Objectives: While documented plans for patient and public involvement (PPI) in research are required in many grant applications, little is known about how frequently PPI occurs in practice. Low levels of reported PPI may mask actual activity due to limited PPI reporting requirements. This research analysed the frequency and types of reported PPI in the presence and absence of a journal requirement to include this information.
Design and setting: A before and after comparison of PPI reported in research papers published in The BMJ before and 1 year after the introduction of a journal policy requiring authors to report if and how they involved patients and the public within their papers.
Results: Between 1 June 2013 and 31 May 2014, The BMJ published 189 research papers and 1 (0.5%) reported PPI activity. From 1 June 2015 to 31 May 2016, following the introduction of the policy, The BMJ published 152 research papers of which 16 (11%) reported PPI activity. Patients contributed to grant applications in addition to designing studies through to coauthorship and participation in study dissemination. Patient contributors were often not fully acknowledged; 6 of 17 (35%) papers acknowledged their contributions and 2 (12%) included them as coauthors.
Conclusions: Infrequent reporting of PPI activity does not appear to be purely due to a failure of documentation. Reporting of PPI activity increased after the introduction of The BMJ's policy, but activity both before and after was low and reporting was inconsistent in quality. Journals, funders and research institutions should collaborate to move us from the current situation where PPI is an optional extra to one where PPI is fully embedded in practice throughout the research process.
Keywords: PPI; public and patient involvement; research reporting.
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