Parenting Science Gang: radical co-creation of research projects led by parents of young children

Sophia Collins, Rebecca Brueton, Tamasin Greenough Graham, Stephanie Organ, Amy Strother, Sarah Elizabeth West, Jean McKendree

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Parents are increasingly searching online for information supported by research but can find it difficult to identify results relevant to their own experiences. More troublingly, a number of studies indicate that parenting information found online often can be misleading or wrong. The goal of the Parenting Science Gang (PSG) project was to use the power of the Internet to help parents ask questions they wanted to have answered by scientific research and to feel confident in assessing research evidence.

By using Facebook to recruit groups and facilitate interactions, PSG was able to engage fully the target public of parents of young children in the radical co-production of scientific studies, while not creating an undue burden on time or restricting participants due to disability, financial status or location. By giving parents true partnership and control of creation of projects, PSG ensured that the chosen questions were ones that were of most relevance and interest to them.

This paper presents a summary of eight projects, with three in more detail, designed and implemented by PSG Facebook groups in collaboration with experts. Most projects had health related themes, often prompted by dissatisfaction with treatment of parents by health professionals or by feelings of being marginalised by pregnancy and motherhood, as well as by the lack of evidence for their questions and concerns. The PSG approach meant that these frustrations were channelled into actions. All eight of the PSG groups engaged in meaningful interactions with experts and co-produced studies with the groups defining the questions of interest.

This radically user-led design meant that the PSG staff and the collaborating experts had to live with a high degree of uncertainty. Nevertheless, PSG achieved its goal of academically productive, truly co-produced projects, but as important were the positive effects it had on many of the participants, both parents and experts. At the point of writing this paper, PSG projects have led to outputs including at least eight papers published, in press or in preparation, seven conference presentations, testimony to the Infant Feeding All-Party Parliamentary Group, and with more to come.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Number of pages15
JournalResearch involvement and engagement
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2020

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© The Author(s). 2020

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