Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"Research as Empowerment?"

Go to the Communications Initiative website for this paper.

"This 62-page report offers information based on a series of seminars organised by the Toronto Group which seek to examine evidence-based policy and practice in health and social care. Additionally it explores the issue of extending the involvement of service users in research.

"The seminars, which took place in different locations in England, covered four topics: involving service users in traditional or mainstream research; involving service users in peer review; involving people from black and minority ethnic communities in research; and emancipatory research.

"According to the report, one of the fundamental barriers to the empowerment of service users in mainstream research remains the unequal relationship between the researcher and research participants. For instance, the report describes research carried out on the subject of Britain’s black and minority ethnic communities where they are viewed as ‘objects’ of research, rather than as potential participants in the research process. The report describes another obstacle based on expectations since service users and researchers may have different ideas about the purpose of the research.

"Some of the issues described in this report center around perspective. For instance, the report suggests that white researchers may not address the questions that people from black and minority ethnic communities see as a priority. "Researchers may focus on people’s experience of using services, rather than on people’s perspectives on what they consider to be important." As a result individual’s priorities are not identified and therefore not acted upon. As a further example, the report refers to the fact that people who are seen as having power in the research-commissioning process "are not actively committed to listening to the view of service user reviewers..." According to the report, this can lead service users to feel that their views are ignored.

"The report makes note of the fact that research carried out by service users is rarely published in peer-reviewed journals and as a result does not gain recognition from other parts of the research community, or from those who judge the quality of research. According to the report, this is changing because some mainstream research funders are beginning to make the involvement of service users in research a requirement for funding."

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