Definition:  Information given back to a person about their comments, performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement, motivation and engagement.

Even though Public Members are being asked more frequently to contribute to project proposals, one of the most common things we hear is that their comments and suggestions are not always acknowledged, and they do not know if their input has been used or is useful. For Public Members, feedback is often seen as more than just common courtesy, but also an opportunity to learn and improve.

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Who should give feedback?

  • Researchers give feedback to Public Contributors after asking for their comments
  • Public Members can give feedback after being involved in an activity e.g. meeting, focus group

Why is feedback important?

  • Shows respect and courtesy
  • Can increase confidence of the person receiving feedback, leading to learning and development
  • Can maintain motivation and engagement of your public members
  • Helps to develop good working relationships
  • Gives answers about if and how input was used or helpful (impact)
  • Helps transparency and continuity in research
  • Helps to create a well-motivated, informed and continuously learning public involvement community
  • It develops shared learning

When should you give feedback:

  • Agree this with your public member at the start of your working relationship – it can be part of your initial role agreement
  • Plot feedback into your research cycle and time frames so both researcher and public member know what to expect. Manage people's expectations
  • Different activities may require different sorts of feedback – verbal, written, one off, regular

So, what sort of feedback is required?

Types of feedback:

  • Basic acknowledgement (thank you) - for their time in attending a meeting for sending in comments, letting them know you have received comments
  • Outcome of project bids and submissions, prioritisation panels or focus groups. Let them know if the project bid was successful, the outcome of any prioritisation processes and if their comments made a difference
  • Project progress – Keep in touch with the Public Contributor even if there is a quiet period. You may want to consider newsletters, social media and emails
  • Impact of public involvement on study. Public members are interested to know if their comments were useful and made a difference. This also helps you as a researcher to keep track of any public involvement impact

How to give feedback well:

  • Include in your initial agreement how feedback may be given - face to face, email, phone call, text
  • In meetings, make sure that comments by members of the public are acknowledged as they are given, as well as being noted in the minutes and attributed to the individual
  • Make time to have debrief chats after meetings or events
  • Ensure feedback, especially if negative, is given in a sensitive way, mindful of the vulnerabilities and circumstances of the public contributor
  • Provide reasons if you do not use your public member's comments – this ensures asking for their comments is not just a tokenistic process
  • Keep a written copy of feedback so that it can be referred to later on as evidence of impact

References and Links to Resources:

The Guidance for Researchers: Feedback document on why researchers need to give feedback to their public contributors and how to do this.

Public Engagement: A Practical Guide (page 19) has some useful prompts for getting feedback from public contributors.

Denegri, S., Hey, prof! We need to talk about feedback. It’s not about closing the loop but learning together 2018.

Mathie, E., Smeeton, N., Munday, D., Rhodes, G., Wythe, H. and Jones, J., 2020. The role of patient and public involvement leads in facilitating feedback: "invisible work”. Research involvement and engagement, 6(1), pp.1-12.

Wilson P, Mathie E, Keenan J, McNeilly E, Goodman C, Howe A, Poland F, et al. Research with Patient and Public Involvement: a RealisT evaluation the RAPPORT study. Health Serv Deliv Res. 2015;3(38):1–176.

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