The Lost in the Shadows paper was written in response to a paper called The Dark Side of Co-production. Both papers were published in the journal Health Research Policy and Systems. The Dark Side of Co-production paper caused some controversy when it was published. Many people felt the paper misrepresented co-production and what can be achieved in health research by working in this way. Others used it to justify less inclusive and equitable research design and practice. We felt it was important this did not go unchallenged.
We brought together a group of authors to write a collective challenge through constructive critique. All the authors have experiences of co-production in health research and occupy a range of different identities and roles within those settings. The Lost in the Shadows paper was written collaboratively from these perspectives.
We wanted to highlight the ethical underpinnings of co-production and address its relative merits and challenges. We felt it was important to demonstrate that what had been described as the ‘costs’ of co-production were not inherent flaws of working in this way. Rather, co-production is often challenging because of how restrictive research environments are and how prescriptive research traditions tend to be. In short, academic structures make it difficult and sometimes impossible to co-produce research. So rather than asking whether within current structures the 'costs' of co-production outweigh the benefits, we felt more attention should be focused on how these structures can be changed to better support and recognise the value of co-produced research.
AWL worked in collaboration with the authors to create a comic strip and animation that
illustrates key messages from the Lost in the Shadows paper.