How to conduct a participatory systematic review and what are the potential challenges

Salway S, Such E, Preston L, Booth A, Zubair M, Victor C, Raghavan R. Reducing loneliness among migrant and ethnic minority people: a participatory evidence synthesis. Public Health Res 2020; 8 (10). DOI: 10.3310/phr08100 (Open access)

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This case study relates to integrating intersectionality into research questions and designing and conducting research sensitive to inequalities and accordingly it appears in Sections 2 and 3 of the HIAT Case studies.

Salway and colleagues recognised that the causes of, and solutions to, loneliness among migrant and ethnic minority people are understudied. In this programme of research, they set to synthesise available evidence and produce new insights relating to initiatives that aim to address loneliness among these populations, plus the logic, functioning and effects of such initiatives. To achieve these objectives, Salway and colleagues had consultation panels and stakeholder workshops built in the design of their research programme.

They conducted electronic database searches (MEDLINE, Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts and Social Science Citation Index via Web of Science – no date restrictions were applied), grey literature searches, and citation and reference searching were conducted. In addition to conventional systematic academic and grey literature search exercises, they also generated data via nine workshops with three consultation panels (CPs) involving 34 public contributors, and one practitioner workshop involving 50 participants.

The team acknowledge that, despite of the successful CPs and positive feedback from participants, earlier engagement, and a greater depth of participation, would probably have been even more valuable. This reflection provides valuable lessons for future research project. On the limitation of their CPs, authors reflect, “Earlier engagement might have led us to include religious search terms in our database searches. Employing Cook et al.’s framework, we achieved variable levels of participation across the project life cycle, including ‘compliance’, ‘consultation’ and ‘co-operation’. Importantly, however, we also noted the emergence of significant new understanding (characteristic of Cook et al.’s ‘co-learning’ participation level), although this was not within a framework of action-planning in the current project.”