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‘Is it worth doing?’ Measuring the impact of patient and public involvement in research

A recent review article by Kristina Staley has been published in Research Involvement and Engagement (2015), 1:6. This may be of interest of those of you undertaking or considering patient/public involvement in your research projects.

The full article can be found here:


In recent years, there has been considerable interest in finding out what difference patient and public involvement makes to research projects. The evidence published so far has been criticised for being weak and anecdotal. Some people argue we need robust evidence of impact from scientific studies of involvement. In this review, I consider examples of where impact has been measured using statistical methods. I conclude that the statistical evidence is weak, if the studies do not consider the context in which involvement takes place and the way that it is done. Studies designed to take this into account give us more confidence that the involvement did make a difference to that particular project. They do not tell us whether the same impact will occur in the same way in other projects and therefore have limited value. Researchers gain an understanding of involvement through their direct experience of working with patients and the public. This is ‘knowledge in context’ or ‘insight’ gained in the same way that patients gain expertise through their direct experience of a health condition. This means that detailed accounts of involvement from researchers already provide valuable learning to others, in the same way that patients’ insights help shape research. However, the impact of involvement will always be somewhat unpredictable, because at the start of any project researchers ‘don’t know what they don’t know’—they do not know precisely what problems they might anticipate, until the patients/public tell them.

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