Authors: Dawn Richards, Eileen Davidson, Trudy Flynn, Linda Hunter, Gillian Newman, Christine Thomas
When you read that word, what does it mean to you? According to CIHR’s “Ethics Guidance for Developing Partnerships with Patients and Researchers” tokenism in research is defined as: “… when researchers include a patient voice in their project, but mostly ignore it.” And unfortunately for patient partners on research teams, many of us have been there and felt tokenism, even if we didn’t know what to call it at the time.
We want this to be a helpful post about tokenism so others can learn from our experiences and hopefully avoid these situations altogether. We’ve put together some of our own experiences, along with some potential solutions for both patient partners and other members of the research team to help mitigate these situations. Keep in mind that patient engagement is still relatively new to research teams, so these situations may not be intentional and we would encourage you to give the research team the benefit of the doubt.
Download .pdf: Tokenism Seeing It Fixing It Scenarios
These are a few examples of tokenism that we’ve come across as patient partners. It’s our experience that members of research teams don’t mean to be tokenistic or don’t know how to address these issues. As patient partners we’ve often found ways to work with the research team to find solutions that work for everyone. We try to keep in mind that people often mean well when they engage patient partners on their teams, and unless they’re told that something isn’t working well, chances are they won’t be aware of it otherwise. This all being said, if you’ve tried your best to find potential solutions and things simply are not working out for you, it is ok to leave a research team – you should not feel pressured to do otherwise. We hope sharing these scenarios will help you in your own work and prevent some of these situations from occurring.
Listen to the Pain BC: Pain Waves podcast episode Tokenism in Patient Engagement, with guest speaker Dr. Dawn Richards for additional insights and advice on how to overcome it.
Developing an infographic with and for patient partners about conference abstracts by Dr. Dawn Richards
The research and scientific worlds are full of processes and protocols that most people in these worlds take for granted. One of these items is the conference abstract. If you’re not in the research world, how would you describe a conference abstract to someone outside of research?
In planning for the Canadian Arthritis Research Conference 2022 (CARC), the Steering Committee created a new category of abstracts, those prepared and submitted by patients. The idea is to encourage more patients to submit abstracts for consideration to the conference, but how can you do that if you don’t even know what an abstract is? What happened was an organic process:
- I put out an initial call on Twitter from @TO_dpr, and asked patient partners to let me know if a resource or tool helping people know more about what abstracts are would be helpful. The overwhelming response was ‘yes.’
- Next, I drafted some text that described what an abstract is, what it’s used for and what the parts of an abstract are. My goal was to help demystify abstracts.
- Back on Twitter again, I followed up my original tweet and asked people to comment on the text for me via Google Forms, so that we could ultimately create something that was useful to patient partners. Through Google Forms I collected responses from 17 individuals, and incorporated their feedback into the text about abstracts.
- From there, my communications colleague helped to put the text into an infographic that made everything feel simple and uncluttered.
- I circled back to everyone who provided me with input – to let them know how they contributed, and where they can find the infographic, and if they wanted to be thanked, they are acknowledged on the infographic itself.
View the full Infographic in English here: Infographic_Abstract Preparation for Conferences and in French: Infographic _ Abstract Preparation for Conferences _FR
Within a matter of weeks, we went from having an idea about a resource on conference abstracts to having an infographic about conference abstracts created with input from patients. Engaging patients to co-create resources doesn’t always need to be a large, formal project. Our little project shows the power of taking a fairly simple idea, crowdsourcing input from patients through social media, and then putting that input in to action to create an infographic that anyone can use. We hope knowing this helps you with any of your co-creation projects – from big to small.