The co-production of what? Knowledge, values, and social relations in health care

PLoS Biol. 2017 May 3;15(5):e2001403. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2001403. eCollection 2017 May.


"Co-production" is becoming an increasingly popular term in policymaking, governance, and research. While the shift from engagement and involvement to co-production in health care holds the promise of revolutionising health services and research, it is not always evident what counts as co-production: what is being produced, under what circumstances, and with what implications for participants. We discuss these questions and propose that co-production can be understood as an exploratory space and a generative process that leads to different, and sometimes unexpected, forms of knowledge, values, and social relations. By opening up this discussion, we hope to stimulate future debates on co-production as well as draw out ways of thinking differently about collaboration and participation in health care and research. Part of the title of this article is inspired by the book "The Social Construction of What?" by Ian Hacking (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 2000).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Intersectoral Collaboration*
  • Social Values

Grant support

This article presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) under the Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) programme for North West London. The LSHTM chief investigator is CM. The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.