The terms are often used interchangeably as well as signifying two different types of research. There are various explanations and definitions depending on which country you are in and which discipline your research takes place in.
I settled on two well-known texts written by my favourite authors on the topic of community based participatory research in health.
- Israel, B. A., Eng, E., Schulz, A. J., & Parker, E. A. (2013). Methods for Community-Based Participatory Research for Health (2nd ed.). San Francisco CA: Jossey-Bass.
- Minkler, M., & Wallerstein, N. (Eds.). (2008). Community-based participatory research for health: from process to outcomes. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
A third text set out nicely the main features to be found in action research.
- Koshy, E., Waterman, H., & Koshy, V. (2011). Action research in healthcare. London: SAGE.
This is what I think these texts are telling us.
- is also known as PAR, community-based study, co-operative enquiry, action science and action learning (Koshy et al. (2011)
- is mostly conducted in collaborative teams, a community of enquiry, that includes service users who are not researched on, but collaborate within the research team.
- is participatory and collaborative
- “no one set of CBPR principles is applicable to all partnerships” (Israel et al., 2013 p. 7)
- key concepts of CBPR are participation, emancipatory knowledge and power relations
- CBPR involves the interconnected goals of research, action and education
Israel et al. (2013) list PAR as one of several collaborative research approaches which have progressively been termed CBPR, particularly in health related fields. PAR grew from social movements and emphasized the importance of voice (Minkler & Wallerstein, 2008).
Minkler & Wallerstein (2008) describe CBPR as a continuum of approaches ranging from action research which is based in the practical problem-solving work of Kurt Lewin and the ‘more revolutionary’ Freirian tradition based on emancipatory education. They use the term CBPR as an umbrella term for an orientation to research and practice which stresses respectful engagement with communities in combining research with education and action for change.
Action research, to varying degrees, involves people affected by a problem, in practical problem solving through a cyclical process of fact finding, action, and evaluation, and sits at the starting point of the continuum. The common thread seems to be that participatory approaches such as action research and CBPR are committed to engagement and power-sharing with community partners in the research process so that communities benefit from the research (Israel et al., 2013) .
Minkler and Wallerstein (2008) suggest that CBPR is a term being used to signify collaborative research approaches, ranging from action research to PAR, with the gold standard for ending health disparities being at the emancipatory end of the continuum.
Elena Wilson 2015
As a result of the recruitment challenges I experienced in my project I have compiled some suggestions that could be useful to CBPR researchers who are planning for the recruitment phase of their study.
1. Clarify expectations
Clarity about expectations of all parties in the partnership well before commencing is important. Clarifying formal research protocols to the research partner (organisation) can help in gaining cooperation to achieve recruitment goals as will the explicit statements from the research partner about its expectations from the research and the researchers.
2. Identify key community members
Identify and get to know key community members. They are able to take on the role of mediator to physically introduce researchers and the research to people in their networks and to confirm the identity and trustworthiness of the researchers. Personal introductions by a community member who is well liked and respected, can be more valuable to the community for understanding the presence of the researchers and the project, than written information and consent form.
3. Be specific
Avoid promoting the research project with a nebulous or too broad a topic. People seem to engage with research less reluctantly if there is a more specific topic being discussed, and once engaged the opportunity opens up for exploring topics further afield.
4. Do CBPR training
The complexities involved in managing a relationship with a partner organization and the community, highlight the importance of training for CBPR researchers prior to commencing contact with members of the community they are to research with. Being armed with knowledge of potential recruitment pitfalls with particular communities, means that the researcher would be better placed to plan for these and therefore design the research and ethics application to include a broader range of recruitment options so that ethics requirements do not impede or prolong recruitment.
Image: Jim Frazier: Flickr.com
Kraemer Diaz, A. E., Spears Johnson, C. R., & Arcury, T. A. (2015). Perceptions That Influence the Maintenance of Scientific Integrity in Community-Based Participatory Research. Health Education & Behavior. doi: 10.1177/1090198114560016
In this recent publication the authors present findings from their investigation into the perceptions that promote and discourage scientific integrity in CBPR. In depth interviews were held with professional and community CBPR investigators.
Professional investigators identified external pressures as the main barrier to scientific integrity in CBPR. External pressures, such as publishing, applying for funding and career advancement are seen to promote traditional research structures which do not include collaboration. The authors point out that these external pressures discourage scientific integrity in CBPR by undermining community participation, a foundational aspect of CBPR.
While community investigators were found to not be subject to the same pressures, their perceptions demonstrated that community participation is “paramount” for maintaining scientific integrity in CBPR.
The authors conclude that “active” community participation is overall the most important perception in maintaining scientific integrity in CBPR and emphasise that it is not enough to just idealise participation, but that it needs to be “realized through training, shared funding, and community trust and engagement at every step, including oversight of scientific integrity”.
Image: roevin Flickr.com
If you are thinking about writing on this blog about the issues in your CBPR work, have a look at what others are writing on this topic too.
CBPR has many benefits for the community research endeavour, but acknowledging and sharing our stories about what it is really like for researchers actually doing the research with communities, can help beginner researchers to be better prepared before venturing into CBPR work. Your story might be about a smooth sailing project with no issues at all or a project with issues significant enough to keep you awake at night.
Sometimes it helps to read what others have written about this.
Read the contributions on this blog, some of these might sound familiar? but different?
Read the insightful blogging on the subject by Daniel Reeders on The Research Whisperer blog. Daniel gives a “personal account based on things that went awry” in his work.
Then, you might like to add your story to the collection, along-side other CBPR researchers around the world.
Although not new, this report still has relevance for researchers engaged in community based participatory research and their research partners today. The report looks at 10 case studies of different CBPR partnerships in the US, that are focused on changing policy to improve community health.
Practical recommendations for successful partnerships are made on pages 51 to 54. Read Report …
Image: Filipe Cabrera: Flickr.com