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Ives et al claim to have identified a paradox within patient and public involvement (PPI) in research1—that is, that the benefits of PPI can never be fully realised because when a lay person is trained to a level at which they can make a useful contribution to research, they lose their unique ‘lay’ perspective. They conclude that we should not train lay people in research before involvement. Ives et al also conclude that we should not develop a collaborative approach to PPI in conducting research. Both these conclusions are flawed. PPI does not always involve the lay person acquiring the same skills as a researcher, and even when it does, that person never loses their unique ‘lay’ perspective.
PPI is a complex activity that is highly context dependent. There are many different kinds of involvement requiring different kinds of lay expertise. In many cases the lay person does not need to acquire research skills in order to be effective. They can make useful contributions without being ‘turned into a researcher’. The views of the lay person are complementary to those of the technical experts. PPI provides an insight into the interests and concerns of the participants and …