-applicants or collaborators on their studies. The SURG also offers support virtually – for example, by commenting on lay summaries, topic guides and questionnaires.
The SURG operates via a hub and spoke model, meaning that if nobody in the core group is available or feels they have the relevant expertise to comment on a particular study, members will try to identify other service users in their networks who are willing and able to help.
Group members have already advised on a number of proposals for a range of funders, attended seminars and workshops as invited experts, assisted with study design and recruitment, and provided advice to PhD students. In addition, the SURG has developed links with, and is now actively contributing to, the Alcohol Theme of the Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) South London and the Health Innovation Network South London.