This article provides an account of service-user involvement in applied health research in the U.K., where such involvement is understood as research 'with' or 'by' service users. I reflect on some of the driving forces behind service-user involvement in health research and discuss the ways in which this kind of involvement has become systematised in a research context that values comparison and evaluation. I argue that the potential to conflate participatory research with service-user involvement may lead to participatory approaches – so often practiced by anthropologists – becoming described as forms of service-user involvement. Despite the systematisation of service-user involvement to meet the requirements of applied health research, service-user involvement is not viewed as providing research evidence. If participatory approaches become redefined as user involvement then there is a risk that evidence produced by disciplines such as anthropology are no longer viewed as 'evidence', and become unable to influence decisions about healthcare practice and policy. Sensitising anthropologists to this possibility may be a first step in identifying ways to ensure that results from participatory research retain a position as evidence.
Involvement and Participatory Approaches in Applied Health Research
Apply at the ASA Decennial Conference, Edinburgh, June 2014
The ASA’s Network of Applied Anthropologists (Apply) held a panel session at the ASA’s decennial conference in Edinburgh, June 2014. Entitled ‘Facing Outwards: Anthropology Beyond Academia’, the panel welcomed papers that addressed anthropological work and co-work outside conventional academic anthropology. The session was convened by Mary Adams (Kings College London) and Rachael Gooberman-Hill (University of Bristol), and three presenters provided an engaged audience with examples of their work. The presentations fuelled discussion about relationships in research and practice and the translation of anthropological ideas for non-anthropological audiences.