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J Eval Clin Pract. 2012 Apr;18(2):276-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2753.2010.01572.x. Epub 2010 Nov 30.

Professionals and the public: power or partnership in health research?

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Falls and Syncope Service and NIHR Biomedical Research Centre in Ageing, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.



Involving members of the public in health research is said to produce higher quality research of greater clinical relevance. However, many of the anecdotal accounts of public involvement published in the academic literature to date have focused on the process of recruiting and involving members of the public and the effect of participation on these individuals rather than on how public involvement influenced the research process or outcomes. To strengthen the evidence base, there is clearly a need for more formal methods of capturing and documenting the impact of public involvement in health research.


In the first half of this paper, we discuss the importance of public involvement in health research and critically review the literature to identify current barriers to its successful implementation. In the second half, we present a conceptual model for evaluating and reporting the impact of public involvement in health research. Developed from our examination of the academic literature, we provide empirical support for the model by applying it to our recent experience of conducting a clinically based falls prevention study with members of the public.


The conceptual model presented in this paper proposes key concepts and terminology that promote consistency when evaluating and reporting the impact of public involvement in health research. Reflecting on the experiential learning process, we demonstrate how the model promotes conceptual clarity whilst permitting the degree of flexibility required when working in a diverse culture such as the National Health Service.


If more evidence can be provided that public involvement enhances research processes and outcomes, researchers may be less inclined to treat this initiative as something they have to do in order to satisfy funding agencies and regulatory bodies and actively embrace this phenomenon, producing accounts of successful public involvement that transcend current barriers to its successful implementation.

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