Public Involvement in Research: a realist evaluation of approaches, context and outcomes

  • Wilson, Patricia (PI)
  • Goodman, Claire (CoI)
  • Kendall, Sally (CoI)
  • Howe, Amanda (Researcher)
  • Poland, Fiona (Researcher)
  • Staniszweska, Sophie (Researcher)
  • Peckham, Stephen (Researcher)
  • Mathie, Elspeth (Researcher)

Project: Research

Project Details


This study explores the context, processes, mechanisms and impact of patient and public involvement (PPI) in health research. The ReseArch with Patient and Public invOlvement: a RealisT evaluation (RAPPORT) study was conducted 8 years after PPI became an expectation for research projects that are part of the UK
Clinical Research Network (UKCRN) portfolio, and it was therefore timely to assess how embedded PPI is as part of normal research processes.

The RAPPORT study sought to evaluate how different approaches to PPI in research with different populations influence the identification of priorities, research conception, design, process, findings and dissemination. Specifically, it aimed to identify what PPI approaches have applicability across all research
domains, which ones are context specific and whether or not different types of public involvement achieve different outcomes for the research process, findings, dissemination and implementation of PPI.

Layman's description

Plain English summary
It is generally accepted that patient and public involvement (PPI) is ‘a good thing’ and it is now a requirement before most health research is funded. However, there is a need for evidence showing whether or not PPI really makes a difference and, if so, what works and what situations help to create good PPI. This study set out to find that evidence. PPI representatives were involved in this study from start to finish.
We wanted to know:
- what people understood by PPI
- how much and what sort of PPI is in health research
- how PPI changes over time
- the experience of PPI for lay people and researchers
- how PPI works in everyday practice in research teams and organisations
- what impact PPI has on research
- what helps or hinders PPI working well.
Our research looked at cystic fibrosis, arthritis, diabetes mellitus, dementia, public health, and intellectual and developmental disabilities studies in the UK. There were three stages: scoping (looking at research documents), survey (researchers filling in online questionnaires) and case studies. Twenty-two studies were followed for 18 months, with 206 researchers, PPI representatives, funders and network staff interviewed.

Findings showed a range of positive outcomes from PPI. These included identifying research questions and improving recruitment. Good relationships and regular contact between PPI representatives and researchers throughout the study are very important. PPI representatives also need to know if they have
been useful. Researchers tended to get better results if they had people skills, were flexible and offered lots of opportunities for involvement.

Key findings

The study found that patient and public involvement can have positive effects on health research, such as improving recruitment of patients to research studies and shaping research questions. This study identified factors that makes good patient and public involvement more likely, from shared understanding of purpose to having dedicated input from the research team.
Effective start/end date1/04/1130/09/13


  • NIHR - National Institute for Health and Research: £300,608.00


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