Co-producing research involves researchers, practitioners and public contributors collaborating to develop and conduct research. Everyone works together in more equal partnerships, sharing responsibility and power from the start to the end of a research project.

A researcher, a public contributor and a public involvement lead (Michelle Farr, Rosie Davies and Nick Leggett), with Gary Hickey from NIHR INVOLVE, collaborated on a small project at NIHR CLAHRC West to find out how to help everyone collaborate in a more equal way. We aimed to develop practical resources, so people could co-operate more effectively and share power, when co-producing health and social care research.




What we did
Sharing power is a key principle in co-producing research, identified in the NIHR INVOLVE guidance. Yet sharing power is a challenge, because there are many inequalities that affect how we work together, for example: hierarchical inequalities in university and health systems; hierarchies of types of evidence; and wider social and economic inequalities.

We invited public contributors, practitioners and researchers in our area to share insights from their own experiences of co-produced research,                                      

at two workshops, run in late 2018. Twenty-five people took part, 12 were public contributors.  We used co-production

principles and tried out some ways that gave people equal space to say what they wanted.  We offered payment to all public

contributors working with us on the project. Quotes from the workshops included:

 “It dug below the lip-service to co-production. It encouraged and supported me in crystallising my thoughts.”

“I thought that you did a great job of making it a space for everyone to share experiences as well as think more about how to support good co-production.”


What we found

A summary of ideas that could encourage co-production, coming out of the workshops, included:

  • Developing a handbook of techniques and guidance that supports power sharing
  • Having public contributors running groups or activities, and other ways of reversing usual roles                                                          
  • Having co-production peer buddies or mentors
  • Offering training on co-production. Key topics would include good communication and facilitation skills.
  • Exploring ways to embed co-production in ordinary research practice.
  • Having case studies to explain how co-production had been done – and its benefits – in a range of different projects.

What happened next

As a result of these workshops, we applied for some funds from the University of Bristol Research Staff Development Fund to:

  • Develop a half-day training course and materials
  • Co-design practical guidance for how public contributors, practitioners and researchers can share power in co-produced research
  • Produce self-reflective questions, which would help people consider their own sources of power
  • Share knowledge, learning and skills across University departments

We were really pleased to be successful with this application, and now a larger group of researchers and public contributors is working to co-develop these resources. We’re collaborating with public contributors, researchers and practitioners who’ve been involved in co-production through further workshops. Our final products will be on NIHR CLAHRC West’s website and shared in other ways.

To find out more

Contact Michelle Farr on email or 0117 342 7279 or Rosie Davies on email or 0117 342 1248 .