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Challenges and strategies in collaborative working with service user researchers : reflections from the academic researcher

Miller, Emma and Cook, Ailsa and Alexander, Helen and Cooper, Sally Ann and Hubbard, Gill and Morrison, Jill and Petch, Alison (2006) Challenges and strategies in collaborative working with service user researchers : reflections from the academic researcher. Research, Policy and Planning, 24. pp. 197-208. ISSN 0264-519X

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In this article, the authors consider the lessons to be drawn from a collaborative two-year research project involving academic researchers working alongside three service user research organisations. The joint working on the project involved designing a research tool and conducting interviews with users of services that were provided by health and social services partnerships. Questions arising from this project involved consideration of the advantages and challenges of collaborative work. Our experience has highlighted the necessity of carefully considering a range of factors, including the ethos and goals of each organisation, as well as the skills and experience of the individuals involved, in relation to the specific purpose of the research. The challenge for academic researchers is to find ways to meet a range of research aims and objectives, while negotiating roles in ways that avoid reinforcing power relations and disempowering service user researchers. Alongside consideration of the challenges involved, this reflective account also highlights some of the advantages of working with user researchers, and suggests ways of harnessing the enthusiasm and skills of service users, with the aim of capturing the unique perspective they bring to research.