S5.5 User participation, collaboration, methodology and research impact in research on ageing and health
Chair: Susanne Iwarsson
Addressing active and healthy ageing and the challenges in welfare systems demands new solutions. User participation in research is being advocated for as a way to improve the situation of older people and strengthen the quality and impact of research on ageing and health. Along these lines, researchers are often asked to describe such ambitions and strategies in their research proposals. To date, the knowledge about the results of these endeavors is insufficient, and little is known about their actual effects and impact. In this symposium, we will present conceptual and theoretical underpinnings of the UserAge research program, cross-national methodological experiences regarding how to capture user opinions in different stages of the research process, how researchers present their collaboration and knowledge dissemination ambitions, and exemplify how research impact from research on ageing and health can be assessed and presented.
S5.5.1 Understanding user participation in research on ageing and health
Linnaeus University, Kalmar, Sweden
Background: The UserAge research program, implemented as a four-node endeavour with international collaboration, acts as the framework for the symposium. The ultimate goals of UserAge are to maximize the impact of user participation; enhance the execution of high quality research; increase the knowledge about what difference user participation can make, and evaluate the extent to which research about and with user participation makes an impact on practices and outcomes. The aim of this presentation is to provide an overview of the problem area and of the UserAge program, with some deepened problematisation. Methods: The current body of methodological knowledge in the field will be discussed together with ethical considerations of genuinely involving older people in research on ageing and health. Results: Building on the ‘state of the art’ in the field, the overall design of the UserAge program will be highlighted with its three interlinking modules of i) empirical research, ii) capacity building and iii) modelling. Conclusions: Given the increased focus by governments and fund holders on developing co creation with users at the centre of the research process, we argue for the use of innovative and tested frameworks to guide participatory research in the area of ageing and health.
S5.5.2 National and cross-national experiences of the research circle methodology
Charlotte Löfqvist, Maria Haak
Lund University, Sweden
Background: This presentation is based on experiences of benefits and challenges while applying the research circle methodology in national and cross-national contexts. Methods: In consecutive sessions led by researchers, focusing on defined topics participants and researchers discuss and share mutual areas of interest. The experiences presented were gained from a project engaging older people in rural and urban areas in Sweden as well as a cross-national project involving social innovation. Results: From a cross-national perspective the results raise the awareness of cultural differences and highlight the need for country-specific adaptation. The experiences gained reflect the importance of the content and form for research presentations, leadership styles and the mix of participants. Conclusion: When working with parallel research circles, it is important to write up guidelines already in the planning phase for how to handle challenges in a structured and predefined way. Working cross-nationally, guidelines should be followed up in joint workshops where national teams come to terms about the procedure. The research circle methodology offers opportunities for active user involvement but is demanding and raises a number of practical, ethical and methodological challenges requiring further exploration.
S5.5.3 How do researchers describe collaboration and dissemination in research? An
analysis of 381 proposals to the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare
Lund University, Sweden
Background: How do researchers describe societal relevance, collaboration and dissemination in research proposals? This was the main question in a commission by Forte, a research council under the Swedish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. Each year, Forte distributes SEK 550 million to basic as well as needs-driven research in health, working life and welfare. Method: A content analysis of 382 proposals was used to identify patterns and analyze how applicants and reviewers expressed societal relevance, collaboration and dissemination as related to the instructions for applicants. Comparisons were made between, e.g., approved and rejected proposals, different disciplines and calls. Preliminary results were discussed and processed in a workshop with approximately 30 researchers (applicants of 23 approved program grants). Results: The results give an overall picture of how ambitions and strategies concerning societal relevance, collaboration and dissemination are described, motivated and reviewed in research fields on health, working life and welfare, including research on ageing. The findings show that collaboration and dissemination can be interpreted in different ways and that the concepts are overlapping. Conclusions: The results create conditions for conceptual clarity and refinements of instructions for both applicants and reviewers.
S5.5.4 A research impact case study of the Housing Enabler instrument
Lund University, Sweden
Background: Starting 20 years ago, a research-based instrument for assessment and analysis of housing accessibility – the Housing Enabler (HE) – has been developed and applied in research. The instrument has been used in cross-national research on home, health and disability along the process of ageing. Supported by original publications and practice applications, the question is to what extent this methodology has generated impact beyond academia, in terms of effects on, changes or benefit to the society, public policy or services, health and quality of life. The aim is to exemplify how the impact of applying the HE methodology in research on ageing and health can be shown. Methods: We applied the Research Impact Case Study format from the Research Excellence Framework (REF; United Kingdom) to the HE research endeavor. Results: The HE has contributed to enhance the awareness, understanding and attitudes to accessibility as a prerequisite for activity and participation as people age. There is evidence that research results based on HE data are influencing housing policies on the national and local levels in Sweden. Conclusions: The REF Research Impact Case Study is a promising tool for presenting and assessing different aspects of research impact. Based on the HE example, researchers can be inspired to use this structured format to present the impact of their research. The empirical results and outcomes of research with and about user participation will develop methodology and theory useful for ageing and health research, and help demonstrate the impact of such research that is highly relevant for a diversity of users, research funders and society at large. Integrated collaboration between researchers and users producing cutting-edge scientific knowledge is a strong but underutilised avenue to achieve research impact.