Participatory approaches to research are drawing increasing attention worldwide. Participatory research means that those whose life or work is the subject of the research have a direct influence on the research process. This takes place in the context of a partnership between academic institutions, civil society, funders, decision makers and other engaged citizens. Another defining characteristic of participatory research is the explicit goal of contributing in an immediate way to positive social change, thus closing the gap between action and research. The International Collaboration for Participatory Health Research (ICPHR) provides a forum for debating the merits of participatory research in regard to health issues, including defining quality criteria for this emergent science.
There is a growing demand for academic researchers to show the impact of their work. The focus has tended to be on how studies influence other academics, as measured, for example, by various forms of bibliometrics. "High impact" denotes those journals or researchers who are most often cited. There is, however, a broader discussion regarding research impact, particularly in the applied sciences. Here the issue is the extent to which the research has resulted in a technical or social innovation. Funders are increasingly requiring that applied research demonstrate how the findings will contribute to addressing social problems. Knowledge transfer and knowledge translation have been integrated into several funding streams in the health field as a way to address the application of the knowledge generated as part of the research design. By involving the various stakeholders throughout the research process - from the generation of the research question to processes of data collection, interpretation, and dissemination - participatory health research (PHR) seeks to bridge the gap in a unique way between research, professional practice, and everyday life.
The ICPHR teamed up with the German Network for Participatory Health Research (PartNet), the Institute of Population and Public Health, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and Community-Based Research Canada (CBRC) to organize a conference in June on the topic of impact in PHR. Experts in PHR from eleven countries met to define what impact means in the participatory research process, how to maximize the impact of the research, and how to observe and document what impact has occurred.
Two keynote addresses from Claire Donovan and Matthias Bergmann provided inspiration from the larger scientific community. Donovan gave an overview of the current debate regarding scientific impact in English-speaking countries. Bergmann discussed impact from the perspective of transdisciplinary research, a participatory approach found particularly in the technical fields. The participants then engaged in various forms of dialogue using formats which are atypical for scientific meetings, including a world café and narrative sessions. The decision was taken to write a joint a position paper on the issue of impact in PHR. The paper, which will include examples from various countries and contexts, is intended to provide guidance to funders and to those involved in PHR as well as to be a contribution to the larger debate. Tina Cook will be serving as the editorial lead. The paper will be written and distributed with the support of the ICPHR.
Tineke A. Abma (Amsterdam, NED), Therese Allweiss (Berlin, GER), Mario Bach (Berlin, GER), Sarah Banks (Durham, GBR), Matthias Bergmann (Frankfurt am Main, GER), Theda Borde (Berlin, GER), Roland Bornheim (Bonn, GER), Sven Brandes (Hannover, GER), Irma Brito (Coimbra, POR), Tina Cook (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, GBR), Maria Elisabete da Costa Martins (Coimbra, POR), Claire Donovan (Uxbridge, GBR), Tanja Gangarova (Berlin, GER), Birte Gebhardt (Hannover, GER), Lisa Gibbs (Carlton, AUS), Adrian Guta (Ottawa, CAN), Janet Harris (Sheffield, GBR), Susanne Hartung (Berlin, GER), Maria Elisabeth Kleba da Silva (Chapecó, BRA), Krystyna Kongats (Edmonton, CAN), Wendy Madsen (Bundaberg, AUS), Daniela Manke (Fulda, GER), Francisco Javier Mercado Martinez (Guadalajara, MEX), Margareta Rämgård (Malmö, SWE), Brenda Roche (Toronto, CAN), Jasna Russo (Berlin, GER), Ina Schaefer (Bielefeld, GER), Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Hamilton, NZL), Jane Springett (Edmonton, CAN), Hella von Unger (München, GER), Tom Wakeford (Whitley Bay Ne, GBR), Nina Wallerstein (Albuquerque, USA), Petra Wihofszky (Esslingen, GER), Rosslynn Zulla (Edmonton, CAN)