What did we find?
Some highlights from what we found are listed here. To get a fuller picture of the findings please read our report.
• Participant-researchers work together on research in different ways and issues of power dynamics and accessibility are important.
• Some ways of working were more pre-planned and formal and some were more improvised and responsive. When working together the emphasis might be placed on support, negotiation or interdependence.
• Inclusive research generates knowledge about and for people with learning disabilities. There are different ways of knowing and inclusive research is good for getting at knowledge that is based on the experience of being a learning disabled person – knowledge that is grounded, and authentic.
• Inclusive research is of high quality if it is relevant and interesting to people with learning disabilities, involves them meaningfully and makes their lives better. These things, plus the research being useful and accessible were valued particularly by researchers with learning disabilities. Other criteria for quality included the quality of the evidence, methods, and partnership, the credibility of the research, its impact and sustainable benefits.
• People ask a lot of inclusive research – they want it to create knowledge (the research goal); to give voice and build self-advocacy (the political goal); to bring funding to organisations (the pragmatic, sustainability goal); and to provide training, skills, jobs, networks, and friendships (the wider agenda). This requires flexibility in how inclusive research is done.
• The social inclusion benefits of doing inclusive research for researchers with learning disabilities can be extensive; the benefits for others come when the research makes a difference, e.g. improved lives and changed practices.
• Inclusive research has distinct benefits over other kinds of research, including empathy and connection between researchers and research participants, and relevant and accessible research questions and methods, which can lead to richer, more credible data.
• Doing inclusive research can be challenging; there are particularly attitudinal barriers, barriers in the social process, and material barriers. Funders, publishers and universities can be inflexible in their systems.
• There has been a cultural shift leading to policies supporting inclusive research but its sustainability is threatened by lack of funding, lack of capacity in the system, and threats to the support for People First groups, making it uncertain where the next generation of inclusive researchers will come from.
• Good social science and good inclusive research come together when inclusive research answers questions other research cannot answer (or answer so well) but that are important, when inclusive research accesses participants, communities and knowledge in ways that other research cannot, when inclusive research involves the reflexive use of the insider, cultural knowledge of researchers with learning disabilities, and when the inclusive approach makes the research authentic and with a greater chance of having impact on the lives of people with learning disabilities.