The pace of active involvement of patients in clinical research has increased over the last 10-15 years. Advocacy for this engagement between patients and health professionals is briefly traced, based on the author's experiences both as an independent advocate and as co-founder and chairman (1995-1999) of the Consumers' Advisory Group for Clinical Trials (CAG-CT). A brief history is outlined. As the benefits and minor drawbacks of collaborative working have become increasingly evident, attitudes have changed and methodologies have developed. A new professionalism in relationships with doctors is being sought: common vocabularies need to be defined. Some research governance problems are identified: forward thinking to solve them is advocated.