Interprofessional working and public involvement in research.
International Health Forum, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 25th May 2011.
Over the last two decades, there has been increasing emphasis globally on developing interprofessional working in health and social care. Interprofessional working can be described as collaborative practice: that is, the process whereby members of different professions and/or agencies work together to provide integrated health and/or social care for the benefit of service users. The concept of interprofessional working also applies to collaboration between researchers from different disciplines.
Over the same period, in the United Kingdom (UK) there has also been a growing focus on active public involvement in research and knowledge exchange (KE), a criterion against which many funding bodies now judge applications for research monies. In this context, ‘public’ can denote patients and/or their carers (family members and others), users of health and/or social services, and/or lay members of society. Including non-professionals and non-academics as research team members invariably impacts on how research is conducted, and demands that researchers engage with processes in ways with which they are not necessarily familiar or comfortable. Unsurprisingly, some researchers resist public involvement in research, through fears articulated in terms of control and quality maintenance.
This development has been co-temporaneous with an increasing expectation in the UK that the public should also be involved in interprofessional working. Inter-professional working is essentially a complex social process, and as such, does not occur in a vacuum. As has been well documented and discussed over the last decade, it is influenced by a range of factors, including wider social and political agendas, professional and occupational perspectives and priorities, and interpersonal and individual issues. In this paper, the author considers public involvement in research as an extension of interprofessional working, and discusses this phenomenon in the context of factors known to impact upon the way that individuals from different professions and backgrounds collaborate.
The discussion includes consideration of theoretical approaches to interprofessional working, and draws on the author’s practical experience of public involvement in a range of research and KE projects as illustration. Particular factors considered include the effect of public involvement on professional identity and professional boundaries; perceptions of academic-public power relationships within the research process; and the relationship between ‘expert’ (professional/academic) and ‘situated’ (non-professional/academic) knowledge;
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