Whenever we are asked for our opinion we expect to be thanked and we also like to know if what we have contributed has been useful. If a statistician/qualitative researcher/health economist has contributed to a project, they would (rightfully) expect some acknowledgement and whether their input had been incorporated. As patient and public contributors are key members of the research team, providing valuable insights that shape research design and deliver, it’s right to assume that they should also receive feedback on their contributions. But a recent study led by Dr Elspeth Mathie (CLAHRC East of England) found that routine feedback to PPI contributors is the exception rather than the rule. The mixed methods study (questionnaire and semi-structured interviews) found that feedback was given in a variety of formats with variable satisfaction with feedback. A key finding was that nearly 1 in 5 patient and public contributors (19%) reported never having received feedback for their involvement.
How should feedback be given to public contributors?
There should be no ‘one size fits all’ approach to providing feedback to public contributors. The study recommends early conversations between researchers and public contributors to determine what kind of feedback should be given to contributors and when. The role of a Public and Patient Lead can help to facilitate these discussions and ensure feedback is given and received throughout a research project. Three main categories of feedback were identified:
- Acknowledgement of contributions – Whether input was received and saying ‘thanks’
- Information about the impact of contributions – Whether input was useful and how it was incorporated into the project;
- Study success and progress – Information on whether a project was successful (e.g. securing grant funding/gaining ethical approval) and detail about how the project is progressing.
What are the benefits to providing feedback for public contributors?
The study also explored benefits of giving feedback to contributors. Feedback can:
- Increase motivation for public contributors to be involved in future research projects;
- Help improve a contributor’s input into future project (if they know what has been useful, they can provide more of the same);
- Build the public contributor’s confidence;
- Help the researcher reflect on public involvement and the impact it has on research.
What does good feedback look like?
Researchers, PPI Leads and public contributors involved in the feedback study have co-produced Guidance for Researchers on providing feedback for public contributors to research. The guidance explores the following:
- Who gives feedback?
- Why is PPI feedback important?
- When to include PPI feedback in research cycle?
- What type of feedback?
- How to give feedback?
Many patient and public contributors get involved in research to ‘make a difference’. This Guidance will hopefully help ensure that all contributors learn how their contributions have made a difference and will also inspire them to continue to provide input to future research projects.
— Magdalena Skrybant, PPIE Lead
- Mathie E, Wythe H, Munday D, et al. Reciprocal relationships and the importance of feedback in patient and public involvement: A mixed methods study. Health Expect. 2018.
- Centre for Research in Public Health and Community Care. Guidance for Researchers: Feedback. 2018