Research into public health is carried out by national bodies that often report to the Ministry of Health. Work is also undertaken in the medical and social science faculties of universities. The end-users of public health research include policy-makers and non-profit service providers. Public heatlh research includes activities that promote health and well-being and control disease, but many findings remain separate from laboratory and clinical medicine. The 'Strengthening engagement in public health research' (STEPS) project has been established to increase the participation of civil society organisations. The initiative has hosted workshops in newer EU Member States in order to facilitate collective learning at the European level and exchange experience with international partners. Lead organisations have been identified and chosen as a reflection of national public health associations and civil society organisations. Contact has also been established with national officers heading research policy and representatives from health ministries. Furthermore, the structure and performance of public-health research has been assessed. Civil society organisations have also been reviewed and those capable of leading workshops identified. A number of associated activities have been conducted under the auspices of STEPS workshops. These included carrying out surveys of national civil society organisations' view of research, together with a survey of European organisations gained through the European Health Policy Forum. A website has been developed along with a database that holds national research profiles. In addition a template for national structures has been developed and reports from the workshops have been used to update information about EU countries. Lastly, the STEPS project has studied the possibility of collecting relevant information from websites and coordinating with initiatives of the European Commission. Results from the STEPS project will help civil society organisations engage with public health research resulting in improved quality of life for Europe's citizens.