Frequently Asked Questions


  • What is BrainWaves?


    BrainWaves is a major response to a growing number of young people experiencing mental health concerns. It is led by a group of academics, educationalists and philanthropists. Our mission is to equip schools with the resources and tools to effectively nurture mental wellbeing amongst young people and to prevent and address some of the underlying issues. To achieve this BrainWaves is creating a platform for scientific studies to build on the base of evidence and develop educational material for the classroom.


  • Who is working behind BrainWaves?


    Academics at the University of Oxford (a registered charity), Swansea University and education specialists at The Day News & Media Ltd, the leading publisher of news and critical literacy content for secondary schools have partnered to establish BrainWaves.


  • How is BrainWaves funded?


    BrainWaves is currently funded by philanthropic donations by a number of individuals who have recognised the importance of the work BrainWaves is undertaking. It is expected that in time a range of public, corporate and private funds will contribute to BrainWaves income.


  • How will BrainWaves help with the mental health crisis?


    BrainWaves is helping in several ways. Firstly, it is creating a large cohort group of adolescents and collecting extensive data about their mental health over time. This data will enable far more research to be undertaken and for that research to be done effectively and faster than has previously been possible. Insights and discoveries made will be fed back into schools in the form of interventions based on science. This will be tested in BrainWaves research schools and rolled out in new lesson plans and materials for all schools to access.


  • What research does BrainWaves do?


    BrainWaves is establishing a platform for high quality science. It is doing this with the active support of schools. Central to the study is a cohort of young people which will be developed over many years in what is called a longitudinal cohort study. It will provide deep levels of data about adolescents which can be used in studies of teenage mental health. The initial research has focused on how best to secure a positive, engaged consent from young participants. This research will inform other trials and school based interventions.


  • What data is BrainWaves collecting?


    An annual quesitonnaire will be used to learn more about young people’s mental health and wellbeing, and things that can affect it. These can range from sleep to online activity, happiness, friendships, depression, loneliness, etc. The goal of the questionnaire is to learn more about young people’s mental health and wellbeing, and things that can affect it.


  • How will this data be collected?


    Year 12 students (aged 16+) at participating schools are being asked to complete an online questionnaire, over a minimum of two years, so we can work with current year 12 students into year 13. We will be extending this as the programme grows to include students at younger ages. All questions will be age-appropriate. The information is collected from individuals, but their identity will never be known to researchers and will be stored without identification information.


  • How will the data be used?


    The information collected gives BrainWaves the opportunity to learn about what contributes to good or poor mental health among young people, which can help us improve mental health in the future. The survey is conducted online and is confidential. Data is ‘de-identified’.


  • Will BrainWaves be taking any physical or biological samples?


    It is expected that biological samples will be taken at some point in the future during the study. We expect this to be in the later stages of the BrainWaves project. Such samples would only be requested from students aged 16 years and over and we would require additional consent for them to be taken.


  • Do students have to take part?


    Each student will be asked whether they want to take part in the BrainWaves study. At every stage they will have the option to withdraw or withhold their consent or choose to stop contributing to the programme.


  • How do you safeguard people's identity?


    The information shared by each participating student is collected in a way which maintains privacy. For research purposes the data of an individual may be stored, but their identity will be pseudonomised, safeguarding the identity of that person. This means data about someone can be used in research without their name or identifying details being known. In addition, all data are kept on a highly secure Data Portal. (See below ‘How secure is the data?’)


  • How secure is the data?


    BrainWaves partner Swansea University manages its data in a controlled environment called the Secure eResearch Platform (SeRP). This is accredited to the highest international standards. Data can only be used within the secure research space on the data portal and cannot be exported or used outside this space.


  • How will data be managed on the research platform?


    Researchers wanting to use the data we have collected in the BrainWaves cohort study will have to apply for access. Access will only be given for specific purposes and the research will have to be undertaken in the safe research space provided on the data portal.


  • How does the survey data help with mental health or wellbeing interventions?


    The survey data helps to identify which mental health and wellbeing issues are of greatest concern to young people. This could be their prevalence and severity, as well as how they are changing over time. (Which issues are getting worse, or which are resolving themselves).

    The survey information can also be used to identify participants who might be most suitable for trials. The data collected by BrainWaves makes it possible to recruit the right person, at the right time, for the right trial. For example, we can invite students who indicate high levels of anxiety to participate in an anxiety reduction programme. Because of the anonymous way data is held, this can be achieved without anyone’s identity being known.


  • Will any other data about students be collected?


    At a later stage of the BrainWaves project, mental health and wellbeing survey results will be linked to health and educational data using a secure trusted research environment. There are strict governance arrangements controlling this. Students are currently being asked during our consent trial whether they would hypothetically be happy for BrainWaves to link their survey responses to other information about them (e.g. education or health records). If BrainWaves is permitted to link survey and other data in future, participants will be given additional information so that they can make an informed decision before giving their final consent.


  • Who should I talk to if my school wants to be involved?


    If you want your school to partake in this ground-breaking initiative, contact us via or sign up for our newsletter here.


  • What ages does BrainWaves want to join the study?


    At the start of the BrainWaves programme we focused on young people aged 16+. As the programme grows, we will be extending the age-range to include all ages in secondary education (11-18 year-olds).


  • How much teacher or professional staff time does BrainWaves need from schools?


    There are many different ways for schools to be involved with BrainWaves. Schools can choose to be Research Schools (taking part in our Cohort Study, teaching and evaluating lessons, or testing and evaluating interventions). Each element has its own time commitments, but generating a lot of benefits for each school community. Alternatively, schools can simply make use of the BrainWaves curriculum and lesson plans. Whatever schools and teachers choose to do, we are committed to providing relevant and efficient teacher training to support their BrainWaves journey. You can contact us at if you’d like to find out more.


  • Where can I find out more about teaching materials?


    We have an education website where you can find all the information you need, including supporting webinars for teachers and lesson plans and materials:


  • What are the benefits to the schools and students taking part?


    This is an exciting project which will give students useful information and enable them to contribute to the wider research project and, it is hoped, make a real difference to both their mental health and that of future generations.
    Students will be directly contributing to enormously important research on adolescent mental health and helping to build a more accurate and in-depth scientific evidence base in this area. More research and information are needed about young people to develop interventions that are appropriate and relevant for their individual needs.
    Students and teachers will have the opportunity to work closely with Oxford University BrainWaves researchers to co-create and influence the direction and content of educational materials – from lesson plans to teacher training materials and webinars.