Developing a Women's Thought Collective methodology for health research: The roles and responsibilities of researchers in the reflexive co-production of knowledge

Kristen Foley, Belinda Lunnay, Catherine Kevin, Paul R. Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background: Co-produced research holds enormous value within the health sciences. Yet, there can be a heavy focus on what research participants think, do and know; while the researcher's responsibility to explore and re/work their own knowledge or praxis tends to escape from view. This is reflected in the limited use of co-production to explore broad structural distributions of health and risk(s). We argue this missed opportunity has the potential to unfold as what Berlant calls a ‘cruel optimism’, where something desirable becomes an obstacle to flourishing and/or produces harm. We explore challenges to involving lay populations meaningfully in health research amidst a neoliberal cultural landscape that tends to responsibilise people with problems they cannot solve. 

Methods and Findings: Drawing together principles from hermeneutic and feminist philosophy, we develop a novel methodology for co-producing research about determinants of health and health risk (using a case study of alcohol consumption as an example) that centres on what researchers do, know and think during research: Women's Thought Collectives. 

Discussion: Keeping the constructed nature of social systems—because they shape ideas of value, expertise and knowledge—in view during co-produced research illuminates the potential for cruel optimisms within it. Such reflexive awareness carves out starting points for researchers to engage with how social hierarchies might (tacitly) operate during the co-production of knowledge. Our work has broad utility for diverse population groups and provides important considerations around the roles and responsibilities for reflexive co-production of knowledge at all levels of health systems. 

Patient or Public Contribution: The development of these ideas was sparked by working with lay participants during the Women's Thought Collectives for Kristen Foley's doctoral research 2021–2023, but undertaken without their direct involvement—in accordance with the responsibilities of researchers in the reflexive co-production of knowledge. Forthcoming publications will address the outcomes and processes of this work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1954-1964
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Expectations
Volume26
Issue number5
Early online date31 Jul 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023

Keywords

  • co-production
  • feminism
  • hermeneutics
  • knowledge
  • reflexivity

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