Rosemary Barber is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield, School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR). Her current research interests are focussed on public involvement in health and social research, and also mental health. This reflects her previous background as a clinical psychologist. Most recently Rosemary’s research has explored issues relating to the impact of public involvement on research processes, outcomes and on key stakeholders. She is an Associate Member of INVOLVE and is also a member of the Medical Research Council’s Public Panel.
Evidence of the impact of public involvement has developed rapidly during the past five years, with compelling information about the perceived beneficial effects on research and on key stakeholders. Whilst there is now accumulating evidence, it is patchy with many researchers unaware of the value that members of the public could contribute to their research. Most studies lack a theoretical approach, and provide insufficient details to allow replication. Clarity is needed about the priorities for impact research. Knowledge production is influenced by the perspectives of its producers; it is therefore essential to include the public and be explicit about different values, aims and assumptions.
Productive future research could focus on the following questions: what needs to be in place to ensure that ‘good enough’ public involvement can take place? How important are certain issues such as: the context, research relationships, training and support? What can we learn from studies where public involvement was not successful? Are some types of public involvement, such as long-term involvement, better than others? Is it possible to identify direct links between public involvement and the impact on research? What methods are most appropriate? How can the complexities of public involvement be captured??