Exploring the impact of public involvement


On 20th March 2018 I attended a workshop organised by The Wessex Public Involvement Network to explore the impact of public involvement. The aims of the day were to improve understanding of how to monitor the impact of Patient & Public Involvement activities.

Before the day my intrinsic feeling was that thinking about the impact of any activity must surely be a good thing to do, a “nice to have” – I had little sense that “impact” and the evaluation of, is such a deep topic. Impact is essentially the value that is added and the difference that is made by public involvement in research, and this should be captured and reported consistently in our research output, as ultimately academic research is funded by public money we (researchers) have a duty to involve the public in what we do and be clear about the difference that doing this can make (a “social contract”, if you like). There is guidance (published in the BMJ – Doug Altman is one of the authors) specifically developed for the reporting of PPI http://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/358/bmj.j3453.full.pdf

The job title of one of the presenters is “Impact Lead” and she blogs here https://www.nihr.ac.uk/blogs/public-involvement-in-research-what-differe... about how Researchfish has added specific questions that capture if and how people have been involved, the benefits and challenges of involving people, and reflections on the difference it has made to research. The questions have been used for the first time in November 2017 by Arthritis Research UK, the Dutch Arthritis Foundation and Marie Curie. The NIHR and Cancer Research UK will follow in Spring 2018.

I have observed over time that public involvement bods do tend toward a good use of coloured pens but the infographic that was created throughout the day by Debbie Roberts @engagevisually was something else! This beautifully captured all of the key points from the presentations, panel Q&A and table discussions. Of course, there is another acronym to add to the list, “RIA – research impact assessment” and the associated five “As” for those of you who are interested in the theory http://stevenhill.org.uk/the-fifth-A-of-assessing-impact/

The message I took home was that it is not always a good thing to set out to try to measure impact in a quantitative way, and that the anecdotes, case studies and narrative that can be captured about PPI activity are just as important to report.

You can find out more about the day and see evidence of me looking both involved and engaged on Twitter under #PPIimpact and #WessexPIN