Andrew Gibson is a Research Fellow in Patient and Public Involvement with the NIHR CLAHRC for the South West Peninsula. He became involved in academia after spending time as a diesel fitter and then as a care manager (social worker). He has experience of evaluating user involvement in a number of contexts including neonatal care and World Class Commissioning. For the last five years he has had responsibility for developing PPI within all the activities of the Peninsula CLAHRC. He was part of the MRC funded research team that developed the Public Involvement Impact Assessment Framework or PiiAF (http://piiaf.org.uk) and has developed a theoretical framework for exploring and mapping patient and public involvement.
Patient and Public Involvement in research is still relatively new. How we understand its impact is one of the many debates taking place. Some people argue that involvement is a right that needs no justification. Whilst I have sympathy with this perspective I think that assessing impact can help us avoid adverse effects, maximise learning and help ensure that involvement is carried out with integrity. Crucially, people who get involved want to know that their work has made a difference. Unfortunately, our knowledge of how potential impacts – intended and unintended – can be measured and assessed is limited. Assessing the impacts of involvement is complex because involvement happens in different contexts, using different methods and often with divergent aims. We tend to focus on the impacts of involvement on research but of equal importance is developing our understanding of the impact on the people we involve. No single assessment method will cover all these situations. It will take contributions from many different people, with different skills, knowledge and imagination to take us forward. Discussions like this one, hosted by INVOLVE, will help us take in to account differing perspectives and build a firm foundation on which to base future work.