Section 2: Co-designing research agenda

Rationale for co-designing research agenda 

The value of co-designing research agenda is well-argued by Evans and colleagues (2021) in relation to ethics, impact and avoiding research waste: 

 “First, in terms of ethics, individuals most affected by particular phenomena should have a say in shaping the direction of associated research. Second, in terms of impact, when research reflects the needs and interests of end-users, the results are more likely to be used. Third, in terms of efficiency, considerable resources are wasted when applied research fails to contribute to practice or policy due to irrelevance or triviality of the topic” (Evans et al., 2021, p.2; see also Chalmers et al., 2009, 2014)  

There are various ways of approaching the co-design of research agenda – some established ways include:

-          Priority Setting Partenerships (e.g., James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnerships)

-          The Delphi Approach

-          Horizon Scans

These approaches are not necessarily participatory, but they offer multiple opportunities for meaningful participation when enacted collaboratively with a focus on listening and sharing.

Key Insights

 The Delphi Approach

“The Delphi method is defined as a systematic, iterative process to elicit a consensus view from a panel of experts.” (Perveen, Kamruzzaman, & Yigitcanlar, 2019, p.600)

The Delphi approach brings together large number of people with a range of expertise, experience in a series of rounds, usually the rounds will involve questionnaires, but new Delphi approaches also tend to integrate in person and online discussions (Glass et al., 2022). A helpful introduction to the Delphi approach can be found in Niederberger and Spranger (2020). The FEDORA Project is an interesting and multi-phase example of a Delphi process that the University of Oxford is involved in. This project seeks to align Science Education with societal changes, research and innovation: the project comprises seven different work packages in collaboration with students, policy makers, teachers, international media, museums and multiple university partners (Ioannidou & Erduran, 2022).

Priority Setting Partnerships

The James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnerships is an established approach that brings together clinicians, patients, their families, carers, and other relevant stakeholders to identify the key research priorities for any given topic (Staley et al., 2020). Other disciplines beyond health are beginning to engage in these priority-setting partnerships: an example of a priority setting partnership that the University of Oxford is involved in has been launched by three researchers from the Department of Education to identify the top 10 priorities on English as an additional language research. This project brought together educators, parents, and young people who are invested in the education of pupils who use English as an additional language (EAL). They developed videos to communicate the research process (see for example their short video explainer). They also developed short videos as instructions for each stage of the research process and explaining how research questions were identified and developed (see Figures 1 and 2 below).


(Figures 1 and 2: stills taken from EAL Priority Setting Partnership video)

Horizon scanning

Horizon scanning is an approach that involves systematically collecting a broad range of data to explore, examine and analyse possible trends, challenges, opportunities, stakeholders and expectations that may become relevant to a particular phenomenon over time (Fűzi, Géring, & Szendrei-Pál, 2022). The approach is commonly used in Conservation (e.g., Sutherland, et al., 2022) and Healthcare (Dullabh et al., 2022; World Health Organization. (2022). A helpful introduction to the approach can be found in Géring, Király, and Tamássy (2021) or in this toolkit developed by Delaney (2014).

A highly collaborative example of Horizon Scanning is the Arctic Horizon Scan 2022. In the first phase of the project, researchers reached out to people from local and Indigenous Arctic communities, policymakers, researchers of diverse disciplines, funders of research, and invited all other stakeholders, to contribute towards the Horizon Scan by participating in an online survey. The survey was translated into Norwegian, Danish, Russian and Icelandic and asked respondents to name one or more priorities for Arctic research in the next decade. In the second phase, they held a hybrid workshop to distil and organise the questionnaire responses into a categorised set of Arctic research priorities for the next decade. To read more about this project see (Figure 3).