Can the impact of public involvement on research be evaluated? A mixed methods study

Health Expect. 2012 Sep;15(3):229-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1369-7625.2010.00660.x. Epub 2011 Feb 17.


Background: Public involvement is central to health and social research policies, yet few systematic evaluations of its impact have been carried out, raising questions about the feasibility of evaluating the impact of public involvement.

Objective: To investigate whether it is feasible to evaluate the impact of public involvement on health and social research.

Methods: Mixed methods including a two-round Delphi study with pre-specified 80% consensus criterion, with follow-up interviews. UK and international panellists came from different settings, including universities, health and social care institutions and charitable organizations. They comprised researchers, members of the public, research managers, commissioners and policy makers, self-selected as having knowledge and/or experience of public involvement in health and/or social research; 124 completed both rounds of the Delphi process. A purposive sample of 14 panellists was interviewed.

Results: Consensus was reached that it is feasible to evaluate the impact of public involvement on 5 of 16 impact issues: identifying and prioritizing research topics, disseminating research findings and on key stakeholders. Qualitative analysis revealed the complexities of evaluating a process that is subjective and socially constructed. While many panellists believed that it is morally right to involve the public in research, they also considered that it is appropriate to evaluate the impact of public involvement.

Conclusions: This study found consensus among panellists that it is feasible to evaluate the impact of public involvement on some research processes, outcomes and on key stakeholders. The value of public involvement and the importance of evaluating its impact were endorsed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Community Participation / methods*
  • Delphi Technique
  • Health Services Research / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination
  • Research Design