Hello! I’m Christine Smith. I’m a freelance researcher (here’s my website). I’m a partner, a mum, a Lancastrian ex-pat in Yorkshire and I have 2 cats. I make my own sauerkraut and I can drive a powerboat. I know - all interesting things. However, I’ve set up this blog so that I can think out loud about PPI.
PPI stands for Public Involvement in Research. I work in health and social care research, but the principles apply to all research. PPI is a shorthand for involving members of the public in the decision-making processes linked to research. This might be deciding what research gets done and which research questions are important, which research projects get funded by the government or charities, how research projects get done and who gets to participate. The public, by which I mean people and communities, are crucial to making research happen and I believe that they – we – have a fundamental right to join the boffins and have our views heard and acted on within the research world. This view is backed up by the UK government – to get any kind of health research funding in the UK researchers have to show how the public has shaped their research plans and how they will involve them when funded. And given that half (£4.3 out of £8.6 billion in 2018) of all UK health-related research is funded by the taxpayer, either via the government or through charities, that’s not an unreasonable point of view.
I called this blog Goodwill and Teabags because I think that goodwill and tea (other beverages are acceptable) are the fuel of PPI. It sounds simple – just include people in decision-making – but it is anything but. It relies completely on the generosity, patience, trust and willingness of communities and individuals, ditto for researchers but also on the knowledge and capacity of researchers to do the involving. ‘Doing PPI’ takes time and effort and can sometimes feel like a big uphill struggle. You need a lot of tea. There are many reasons why PPI is a hard thing to do well, and I’d like to use this blog to unpick some of them. I was a research programme manager for over 10 years and I love thinking about systems and how to make them work better. I’ve worked, and still work, in big complicated research programmes that span universities, the NHS and social care but I also am involved in smaller individual projects as well as strategic national projects so I get to see the challenges from all angles. Blog writing is really a new thing for me, and I’m hoping it will be a place to reflect and get under the surface of what I do every day. A bit of thinking space. I’m excited to see where it goes.
What do you want to know about PPI? What are you struggling with? Ideas on a postcard…