Background: Engagement of people with lived experience and members of the public is an ethically and scientifically essential component of health research. Authentic engagement means they are involved as full partners in research projects. Yet engagement as partnership is uncommon in practice, especially during priority-setting for research projects. What is needed for agenda-setting to be shared by researchers and people with lived experience and/or members of the public (or organisations representing them)? At present, little ethical guidance exists on this matter, particularly that which has been informed by the perspectives of people with lived experience and members of the public. This article provides initial evidence about what they think are essential foundations and barriers to shared decision-making in health research priority-setting and health research more broadly.
Methods: An exploratory, qualitative study was conducted in 2019. 22 semi-structured interviews were performed with key informants from the UK and Australia.
Results: Three main types of foundations were thought to be essential to have in place before shared decision-making can occur in health research priority-setting: relational, environmental, and personal. Collectively, the three types of foundations addressed many (but not all) of the barriers to power sharing identified by interviewees.
Conclusions: Based on study findings, suggestions are made for what researchers, engagement practitioners, research institutions, and funders should do in their policy and practice to support meaningful engagement. Finally, key international research ethics guidelines on community engagement are considered in light of study findings.
Keywords: Engagement; Ethics; Health research; Inclusion; Partnership; Patient and public involvement; Power; Priority-setting.
© 2021. The Author(s).