In today’s data-driven landscape, involving and engaging the public in research is not just important—it’s absolutely necessary. Recognising this need, the Public Engagement in Data Research Initiative (PEDRI) has embarked on a collaborative effort to establish Best Practice Standards for Public Involvement and Engagement (PIE) in data research and statistics.

(Draft) Best Practice Standards: A journey of collaboration

For over ten months, the Best Practice Standards Working Group has partnered to advance PIE in data research and statistics, promoting good practices. This collaborative effort involved continuous refinement, informed by a review of existing guidance and feedback gathered from two hybrid workshops held in late 2022. Drawing upon the expertise of stakeholders, including the public, PIE professionals, early career/senior researchers, and representatives from government departments and the voluntary, community, and social enterprise sectors, the working group outlined seven draft standards. These focus on equity, data literacy, effective communication, transparency, mutual benefit, meaningful involvement, and a culture of PIE.

Read the seven draft PEDRI standards

Public consultation

In June and July 2023, PEDRI launched the public consultation on these draft standards. Through an online survey, stakeholders from various backgrounds and areas of expertise contributed their perspectives. The survey, designed to investigate the standards’ value, relevance, and language, attracted 139 responses, prompting reflections on various aspects and their practical implications.

Offering a glimpse into the findings

The feedback received highlighted some key points. Survey respondents stressed the need for active representation of diverse voices, alongside clear communication and fair compensation for public contributors. They emphasised the importance of building trust through a proactive approach to transparency and fostering a culture of PIE that values collaboration, sustainability, and accountability. Additional suggestions included integrating co-production principles and impact assessment into the standards, as well as ensuring ongoing dialogue with diverse stakeholders. Overall, while recognising the potential of established standards to drive positive change, survey respondents called for clearer, more inclusive language and practical guidance to ensure usability and effectiveness across various contexts.

You can access the full report online. An easy-to-read version will be released soon.

What’s next: refinement and adoption

Building upon these findings, the working group has expanded the consultation efforts through dedicated workshops and breakout sessions within relevant events. These sessions were designed to inform the refinement of the draft standards for adoption. While the refinement process may take some time, it has been recognised that there is not a universally applicable ‘best practice’. Instead, the focus should be on embracing the notion of ‘good practice’, ensuring ongoing learning and adaptation to diverse situations and contexts.

Joining forces for better PIE in data research and statistics

Advancing PIE in data-driven research requires collective efforts and shared values. By supporting positive changes and facing challenges together, there is a chance to pave the way for a future where PIE can not only help conduct better data-driven research but also spark the interest of more public members and change the perception of those who may yet see its value.