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Public involvement in research

‘What can I do that will most help researchers?’ A different approach to training the public at the start of their involvement in research

Staley, K., Cockroft, E., Shelley, A. and Liabo, K. (2019)

For patients and the public to work collaboratively with researchers, they need support and opportunities to engage in learning that builds on their skills and grows their confidence. In this article, we argue for a different approach to this learning, which starts with the expertise patients/ the public arrive with, and helps them identify and develop the soft skills required to influence researchers effectively. Much of the current training for patients and the public focuses on addressing the gaps in their knowledge and awareness about how research works and how public involvement adds value. Our training complements this by exploring the concept of ‘experiential knowledge’ in more depth. Patients and the public possess experiential knowledge (knowledge gained through lived experience) that researchers may not have. In the training we explore the nature of this expertise and other skills that patients/ the public bring, as well as how to identify who has the most relevant experiential knowledge in any given situation, and how best to share experiential knowledge to benefit researchers and maximise the impact of involvement. We co-produced this training with a patient member of the project team, and through feedback from patients and carers in an initial pilot. Our approach adds another dimension to preparing people for involvement and in particular for taking part in conversations with researchers that support mutual learning. We suggest this approach should be supported by separate, mirror training for researchers, that also develops their soft skills in preparation for learning from involvement.

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Keywords: public involvement, training, patient involvement

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