The Translating Research in Elder Care (TREC) program is a partnered health services research team that aims to improve the quality of care and quality of life for residents and quality of worklife for staff in nursing homes. The TREC team undertook several activities to enhance the collaboration between the academic researchers and us, the citizen members. Known as VOICES (Voice Of (potential) Incoming residents, Caregivers Educating uS) we aim to share our experience working with a large research team.
We reflect on the findings reported in the paper by Chamberlain et al. (2021). They described the findings from two surveys (May 2018, July 2019) that were completed by TREC team members (researchers, trainees, staff, decision-makers, citizens). The survey questions asked about the respondents’ experience with citizen engagement, their perceptions of the benefits and challenges of citizen engagement, and their unmet needs for training.
The paper reported on the survey findings from all the survey respondents (research team, decision-makers, citizens), but much of the results focused on the researcher perspective. They reported that respondents believed that citizen engagement was a benefit to their research but noted many challenges. While we appreciate the researchers’ positive perceptions of citizen engagement, much work remains to fully integrate us into all stages of the research. We offer our reflections and suggestions for how to work with citizen members and identify areas for more training and support.
Despite the increased interest in citizen engagement, we feel there is a lack of understanding and support to truly integrate non-academic team members on research teams. We hope the discussion in this commentary identifies specific areas that need to be addressed to support the continued engagement of citizens and show how the lived experience can bring value to research teams.