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Exploring the Relationship (and Power Dynamic) Between Researchers and Public Partners Working Together in Applied Health Research Teams

Green, Gill and Johns, Tracey (2019) 'Exploring the Relationship (and Power Dynamic) Between Researchers and Public Partners Working Together in Applied Health Research Teams.' Frontiers in Sociology, 4 (20). ISSN 2297-7775

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Abstract

Public involvement in applied health research in the UK has become a pre-requisite for receiving funding from some bodies including the National Institute of Health Research. However, much of this involvement has been criticized as being tokenistic with an unequal power dynamic whereby the public voice is consulted but may be ignored. To redress this imbalance more participatory methods of involvement, such as co-production have emerged. This paper explores the relationship and power dynamic between researchers and public partners through the thematic analysis of interviews with fourteen researchers and six public contributors who were involved in projects that were identified as having many features associated with inclusive co-produced research. Public involvement was valued but the integration of scientific and lay knowledge on an equal basis was problematic. In practice, “co-opted relationships” were most common whereby public partners were slotted into a designated role created for them by the researcher/research team. There were though some examples of more equal partnerships being established to share power and decision-making including two cases where the research idea was initiated by the public partner. However, establishing an equal relationship and sharing power was constrained by the hierarchical nature of applied health research as well as issues around governance and accountability. Specifically, the positivist paradigm that predominates in applied health research and tends to privilege classically scientific ways of thinking, was a barrier to experiential knowledge being equally valued. This demonstrates the challenges inherent in establishing equal relationships and suggests that a transformation of research practices, culture and hierarchies is required for power sharing to become a reality. Specifically, the culture of applied health research needs to embrace more democratic participatory approaches, such as those used in research originating from the service user movement, as it is within these ways of working that public partners can more readily share power.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: public involvement, co-production of research, PPI in research, partnerships with the public, applied health research
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health > Health and Social Care, School of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 29 Mar 2019 13:31
Last Modified: 29 Mar 2019 13:31
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/24279

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