Longitudinal studies (in other words, research that follows a population group over a long period of time) would seem to naturally lend themselves to public engagement and the building of strong relationships with the population concerned. The number of these studies being conducted is increasing as is the amount of investment in them, so they are rightly coming under scrutiny by public involvement researchers and methodologists.
However, a recent audit of birth cohort studies (studies that follow people from birth) would suggest in my opinion that we are missing opportunities for public engagement that would be beneficial to studies and to what they might tell us.
Dr Patricia Lucas from the University of Bristol and colleagues have published a paper in Biomedcentral with the results of a short audit of birth cohort studies showing that while good practice exists, many could do much to improve their public engagement. Interestingly the researchers interviewed feel there are particular barriers to establishing consultation mechanisms with people in these sorts of studies (such as not wanting to affect research quality). As the authors suggest there are tried and tested public involvement methods from elsewhere in research which could be applied in this arena with a little time and effort. And which can enhance research quality to boot.
Seems to me an important area to open up for wider discussion.