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I:DNA - Public engagement as a research method


I:DNA is a Wellcome Trust funded project that was created to engage the public with research led by Professor Felicity Boardman, in conjunction with Dr Corinna Clark, at Warwick Medical School. The research explores the experiences of people living with inherited conditions and their attitudes towards genetic medicine.

This video provides an overview of the art installation produced to explore these themes. You can read more about the project as a whole here.

Public engagement as a research method:

Public engagement can be used not only to stimulate dialogue with public audiences, but also to feed directly into research processes. Indeed, five research interviews were conducted with visitors to the installation that fed into the research programme. I:DNA provided an interface between the research team and the public, creating a springboard for disucssions on a topic that may otherwise be difficult to engage with given the public’s lack of experience with genetic medicine.

Research that relies on volunatry participation is always subject to sampling bias, however, the I:DNA installation opened a unique gateway to members of the public who would not otherwise agree to participate in research projects, and/or may have found the topic hard to engage with if presented in a participant information leaflet. However, as a sampling strategy it is also not without bias and therefore has limitations as the sole method of participant recruitment. Moreover, whilst ethical approvals are not required for public engagement evaluations, they are essential for research interviews. This introduces barriers to participation and prevents ad hoc or opportunistic recruitment by research teams during public engagement exercises.

Feedback from public audiences, however, and dialogue generated with public audiences, can nevertheless prove to be a useful tool in the conceptual development of future research agendas and priorities. Therefore, even when not used as a site of recruitment, public engagement events can nevertheless shape research processes.

Evaluation of public enagement is also an expanding area of research in itself (see Evaluation and our paper).