At ARC North Thames, we believe that research benefits from embedding people from outside the research community into the research process. Known more commonly as patient and public involvement (PPI), this process can enhance the quality of the research and help it to bring about positive change for society. It can also benefit the individuals who get involved. In this blog, part of our PPIE stories series, we hear from Katherine Barrett about her experiences of our Research Advisory Panel.
What drew you to working with ARC North Thames?
After a long period of illness, I made the decision to end my career as a teacher in 2009. I was still motivated to continue engaging with teaching and learning more generally, so I applied to be part of the Service User Research Fora at UCL which I saw advertised in a local journal. This was how I journey into health and social care research began.I have loved my involvement: I learn so much and everyone is very friendly.
As time went on, I was learnt more about other opportunities to make a difference, and I now take part in the work of the Camden and Islington's Foundation Trust involvement register and the Coproduction Collective at UCL, in addition to my work with ARC North Thames. This work not only keeps me well but also gives me something very interesting to be involved in.
What impact do you feel you have on research, and what impact does working with research have on you?
I feel lay members have a great impact on research. We have a different perspective to the professional researchers, and I have found that we can support researchers to change the way they approach their research questions during Research Advisory Panel sessions. I think we all learn from each other.I think it's important for researchers to think about what questions they want to ask lay members of the panel so that they get the most of the interaction. The researchers are always very grateful for our input and say that it has changed their research ideas. I really like working with the researchers; they always give very interesting presentations and work without stigma.
What would you recommend for PPI going forward?
I think ultimately researchers must work in a co-produced way. This is not always easy to achieve especially if the researchers are not used to working with lay members. Perhaps training at an early stage on how public engagement can improve research is the way forward. But my primary recommendation is that more people get involved. I look forward to every panel I am invited to take part in and find the researchers' work is all different. I feel that I am lucky to be part of these groups and would recommend involvement as you all have something interesting and important to say. You too could be making a difference in research.