Young People’s Advisory Group

October 2019: We are currently recruiting new members for our Young People’s Advisory Group

We are currently seeking young people in school years 9-12, who are interested in learning more about ethics, mental health, and policy, to join our YPAG – a team that meets regularly through the year to share their ideas and opinions about topics and research that impact the lives of people like them. If this might be of interest to you, please read on for more information about what group membership involves, and how to apply to join.

Why do you have an YPAG?

We think teenagers should have the opportunity to get involved in the decision-making about larger issues that may affect their lives, including public policy and research. We value our YPAG members’ thoughts and experiences and view them as co-participants in the design and implementation of our studies. Together we hope to create research products that have a large impact on young people’s lives.

What does a meeting look like?

The main purpose of the meetings is to collaborate with and advise researchers on their projects. All academic activities are designed in a way that will be engaging and accessible for young people. Meetings also include games and icebreakers to help us get to know one another and work well as a group.

The group participates in the implementation of research studies, including recruiting participants, elaborating and testing interview questions, and conducting on-line surveys and face-to-face interviews. We also discuss research design and ideas that are relevant to our work, including concepts related to ethics and mental health.

The group further helps us develop educational materials and innovative, digital methods to get close to teenagers’ attitudes and experiences, including apps and games.

Finally, there is space for reflection on the meaning and applied value of research results, and the group helps disseminate results to the general public.

Where do the meetings take place?

Meetings are normally held on Saturdays in central Oxford.

What do YPAG members gain from it?

YPAG members have a chance to learn about mental health, ethics, and the process of doing research. They also have the chance to interact closely with researchers who are doing cutting-edge work in their field. The group may also help participants develop important skills, such as the ability to work in a team. Most importantly, YPAG members help us ensure that young people’s voices are heard and engaged throughout the research process.

What previous YPAG members have said

“It is actually a very good and meaningful group, allowing us young students to be involved in discussions about ethical, and mental health issues in the society.”

“The YPAG is something I am very proud to be part of: I have learned a lot; got to know people from different schools and backgrounds; and valued having my say with matters I have personal links to.”

“I love being able to discuss ethical issues in detail, which develops thought processes that would not normally be used at school. It has provoked me to think about things in a different way.”

Do YPAG members get paid?

Each participants receive a £25 Amazon voucher as a thank you for each half-day meeting attended, and we reimburse travel expenses. Lunch and refreshments are provided during meetings.

Who is behind the NEUROSEC YPAG?

Gabriela Pavarini, a postdoctoral researcher with a background in psychology organises the meetings and normally facilitates the group. She is supported by research assistants Vanessa Bennett and Eddie Jacobs, as well as PhD students Arianna Manzini and Jessica Lorimer. Ilina Singh, Professor of Neuroscience and Society at the University of Oxford, is our research group leader.

What type of research do you do?

Our research focuses on ethical issues that arise from innovations in neuroscience, psychiatry and genetics. This includes questions such as ‘is it right for a healthy student to be prescribed a drug to further increase his cognitive skills?’ and ‘should couples wishing to have a baby girl be allowed to test the embryo (in-vitro) to find out its sex and only transfer it to the womb if it is a girl?’ Our group is especially interested in understanding the ethical implications of advances in genetics and neuroscience for prevention and treatment of mental health difficulties, including autism, ADHD, psychosis and conduct disorder.

What projects will the NEUROSEC YPAG work on?

The NEUROSEC YPAG will mainly support a sub-project of a large research project called ‘Becoming Good: Early Intervention and Moral Development in Mental Health’ (BeGOOD). The sub-project, named ‘Citizens’, deals with how young people understand and reason about ethical questions related to early intervention strategies and programmes.

For example, some people believe we should use a wider range of data sources – including people’s online scrolling and messaging behaviour – in order to predict their risk of developing mental health issues. This sounds promising, as prevention of a condition is often much more straightforward than treatment. However, it raises several ethical questions. For example, who should be able to access this data? Do the risks to people’s privacy outweigh the societal advantages of lower rates of mental health problems? The ‘Citizens’ project is interested in young people’s views on these and other similar dilemmas.

The project also explores, more broadly, how young people from different contexts understand moral concepts such as authenticity, agency, good/bad behaviour, and care. As part of ‘Citizens’, we will also work to develop novel methods to assess young people’s views and experiences, including computer games and mobile apps.

Are there other YPAGs in the UK?

Yes, there are many groups in the UK. If you want to learn more about them, we recommend you watch this videoclip made by an YPAG based at Durham University, and check out this website about a group of NHS-supported YPAGs called Generation R.

Do YPAG members need parents’ consent to be part of the team?

Yes, all YPAG members under 18 require a letter of consent signed by a parent or legal guardian.

Do NEUROSEC YPAG members have a history of mental health difficulties?

Some of the YPAG members may have (or have had) mental health difficulties or personal experiences of the care system. Others may be close to someone who experience such difficulties (for example, a sibling or friend). Others may not have had any first-hand experience but still have a keen interest in mental health issues.

How can I apply?

Click here to go to the application form. Don’t delay – applications will close on Tuesday 12th November 2019! Selected respondents will be invited to a taster session on Saturday 23rd November

Still have questions?

If you still have questions feel free to ask Gabriela Pavarini at



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