Everyone has an ‘academic’ paper in them so get writing! Call to action. #publicinvolvement @BioMedCentral

‘Research Involvement and Engagement’ – the first academic journal in the world dedicated to public involvement and engagement in research – just marked its second birthday. HAPPI BIRTHDAY! (I hope you saw what I did there).

Under the auspices of the publishing house, BioMed Central, ‘Research Involvement and Engagement’ has proved quite a success story. So far it has published:
38 papers
5 methodologies
6 reviews
10 commentaries
3 protocols
…..and some more…

All adding to the evidence and knowledge base for public involvement and engagement in health and social care research. Not only that but the journal has also set the bar high for innovation: it is open access; all papers are reviewed by patients and researchers; authors must publish a plain English summary at the point of submission and; it is now indexed in PubMed Central meaning it will reach a much wider audience.

It is a phenomenal achievement upon which the co-Editors, Richard Stephens and Professor Sophie Staniszewska reflect in a recent editorial noting ‘The launch of RIE both reflected and stimulated the increasing international interest in patient and public involvement in research. RIE was and still is the only co-produced academic journal on this theme, and the only international journal co-produced by all key stakeholders, including patients, academics, policy makers and service users.’

As Editors but also well-known and respected figures in the public involvement movement in their own right, Richard and Sophie are in a perfect position to comment on the state of play in involvement and engagement.

Submissions to the journal, they say, highlight how far we have come but the distance still to travel before public involvement and engagement are embedded in research. While papers reflect good practice at specific moments in time they also – by their nature – can highlight how isolated our venture is.  They encourage a focus on methods and methodologies. They hope to see more papers on working with industry, the use of new technologies and social media and highlight a blurring of boundaries between medical research and market research: ‘in an increasingly consumerist world, patients regard themselves as research participants not subjects, and they are not only service-users but product-users too.’

I like their comment that: ‘each paper in RIE represents a small step forwards and adds to an evidence base that researchers, patients, practitioners and public members can use for effective practice.’ Also their fierce defence of the journal’s content in the face of academic criticisms about ‘quality:

‘We understand that view but we do not share it. On the contrary we recognise that the evidence base is evolving and our view is that RIE is itself part of that evolution. We do not simply record or report, we seek to inspire and support. We have nurtured these “academically less strong” papers, helping authors draw on peer review comments to enhance the quality of their paper. For us these papers often report knowledge spaces, conversations and contributions that represent the building blocks of involvement and engagement. In some cases the papers have been in review, and in re-review, and even in re-re-review, for many months. In some cases papers are too poor to enter the review process, but we encourage authors to develop their thinking and submit another day, and if we can, we offer guidance on how they may do this.’

In sum, my view is that ‘Research Involvement and Engagement’ has already proven itself to be an incredibly important avenue for shining a light on the evidence behind public involvement and engagement. We would be the poorer without it. It’s future health as an influential journal is dependent on you, I, us, writing up our work, our ideas, our views and being brave enough to submit them for public discourse.

So, unsurprisingly, the call to action is: ‘get writing, get submitting.’  Me included!


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