Finley N, Swartz TH, Cao K, Tucker JD (2020) How to make your research jump off the page: Co-creation to broaden public engagement in medical research. PLoS Med 17(9): e1003246. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003246
Many scientific research manuscripts are intended for other researchers and not the public. However, the public are involved in research as participants, taxpayers, and patients.
We discuss co-creation and how it can be used to enhance medical research.
Co-creation is an iterative, bidirectional collaboration between researchers and laypeople to create knowledge. This process can broaden public engagement in medical research.
Co-creation is related to theories of crowdsourcing, community-based participatory research, citizen science, and participatory action research.
Public online calls for input, crowdsourcing contests, hackathons, and participatory design sessions are all examples of activities to co-create with the public.
Infographics and videos are two tools that can be used to broaden public engagement in medical research.
How can you make your medical research jump off the page? Every year, 1.7 million peer-reviewed manuscripts are published, and many are never cited or shared. These manuscripts are written by researchers for researchers. Paywalls, dense text, few illustrations, and complicated statistics prevent most of the public from seeing the end products of medical research. Yet the results of biomedical research are meant for the public. People living with diseases and other members of the public are often the ones who join (i.e., as research participants), fund (i.e., as taxpayers), and benefit from (i.e., as patients) medical studies. We propose using co-creation to broaden public engagement on medical research. Co-creation is an iterative, bidirectional collaboration between researchers and laypeople to create knowledge. Public engagement is a mutually beneficial interaction between specialists and nonspecialists. In medical research, public engagement occurs when a layperson reads, understands, and shares a publication. Public engagement could increase the number of people who read and understand medical research publications.
Public engagement benefits many groups. For researchers, public engagement can improve research quality, consolidate external support, enhance dissemination of results, expand readership, and boost impact. For laypeople, engagement provides an opportunity to contribute to and learn about processes that affect their health. It gives patients more voice and power and holds researchers accountable to funders and beneficiaries. When done well, public engagement builds trust between researchers and the public. At its best, public engagement can spur systemic change in policy or practice.