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'A limpet on a ship': Spatio-temporal dynamics of patient and public involvement in research

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Abstract

Objective To understand how current funding expectations that applied health research is undertaken in partnership with research institutions, health service providers and other stakeholders may impact on patient and public involvement (PPI).
Background While there is considerable research on the potential impact of PPI in health research, the processes of embedding PPI in research teams remain understudied. We draw on anthropological research of meetings as sites of production and reproduction of institutional cultures and external contexts to investigate how these functions of meetings may affect the potential contributions of patients, carers and the public in research.
Methods We present an ethnography of meetings that draws from a larger set of case studies of PPI in applied health research settings. The study draws on ethnographic observations, interviews with team members, analysis of documents, and a presentation of preliminary findings through which feedback from informants was gathered.
Results We identified four means by which the oversight meetings regulated research and constrained the possibilities for PPI: a logic of ‘deliverables’ and imagined interlocutors, the performance of inclusion, positioning PPI in an ‘elsewhere’ of research, and the use of meetings to embed apprenticeship for junior researchers.
Conclusions PPI is essentially out of sync from the institutional logic of ‘deliverables’ constituting research partnerships. Embedding PPI in research requires challenging this logic.

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