Six times a year, 10 to 18-year-olds from the Bristol region meet as the Young Person’s Advisory Group (YPAG) to evaluate the way research about them takes place. For our researchers, it’s a chance to have their research ideas, information sheets or questionnaires checked by the people who they are planning to research.

Shivani, 16, blogs about what she gets out of being a member of YPAG (other than pizza):

When I joined the Young Person’s Advisory Group (YPAG) I had few expectations, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the diverse – and often hilarious – meetings. Initially, I was astonished at the eagerness to be involved that all the young people expressed. I am 16, and very passionate and opinionated, and equal enthusiasm from children much younger than me was amazing to witness.

I’ve been attending YPAG for only a short time, but I’ve have experienced such a variety in the sessions so far.

The group met on 23 December to review a document from Bristol Medical School researcher Phillipa Clery, followed by a session from Jo Welsman from the Research Design Service. This all went smoothly. We threw around insightful and original ideas, much to the delight of the researcher whose project we were discussing. She ended by thanking us for our helpful contributions.

Before the discussion, we had all been given the opportunity to participate in some filming, for a short video. I am not the most confident in front of a camera, but I do love to chat, so was happy to answer a few questions on film. The filming was quite humorous, thanks to the office motion sensor lights that enjoyed switching off in the middle of the interviews! Despite that mild upset, all went smoothly, and everyone appeared relaxed and confident on camera. The wonderfully smiley cameraman also filmed some shots during the discussions in the main room.

As the clock hand crawled towards 12pm, our stomachs started to be more vocal. I glanced to my left and caught eyes with the person next to me. Stifled giggles escaped us: we had both heard my stomach rumbling rather loudly. We had all pre-ordered what we wanted for lunch from the café downstairs; our usual routine. So, as lunch time approached, Mike went down to collect the food. Unfortunately, the café was closed, despite it having been very definite about being open when asked before the day.

We brainstormed various solutions to the very serious problem: “Walk to another café nearby?”; “Bang on the door and demand to be served downstairs?”; “Just eat all the biscuits and chocolate bars instead?”. Then the lightbulb moment: “Shall we just order pizza…?”. This was met with much admiration. So, the pizza was ordered, and we all buzzed with this new revelation. At the end of the session, we took a vote, and an almost unanimous decision was made to make pizza the regular thing.

While we waited for the precious delivery, a game was proposed to distract us. Charades on an empty stomach is somehow much more hilarious than when fully fuelled. We laughed a lot that session.

Our YPAG meeting on 3 January focussed on one topic. Two people talked to us about the upcoming festival Good Grief, a city-wide event on talking about and overcoming grief. With it being a sensitive topic, the researchers were accompanied by two members of the charity Winston’s Wish, which aims to help support young people (and their friends and family) experiencing grief.

The session was very productive; the young people brought such a multitude of ideas, constructive criticism and insight into the discussion. The researchers were very grateful, and said they felt they got a lot out of it. Many of the young people were so open and shared some of their own experiences. It felt very powerful that they felt comfortable talking so openly in the space. It speaks volumes for the people that attend YPAG, and those who organise it, for making it such a safe space.

The contrast between these two experiences is fantastic. It shows clearly that no two YPAG meetings are the same, and it’s not all about evaluating and reviewing.

If you are between the ages of 10 and 18 and think you might be interested in joining the group, contact Mike Bell on mike.bell@bristol.ac.uk. No experience is needed (except experience of being a young person), you get paid and it’s a great opportunity to make new friends – like Shivani – and influence research.