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P55 Designing expert hearings: how to use deliberative research methods for public health evidence
  1. J South1,
  2. J Woodall1,
  3. M Gamsu1,
  4. P Branney2,
  5. R Newton3,
  6. AM Bagnall1
  1. 1School of Health and Community Studies, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK
  2. 2Division of Psychology, University of Bradford, Bradford, UK
  3. 3NHS England, NHS, Leeds, UK


Background Deliberative methods, such as citizen juries, are used in public policy as a form of democratic engagement. Because they stimulate dialogue between actors and allow consideration of different evidence sources including lived experience, such methods are often used to examine contentious or complex issues. There are few examples of where deliberative methods have been used in population health research. Deliberative methods have the potential to improve the policy relevance of research and hence its impact - particularly where evidence might be contested. This presentation will consider the application of deliberative expert hearings as a method of collecting, interpreting and validating public health evidence and discuss critical design choices that shape implementation.

Methods Three case studies are presented to illustrate use of expert hearings and methodological choices:

  1. A series of expert hearings conducted for a qualitative study into lay people’s roles in public health

  2. An expert hearing bringing together stakeholders from across the criminal justice system as part of a systematic review on peer education

  3. Two hearings conducted to test the meaning and application of evidence collected as part of a What Works Centre programme.

The main features were incorporation of democratic principles of deliberation; valuing diverse evidence sources including experiential evidence; in-depth exploration of complex and contested issues; enabling actors to question evidence; testing arguments. Design and sampling choices created the conditions for deliberation on agreed topics. In each case, qualitative data from presentations and discussions were collected and later analysed with a framework, plotting different perspectives on a matrix.

Discussion These studies enabled us to build experience of expert hearings as a research method. In each case, we documented design issues and reflections. This has generated a set of design choices:

Development of research questions - by researchers or with stakeholders;

Sampling strategy to select participants and their roles in a hearing - expert witness, inquiry panel, facilitator or audience;

The type of evidence presented – scientific, professional or lay;

What counts as data and how deliberation is recorded;

Quality of deliberation and whether a consensus is achieved;

Ethical issues about the public nature of deliberation.

Conclusion Deliberative methods are under-utilised as a research method in public health; however, they require attention to design issues to secure genuine deliberation on a topic. This set of design choices will support researchers in generating and testing evidence through an expert hearing.

  • policy research
  • public engagement
  • research design

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