Objective: To describe the development of a multidimensional conceptual framework capable of drawing out the implications for policy and practice of what is known about public involvement in research agenda setting.
Background: Public involvement in research is growing in western and developing countries. There is a need to learn from collective experience and a diverse literature of research, policy documents and reflective reports.
Methods: Systematic searches of research literature, policy and lay networks identified reports of public involvement in research agenda setting. Framework analysis, previously described for primary research, was used to develop the framework, which was then applied to reports of public involvement in order to analyse and compare these.
Findings: The conceptual framework takes into account the people involved; the people initiating the involvement; the degree of public involvement; the forum for exchange; and methods used for decision making. It also considers context (in terms of the research focus and the historical, geographical or institutional setting), and theoretical basis.
Conclusions: The framework facilitates learning across diverse experiences, whether reported in policy documents, reflections or formal research, to generate a policy- and practice-relevant overview. A further advantage is that it identifies gaps in the literature which need to be filled in order to inform future research about public involvement.