The New Horizons research projects are underway

Natasha Buckham | June 2022 | 8 minutes

In 2020, we funded four research projects under our flagship New Horizons grant programme. In May, we brought together the researchers taking part in the programme to see how they are getting on.

Each of our New Horizons grants is focused on researching drinking behaviour or alcohol harm in a particular group. At last month’s workshop, researchers shared some of their successes, challenges and emerging observations. We also discussed intersectionality, collaboration between project teams, the use of community researchers, and how we can maximise impact.

While the findings cannot be shared at this point, there were some interesting common themes between the projects:

  • The initial outcomes of the research are challenging stereotypes - the drinking behaviours of certain groups are not always what the researchers expected going in. We hope the projects dive into these nuances further.
  • Looking at existing data from surveys, researchers have found that it tends to generalise ethnic groups into broad categories, which is unhelpful. For example, instead of showing results by Pakistani, Indian, and so on, data from all Asian groups is presented together.

There were also common themes in the process of carrying out the research:

Recruiting participants

All of the studies have found it challenging to recruit participants, despite using a variety of methods including community groups, larger research networks like the National Institute for Health and Care Research, and social media. Recruiting participants and/or peer researchers has often taken longer than expected due to the need to partner with community organisations or local services, and services find that it’s difficult to get people to come to the service in the first place, let alone take part in research. This shows that some of the same barriers to access that exist in alcohol treatment also exist in research recruitment. Researchers found that potential participants could be more likely to sign up through someone they know in their community rather than through a larger research network.

There was discussion about how to signpost to support for participants who found that they had more serious issues with their drinking. For this reason, some of the projects chose not to recruit through social media or to only recruit people who are already in contact with services.


Some of the projects used co-production, a way of doing research which involves people from the group being studied themselves. Researchers found that there were both advantages and disadvantages to doing this. On the plus side, using peer researchers encourages participants to be more open. However, there were challenges too as participants tended to not be as explicit in their answers since much is already understood between participant and peer researcher. An academic may ask different follow-up questions because they have a broader understanding of the research questions.


Due to the focus of the projects, many of the participants have a first language other than English. Finding the most effective way to communicate has been a challenge as certain nuances can get lost in translation. One team found that when an interview is fully in another language, the interviewer can take liberties with the script, softening the meaning of more direct questions in order to coax an answer from the participant.

Impact of COVID-19

Due to COVID-19, researchers have found that participants are more likely to want to do interviews online, which has been positive as it has helped with flexibility and recruitment numbers. However, large focus groups are difficult to conduct in this way.

The initial outcomes of the research are challenging stereotypes - the drinking behaviours of certain groups are not always what the researchers expected going in. We hope the projects dive into these nuances further.

One thing that differed between the projects was that researchers had different definitions of what impact meant for their project, including creating change for the population of interest, policy change, slow and gradual change, sharing knowledge, changing behaviour, and getting a better understanding of lived experiences. It was highlighted that demonstrating impact can sometimes be seen a tick-box exercise, so we will take care to avoid this as the projects continue over the next year and beyond.

The workshop ended with a discussion on collaboration and impact. Researchers will continue to share findings between themselves to see where their projects can complement each other. Some of the ideas included the potential for presenting joint webinars, running workshops for other researchers, and jointly submitting to a conference for a symposium.

The New Horizons programme will conclude in 2023 when we will update on the final findings of the projects.