Lampa E, Sonnentheil B, Tökés A, Warner G
Res Involv Engagem 7 (1) 73 [2021-10-11; online 2021-10-11]
During the COVID-19 pandemic many work tasks are being done remotely through digital meetings, including PPI in research. Yet, some PPI activities have been paused or cancelled altogether during the pandemic. In this commentary, we share our insights from observing digital meetings with researchers and public contributors, representing vulnerable groups. Additionally, we discuss how remote PPI activities can be understood and improved. As part of a PPI evaluation project, live observations were conducted by two trained observers, using a semi-structured observation protocol developed to objectively assess aspects of group dynamics in PPI research meetings with public contributors with experience of seeking refuge and parents facing economic hardship. This project's data collection is ongoing and the insights in this commentary is based on the observers' discussion. We discuss these insights through the lens of the Media Richness Theory, stating that the choice of media we communicate through should be guided by what kind of information we want to communicate to each other. The more complex the information is, the richer the media tool needs to be. For example, information in a text message is more easily misinterpreted than information given in person. This is because meeting in person gives us more information, for example through body language and tone of voice. Based on our experiences from observing digital research meetings, we give suggestions on how to improve digital meetings with public contributors. A few key points are: actively choosing which media to use; being prepared to guide contributors to the chosen media in a way that is suitable for them; and the increased importance of the person chairing the meeting to actively include all participants. We reach the conclusion that digital meetings with public contributors is possible, but that researchers need to make a commitment and actively work to solve practical issues. Finally, the format and structure of digital meetings should be co-created together with public contributors.